Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 174 — ‘Déjà Vu’

Dallas, Deja Vu, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Game of phones

What could be unholier than an alliance between J.R. Ewing and Cliff Barnes? In “Déjà Vu,” the sworn enemies agree to work together to keep Bobby and Pam apart. The scene where J.R. and Cliff meet in a dive bar and toast their partnership is one of the episode’s highlights, and not just because it’s one of the few times in “Dallas” history that Larry Hagman and Ken Kercheval are civil to each other on screen. The scene also demonstrates how their characters are beginning to change, if not grow. In an era when many of the show’s creative risks don’t pay off, here’s one that works.

“Déjà Vu” begins with the Ewings reeling after Jenna leaves Bobby at the altar on their wedding day. After the guests are sent home, J.R. and Bobby head to Ewing Oil and pull out all the stops to determine why she ran away — even ordering their secretaries to report to the office on a Saturday to help track down the runaway bride. (Why weren’t the secretaries invited to the wedding?) Later, J.R. receives a mysterious phone call from someone who wants to get together to discuss the situation. We don’t learn the caller’s identity until J.R. shows up in the bar and takes a seat across from Cliff, who tells him now that Bobby is free, he’s afraid he’ll reunite with Pam. J.R. agrees he and Cliff should do everything they can to stop such a reconciliation from taking place. “Maybe this is the one time a Ewing and a Barnes ought to work together,” J.R. says.

It’s fun to watch Hagman and Kercheval clink beer glasses, although this scene has more going for it than the novelty factor. For starters, the exchange shows how much Cliff has changed. Think about it: He’s the character in control here. Cliff calls the meeting, sets the time and location, and suggests the alliance with J.R. Since the eighth season began, we’ve seen Cliff become smarter and more successful, and now we know he can scheme with the best of them. J.R. has changed too: There was a time he wouldn’t have given his archenemy the time of day, but here he treats Cliff as an equal. (J.R. has always been more willing to join forces with Pam, who he probably considers a worthier adversary.) Some fans want Cliff always to lose and J.R. always to win, but I admire “Dallas’s” willingness to allow the characters to evolve. Besides, it’s not like they won’t slide back into their familiar roles eventually.

The title “Déjà Vu” points to Bobby’s backstory — Jenna also left him at the altar when the characters were younger — although I’m more interested in another blast from the past: the return of the terrific Sarah Cunningham as Maggie, the woman who raised Cliff and Pam. In the storyline, Cliff and Mandy visit Maggie to see what she knows about Jamie Ewing’s claim that Jock, Jason and Digger were equal partners in Ewing Oil. After Cliff arrives on her doorstep and pulls out some photos of Christopher, she invites him and Mandy into the backyard to discuss what’s really on his mind. “If I know my brother’s son, he didn’t drive three hours to Marshall on a Saturday just to show me baby pictures,” she says. That line alone makes me wish “Dallas” had used Cunningham more frequently. The actress is so natural and believable; the show would have benefitted from her homespun charm.

“Déjà Vu” also features James Cromwell’s first appearance as Gerald Kane, the pilot who approaches Pam with the bombshell news that he flew Mark Graison to a clinic in the Caribbean to seek a cure for his disease. Cromwell, who later received an Oscar nomination for his role as the farmer in “Babe,” is quite good in his scene with Victoria Principal. At the end of the episode, we learn Kane is secretly working for J.R. — a neat twist that probably would have been even more surprising if it had come later, once Cromwell’s character was more established. I wonder why the show exposed his connection to J.R. so soon?

Other “Déjà Vu” highlights include the scene where Ray assures Bobby that Jenna loves him — in a few years, Ray will be doubting Jenna’s love for him once they begin a relationship — as well as a nice moment when Maggie’s lawyer visits Cliff and suggests Digger must have been a gentleman. Cliff beams, reminding us that he sees his father differently than most of the other characters on this show. I also like the scene where Sue Ellen receives the call from J.R. informing her that Jenna has skipped town. After Sue Ellen hangs up, Miss Ellie and Donna eagerly ask her what J.R. said. As the music swells, Linda Gray keeps her back to Donna Reed and Susan Howard, looks into the distance and solemnly intones, “He said to send the guests home. The wedding is off.” It’s the kind of dramatic delivery that only occurs on soap operas, which is what makes it so wonderful.

This scene also leads to my biggest gripe with “Déjà Vu.” Once word reaches the Ewings that the wedding has been canceled, Ray volunteers to send the guests home, and Ellie agrees. It’s another example of how Ellie is being written differently since the show recast the role with Reed. Having Ellie defer to Ray makes her seem uncharacteristically delicate. This is a woman who once stared down an angry mob at a Ewing Barbecue, after all. Giving Reed the line where the guests are sent home might seem like a small thing, but it would have given her an opportunity to show some of the mettle we’ve come to expect from our beloved Mama.

Grade: B


Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Deja Vu, Ken Kercheval

Look who’s scheming


Season 8, Episode 13

Airdate: December 21, 1984

Audience: 19.5 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Naldo blackmails Jenna into remarrying him by threatening to keep her from Charlie, whom he sends to Italy. Pam is approached by a pilot who claims he flew Mark to the Caribbean, but she doesn’t realize the man works for J.R. Cliff searches Digger’s old legal papers, hoping to find a copy of Jamie’s document.

Cast: Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), James Cromwell (Gerald Kane), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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

The Dallas Decoder Guide to That Darned Barnes Family

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, Revelations, TNT

Pamela redux

The Barneses are back: In “Revelations,” the first-season finale of TNT’s “Dallas,” we learned Rebecca Sutter Ewing is Pamela Rebecca Barnes, Cliff’s daughter. Need a refresher on the rest of the Barneses? Here’s a look at who’s who, how they’re related to each other and the Ewings and some of their family traditions, including their penchant for interesting headgear and shooting people. Also listed: the actors who portrayed the characters on the two “Dallas” series.

The Elders

Dallas, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn

Double Diggers

• WILLARD “DIGGER” BARNES: Boozy wildcatter who claimed Jock Ewing cheated him out of his share of Ewing Oil and stole his girl, Miss Ellie. Liked hats. Remembered for two deathbed confessions: 1. He shot and killed wife Rebecca’s lover, Hutch McKinney; 2. McKinney was Pam’s real dad. Played by David Wayne and Keenan Wynn.

Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Barnes Wentworth

Runaway Rebecca

• REBECCA BARNES WENTWORTH: Digger’s wife and Cliff and Pam’s mama. After lover Hutch McKinney’s murder, ran away, became a secretary and married her boss, Houston tycoon Herbert Wentworth. Was believed dead for many years until Pam found her. Died (for real this time) from injuries sustained in a plane crash while waging corporate warfare against the Ewings. Favorite candy: black licoricePlayed by Priscilla Pointer and Victoria Principal (in a flashback).

Cliff’s Corner

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval


• CLIFF BARNES: Digger and Rebecca’s son. Inherited mama’s money and daddy’s genetic disorder, hatred for Ewings. Unfortunate tendencies to pursue women involved with archenemy J.R., marry blondes to snag a piece of Ewing Oil. Frequent career-changer: lawyer-turned-politician-turned-bureaucrat-turned-prosecutor-turned-oilman-turned-evil mastermind. Regularly accused of murder and shooting Ewings, but known to have killed only one man: mobster Johnny Dancer. Sharp dresser. Favorite food: Chinese. Favorite activity: revenge. Played by Ken Kercheval.

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas

Steal her away

• AFTON COOPER: Sexy southern songbird who dreamed of a better life. Seduced J.R., then fell for Cliff. In-law to the Ewings: brother Mitch married and divorced Lucy, then married and divorced her again. After longing for someone to steal her away, Afton finally left town on her own carrying Cliff’s child, whom she named Pamela Rebecca. Married and divorced alcoholic gambler/con artist Harrison Van Buren III. Despite questionable taste in men, probably the smartest character among this bunch. Played by Audrey Landers.

Dallas, Jenna Pangburn, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, TNT

Daddy’s girl

• PAMELA REBECCA BARNES: Cliff and Afton’s daughter. Like Aunt Katherine, broke up a relationship with forged correspondence (an e-mail). Like Aunt Pam, married a Ewing (Christopher). Like Granddaddy Digger and Daddy Cliff, shot and killed a man (ex-lover/fake brother/hat wearer Tommy Sutter). Pregnant with Ewing spawn. Played by Julie Gonzalo. Previously played by Jenna Pangburn.

Dallas, Faran Tahir, Frank Ashkani, TNT

Daddy’s boy

• FRANK ASHKANI: Real name: Raheed Durani. Cliff’s right hand/driver/designated disposer of dead bodies. Not a fan of Tommy Sutter. According to J.R.’s private eye Bum, Cliff plucked Frank off the streets of Islamabad 30 years ago and paid for his fancy education, nice wardrobe and – presumably – frequent trips to the barber. Sometimes referred to as “Smiling Frank.” Doesn’t actually smile. Played by Faran Tahir.

Pam’s Portion

Dallas, Margaret Michaels, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal


• PAMELA BARNES EWING: Daughter of Rebecca Barnes Wentworth and lover Hutch McKinney; raised by Digger and Aunt Maggie Monahan. Super heroine. Suffered bouts of mental instability and at least one 31-hour nightmare. Occasional wearer of hats. Bad driver. Like her mama, abandoned her own family. Probably dead, but hopefully not. Played by Victoria Principal, Margaret Michaels and at least one heavily bandaged extra.

Bobby, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, TNT


• BOBBY EWING: Golden son. Fell in love with Pam and thought she was so nice, married her twice. Usually a supportive spouse, but not always. Not a fan of brother-in-law Cliff in the beginning, but eventually became his pal and made him a partner in Ewing Oil. The lingering warmth will probably fade when Bobby discovers Cliff is once again plotting against the Ewings. Additional potential complicating factor: new wife/gun fetishist Ann may or may not have had a one-night stand with Cliff in 1987. Played by Patrick Duffy.

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, Joshua Harris, TNT


• CHRISTOPHER EWING: Golden son’s golden son. Adopted, making marriage to cousin Rebecca Barnes only slightly less icky than it might be otherwise. May not have Barnes blood coursing through his veins, but inherited the family’s gun habit: as a boy, Christopher shot at John Ross. Dream meal: eggs and toast. Played by Jesse Metcalfe. Previously played by Eric Farlow and Joshua Harris.

The Wentworth Wing

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany

She’s all hat

• KATHERINE WENTWORTH: Herbert and Rebecca Wentworth’s daughter. Television journalist/Christopher’s babysitter/ultimate diva. Hated Cliff. Not a big Pam fan, either: wanted Bobby for herself, so Katherine broke up his first marriage to Pam with a forged letter. Later shot him. Known for visiting sick relatives in hospital and making threatening comments/trying to kill them while they sleep. Most amazing hat collection ever. Disliked tomato juice. Played by Morgan Brittany.

Monahan Members

Dallas, James Canning, Maggie Monahan, Philip Levien, Sarah Cunningham

The lost ones

• AUNT MAGGIE MONAHAN and COUSIN JIMMY MONAHAN: Maggie was Digger’s long-suffering sister who helped raise Cliff and Pam. Rocked hats with the best of them. Her son: Jimmy, the Chuck Cunningham/Judy Winslow of “Dallas.” After two appearances in 1978, never seen nor mentioned again. Aunt Maggie was played by Sarah Cunningham; Cousin Jimmy was played by James Canning and Philip Levien.

What do you remember about the Barneses? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Decoder Guides.”

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 53 – ‘The Wheeler Dealer’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Wheeler Dealer

J.R. Ewing here

With “The Wheeler Dealer,” “Dallas” continues tying up its third-season plot threads. The Ewings pay off the mortgage on Southfork, Kristin realizes she’ll never become J.R.’s wife, and Sue Ellen is back where she was a year ago: dreadfully unhappy and boozing herself into oblivion.

“The Wheeler Dealer” also offers a coda to the season’s biggest bombshell: Jock’s revelation that he was married to another woman before Miss Ellie became his wife.

The postscript begins when Ellie persuades Jock to visit the Colorado sanitarium where Amanda has lived for many years. (Trivia: The shot that concludes this scene, where Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes gaze into each other’s eyes, inspired the “portrait” of Jock and Ellie seen on TNT’s “Dallas.”)

In “The Wheeler Dealer’s” most memorable sequence, Jock and Ellie, along with Bobby and Pam, visit the confused Amanda, who believes Bobby is Jock and that she’s still married to him. The saddest moment comes when 60-something Amanda girlishly twirls around to show off the “new” dress she wore to impress her husband. “I wanted to look so nice for you,” she says.

Lesley Woods is heartbreaking as Amanda, but the other actors in this scene shine, too. Jim Davis moves me when Jock gets tongue-tied as his frightened first wife recoils from him, while Patrick Duffy is wonderful as kind-hearted Bobby, who is put in the awkward position of having to pretend to be his own father. (More trivia: In 2006, Duffy played the son of Woods’ character on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”) I also love when Ellie, looking regal in her fur coat, gently puts her hand on Amanda’s shoulder and comforts her. What a terrific scene.

This episode’s other great moment: when Vaughn Leland, the banker who almost foreclosed on Southfork, tells J.R. he’s joining the deal with the cartel members who are buying Ewing Oil’s Asian wells. Leland doesn’t know the wells are about to be nationalized, so there’s something satisfying about knowing J.R. is about to stick it to the man who came close to evicting the Ewings.

I know I probably shouldn’t feel this way, but I bet I’m not alone. There’s probably a little wheeler-dealer in most “Dallas” fans.

Grade: B


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Wheeler Dealer

Gaze gone by


Season 3, Episode 24

Airdate: March 14, 1980

Audience: 21.1 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Barbara Searles

Director: Alexander Singer

Synopsis: J.R. gets an inside tip his Asian wells are going to be nationalized, so he unloads most of them on the cartel. Jock, Miss Ellie, Bobby and Pam visit Amanda, Jock’s first wife. Cliff learns Digger’s heirs are entitled to half the proceeds from the Ewing 23 oilfield. Sue Ellen goes on a bender. Alan and Kristin plot revenge against J.R.

Cast: Robert Ackerman (Wade Luce), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ron Hayes (Hank Johnson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ed Kenney (Seth Stone), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Geoffrey Scott (“Dusty”), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Lesley Woods (Amanda Ewing)

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You Were Jock’s Girl All Along’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing, Jock's Trial Part 2

She had to be taken care of

In “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Bobby (Barbara Bel Geddes, Patrick Duffy) join Pam (Victoria Principal), Cliff (Ken Kercheval) and Maggie (Sarah Cunningham) at the hospital bedside of Digger (Keenan Wynn), who is dying.

DIGGER: Ellie.

ELLIE: Hello, Digger.

DIGGER: I wanna talk to you. Cliff?

CLIFF: I’m right here, Daddy.

DIGGER: Cliff, I wanna know if everything I say now is legal.

CLIFF: [Perplexed] I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

DIGGER: Ellie, I wasn’t gonna say anything. I was gonna let Cliff get his final revenge against Jock for me. He’ll probably ask, do I still love you? [Smile and nods his head, weakly] I do. [She smiles.] Even though I do, and you were Jock’s girl all along.

ELLIE: Digger.

DIGGER: I can’t let Cliff do this to you.

ELLIE: What do you mean?

Digger recalls how he discovered his wife Becky had been impregnated by her lover Hutch McKinney, who pulled a gun on him. After a struggle, Digger shot and killed Hutch and buried him on Southfork. The Barneses moved to Corpus Christi, where Becky died.

ELLIE: Digger.

DIGGER: I couldn’t let Jock for what happened to Hutch. Ellie [struggles to breath] … you had to be taken care of.

PAM: Daddy, what about the baby?


BOBBY: The baby McKinney fathered.

DIGGER: I always loved you, Pam.

PAM: [Crying] Me?

DIGGER: Just like you were my own.

He takes his last breath and the hospital monitor flatlines. Cliff closes his eyes, Ellie turns away, Maggie ushers in a nurse and Bobby holds Pam.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 52 – ‘Jock’s Trial, Part 2’

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Jock's Trial Part 2

Rush to judgment

Digger dies at the end of “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” and this is not an insignificant thing. The character appeared on “Dallas” just 14 times, but his shadow loomed large when he wasn’t around. After all, Digger’s name is included in the title of “Dallas’s” first episode, even though he shows up just once in that installment.

Appropriately, while Digger’s death produces several touching scenes in “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” he isn’t present during the moment I find most poignant: when Cliff approaches Miss Ellie in the courtroom and tells her Digger is dying and asking for her.

No matter how often I see this scene, it always moves me. There’s something profound about the idea that no matter how hard the Barnes and Ewing children fight each other, their families are forever bound by the relationships their parents forged decades earlier.

The deathbed scene itself is also touching, particularly when Digger finally acknowledges Ellie was always “Jock’s girl.” How sad he wasn’t able to admit this until his final moments of life.

I’m also struck by how closely Digger’s death mirrors Bobby’s heart-wrenching deathbed scene at the end of the eighth season, right down to the sound of the flat-lining monitor. Keenan Wynn is quite good during Digger’s farewell, and so are the women at his side: Barbara Bel Geddes, Victoria Principal and the wonderful Sarah Cunningham, who plays Digger’s sister Maggie.

“Jock’s Trial, Part 2” is also elevated by its other guest stars, including Barry Corbin, who is perfectly cast as the perfectly named Fenton Washburn, Braddock’s big-bellied sheriff. I also like Nicolas Coster and Stephen Elliott as dueling lawyers Lyle Sloan and Scotty Demarest, although their courtroom theatrics aren’t quite as entertaining as those seen in the second-season episode “The Red File, Part 2.”

Of course, not everything about “Jock’s Trial, Part 2” works. The sepia-toned flashbacks are pretty campy, but I don’t dwell on them because the rest of this episode is so monumental. Digger had probably run his course on “Dallas,” but that doesn’t mean the character won’t be missed, even if he wasn’t around that much to begin with.

Grade: A


Dallas, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Jock's Trial Part 2

Dead end


Season 3, Episode 23

Airdate: February 29, 1980

Audience: 20.7 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Miss Ellie tells Matt she doesn’t love him. The state indicts Jock, but moments before Digger dies, Digger confesses he killed Hutch after discovering Hutch was sleeping with his wife. Digger also reveals Hutch was Pam’s biological father.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Kale Brown (reporter), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Fenton Washburn), Nicolas Coster (Assistant District Attorney Lyle Sloan), David Cryer (Professor Will Calder), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Susan Keller (reporter), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), William Munson (judge), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Don Porter (Matt Devlin), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing, Rebecca Barnes), Tom Spratley (Virgil Tuttle), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), William Watson (Hutch McKinney), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“Jock’s Trial, Part 2” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.