Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 24 – ‘Guilt by Association’

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Guilt By Association, Jesse Metcalfe, TNT

Not the mama

Oh, how I wanted Victoria Principal to be under that hat.

“Guilt by Association,” the “Dallas” episode that promised to reveal Pam Ewing’s fate, ends with Christopher spotting the woman he believes is his mother in the lobby of a Zurich bank. She’s wearing a wide-rimmed hat and walking alongside the doctor that Christopher believes she married. Christopher runs after the woman, grabs her shoulder, spins her around and comes face to face with … a stranger. “Who are you? Where’s my mother?” he demands. Cut to John Ross and Pamela in the vault of another bank, where they’ve just stumbled across a death certificate for Pamela’s namesake aunt. “Christopher’s mother is dead,” Pamela announces.

Talk about feeling deflated! Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a blind loyalist to Pam Ewing. I adored the character when the original “Dallas” began but always regretted how the show turned her into the saint of Southfork in her later years. I suppose that’s the main reason I hoped Principal would reprise the role: so that she could take Pam back to her scrappy, sexy roots. And even though I read the actress’s recent statement in which she eschewed the idea of playing Pam again – and even though I remembered that the last time we saw the character, she was, you know, dying – I still held out hope that somehow, in some way, Principal might actually resurface at the end of this episode.

Of course, “Guilt by Association” leaves me feeling as disappointed for Christopher as I do for myself. He goes through this episode insisting the only reason he wants to find his mother is so he can get his hands on her shares of Barnes Global and stop Cliff’s war against the Ewings. But clearly this is about more than business for Christopher. We see his true feelings when he begins to weep after Dr. Gordon tells him that Pam never wants to see him again. We also hear the hope in Christopher’s voice when he catches up with the mystery woman and says, hopefully, “Mom!” Is there anything more heartbreaking than a Ewing who misses his mama?

This makes “Guilt by Association” another showcase for Jesse Metcalfe, who has quietly established himself as a forceful presence in “Dallas’s” post-Hagman era. But this episode is also historic. Pam Ewing, “Dallas’s” original heroine, is dead. We don’t find out the details of her demise until the next episode, “Legacies,” but there’s no doubt we’re witnessing a moment of consequence. Symbolism abounds. Notice how Taylor Hamra’s smart script allows Cliff’s daughter to announce the death of Digger’s. I also appreciate how “Guilt by Association” mimics “The Prodigal Mother,” the classic “Dallas” episode in which Pam goes to Houston to confront her long-lost mother, Rebecca Wentworth. Director Jesse Bochco even gives us a shot of Christopher sitting in a car, scoping out Dr. Gordon’s house, that recalls a similar scene from the earlier episode of Pam spying on the Wentworth mansion.

The other highlight of “Guilt by Association:” the sly, sexy confrontation where Sue Ellen marches into the governor’s office and blackmails him into abandoning his scheme to prevent the Ewings from pumping oil out of their land. The exchange reminds us how much Sue Ellen learned from J.R., but it also demonstrates how essential Linda Gray has become to the new “Dallas.” You could have given this scene to another Ewing, but would it have been nearly as much fun? I also love Steven Weber, who plays Governor McConaughey to smirking perfection. I hope he returns in the show’s third season. What a great foil.

“Guilt by Association” also gives us the cool car chase that ends with a signature “Dallas” fake-out – that’s not Drew on the motorcycle, it’s his very blond friend! – as well as a memorable guest turn from reliable Sam Anderson, who takes over the role of Pam’s plastic surgeon Dr. Gordon, played on the original series by Josef Rainer. Anderson also made a couple of appearances on the old “Dallas” as a cop who investigated the death of the star witness in Jenna Wade’s murder trial, beginning with a 1985 segment called “Dead Ends.” Come to think of it, that would have made a fitting title for this episode too.

Grade: A

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Dallas, David Gordon, Guilt By Association, Sam Anderson, TNT

Another dead end

‘GUILT BY ASSOCIATION’

Season 2, Episode 14

Telecast: April 15, 2013

Writer: Taylor Hamra

Director: Jesse Bochco

Audience: 2.8 million viewers on April 15

Synopsis: In Zurich, Christopher discovers Elena has been protecting Drew and sends her home, then comes face to face with the woman he thought was Pam. When John Ross and Pamela conclude Cliff killed J.R., they work with Bobby to plant evidence that will lead the police to Cliff. Sue Ellen uses information from Ken to persuade McConaughey to ease up on the Ewings. After the Ewings bail out Emma, she moves back in with Harris, who later finds her snooping in his office. The police nab Vickers after Drew plants cocaine in his car.

Cast: Sam Anderson (Dr. David Gordon), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Micky Hoogendijk (Mikki), Annalee Jeffries (Carina), Emily Kosloski (Rhonda Simmons), Lee Majors (Ken Richards), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Steven Weber (Governor Sam McConaughey)

“Guilt by Association” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

‘Who Killed J.R.?’ ‘Dallas’ Solves the Big Mystery

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

He done it

We now know who killed J.R. Ewing.

In “Legacies,” “Dallas’s” second-season finale, the Ewings completed the execution of the master plan that J.R. (Larry Hagman) devised before his death. All of our questions were finally answered:

• Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) learned Pam was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went to Abu Dhabi to receive experimental treatments. The treatments failed and Pam died in 1989, but Cliff (Ken Kercheval) paid her doctor, David Gordon (Sam Anderson), to create the illusion that Pam was still alive so Christopher couldn’t inherit her share of Barnes Global.

• The police nabbed Roy Vickers (Alex Fernandez), but Cliff had him murdered in jail before he could reveal Cliff was the mastermind behind the rig explosion. Meanwhile, the police arrested Harris (Mitch Pileggi) after Emma (Emma Bell) exposed his role in the Mexican drug trafficking. (The high heels were made of cocaine!)

• After John Ross (Josh Henderson) discovered Cliff had flown to Nuevo Laredo before J.R.’s death, he decided Cliff must have killed J.R. Bobby confirmed John Ross’s suspicions and revealed the gun that J.R. left for John Ross actually belonged to Cliff. To make sure the police caught Cliff, John Ross and Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) planted J.R.’s belt buckle in his safe deposit box; when the cops discovered it, J.R.’s body was exhumed and investigators determined the slugs found in his chest cavity came from Cliff’s gun. The Mexican police arrested Cliff and hauled him away.

But wait, there’s more!

Bobby went to see Cliff in the Mexican prison and offered him a deal: Confess to blowing up the rig, having Vickers assassinated and his conspiracy against the Ewings and Bobby would help him. But Cliff didn’t bite. “I have never done anything that the Ewings asked me to do – and I’m not going to start today,” he seethed. As Bobby walked away, Cliff asked him who really killed J.R. Bobby’s response: “You’ll never know, Cliff.”

Cut to J.R.’s gravesite, where John Ross and Christopher persuaded Bobby to finally read the letter that J.R. left him. Here’s what J.R. wrote:

“Bobby, Doctors say I’ve only got a few days left. Damn cancer. I should have told you earlier, but you know how I detest pity. The feud Digger Barnes started with our family caused more heartbreak than either of us has time to recount. Well, I guess you do have the time. Use it. Put an end to this feud, once and for all.

“I had Bum steal Cliff’s gun. That malignant little troll Barnes comes to Mexico every year for a marlin fishing competition. I’m going to damn well stay alive long enough to be here when he arrives. Carlos del Sol will smooth out the rough edges in Mexico for you. And talk to Bum. He’s the final and most important piece of the puzzle. And the best friend I didn’t deserve to have.

“So remember the time that you got grounded for ‘borrowing’ Daddy’s favorite shotgun? You swore up and down it wasn’t you but Daddy said there was no point in lying because he found those extra shells in your room. Well, we both know it was me who planted those shells. Now it’s time to play that card again.

“I can never make up for all the terrible, hurtful things I did to you, Bobby. And I have no excuses either one of us will believe. But I hope in the quiet place in your heart, where the truth lives, that my jealousy – as powerful as it was – was nothing compared to my love for you. Goodbye, baby brother. I guess I’ll be duck hunting with Daddy. I’ll tell him I was the one who borrowed his gun.”

After the letter was read, John Ross asked who actually pulled the trigger. Bum filled in the blanks: “I shot your father, John Ross. He only had a few days left and he asked me to do it. He said that’s the way it had to be. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Please believe that J.R.’s last act was an act of love. For his family. And for you.”

So for those of you keeping score: Yesterday, I suggested a terminally ill J.R. could have arranged his own death and fingered Bum as the person who pulled the trigger, but I ended up naming Cliff as his most likely assailant.

I should have, uh, stuck to my guns. Because like John Ross told Bum, “The only person who could take down J.R. … was J.R.”

What do you think of the resolution to the big mystery? Share your comments below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Faces Tough Ratings Competition

Bobby Ewing, Call to Arms, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Steven Weber, TNT

No match

“Dallas” felt a ratings pinch on April 8, when TNT telecast back-to-back episodes against tough competition on the broadcast networks.

TNT showed the first hour, “A Call to Arms,” at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. The episode drew 1.9 million viewers, including roughly 760,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, a group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

“Dallas’s” second hour, “Love and Family,” was shown in the 9 p.m. time slot, where it was seen by 2.4 million viewers, including more than 1 million people between 18 and 49. Through last week, “Dallas” has averaged about 2.7 million viewers in its Monday telecasts.

The April 8 “Dallas” double feature was seen opposite NBC’s two-hour “The Voice,” which drew 13.7 million viewers, including more than 6 million between 18 and 49, a season high for that series. Meanwhile, the second half of “Love and Family” faced CBS’s coverage of the NCAA basketball championship, which averaged 20.7 million viewers between 9:30 and 11 p.m.

“Dallas” continues to perform well with DVR users too. Last week’s telecast, “Let Me In,” attracted 2.6 million viewers on April 8, but during the next three days, DVR users boosted the audience to 3.6 million. This included 1.3 million adults between 18 and 49, a 16 percent increase over the previous week, and 1.5 million between 25 and 54, a 9 percent jump.

Et Cetera

• TNT has made no announcements, but Patrick Duffy says “Dallas” will return for a third season, according to a report in yesterday’s New York Daily News.

• “Lost” alum Sam Anderson will play Dr. David Gordon, Pam’s plastic surgeon, during the two-hour “Dallas” season finale, which will TNT will show Monday, April 15, from 9 to 11 p.m. Anderson replaces Josef Rainer, who played Gordon in 1988. Producers couldn’t locate Rainer to reprise the role, TV Guide reported yesterday.

• Dallas Divas Derby’s second brackets competition is down to its final two contestants: Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) and Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby). Vote for your favorite through April 15.

A Dallas Decoder Programming Note

I’ll be posting a little less regularly through the rest of this week. My goal is to post critiques for “A Call to Arms” and “Love and Family,” along with my selections for Scene of the Day, sometime between now and April 15. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.

Until then, please keep the conversations going in the comments section of my recent posts. I’ll do my best to approve comments as they come in, but I probably will be unable to chime in as often as I’d like. Please know how much I appreciate your contributions, though. I hope things will get back to normal next week. Thanks for understanding.

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