Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 73 – ‘The Gathering Storm’

Scene from a marriage

Scene from a marriage

I’ve always considered Charlene Tilton one of “Dallas’s” charismatic actresses, although I haven’t always been a fan of her character. In “The Gathering Storm,” Lucy stands up for herself in the face of husband Mitch’s sexism, which makes me want to stand up and cheer her on. This episode makes me love Lucy.

The character’s big moment comes in the second act, when Lucy comes home late after a lengthy photo shoot. Mitch is angry, not so much because his wife missed dinner, but because she now brings home a bigger paycheck than him.

“It’s not my money, and it’s not your money. It’s ours,” Lucy says. “What difference does it make who earns it?”

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Mitch snaps.

This is “The Gathering Storm’s” best scene, thanks to Tilton and Leigh McCloskey’s convincing performances and scriptwriter Robert J. Shaw’s realistic dialogue. Lucy and Mitch’s argument sounds like the kind of fight a real-life couple might have had in the early 1980s, when more women were moving into the work force and men like Mitch were learning to adjust.

I’m pretty sure “Dallas” wants us to “side” with Lucy during the argument, although the show goes out of its way to not vilify Mitch’s sexist attitude. In one scene, he says the reason he and Lucy are fighting is because they have “totally different values.” That’s true, but casting the character’s chauvinism as a “value” makes it seem nobler than it deserves.

Still, the dissolution of Mitch and Lucy’s marriage feels credible, based on what we know about these characters. This is true for Jock and Miss Ellie too. It’s difficult to watch them argue in “The Gathering Storm,” but I believe Ellie when she says she’s tired of Jock’s lack of sensitivity, just like I believe him when he expresses his frustration with her stubborn idealism.

Of course, the sadness I feel seeing Jock and Ellie separate is nothing compared to the pain that comes from watching Jim Davis’s performance in “The Gathering Storm.” The cancer-stricken actor’s health was deteriorating when this episode was filmed – and it shows. Like this episode’s title suggests, dark clouds are moving over “Dallas,” and not just in front of the camera.

Grade: B

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Runaway husband

Runaway husband

‘THE GATHERING STORM’

Season 4, Episode 19

Airdate: March 27, 1981

Audience: 25 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Robert J. Shaw

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: The Takapa fight continues: Jock moves out of Southfork and J.R. offers to sell the company to rival oil baron Jeremy Wendell to prevent it from being dragged into his parents’ looming divorce. Cliff begins snooping into the counter-revolution in Asia and receives a visit from Rebecca, who doesn’t reveal she’s his mother.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Cherie Beasley (Tootie Smith), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Ellen Bry (Jean Hallinan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Morgan Hart (Jenny Smith), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Monte Markham (Clint Ogden), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Hortense Petra (Maggie) Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), William Smithers (Jeremy Wendell), Christopher Stone (Dave Stratton), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“The Gathering Storm” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.