Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 122 — ‘Legacy’

Ben Piazza, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Legacy, Walt Driscoll

Into darkness

“Legacy” opens with Pam, having decided to separate from Bobby, packing up her Porsche and driving away with little Christopher. It’s a landmark moment in the life of the series. “Digger’s Daughter” shows Bobby and Pam arriving at Southfork as newlyweds, and now she has spent her last night under that roof as his wife. Soon the couple will be divorced, and even though they’ll eventually remarry and Pam will return to the ranch, things will never quite be the same. I know some fans welcome the changes that Bobby and Pam’s split herald, but as far as I’m concerned, a little bit of the old “Dallas” magic dies the moment she pulls out of that driveway.

Pam’s decision to leave is triggered by the death of her mother Rebecca, whose will reading delivers this episode’s other monumental moment. The Wentworth empire, which Rebecca inherited from her late husband Herbert, is divided among her three children, Cliff, Pam and Katherine. The “Dallas” writers make this division mighty complicated — Cliff gets Barnes-Wentworth Oil, Pam and Katherine split their mother’s shares in Wentworth Industries and all three siblings become equal partners in Wentworth Tool and Die — but no matter. What’s important is that Cliff and Pam are now rich, forever changing the original “Dallas” dynamic of the have-not Barneses versus the wealthy, wanton Ewings. It’s also worth noting that the collection of companies that Rebecca leaves behind becomes the basis for Barnes Global, the conglomerate that Cliff uses as his weapon to bludgeon the Ewings during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas.”

Beyond these turning points, “Legacy” offers some unusually nifty camerawork. This is the fifth episode directed by Patrick Duffy, who once again demonstrates a flair for visual storytelling. Two of my favorite shots are found in the sequence where J.R. and Walt Driscoll meet after hours at Ewing Oil. Duffy positions the camera behind the reception desk as Driscoll arrives and steps off the elevator, a unique angle that, as far as I can remember, is never repeated. Moments later, J.R. stands in the foreground, shrouded in darkness, as Driscoll sits behind him, counting the money from their crooked oil deal. The shot makes Larry Hagman look utterly sinister.

I also admire Duffy’s inventive approach in the opening scene. After Pam’s Porsche pulls out of the driveway, Duffy pans the camera upward to reveal J.R. watching from the balcony. We rarely see the Ewings up there — the shot of J.R. gazing at Kristin’s dead body in the swimming pool in “Ewing-Gate” is a notable exception — so it’s neat to see Duffy put this part of the Southfork set to use. (Perhaps the “Dallas” actors are particularly attuned to this sort of thing: When Hagman directed the third-season episode “Mother of the Year,” he showed Lucy sliding down the Southfork bannister — the first time we see someone descend those famous stairs in that manner.) The “Legacy” shot of J.R. on the balcony also reminds us that he was hovering in the shadows the last time Pam left Bobby, at the end of “The Red File, Part 1” a second-season classic.

Scriptwriter Robert Sherman doesn’t deliver many new insights into the characters, but he does a nice of reinforcing what we’ve come to expect from them. I especially like the scene where J.R. paces on the patio, ranting about the outcome of Rebecca’s will reading. It’s always fun to hear J.R. insult Cliff — in this scene, he calls him a “lunatic” and predicts he’ll now be free to do “any fool thing” he wishes — but beyond the humor, the scene allows Sue Ellen to once again serve as J.R.’s confidant. Ever since the state revoked his permission to pump extra oil, J.R. has publicly declared the loss is no big deal. Here, he tells his wife the truth: “I’m in trouble.” It’s nice to see J.R. treat Sue Ellen as a partner — and that’s how she seems to think of herself too. Notice how she asks him, “Are you afraid we’re going to lose?”

Another good scene: Sue Ellen tells Clayton she’s upset that he’s seeing Miss Ellie. “I thought you were my friend,” she says. This prompts Clayton to confess that he was once in love with Sue Ellen, but since growing close to Ellie, he realizes Sue Ellen isn’t the woman for him. “Clayton, I just don’t understand,” she says. His response: “Not then, and not now.” This dialogue makes Sue Ellen seem a bit more self-absorbed than she was when Clayton was secretly pining for her at the end of the fifth season, but Linda Gray manages to make her character sympathetic nonetheless.

The other highlight of “Legacy” is the scene where Lucy and Muriel pull Mickey out of the Braddock saloon after a thuggish cowboy punches out his lights. The next time we see Mickey and Lucy, he’s waking up in his car with his head on her shoulder. It’s a charming moment and the first time we’ve seen the troubled Lucy demonstrate her growing affection for him. More than anything, I like seeing a woman coming to a man’s rescue on “Dallas,” which marks a real departure for a show with chauvinistic tendencies. Of course, I know before all is said done, Mickey will end up rescuing Lucy. Or maybe he already has.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Mickey Trotter, Timothy Patrick Murphy

Cold shoulder no more


Season 6, Episode 19

Airdate: February 18, 1983

Audience: 21.5 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Robert Sherman

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Pam takes Christopher and moves into a hotel. Cliff inherits Barnes-Wentworth Oil from Rebecca, while ownership of Wentworth Tool and Die is split evenly among Cliff, Pam and Katherine. J.R., fearing Bobby and the newly wealthy Pam will reunite and join forces against him, offers to end the contest for Ewing Oil, but Bobby refuses. J.R. is forced to sell some of his gas stations and completes his first illegal shipment to Cuba. Clayton tells Sue Ellen he once loved her but now realizes she wasn’t the right woman for him. Lucy rescues Mickey from a bar brawl.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), J.P. Bumstead (Horace), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Michael Currie (Sam Reynolds), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Chuck Hicks (bar patron), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Rosqui (Teddy), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Bill Zuckert (Bill)

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

Dallas Parallels: Fatal Falls

A beautiful woman feels mistreated by her Ewing lover. She is distressed, distraught, desperate. There’s a confrontation. Harsh words are exchanged. Before you know it, the woman has plunged to her death, leaving the police to sort out if this was a suicide or murder.

Sound familiar? This scenario has played out on “Dallas” more than once. More than twice, actually.

In the original show’s second-season episode “The Red File, Part 1,” J.R.’s ex-secretary and on-again/off-again mistress Julie Grey realizes he doesn’t love her, so she decides to give Cliff Barnes a copy of J.R.’s “red file,” which details his shady dealings with Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr. Dumb move, darlin’: When Jeb and Willie Joe find out what Julie’s up to, they show up at her apartment and chase her to the roof – and then they chase her off it.

Flash forward two seasons: In “Ewing-Gate,” Kristin Shepard, another of J.R.’s ex-mistresses/ex-secretaries, threatens to spill the beans about their secret love child if he doesn’t pay her more hush money. When J.R. refuses to give in to Kristin’s scheme, she shows up at Southfork and, after a confrontation with J.R., falls from the balcony and drowns in the swimming pool.

Now, flash forward three decades: In “Collateral Damage,” an episode of TNT’s “Dallas,” John Ross races to the high-rise hotel room of his ex-lover Marta del Sol, who has tricked him into believing she has kidnapped his girlfriend Elena. Once John Ross realizes this is a ruse, he leaves, passing two shadowy men on his way to the elevator. Marta ends up reaching the driveway before John Ross.

Echoes from both older episodes reverberate in the newer one. All three women feel used by the Ewing men in their lives, but they’re also victims of their own deceit: Julie secretly copied J.R.’s red file and Kristin fooled both J.R. and Jordan Lee into believing they fathered her child, while Marta cheated business partner Vicente Cano during their Southfork swindle.

There are other similarities: Marta dies at the hands of two men, just like Julie. The shot of Kristin’s dead body (in “Missing Heir,” the episode that follows “Ewing-Gate”) is creepily reminiscent of the haunting image of Marta’s bloodied corpse. The police briefly suspect J.R. killed Kristin, while John Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder.

Eventually, John Ross is cleared of wrongdoing, just like J.R. was in Kristin’s death. But did John Ross learn a lesson? Or like his daddy, will he continue to get involved with dangerous women? Most importantly: Will those women be smart enough to steer clear of heights?


‘What Do You Want?’

Baby daddy?

In “Ewing-Gate,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) walks into his office, followed by the visiting Kristin (Mary Crosby).

J.R.: What ill wind blew you into Dallas? I thought we had a deal. [Sits his briefcase on his desk]

KRISTIN: The baby’s just fine, J.R. Thank you for asking. He looks just like his daddy.

J.R.: [Turns to face her] What do you want?


J.R.: Do you now?

KRISTIN: I’m tired of your little monthly checks, J.R. I picked up some very expensive habits in California – and I want you to pay for them.

J.R.: This is not the time to try to negotiate with me, Kristin.

KRISTIN: Well, now I think it’s the perfect time. Judging from what I read in the papers, you’re making the headlines everywhere. Poor Jock and Miss Ellie. They must be shattered. Think of how they’d feel if they read about a paternity suit on top of everything else.

J.R.: All right, but you gotta give me time. I can’t pull too much out of the bank right now.

KRISTIN: Don’t take too long, J.R. I’m not very patient.

J.R.: You’ll be hearing from me real soon. Where can I call you?

KRISTIN: [Rises] I’ll call you, J.R. Somehow, I’d feel safer that way. Don’t take too long now. [Walks toward the door, stops, turns to face him] Oh, and give my love to Sue Ellen.


‘What the Hell Do You Want?’

Oh daddy, what a babe!

In “Collateral Damage,” TNT’s seventh “Dallas” episode, John Ross and Marta (Josh Henderson, Leonor Varela) argue in her hotel room.

MARTA: Vicente froze my bank accounts. I have no money. And I really need to get out of the country.

JOHN ROSS: How much?

MARTA: What?

JOHN ROSS: Money. How much money?

MARTA: I don’t want money.

JOHN ROSS: Then what the hell do you want?

MARTA: I want you to take responsibility. You got me into this. You need to help me!

JOHN ROSS: Marta, I’m here to find Elena. Where the hell is she? [She stares at him silently.] You don’t have her.

MARTA: It was the only way to get you here.

JOHN ROSS: You stole that phone.

MARTA: [Goes to him] You need to help me. Please, John Ross. Please. [He notices a camera in the corner.]

JOHN ROSS: [Pushing her away] You’re filming this? What did you think was going to happen here? What is wrong with you?

MARTA: I have earned what I have. I’ve earned my way out of the slums of Caracas.

JOHN ROSS: Congratulations.

MARTA: I need to watch out for myself. I thought we had that in common. But you’re just a spoiled boy. You’re not entitled to anything. Not me. Not your girlfriend’s love. Nothing.

What do you think of J.R. and John Ross’s entanglements with Julie, Kristin and Marta? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 7 – ‘Collateral Damage’

Christopher Ewing, Collateral Damage, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, TNT

Cry, cry again

“Collateral Damage” gets it right. This episode offers solid writing, stylish direction and strong performances, all while making good use of established “Dallas” lore. Overall, this is the new show’s best hour since the pilot, “Changing of the Guard.”

I’m sure many viewers will remember “Collateral Damage” as the episode where Marta meets her maker, but as haunting as the sight of her bloodied body atop that crushed car is, it’s not the image that sticks with me most. No, that distinction belongs to the scene in the doctor’s office, where Christopher and Rebecca are shown the sonogram of their unborn twins as Bobby and Ann watch silently.

Julie Gonzalo and Brenda Strong are good here, but it’s the guys who move me most. Jesse Metcalfe is establishing himself as television’s best crier, while Patrick Duffy has matured into the rarest of Hollywood species: the actor who doesn’t need dialogue to perform. The look on Duffy’s face tells us everything we need to know about the pride and joy Bobby feels at that moment.

And while I’m sure “Dallas” newcomers appreciated this scene, it holds special meaning for me and, I suspect, other longtime fans. We once watched a twentysomething Bobby bring his young bride home to Southfork, and now we see him on the brink of becoming a grandfather. We remember Christopher arriving at the ranch as a babe-in-arms, and now he’s embarking on his own journey to fatherhood. For “Dallas” diehards, this is a big, meaningful moment, and director Steve Robin deserves our thanks for slowing things down so we could absorb the weight of it.

My other favorite “Collateral Damage” scene opens with John Ross sitting in a posh restaurant, reminiscing about the time he broke into the Southfork liquor cabinet as a child to sneak his first taste of bourbon. “That’s when you found me,” John Ross says as the camera pans across the table to reveal his dining companion: Lucy. “You were half past gone on the floor,” she quips. “And the first thing I thought was, ‘Yep, he’s his mama’s son.’”

I adore this exchange because it demonstrates how TNT’s “Dallas” can bring together younger characters and longtime favorites in ways that serve current storylines while also honoring the old show’s past. Even though we never witnessed John Ross sneaking liquor on the original “Dallas,” it isn’t hard to imagine it happening off-screen. The same thing can’t be said for many of the historical revisions TNT’s writers have made this season.

John Ross and Lucy’s scene also works well because, frankly, it’s nice to be reminded of a time when Southfork was full of family – something I hope the new series will get back to soon. Additionally, I’m happy to see TNT showcase Charlene Tilton, a onetime ingénue who now possesses a wonderfully worldly, been-there-done-that charm. I hope we see more of her in the future.

Aaron Allen’s “Collateral Damage” script also includes a nicely written scene where Sue Ellen oh-so-subtly pressures Elena to bail out John Ross. Jordana Brewster more than holds her own against Linda Gray during this exchange, particularly when Elena questions if Sue Ellen still cares about Bobby and his family – something I’ve wondered myself. Sue Ellen’s response (“Elena, when the day comes that you have to choose between your child and anybody else, I hope you choose wisely.”) illuminates the character’s thinking, reminding us that even though Sue Ellen has changed, she hasn’t lost all her old impulses.

Speaking of illumination: “Collateral Damage” sheds a little more light on the dark secret being kept by Ann, Bobby’s new wife. The evidence suggests Ann once had a daughter, although we don’t know what happened to her. According to one wild theory making the online rounds, Rebecca is Ann’s daughter, the result of a one-night stand with Cliff a quarter century ago. (Strong portrayed an unnamed woman Cliff slept with in “Cat and Mouse,” a 1987 “Dallas” episode.) I suppose anything’s possible, but for now I’m content to enjoy the mystery.

Finally, some praise for the fantastic “Collateral Damage” sequence where a frantic John Ross goes to Marta’s hotel room, believing she’s kidnapped Elena, only to discover it’s just another one of Marta’s deceptions. The whole thing plays like a fevered dream – the camerawork is shaky and the film looks like it’s been sped up – making this one of TNT’s niftiest “Dallas” scenes yet.

Until this moment, Marta seemed destined to become another crazed stalker from soap opera central casting, but Leonor Varela’s mesmerizing performance makes the character feel utterly human. Rather brilliantly, Allen’s script gives Marta a line about how she “earned” her way out of “the slums of Caracas,” a neatly efficient way to generate sympathy for the character before she dies.

From this perspective, Marta resembles another tragic “Dallas” vixen: Julie Grey, Tina Louise’s character from the old show’s early years. I don’t think it’s a coincidence Marta plunges to her death after encountering a couple of henchmen, just like Julie did during the old show’s classic “The Red File, Part 1” episode.

Clever homages like this help “Collateral Damage” earn its “A” grade, which is the first one I’ve awarded since “Changing of the Guard.” Something tells me it won’t be the last.

Grade: A


Charlene Tilton, Collateral Damage, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, TNT

Missing cousin


Season 1, Episode 7

Telecast: July 18, 2012

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Steve Robin

Audience: 5.2 million viewers (including 3.9 million viewers on July 18, ranking 13th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: Under pressure from Cano, John Ross invites Lucy to join him in the battle for Southfork, but she sides instead with Bobby. Ryland has Bobby arrested for assaulting him but drops the charges. Bobby tells Ann her past doesn’t matter to him. Christopher tells Elena he wants her back, but he’s at Rebecca’s side when she learns she’s pregnant with twins. Sue Ellen persuades Elena to use her oil to help John Ross, who is arrested after Marta plunges to her death from a high-rise balcony.

Cast: Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Sutter), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), D’Laine Gutmann (nurse), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Peyton Hayslip (Dr. Lauren Barstow), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)

“Collateral Damage” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘… Or the Secrets We Share’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Julie Grey, Larry Hagman, Red File Part 1, Tina Louise

Twice upon a mistress

In “The Red File, Part 1,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. and Julie (Larry Hagman, Tina Louise) stroll along a pier while drinking champagne.

J.R.: Three days down here, and what do we get? We get rain, sleet, sun. I tell you, this Gulf weather’s enough to drive you crazy.

JULIE: [Laughs] Well, darling, one thing you don’t have is power over the weather.

J.R.: I use my powers in other ways.

JULIE: Yes, I’ve noticed. I’m constantly amazed. [Giggles]

J.R.: Never underestimate your charms, my sweet. [Kisses her]

JULIE: Thank you, darling. I never know if it’s me or the secrets we share that makes me so appealing to you. [He pours more champagne in her glass.] Thank you. Honey, does it ever bother you that I betrayed you once with Cliff Barnes?

J.R.: Now, I’m hungry. What do you want for lunch?

JULIE: Now, J.R., we never talk about it. You know, I could’ve given him the whole red file instead of just those tidbits on the payoffs to Senator Orloff.

J.R.: Well, that’s water under the bridge, or over the dam, or however the saying goes. I don’t know.

JULIE: I gotta know how you feel about me.

J.R.: [Playfully] Well, I like that. I cancel every appointment I got in Dallas. [Motions toward the water] We’re supposed to be out inspecting the Ewing Oil platforms. Now I ask you, what have we been inspecting here? [She laughs and kisses him.]

JULIE: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make demands. I’m having a wonderful time.

J.R.: But?

JULIE: But sometimes I wanna know what you’re feeling. I wanna know what you’re thinking.

J.R.: All right. That affair with Cliff Barnes. Now, how does he rate on a scale of 1 to 10? [Julie playfully tosses the champagne in her glass at him. He ducks and laughs, and then they kiss passionately.]

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 22 – ‘The Red File, Part 1’

Dallas, Julie Grey, Red File Part 1, Tina Louise

Dead woman’s dive


I love the Dallas Press’s screaming headline in “The Red File, Part 1.” When Jock sits down at the Southfork breakfast table and cracks open that newspaper, I crack up.

Why does the demise of Julie, an unemployed secretary, merit a front-page, all-caps banner? What’s with the glamour shot that accompanies the story? And what crackerjack reporter got the story of Julie’s late-night death in the paper – and on page 1, no less – in time for the next day’s morning edition?

As for the question the headline poses, we may think we know the answer – Julie’s death was neither murder nor suicide; she slipped and fell – but I’m not sure it’s that cut-and-dried.

Director Leonard Katzman shoots her death scene at night, shrouding the actors in darkness, so it’s hard to see what happens in the seconds after Julie breaks out of Willie Joe’s grip and the moment she goes airborne.

What if she jumps?

Consider this: Julie is pretty distraught when she goes to the rooftop – and she knows Jeb and Willie Joe are going to kill her anyway – so what if she makes a split-second decision to do herself in?

Also, consider how Jock matter-of-factly announces her death at the Southfork breakfast table. Didn’t he almost have an affair with Julie in the previous episode?

J.R.’s reaction is also oddly muted. Yes, when he learns about Julie’s death, he retreats to the Southfork den, pours himself a stiff one (it’s breakfast time!) and looks glum, but he recovers soon enough. Within hours, J.R. is hatching a plot to frame Cliff for Julie’s death.

If he really cared about this woman, wouldn’t he want to find her real killers?

Maybe Jock and J.R.’s reactions tell us what Julie already knew: In the end, after all those years of service to the Ewings, she simply didn’t matter that much to them.

Grade: B


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Red File Part 1

Which is it?


Season 2, Episode 17

Airdate: February 2, 1979

Audience: 13.9 million homes, ranking 30th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Cliff becomes the state’s land-use chief. Julie dies during a rooftop confrontation with Jeb and Willie Joe, who don’t want her to expose their secrets. When Cliff is arrested for Julie’s murder, Pam believes J.R. framed him and leaves Southfork.

Cast: John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Fred Beir (Ben Maxwell), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Jordan Charney (Lieutenant Sutton), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Tina Louise (Julie Grey), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), John Petlock (Dan Marsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Sandy Ward (Jeb Ames), Charles Wilder Young (Charlie Waters)

“The Red File, Part 1” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.