The Dal-List: 15 Reasons You Should Be Watching ‘Dallas’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Watch and love

What’s that, you say? You’re not watching the new season of “Dallas”? Well, put down that bottle of stupid pills and listen up. Here are 15 excellent reasons to start tuning in to the series, which TNT shows every Monday night.

Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT

Snow’s the boss

15. Judith Ryland is nuts. Remember Angela Bower, Light’s sensible, self-controlled character on “Who’s the Boss?” Well, go ahead and put that performance out of your mind because Angela is nothing like Judith Ryland, the coke-snortin’, drug-traffickin’, truth-bomb-droppin’, cane-thumpin’ control freak Light plays on “Dallas.” Judith is the most wicked and unpredictable character on television today. What will crazy lady do next? I have no clue, but I can’t wait to find out.

Dallas, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Nicolas Trevino, TNT

Delicious

14. Di Pace = Divine. So the Ewings are sitting around their boardroom, being Ewings, when all of a sudden some dude named “Nicolas Treviño” waltzes in and starts bossing everyone around. Who is Nicolas? Who cares! What matters is that he’s played by Juan Pablo Di Pace, who is absolutely delectable. I mean, look at this guy. How is he even real? Di Pace is suave, charming and so far, he’s had sexual chemistry with virtually everyone he’s had a scene with. Don’t you want to be there when Judith meets him?

Dallas, Elena Ramos, John Ross Ewing, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Watch and learn

13. You can learn stuff. Did you know that in Texas, a company can’t unload a major division unless a “supermajority” of its shareholders approve the sale? Or that sometimes oil-rich “shale formations” can rise within a property’s “surface rights”? I know both things are true because “Dallas” tells me so. I’ll confess: I’m sometimes dubious of the veracity of the legal and technical mumbo-jumbo these characters spout, but it mostly checks out. So do your brain a favor and start watching. You’ll be entertained and enlightened.

Bum, Dallas, Kevin Page, Steve Jones, TNT

Bum in the night

12. Bum. You know what’s really cool about “Dallas” this season? Kevin Page is being featured more prominently than ever. His character, Steve “Bum” Jones, will go down in TV history as the last guy to shoot J.R., but Page’s greatest contribution to the show might be the way Bum has become John Ross’s conscience. And am I the only one who’s noticed Page’s off-the-charts chemistry with Linda Gray? He’s now a vital part of “Dallas.” Here’s hoping Bum gets bumped up to a series regular soon.

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, TNT

Perfection

11. Jesse Metcalfe has a beard now. I know what you’re thinking: Metcalfe has such a nice face, why cover it up? I felt that way when I heard about the beard too. But then I saw it and oh my goodness it’s the best beard in the history of facial hair. (Yours is nice too, Mr. Pileggi.) I mean, take a look at that thing. What’s not to love? The sad part is the beard is going to go away midseason, but that’s still a good a reason to watch the show. Let’s all savor every second of Christopher’s scruff before he shaves it off.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Total. Badass.

10. Bobby Ewing is still pissed! Remember when Bobby screamed at Ann before J.R.’s funeral last season? Well, Patrick Duffy continues to bring an edge to his character this year. Who didn’t love Bobby’s recent “stupid pills” quip, or how he always looks like he wants to throttle John Ross? There’s also this: Duffy’s portion of “Dallas’s” new opening credits feature last year’s scene in which Bobby did that badass, “Reservoir Dogs”-style slow-mo walk. Now we get to relive it each week!

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, TNT

Feel the love

9. Brenda Strong is awesome. We love Ann Ewing. We love how she stands by Bobby, how she embraces the Ewings for all their Ewing-ness, how she never seems to regret that one time she tried to kill Harris. That’s what makes Strong such an amazing actress. No matter what the script calls for, she never let us lose sight of her character’s humanity — even when Ann grabs her gun and starts shooting people. And isn’t it cool that Patrick Duffy finally has a leading lady who can look him in the eye?

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jordana Brewster, TNT

Spy in the house

8. Elena Ramos is a sneaky bitch. Did you watch the first two seasons of TNT’s “Dallas”? Remember how Jordana Brewster’s character never had much to do? Yeah, well, those days are over. Elena found out J.R. Ewing screwed over her daddy and now she’s joined forces with Cliff Barnes to secretly plot against the rest of the Ewings. Does it make sense? No, but Brewster is such a good actress, she makes it all seem perfectly reasonable. Isn’t it great to see her get a juicy storyline to sink her teeth into?

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, TNT

So good at being bad

7. Emma Ryland is a naughty bitch. Look, I love my bitches, OK? One of my all-time favorite “Dallas” characters is Mary Crosby’s Kristin Shepard, the shrew who shot J.R. The old show killed off Crosby waaay too soon, but now that we have Emma Bell slinking around Southfork, it’s almost like Kristin’s back. Bell’s character, shameless Emma Ryland, is an oversexed vixen who can’t keep her hands off John Ross. (Blame her?) It doesn’t hurt that Bell is also a terrific actress. No one does bad better.

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

We’re not worthy

6. Julie Gonzalo is fabulous. Is there a more fascinating young heroine on television today than Pamela Barnes Ewing? The answer is no, there is not. Every season, Gonzalo unravels new layers of her character; she’s played Pamela as a sweet-as-spun-sugar ingénue, a corporate tigress, a devastated daughter, and now a suspicious bride. Gonzalo’s talents know no bounds, and even though I’m a gay man, I’m kind of in love with her. (It’s cool, though, because my partner loves her too.) All hail Queen Julie!

Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT

This stud’s for us

5. Ryland, Harris Ryland. Mitch Pileggi may be best known as Skinner on “The X Files,” but is there any doubt Harris Ryland is the role he was born to play? Pileggi brings a wicked, Hagman-esque gleefulness to his “Dallas” performances; he’s so damned charismatic, you can’t help but root for Harris, no matter how mean he is to the Ewings. This character is constantly keeping us on our toes — now that we know he’s CIA, should we trust him? — but one thing is certain: Pileggi is a total stud.

AnnaLynne McCord, Dallas, Heather, TNT

Dressed to thrill

4. This is the best-dressed cast on TV. One of “Dallas’s” biggest stars works behind the camera: Rachel Sage Kunin, the show’s insanely gifted costume designer. In every scene of every episode, Kunin somehow chooses the absolute perfect look for each character. One example: Heather’s sexy dress/cowgirl boots combo, which showed how the character was both tough and feminine. Kunin isn’t just the show’s wardrobe chief; she’s a storyteller in her own right — and a hugely talented one at that.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Always our darlin’

3. Sue Ellen is drunk again. Hold on, darlins. I’m not celebrating the fact our beloved heroine has fallen off the wagon. OK, I guess I am celebrating it, but only because I know Sue Ellen’s road back to sobriety is going to be a blockbuster television — and that means we’re going to be treated to another knockout performance from Linda Gray. As phenomenal as she was last year, my gut tells me Gray is going to be even more spectacular this season. Who knew such a thing was even possible?

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

The son also rises

2. This guy. Oh, Josh Henderson. Where do I even begin with you? You impress the hell out of me. Your performance honors both of your TV parents: In your capable hands, John Ross is as ambitious as J.R. and as sensitive as Sue Ellen. You’re also a brilliant foil for Uncle Bobby and Cousin Christopher and the perfect match for Pamela. And then there’s that smile of yours, which is sweet, sly and oh-so-sexy — all at once. Is John Ross now one of the best reasons to watch “Dallas”? Damn skippy, he is.

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

Do it for him

1. This guy too. No one loved a good time more than Larry Hagman, the great actor who brought J.R. Ewing to life. If Mr. Hagman were still here, I have a feeling he’d love how much fun TNT’s “Dallas” has become. Everyone involved in creating the show — the writers, the directors, the actors, the crew — is making Mr. Hagman proud by churning out the most consistently entertaining hour of television, week after week. Now it’s time for the audience to do its part by watching and enjoying the show!

What do you love about “Dallas’s” third season? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

TNT’s Dallas Styles: ‘Trust Me’

AnnaLynne McCord, Dallas, Harris Ryland, Heather, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Julie Gonzalo, Linda Gray, Mitch Pileggi, Nicolas Trevino, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT, Trust Me

The crowd may have been smaller than in days gone by and no one got dunked in the pool, but there’s one area where this week’s Ewing Barbecue lived up to tradition: the clothing. The Southfork shindigs on the original “Dallas” always allowed the characters to dress a little more playfully than usual, and so did the barbecue in “Trust Me,” TNT’s latest episode.

My favorite look belonged to Linda Gray, who sported a nifty brown cowgirl hat that brought back memories of the hats Sue Ellen wore to the Southfork hoedowns of the 1980s. I also couldn’t help but smile when AnnaLynne McCord’s character, Heather, showed up at the party in that beautiful white dress; it reminded me of the simple, elegant dress Pam Ewing sported at “Dallas’s” first barbecue in 1978. I also loved how costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin paired Heather’s dress with weathered cowgirl boots; it was an ideal combination for McCord’s tomboyish character.

Juan Pablo Di Pace was the best-dressed man at the barbecue (although Jesse Metcalfe was a close second in that dark blue denim shirt). Nicolas, an out-of-town Latin American businessman, came to the party dressed just like we would expect him to: Instead of western garb, he wore a light-colored sport coat and trousers and an open-collared white shirt that strategically showcased the St. Christopher’s medal that’s so important to the character. I also loved Pamela’s blue blouse and dark pants and boots — and how gorgeous did Julie Gonzalo’s hair look under that Southfork sunshine? (Kudos, Charles Yusko!)

My other favorite wardrobe selection from “Trust Me”: the purple shirt Mitch Pileggi wore in the scene where Harris pulled a gun on Judith. Only Pileggi could make a paisley print look badass — and wasn’t it nice to finally see him in something other than the gray T-shirt he’s been wearing since the end of the second season?

What were your favorite looks in “Trust Me”? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and read more “Dallas Styles.”

TNT’s Dallas Styles: ‘The Return’

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, J.R. Ewing, Julie Gonzalo, Linda Gray, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

“Dallas’s” third-season opener, “The Return,” brought the Ewings back in style. My favorite look: the obi-belted color-block dress that Linda Gray wore in three scenes, including the family’s Arctic drilling strategy session inside the Ewing Global boardroom. Costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin created the dress, which evokes the ’70s chic looks that Sue Ellen sported during “Dallas’s” earliest years. What could be better for Gray, who hasn’t aged a day since then?

I also love the sleeveless, blue-and-black dress that Julie Gonzalo rocks in one of Pamela’s boardroom appearances, as well as Jordana Brewster’s dark-frame eyeglasses. Elena is hiding her true intentions from the Ewings, so why not complete the deception by hiding behind those sexy/smart spectacles? Speaking of cover-ups: Who doesn’t love Jesse Metcalfe’s beard? Even “Dallas” fans who prefer their men clean-shaven tell me they find Christopher’s scruff irresistible.

And then there’s J.R.’s belt buckle, which John Ross received in “The Return’s” most touching scene. I like this accessory because it helps keep alive Larry Hagman’s memory, but it also puts the audience on notice: We better all buckle up, because “Dallas” is going to take us on another wild ride this year.

What were your favorite looks in “The Return”? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and read more “Dallas Styles.”

In Season 3, ‘Dallas’ Resets the Chessboard, J.R. Style

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Return, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Welcome back, darlins

Who misses J.R.? We all do, but the third season of TNT’s “Dallas” still manages to be fun, freewheeling television — even if our beloved Larry Hagman is no longer there to breathe life into his most famous character. Watching next week’s season premiere is a little like attending a family reunion after the loss of a favorite uncle. You can’t help but wish the old guy was still around, but isn’t it nice to see everyone else again?

Besides, it’s not like J.R. is gone altogether. His memory looms large in Season 3’s first two episodes. Some examples: John Ross inherits his daddy’s Southfork-sized belt buckle and hires contractors to renovate the house using blueprints J.R. commissioned before his death. Bobby, once again at odds with his ambitious nephew, growls that John Ross isn’t “half the man” J.R. was. Bum, the Ewings’ go-to private eye who now doubles as John Ross’s conscience, urges him to “grow into your father’s greatness, not his weakness.” There’s even a much-improved painting of J.R. hanging in the Ewing offices, allowing Hagman’s visage to peer over the shoulders of the other actors as they move around the set.

With so many verbal and visual references to J.R., isn’t the show just reminding us that this franchise has lost its marquee player? Yes, but since most of us can’t tune into “Dallas” without thinking about Hagman anyway, the producers might as well acknowledge the ghost in the room. Besides, when your franchise is built on a character as endlessly fascinating as J.R. Ewing, why not use him to pull everyone’s strings from the great beyond?

That’s why “The Return,” the third-season premiere, resets the “Dallas” chessboard, J.R.-style. The episode — penned by Cynthia Cidre and Robert Rovner and directed by Steve Robin — picks up 12 hours after last year’s finale, when we learned J.R. was dying of cancer and masterminded his own “murder” so archenemy Cliff Barnes could be framed for the crime, thus ending the Barnes/Ewing feud. (Ha!) The finale also positioned John Ross as J.R.’s heir in every way, and so at the beginning of “The Return,” we learn why the young newlywed went to that hotel room to cheat with Emma, who appears to have traded her pill habit for an addiction to risky encounters with John Ross.

We’ll also hear how John Ross justifies the fling to Kevin Page’s Bum; his excuse will sound familiar to longtime “Dallas” fans who remember how J.R. used to rationalize his cheating on Sue Ellen. This storyline has upset a lot of fans of the John Ross/Pamela pairing, but it allows Josh Henderson to display the sly charisma that makes him almost as much fun to watch as Hagman was in his heyday. And even though John Ross is a cheat, we can’t help but feel charmed by his relationship with Julie Gonzalo’s Pamela, whose smoldering gaze makes her the ideal match for the oh-so-suave Henderson. Let’s acknowledge something else too: As much as we despise Emma, there’s no denying that Emma Bell is terrific in this role. Not since Mary Crosby’s Kristin have “Dallas” viewers had a vixen who’s so much fun to hate.

During last year’s execution of the Ewings’ “master plan” against Cliff, almost all of the characters got in touch with their inner J.R., but Season 3 finds the good guys returning to familiar terrain. Patrick Duffy’s Bobby slides back into his role as the heroic guardian of Southfork traditions, while Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher gets a refreshingly angst-free romance with Heather, a new ranch hand. This role is played with equal parts spunk and sex appeal by AnnaLynne McCord, who was the best part of the CW’s “90210” and makes a welcome addition to “Dallas,” a far better revival.

(Oh, and even though “The Return” begins 12 hours after Season 2 ended, Christopher now sports a face full of scruff. How did he grow a thick beard in a half-day? It’s probably better not to ask. Let’s consider it this era’s version of Sue Ellen’s hair, which magically shortened itself between seasons in the early 1980s, even though mere minutes had passed on screen.)

“The Return” also recasts Elena, once this show’s romantic heroine, into a shrewd schemer out for revenge — or as she calls it, “justice” — after Cliff revealed J.R. once stole oil-rich land from her father, just like Jock supposedly cheated Digger out of half the Ewing fortune. This might seem like a thin premise to extend the Barnes/Ewing feud, but it gives the underappreciated Jordana Brewster something to do besides moon over Henderson and Metcalfe’s characters. Cliff and Elena’s unlikely alliance also includes Nicolas Treviño, a dashing young billionaire played by Juan Pablo Di Pace, another strong addition to this ensemble.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What about Sue Ellen? It’s no secret Linda Gray’s character is once again headed for rock bottom this season, although she goes nowhere near a drop of booze in “The Return.” Some fans hate to see Sue Ellen drinking again; I’m not wild about the idea either, but I have no doubt Gray will deliver another knockout performance, just like she did last year. She’s Hagman’s truest heir in a lot of ways, including this one: Like him, Gray can say more with an arched eyebrow or a wry smile than most actors can with a script full of dialogue. She exudes Old Hollywood star power, and whether Sue Ellen is drunk or sober, Gray always delivers riveting television.

“Dallas” fans also want to know about a couple of other favorites, including Brenda Strong’s Ann and her dastardly ex-husband Harris, played to menacing perfection by Mitch Pileggi. Regarding them, I’ll only say this: Just because you haven’t read much about their characters in “Dallas’s” pre-premiere publicity doesn’t mean they have nothing to do in the first two episodes. I also don’t want to give anything away about Judith Light’s character Judith Ryland, except to say her return in the season’s second hour, “Trust Me,” is a hoot.

That episode, written by Bruce Rasmussen and directed by Millicent Shelton, features a Ewing family gathering that showcases the brilliance of costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin, who never fails to impress, and hairdresser Charles Yusko, whose contributions to the success of this series shouldn’t be overlooked. You’ll also want to watch “Trust Me” to see the long-awaited reunion between two characters who had a charming scene last year, along with one of the most audacious moments I’ve ever seen on “Dallas” — or any other show, for that matter.

Most importantly, the episode ends with a shock that rocks two characters and will make you reconsider everything you think you know about a third. It’s a twist you’ll never see coming — and another reason this show remains so much fun, even without the man who got the party started.

“Dallas’s” third season begins Monday, February 24, at 9 p.m. Eastern on TNT. Are you excited? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.

The Dallas Decoder Interview: Charles Yusko

Charles Yusko, Dallas, TNT

Charles Yusko

Charles Yusko is the hottest hairdresser in showbiz, but you won’t find him in Hollywood. Yusko, a native Texan, works his magic with the cast of TNT’s “Dallas,” which is filmed in its namesake city and will begin its third season on Monday, February 24. Yusko recently took time from his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Let’s start with the basics. Tell us what you do.

I’m the department head. I maintain “the look.” That artistic vision is created by a team — including myself, the actors, writers, producers and directors. And depending on how elaborate the scene is, the hair department can include two or three more team members. To get ahold of my vision, I read the script and break down the scenes. I also articulate my vision to each actor. For really dramatic transformations, I convey my concepts to the director, producers and writers. To set the tone of “the look,” I closely collaborate with our wardrobe whiz, the timelessly impeccable Rachel Kunin.

Interesting. Can you give an example of how you and Rachel collaborate?

In Season 2, Rachel came to me and wanted to talk about the emerald earrings for a scene with Pamela. [She said,] “Hey, I have these fabulous earrings. Can you show them off? I’d really love her hair up.” But I don’t really like to do hair up. I like natural-looking hair. So I said, “I’ll give you those earrings shown off, but with her hair down.”

Now that I think about it, you did manage to show off Pamela’s famous emerald earrings — even though her hair was down.

That was an instance where the hair was a big deal, at least for me. We didn’t want to make it all about the earrings. But it was all about the earrings. So we gave just a hint of them, and then all of a sudden it was — bam! — the big reveal of the earrings.

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Barnes Ewing, TNTA lot of fans probably don’t realize how important a character’s hair is. Hair tells us a lot about someone’s personality, doesn’t it?

I think we showed that last year with Julie [Gonzalo] and Emma [Bell]. Emma started off with the braid. That was a symbol of her innocence. And Julie’s look changes dramatically depending on if she has a side part or a middle part.

So what’s a typical day for you like?

Well, I usually start around 4:45 in the morning. When an actor comes in, they’ll come to me first because they’re going to have wet hair. And I’ll start [working on] them while another actor is in makeup. And then the department head makeup artist, Frieda Valenzuela, and I will flip flop: I’ll take the actor in her chair and she’ll take mine. And then I’ll go to the set, and then I’ll come back and do more actors. It ends up being a 65- to 70-hour week.

That includes weekends?

Yes. I spent part of last Saturday buying wigs for the show.

So for Season 3, has anyone’s look changed?

The show’s look was established by Melissa Yonkey [the department head from 2012 to 2013], who did a beautiful job. When we worked together on the first two seasons, Melissa shared her expertise. I gained as much as possible from her — like how to keep a swoop bang from falling in someone’s face. This season, I’m making some dynamic changes. To viewers, the changes might be subtle, which — for the most part — is how it should be. But the creative process has been extraordinary. However, you’ll just have to watch to see what happens.

So the actors give a lot of input?

All the time. It’s their hair. Their feedback — even if they tell me something ain’t working — is priceless. Oftentimes, we’re on the exact same page. Trust and communication are huge. They have a lot on their plate when they step out of the hair trailer. And when they do, I want them to feel like I’ve invested all of my talents into their performances.

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, TNTHow about Jesse Metcalfe’s new beard? Are you responsible for that?

No, that’s makeup. That’s considered the face, so that’s all makeup.

Do you have an opinion about the beard?

I love it.

Me too. I know it’s going to go away midseason. I’m already sad about it.

He looks great with it. But with the character, it was definitely the perfect time for that change to have a beard and not to have one.

Well, I know you can’t give away plot secrets, so let me ask you this: What happens when Mitch Pileggi sits in your chair?

He comes to my station and gives me a hug and then he walks back to makeup. [Laughs] But he’s so wonderful because he gives every single person in the trailer a hug, every day.

Hey, that’s not a bad deal at all.

He is the sweetest man. That’s the thing about the actors on “Dallas” — they play the most horrible, ruthless characters, but in real life, they’re the sweetest, most amazing people.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNTThat brings me to Linda Gray. She’s such an icon; I would imagine it’s a thrill to do her hair.

Ever since my first day on “Dallas,” I would watch Linda on set. I was craving an opportunity to do her hair. And now that I’m the department head, I do Linda’s hair and she’s wonderful. On Halloween, she gave me this fake fur coat. She had done a photo shoot with fur coats and while she was doing it, she said she thought of me. So I said, “What do I do with this?” And she said, “You need to wear it for Halloween.” Well, I’m in Texas. It’s hot on Halloween. But it snowed last week and so I finally wore that thing. They kept calling me Cruella de Vil on set.

And did you get to work with Larry Hagman?

I did. I wasn’t his hairstylist but I did get to do his hair before he passed. The last scene he filmed was the one where he meets with John Ross and Bum in the courthouse restroom. I was the hairstylist for that scene.

What was that like?

Well, first of all, I’m a gay man with John Ross and a bunch of camera boys in a bathroom. So Larry made a joke. He said, “Aren’t you in heaven?” [Laughs] But working with Larry was incredible. I didn’t grow up with him — my family was Baptist, so we didn’t watch a lot of “Dallas” — but meeting him and knowing how much he did for the environment and how wonderful he was…. I mean, he didn’t have to be the person that he was. I was in awe of Larry.

Well, the way I hear it, a lot of people are in awe of you. Everyone speaks highly of you.

I’ve been on the show for three seasons, but this is the first season that I’m the department head. I was a key [a junior stylist] for a long time. And early on [on “Dallas”], they demoted me.

Oh, no.

No, it’s fine because Jesse swooped in and said, “Nobody cuts my hair but Charles.” [Laughs] He pretty much was the reason for me keeping my job. And in the second season, they asked me to be the key and I said, “OK, this is my chance.” And I went back and I worked really hard. I feel like I proved myself.

You’ve had an interesting road to success.

I was going to school to become a teacher to work with autistic children, and it was just hard on me. So I ended up working in the opera for a while, doing theatrical makeup, and then some friends and I took a “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” trip across the United States in an RV. We did crazy, fun drag in the Grand Canyon, and that really brought out my creative side. I ended up in hair school, and then I wound up working on movies like “The Alamo.” And every time I thought about getting out of film, something pulled me back in like “Temple Grandin.”

You were nominated for an Emmy for that one.

It was a great honor. I got to go to the ceremony and everything.

And now you’re a department head on “Dallas.”

It’s been a crazy, fun journey. The network and the producers have told me, “Thank you. You’re doing a great job.” And I just freeze up. All I can say is, “I’m so happy.” Because I love what I’m doing.

Share your comments below and read more interviews from Dallas Decoder.

Dallas Parallels: Old Habits

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Knots Landing, Ted Shackelford, TNT

Booze has always flowed as freely as oil on “Dallas.” The Southfork cocktail hour was a family tradition on the original show, and J.R. and Bobby each kept lots of liquor on hand to entertain the parade of cartel members and other business associates who marched in and out of their offices each day. The imbibing continues on TNT’s “Dallas:” John Ross and Christopher routinely visit bars, and on more than one occasion, both men have come home and knocked back a stiff drink after tangling with their enemies (or each other).

To their credit, neither series shies away from depicting the downside of indulgence. J.R., Bobby and even Miss Ellie (!) all nursed hangovers at various points during the original “Dallas,” while John Ross has done the same thing on TNT’s sequel show. (Remember when he struggled to get out of bed after drinking too much with Marta del Sol the night before?) Most notably, the Ewing family also includes two alcoholics — Sue Ellen and Gary — whose struggles to stay sober never seem to end.

A handful of scenes, filmed 33 years apart, underscore this point. In “No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 2,” one of the original “Dallas’s” fourth-season episodes, Gary comes home to Southfork to be with his family after J.R. is shot. Gary is newly sober after going on a nasty bender during “Knots Landing’s” previous season, and so when he runs into Sue Ellen in the nursery, he’s eager to commiserate with her. But as Gary soon discovers, Sue Ellen is still in denial about her drinking problem. “I am not an alcoholic,” she snaps. “I’ll admit that I take a drink on occasion to steady my nerves. But I can stop. I have stopped for months at a time.” Gary’s response: “Yeah, yeah. So did I. Thought I had it beat. But then I took a drink. And another. And pretty soon, I was on a rampage.”

The scene ends with Sue Ellen ordering Gary to “stop preaching at me” and storming out of the room. The characters don’t interact again until 33 years later, when Gary returns to Southfork during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas.” Once again, he’s recovering from a recent relapse, while Sue Ellen has two decades of sobriety under her belt. Both characters seem to be at peace with their inner demons, though, even joking about their shared disease when they run into each other at Ewing Energies. Sue Ellen spots Gary pouring himself a cup of coffee and holds out her mug, quipping that it’s “the beverage of choice for recovering alcoholics everywhere.”

Then the unthinkable happens: J.R. is shot and killed, sending the grief-stricken Sue Ellen back to the bottle. She confesses her relapse while eulogizing her ex-husband, but when Gary confronts her after the funeral and tells her it’s time to get back on the wagon, Sue Ellen lies and says she’s already stopped drinking. That night, when Sue Ellen and Gary run into each other in the Southfork kitchen, he once again offers to help her. Finally, she comes clean. “I know I need help. But I need to do it myself,” she says.

The TNT scenes demonstrate how hard it is for these two characters to break their old patterns. Sue Ellen no longer denies that she’s an alcoholic like she did in 1980, although she initially tries to cover up her relapse when Gary confronts her. (“Dallas’s” brilliant costume designer, Rachel Sage Kunin, offers a clever nod to Sue Ellen’s unending struggle by dressing Linda Gray in a black and white suit, not unlike the one she wore during her scene with Ted Shackelford 33 years earlier.) Sue Ellen continues to cover up her relapse a few episodes later when Ann questions her about her drinking and Sue Ellen denies it.

Gary has trouble breaking his old habits too. His determination to help Sue Ellen in 2013 recalls his attempt to bond with her in 1980, as well as his efforts to mentor fellow alcoholic Earl Trent during “Knots Landing’s” second season. Gary is often said to be the weakest of the Ewing brothers, but I find his concern for Sue Ellen endearing and — dare I say it? — heroic.

I hope Sue Ellen someday beats the bottle once and for all, but as far as Gary is concerned, I hope he never changes.

 

‘I Am Not an Alcoholic’

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Linda Gray, No More Mr. Nice Guy Part 2, Sue Ellen Ewing, Ted Shackelford, TNT

Yes, you are

In “No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 2,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) watches as Gary (Ted Shackelford) finishes playing with John Ross in the Southfork nursery.

GARY: Oh, he’s a great kid, Sue Ellen.

SUE ELLEN: I know. He’s just my whole life.

GARY: You must have really suffered when you realized you’d almost lost him.

SUE ELLEN: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

GARY: The car accident, when you’d been drinking. [Notices her stony expression] Uh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dig up old ghosts.

SUE ELLEN: There are no ghosts.

GARY: I can understand why you don’t want to talk about it. I’m an alcoholic, and I know what that’s like. But you can lick it if you want to.

SUE ELLEN: Gary, I am not an alcoholic. Well, I’ll admit that I take a drink on occasion to steady my nerves. But I can stop. I have stopped for months at a time. [Smiles]

GARY: Yeah, yeah. So did I. Thought I had it beat. But then I took a drink. And another. And pretty soon, I was on a rampage. I never realized I was capable of that kind of violence.

SUE ELLEN: Gary, I want you to stop right now. Stop preaching at me. I am not an alcoholic, and I am not violent. [Leaves the room, slamming the door behind her]

 

‘I Know I Need Help’

Dallas, Ewings Unite!, Gary Ewing, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Ted Shackelford, TNT

Yes, you do

In “Ewings Unite!,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) enters the Southfork kitchen, where Gary (Ted Shackelford) sits at the bar, working on a laptop.

GARY: [Closing the laptop] I know why you called Valene. It’s not going to work.

SUE ELLEN: I called Valene to get the two of you back together again.

GARY: You need help, Sue Ellen. And unlike my wife, I help people in trouble.

SUE ELLEN: Valene left you because she knew it was the only way to get you sober again. And she was right. She left you because she loves you. I know I need help. But I need to do it myself. You taught me that when you fall down, you get back up again. [Kisses him on the cheek] One day, she may be gone. And you don’t want to regret the loss of every moment that you could have spent with her. [She begins to walk away.]

GARY: If you ever need anything, I’m just a phone call away.

SUE ELLEN: I know that.

How do you feel about Sue Ellen and Gary’s struggles to remain sober? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Drill Bits: Want the Scoop on ‘Dallas’? Follow Those Tweets

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes

Tweethearts

If you’re not following the stars of TNT’s “Dallas” on Twitter and Instagram, you’re missing some of the best sources of news about the show’s third season.

Since production began last week, cast members have been tweeting up a storm, even using their own Season 3 hashtag: #DallasS3. On the first day of filming, Patrick Duffy shared a picture of himself and Josh Henderson standing on a soundstage, which Duffy captioned, “First scene of the first episode of season #3!!” Last night, the social media feeds lit up with a shot of Henderson and Julie Gonzalo embracing in a barn. Besides highlighting the couple’s overall adorableness, the image also shows Henderson sporting what appears to be Larry Hagman’s famous J.R. wristwatch.

Indeed, the tweets offer a glimpse of the new looks that costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin has created for the third-season episodes, which are slated to debut in early 2014. On “Dallas’s” new Instagram feed, followers were treated to a shot of Jordana Brewster donning a fitted red dress, while Linda Gray tweeted a picture of herself looking runway-ready while standing on what looks like the show’s conference room set. (Study the image and you’ll also see a monitor displaying a “Ewing Global” logo. Will this be the name of the family’s company in Season 3?)

In another shot, Brenda Strong wears a turquoise necklace while joining Gray and Emma Bell on the Southfork patio. Meanwhile, it appears Christopher Ewing will have a beard next season, based on the images that Jesse Metcalfe has been sharing with his Twitter and Instagram followers. Could the facial hair signal a darker turn for Christopher? Perhaps more tweets will tell.

Give Us the Juice

Not all of the Season 3 teases are coming via social media. Last weekend, the Dallas Morning News caught up with Henderson at the real-life Cattle Baron’s Ball, where the actor declared, “Season 3 has the juice. It’s going to be the absolute juiciest.”

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” is published regularly. Share your comments below.

Dallas Styles: 7 Iconic Looks from Sue Ellen Ewing

Dallas, Linda Gray, Revelations, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

She’s got the look

Sue Ellen WeekIn true “Dallas” style, Dallas Decoder’s recent Sue Ellen Week ended with a bit of a cliffhanger. Here at last is the final chapter, in which the wonderful Linda Gray joins me to discuss seven iconic looks she wore as Sue Ellen Ewing.

 

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Who Done It?, Who Shot J.R.?

1. The Black and White Dress (1980)

Chris: This is the dress Sue Ellen wore when she was arrested for shooting J.R., and to me, it’s her most iconic look of all. Only Sue Ellen Ewing could make “prison stripes” look this fashionable.

Linda: That dress was an accident. We didn’t know that it was going to be the dress she would eventually wear to jail! I thought it was a little too “on the nose,” but as you said, it ended up being an iconic look that the fans just loved.

 

Dallas, Dusty Farlow, Jared Martin, Linda Gray, Lover Come Back, Sue Ellen Ewing

2. The Fur Coat (1981)

Chris: Here’s the coat Sue Ellen wears when she discovers Dusty Farlow is still alive. I remember watching this scene when I was a kid and thinking you were the most glamorous woman I’d ever seen.

Linda: I loved that coat and it was perfect for the scene. Soft and feminine. Remember, that was the 80’s and there was not a focus on not wearing fur as it is now. I don’t wear fur … but Sue Ellen would!

 

Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Goodbye Cliff Barnes, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

3. The Short Hair (1982)

Chris: When the 1981-82 season ends, Sue Ellen is at Cliff’s hospital bedside and your hair is long and flowing onto your shoulders. The 1982-83 season opens later that day with Sue Ellen leaving the hospital — and suddenly your hair is short!

Linda: I loved the haircut. I remember clearly going to [hairstylist] José Eber and telling him that I was tired of clips in my hair, ponytails and the hair constantly sticking to my lip gloss. He said, “Dahling, let’s create a new look!” He did. I loved it … and the producers hated it. Oops! Thank God all the fashion people loved it and we received several awards from hair magazines and fashion magazines as being one of the best coiffeurs in the 80’s!

 

Dallas, Dusty Farlow, Family Ewing, Jared Martin, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Rock Bottom, Sue Ellen Ewing

4. The Funeral Outfit (1985)

Chris: When Bobby’s funeral begins, Sue Ellen looks amazing in that hat, but by the end of the day, she’s come unraveled — literally and figuratively. She even loses that rock she wears on her finger.

Linda: Well, yes! She does look glamorous in that Valentino outfit, but as you said, she quickly unravels! It broke my heart when they literally tore the skirt I was wearing for the scene. They actually had to buy two Valentino skirts so it broke my heart that they had to ruin one! That show was when I first met Lou Diamond Phillips. He played one of the pimps on the street as Sue Ellen was walking aimlessly around having lost her ring!

 

Dallas, Linda Gray, Martha Scott, Pam Ewing, Patricia Shepard, Sue Ellen Ewing, Victoria Principal

5. The Oil Baron’s Ball Gown (1985)

Chris: This is my favorite Sue Ellen gown from the mid-1980’s, when Travilla was the show’s costume designer. You look amazing.

Linda: I loved Bill Travilla. He used to come into my dressing room and sit early in the morning and tell me wonderful stories of the glamorous women of Hollywood that he used to dress. Of course, we all remember the famous shot of Marilyn Monroe in that amazing white halter dress — which he designed — of her standing over the street grate. Talk about iconic. He knew how to dress the female body. He was a genius and designed clothes for the actors that suited their characters and their body type.

 

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

6. The Executive Look (1986)

Chris: This is one of Sue Ellen’s first outfits when she becomes a business executive. I love that sassy expression.

Linda: I remember it clearly. I like that sassy expression too. It’s so funny because in all of these pictures I can “feel” the fabric! I remember the contrasting patterns being a bit bold back then but we were always trying to push the envelope a bit — or a lot — to give the audience an idea to play more with their wardrobe and become a little more creative.

 

Dallas, Ewings Unite, Gary Ewing, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Ted Shackelford, TNT

7. Black and White Redux (2013)

Chris: To me, this outfit demonstrates the genius of Rachel Sage Kunin, the new show’s costumer designer. She manages to update Sue Ellen’s look while staying true to the character’s traditions.

Linda: I am honored and so happy to be working with Rachel. She gets it! She is creative, talented, knows her fabric and has gotten every single character dressed perfectly for their role. The other thing that people don’t know is that she dresses everyone on the show. Usually they have a woman wardrobe woman and a person for the men. It’s the first show that I have ever worked on where there is only one person — and I’m so glad that it’s Rachel.

Share your thoughts on Sue Ellen’s looks in the comments section below and read more “Dallas Styles.”

The Best & Worst of TNT’s Dallas: Season 2

The second season of TNT’s “Dallas” was even better than the first. Here are my laurels, along with a few darts.

Performances

Woman of the year

Wonder woman

She spent Season 1 on the sidelines, but Linda Gray became “Dallas’s” star player this year. After losing the election, Sue Ellen maneuvered her way into Ewing Energies, then fought tooth and manicured nail to save the company. Her determination took many forms: She flirted with Gary and later Ken, proving a woman in her 70s could still be playful and alluring, and blackmailed Governor McConaughey with a smile, demonstrating just how much she learned from her ex-husband. Speaking of J.R.: Gray shined brightest at his funeral, where Sue Ellen took a heartbreaking tumble off the wagon, then delivered a mesmerizing eulogy for the man she called “the love of my life.” It was a magnificent, unforgettable performance – and if there’s any justice in the world, Gray’s next big speech will be at the Emmys.

Storylines

The “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery was terrific because it allowed viewers to slide into J.R.’s boots and try to piece together the puzzle he left behind. The gun! That letter! Those cocaine shoes! How were the clues connected? This was “Dallas” at its most fun – and as an added bonus, it finally resolved Pam’s storyline and gave the character the redemption she deserved. (Pam may be dead, but please let Katherine live.) The season’s least satisfying storyline: Vicente Cano’s ambush on Southfork and the hostage crisis that ensued. This storyline did little to advance the season’s main narrative – the fight for Ewing Energies – nor did it give us much new insight into the characters. On the other hand: at least nobody made Sue Ellen sing.

Episodes

Tears of the son

Tears of the son

The beautiful, elegiac “J.R.’s Masterpiece” is landmark television. From the mournful version of the “Dallas” theme music that played under the special opening titles through the moving gravesite eulogies, scriptwriter Cynthia Cidre and director Michael M. Robin made J.R.’s death feel achingly real. This is their masterpiece. At the other end of the spectrum: “Ewings Unite!,” an uneven hour marred by J.R.’s silly will reading and Gary and Val’s drive-by reunion.

Scenes

Almost two months after watching “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” I’m still haunted by the memory of Sue Ellen getting drunk in her ex-husband’s bedroom on the night before his funeral. As Tara Holloway’s soulful rendition of “The Bottom” played, we watched Sue Ellen move around J.R.’s bed, caress a framed photo from their wedding and finally drown her sorrows with glass after glass of his bourbon. This was two-and-a-half minutes of exquisite agony. (Among the season’s other great scenes: Ann’s spellbinding testimony at her trial, Harris and Emma’s parking garage encounter, Harris’s Komodo dragon speech and the moment lusty John Ross storms off the elevator and into Pamela’s arms.)

Twists

Raw deal

Raw deal

The police discover Tommy’s body and murder weapon. John Ross warns Pamela, who frantically begins preparing to skip town as the police arrive with guns drawn. But wait! They’re not coming to arrest Pamela; they’re after Frank, who has been framed by Cliff. It was a classic “Dallas” fake-out and the season’s most surprising twist. The silliest: At J.R.’s will reading, Miss Ellie somehow takes half of Southfork from Bobby and gives it to John Ross. Howzat, Mama?

Traditions

Season 2 gave us a Southfork swimming pool scene, the return of the old Ewing Oil building and even a reference to Westar, but where were the barbecue and Oil Baron’s Ball (er, “Cattle Baron’s Ball”) episodes? On the other hand, we did get “The Furious and the Fast,” the fantastic racetrack-set episode that marked the “Dallas” directorial debut of Rodney Charters, the show’s ace cinematographer. Perhaps racecars will become a new “Dallas” tradition? I’m ready for another spin.

Villains

Evil dad

Evil dad

Steven Weber played McConaughey to smirking perfection and Mitch Pileggi and Judith Light were delicious as the evil Rylands, but Ken Kercheval scared the bejesus out of me as Cliff. The scene where he orders the destruction of the methane rig is chilling. Yet somehow, the brilliant Kercheval made sure we never lost sight of Cliff’s humanity, especially when he was arrested for J.R.’s murder. Make no mistake: Season 2 was the performance of Kercheval’s career.

Returning Favorites

Audrey Landers’ return as Afton in “Guilt and Innocence” was a hoot. Robert Rovner’s script gave Landers plenty to do, and she made the most of it: During the course of the hour, we got to see Afton badmouth Cliff (“He’s a mean drunk, that man”), flirt with John Ross, shoot daggers at Christopher and sweetly serenade Pamela with her favorite childhood lullaby. I also liked Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark’s return as Gary and Valene (even if Van Ark didn’t get enough to do), as well as the familiar faces who showed up in “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” especially Mandy and Cally (Deborah Shelton, Cathy Podewell), whose reminiscing about their romances with J.R. proved surprisingly poignant.

Newcomers

Welcome to Southfork

Welcome to Southfork

Each episode of “Dallas” clocks in at 42 minutes sans commercials, making screen time a commodity. It’s tempting to knock the producers for expanding the cast in Season 2 – except the newcomers are all so good! I was especially charmed by magnetic Kuno Becker, who was both smoldering and sweet as ne’er-do-well Drew, while Emma Bell knocked me out as Emma, who shifted effortlessly from sheltered princess to a pill-popping sexpot. Is there anything this actress can’t do?

Supporting Players

Like the original “Dallas,” the new show is beginning to feel like its own world, thanks to its growing population of reliable recurring characters. My favorites include steadfast Sheriff Derrick (Akai Draco), dutiful lawyer Lou Bergen (Glenn Morshower) and of course loyal private eye Bum (Kevin Page), who charmed me in his scene with Sue Ellen and moved me when he confessed his role in J.R.’s master plan. Season 2 also introduced two promising additions to the Ewing Energies secretarial pool: perky, sneaky Jill (Amber Bartlett) and statuesque Stacy (Natalie Quintanilla). The other great addition: lusty city transportation chief Alison Jones (Annie Wersching). Could she become this generation’s Marilee Stone?

Costumes

Man of style

Man of style

“Dallas” doesn’t just have TV’s best-dressed cast; the actors are also smartly dressed. Everyone’s “look” fits their character perfectly. Case in point: J.R., whose western jackets, dark suits and Butch Dorer hats made him Season 2’s most dashing figure. My favorite outfit: the classic pinstripes he sported in “Venomous Creatures” when he blackmailed the smarmy prosecutor. A tip of the hat to costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin. Thanks to her, our hero went out in style.

Music

The music on “Dallas” is a mix of familiar tunes like Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory,” which played during J.R.’s memorial service, and oh-my-gosh-what-is-the-name-of-that-song-I-must-own-it selections like “Liar,” an unreleased number from the Unknown that was heard in “False Confessions” and “Legacies.” My favorite: “My Time Has Come,” the driving rock anthem from the Bowery Riots that played when Bobby did that cool slow-motion walk away from Cliff at the end of “Love and Family.” It was the ideal song to showcase Bobby at his badass best.

Props

Ugly truth

Ugly truth

I’m tempted to choose Christopher’s Miller Lite bottle or all those Microsoft Surface tablets as best props, but instead I’ll go with J.R.’s handsome bourbon decanter, which the three people he loved most – Bobby, Sue Ellen and Christopher – all drank from after his death. Worst prop? That’s easy: The awful painting of J.R. unveiled at the end of “Legacies.” Where’s J.R.’s nose? What happened to his right shoulder? My plea to the producers: Fix this before Season 3 starts.

Hashtags

Since so much of my “Dallas” viewing experience now takes place in the Twitterverse, it seems appropriate to honor the hashtags of Season 2: #BubbaNotEarl #ByeByeCloudDrive #Clonazepam #ContinuedLegalSubterfuge #EminentDomain #FentonWashburnEsquire #HighImpactPressureMoldedCocaine #HighVelocityBloodSplatter #HornedFrogsVsMustangs #HotelColon #JudgeRhonda #KomodoDragons #MoralsClause #NuevoLaredo #PatriciaBarrett #RickyRudd #RIPKatherine?

Quips

This category is always the toughest and Season 2 is no different. What to choose? Sue Ellen’s putdown of Afton (“She’s drama, John Ross.”)? Val’s greeting to Sue Ellen (“Once a bitch, always a bitch.”)? Vicente’s observation after realizing the Ewing cousins have traded romantic partners (“You Ewing boys share after all! I love it!”)? John Ross’s not-fit-for-print philosophy on romance (“Love is for [kitty cats]”)? In the end, I’ll go with the master. J.R.’s encounter with Pamela: “You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse.” Oh, J.R. We’ll never stop missing you.

What do you love and loathe about the second season of TNT’s “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 23 – ‘Love and Family’

Bobby Ewing, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Love and Family, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Walking tall

The final moments in “Love and Family” give me chills. Bobby tells Sue Ellen they need to act like J.R. and let Cliff believe he’s won, and then as a rousing rock tune rises in the background, Bobby raises a glass of bourbon to a framed photograph of his beaming big brother. Cut to John Ross and Pamela standing before a justice of the peace (John Ross: “You doing this because you love me, or because you hate your father?” Pamela: “I do.”), then to Cliff as he sweeps into Ewing Energies and takes the keys from Bobby. “I can only imagine the look on J.R.’s face right about now,” Cliff smirks. “Me too,” Bobby responds. As our hero walks away in slow motion, a sly smile breaks across his face, the drumbeat builds, the screen fades to black, and all I can think is: Damn, this show is cool.

Patrick Duffy’s smile recalls all the classic “Dallas” episodes that end with J.R.’s grin, but we feel the character’s presence throughout this episode. Christopher’s obsession with beating Cliff recalls J.R.’s own efforts to outmaneuver him during the original series. Likewise, John Ross’s ploy to snag a piece of Barnes Global by marrying Pamela bears the hallmarks of an old-school, whatever-it-takes J.R. scheme. Even the way Bobby subtly pressures John Ross into the marriage is a little J.R.-esque. Perhaps the lesson here is that J.R.’s values weren’t his alone; they belong to the whole Ewing family. This is why we shouldn’t question “Dallas’s” ability to keep going after Larry Hagman’s death. His loss leaves a hole that will never be filled, but the “Dallas” themes have always been bigger than any one character. So far the new show has done a hell of a good job reminding us of this.

In addition to keeping J.R.’s spirit alive, “Love and Honor” director Randy Zisk also showcases Brenda Strong and Emma Bell, who deliver standout performances during Ann’s confrontation with her daughter at the scene of Emma’s car wreck. My heart breaks for Emma when she lashes out at Ann for allowing the controlling Rylands to take her away when she was a child (“You escaped! You did four years! I did 20, Ann!”). I also cheer when Ann tells her daughter she won’t bail her out until she agrees to get help for her addictions. “Why are you doing this?” Emma screams as Sheriff Derrick leads her away in handcuffs. “Because I’m your mother!” Ann responds. This is probably Bell’s best scene yet and Strong’s finest moment since Ann’s testimony in “Trial and Error.” (Perhaps not coincidentally, that episode, like “Love and Family,” was written by John Whelpley, who joined the “Dallas” writing team this season.)

“Love and Family’s” other great performances come from Jordana Brewster and Kuno Becker, who knock me out in the scene where Drew finally confesses his role in the rig explosion to Elena. Brewster has to convey a lot of emotions – shock, anger, disappointment – all in the same breath. She sells every one. Likewise, Becker makes me feel Drew’s anguish and guilt. These two actors have another terrific scene at the end of the episode when Elena and Carmen (Marlene Forte, who holds her own against her on-screen children) bring Drew money and bid him farewell as he sets off to find Harris’s missing henchman, Roy Vickers. It’s a measure of how much I’ve come to like Becker that as I watch Drew ride away on his motorcycle, I find myself worried for the character.

The same thing can’t be said about Cliff. The scene where we learn Katherine willed her share of the Barnes-Wentworth empire to him raised the ire of “Dallas” diehards who remember there was never any love lost between those two characters. I suspect we’re going to find out there’s more to this story. Perhaps Cliff cheated Katherine out of her share, or maybe she faked her death and is in cahoots with him in his plot against the Ewings. (On “Dallas,” stranger alliances have occurred.) Either way, this seems to be another nail in Cliff’s coffin. The character has turned so villainous; it’s hard for me to imagine how the show can redeem him.

More and more, I wonder if we might be witnessing the last hurrah of Cliff Barnes. Ken Kercheval was positively chilling at the beginning of the season, when Cliff was so focused on bringing down the Ewings, he allowed Frank to kill himself rather than disrupt his schemes. Since J.R.’s death, Kercheval has given us glimpses of the man Cliff used to be – a sweeping hand gesture here, a self-satisfied smirk there – which is a clever way of signaling how Cliff is letting his guard down. (Costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin’s choices for Cliff’s wardrobe might be telling too. Notice how his all-black outfits are slowly giving way to more colorful garments. Even the old pocket squares are back.) With the Rylands now established as potent Ewing foes, I wonder if John Ross and Pamela’s wedding in this episode will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the Barnes/Ewing feud – or will it serve as a kind of denouement?

With these questions on my mind, I can’t help but find Bobby’s slow-motion walk away from Cliff at the end of this episode kind of poignant. After all these years, Cliff has gotten his revenge. (Tellingly, the title of the terrific song that plays during this sequence is “My Time Has Come” by the Bowery Riots.) Even if you don’t like Cliff, you have to admire his persistence. You also have to admit: It’s going to be mighty satisfying to see the Ewings take this bastard down.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Love and Family, Pamela Barnes, TNT

Here we go again?

‘LOVE AND FAMILY’

Season 2, Episode 13

Telecast: April 8, 2013

Writer: John Whelpley

Director: Randy Zisk

Audience: 2.4 million viewers on April 8

Synopsis: John Ross marries Pamela after she persuades Cliff to give her one-third of Barnes Global. Cliff takes control of Ewing Energies. After Emma gets high and wrecks her car, Ann refuses to bail her out. Drew confesses his role in the bombing to Elena, who gives him money after he goes on the run to find the missing Vickers. Christopher and Elena leave for Zurich to find Pam.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Will Beinbrink (Curran), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Ralph Brown (justice of the peace), Ron Corning (news anchor), Jerry Cotton (judge), Akai Draco (Sheriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Todd Everett (prosecutor), Alex Fernandez (Roy Vickers), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Cynthia Izaguirre (news anchor), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Steven Weber (Governor Sam McConaughey)

“Love and Family” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.