Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I’ve Got to Feel Useful Again’

Dallas, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Second Thoughts

Dead weight

In “Second Thoughts,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) walks into Cliff’s bedroom and finds Digger (Keenan Wynn) packing.

PAM: Daddy, you’re really going?


PAM: Why?

DIGGER: I’m not needed here. Nothing to keep me.

PAM: Well, there’s me. And Cliff. We’re family. We need each other.

DIGGER: Oh, now come on, Pam. You’re a big girl now. You’ve got your own life to live. I’m just a dead weight. God knows, Cliff would be better off without me hanging around.

PAM: Please don’t go, Daddy. You’re not well.

DIGGER: I’m better off away from here, where I can work. Keep myself occupied.

PAM: If you want something to do, maybe I can help.

DIGGER: The subject is closed. Don’t you see, Pam? I’ve got to go. I can’t keep hanging around, and feeling used up and worn out. I mean, if I can’t work the field anymore, well, I’ve gotta find something else. Work in an office. Drive a truck, anything. But I’ve got to feel useful again.

PAM: Well, would you like a ride to the airport – or were you going to walk your way to Galveston?

DIGGER: Well, now, if you’re offering me a lift, I guess I could hardly refuse. You could give me a lift to the bus station. I don’t fly unless I really have to.

They exit.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 49 – ‘Second Thoughts’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Second Thoughts, Sue Ellen Ewing

Madam and sir

Early in “Second Thoughts,” we learn Lucy is studying “Madam Bovary,” and then the novel continually pops up throughout the rest of the episode. We see Lucy carry it on campus, read it in the living room and clutch it while lounging by the Southfork swimming pool.

The book’s prevalence suggests “Dallas” wants to compare its ingénue to Flaubert’s heroine, but it turns out the characters don’t have much in common.

For those like me who haven’t read “Madam Bovary,” “Second Thoughts” includes a helpful scene where one of Lucy’s classmates, Kettering (played by Christopher Skinner, Victoria Principal’s real-life husband at the time), describes the novel as the story of “how the provincial middle-class of 19th century France stifled a woman’s romantic dreams, which led her to despair and eventually suicide.”

Doesn’t sound much like Lucy, does it?

The Ewings routinely interfere in Lucy’s life, but I’m not sure they stifle her “romantic dreams.” In “Second Thoughts,” Jock arranges Alan’s promotion so Lucy won’t move away after she marries him, but this seems more controlling than stifling.

If the “Dallas” producers wanted to compare one of the show’s characters to Emma Bovary, they should’ve considered Sue Ellen. Both characters cheat on their husbands, both suffer from delusions of grandeur and both have a tendency to take to their beds when they’re ill.

In another Bovarian move, Sue Ellen spends “Second Thoughts” pretending to be a good wife to J.R. so when she eventually leaves him, she’ll be more likely to win custody of little John.

Unfortunately, Sue Ellen reveals her scheme to J.R. at the end of the episode. This is a really silly scene, recalling those cartoons where the evil mastermind divulges the details of his world-domination plot to the hero. It’s not the kind of twist we expect from an episode with such literary aspirations.

Grade: B


Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Second Thoughts

Lit chick


Season 3, Episode 20

Airdate: February 8, 1980

Audience: 23.7 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Linda Elstad

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: When Jock arranges for Alan to become a partner in Harv Smithfield’s law firm, J.R. tries to split up Alan and Lucy. J.R. needn’t bother: Lucy realizes she isn’t in love and breaks up with Alan, who also loses Betty Lou, his girlfriend on the side. Digger moves to Galveston. Sue Ellen pretends to be a good wife to J.R. in front of the Ewings.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena), Christopher Coffey (Professor Greg Forrester), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Laura Johnson (Betty Lou Barker), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Robert Rockwell (Mitchell), Christopher Skinner (Kettering), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

“Second Thoughts” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.