Dallas Parallels: Drama Mamas

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Brown Ryland, Lucy Ewing, Secrets, Sins of the Father, TNT

When Emma began popping pills and chasing boys on TNT’s “Dallas,” a lot of fans were reminded of Lucy’s antics on the original show. The two women share at least one more similarity: Both have strained relations with their long-lost mamas.

In the 1979 episode “Secrets,” Valene goes to Lucy’s college campus and approaches her daughter, one year after J.R. forced Val to flee Southfork without saying goodbye. At the time, J.R. lied and told Lucy that Val took off after demanding money from him, so when Lucy sees her mother again in “Secrets,” she treats her coldly and walks away. Val doesn’t give up and tries to speak to Lucy again later that day, explaining that J.R.’s extortion claim was untrue. Lucy doesn’t want to hear it. “Don’t bother, lady,” she says.

Thirty-four years later, when Ann learns her long-missing daughter Emma is living in Dallas, she approaches Emma at the stable where she’s riding her horse. This reunion turns out no better than Val and Lucy’s. It seems Ann’s ex-husband Harris kidnapped Emma and raised her to believe Ann was evil — just like J.R. snatched baby Lucy and brought her to Southfork, where she grew up being fed lies about Val. In “Sins of the Father,” Ann tries to tell Emma her side of the story, but Emma doesn’t want to listen. “This is a waste of time, Ann,” she says.

Eventually, both daughters learn to forgive their drama mamas. Lucy’s icy demeanor melts when she sees Val stand up to J.R., just like Emma has a change of heart after she hears her mother defend herself against Harris’s lies during his shooting trial. Of course, poor Lucy ends up getting hurt again when she discovers her parents got remarried without bothering to tell her. Something tells me that’s one problem Emma will never encounter.


‘Don’t Bother, Lady’

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Secrets


In “Secrets,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Lucy (Charlene Tilton) finds Valene (Joan Van Ark) waiting for her in the college campus parking lot.

LUCY: Hi. You’re still here, Mama. I thought you’d have gotten your money and gone by now.

VAL: Lucy, I wrote to you and I explained that I did not take any money from J.R.

LUCY: Why should I believe that?

VAL: Because it’s true. But I know that I have got a lot more explaining to do to you.

LUCY: Don’t bother. It really doesn’t matter to me.

VAL: Honey, I know how you must feel.

LUCY: Oh, no, you don’t. You don’t know anything about me. [Turns away]

VAL: I know that I gave birth to you. And that I love you very much.

LUCY: You love me like you love my daddy? You ran off and left him too.

VAL: No, I never did. We just never had a chance.

LUCY: [Begins to cry] We had a chance, all right. We were all together at the ranch. We could’ve made it. Except it got too rough for you two, so you both ran off. That’s funny. It was too rough for you, but it was all right to leave me there.

VAL: Well, that was your home and you were brought up there. I knew that Miss Ellie would take care of you. They love you.

LUCY: Oh, yeah. According to you, everybody loves me. Why don’t I feel like they do? Why do I feel like I don’t belong to anybody?

VAL: [Tries to touch Lucy, who smacks away her hand] Darling, listen, I know it’s hard for you to understand, but you do belong to your daddy and me.

LUCY: I’ll tell you something, lady. I hurt sometimes, but I can handle that. What I can’t handle is you coming back again and making me think I really do have a mama. And then one day, finding out you’re gone again. So don’t bother, lady. Don’t even try.

VAL: [Crying] Oh, my baby.


‘This is a Waste of Time, Ann’

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Brown Ryland, Sins of the Father, TNT


In “Sins of the Father,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Ann and Emma (Brenda Strong, Emma Bell) sit across from each other at a police station conference table.

ANN: I know you’re angry. But I just wanted to talk to you.

EMMA: Using the police to get me here wasn’t very helpful.

ANN: The police brought you here because your father kidnapped you.

EMMA: Rescued me.

ANN: [Sighs] I understand you’ve probably spent your whole life hating me.

EMMA: Never gave you much thought, actually.

ANN: Emma, when you were born, there was a lot going on.

EMMA: This is a waste of time, Ann.

ANN: Your father’s had your whole life to convince you I’m a monster. Please, just give me five minutes to try and prove I’m not. What did he tell you about me?

EMMA: He told me you were a drug-addicted, depressed, hopeless mess.

ANN: I was. When you were born, I was lost and confused and hated myself because your father made me believe I should.

EMMA: Don’t blame him for your failings.

ANN: I took tranquilizers to try and push away that pain. To stay in the marriage, to be a good mother. But it made things worse. And I started falling down this dark hole, farther and farther until I lost sight of who I was, and what really mattered: You. I’m so sorry. When I lost you, I died inside.

EMMA: You seem to have recovered quite nicely.

ANN: [Sighs, pulls a keepsake box from her bag, sits it on the table] I spent years looking for you. Praying that you were still alive. [Emma opens the box, examines the mementos and newspaper clippings inside] I never stopped loving you, Emma.

EMMA: [Closes the box] I think you’ve confused love with guilt. I’ve lived a great life with my father. If you care about me at all, you’ll leave me alone. And you’ll stop what you’re trying to do to him. [Pushes the box across the table toward Ann] Now I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave.

What do you think of Valene and Ann’s attempts to reconcile with their daughters? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 3

“Dallas’s” third season offers lots to celebrate – and a few things to curse.


Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Can’t touch this

Larry Hagman and Linda Gray do mighty impressive work in Season 3, but even they can’t touch Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes. Since I began re-watching “Dallas,” the nicest discovery has been how good Davis is as Jock, especially in third-season episodes like “The Dove Hunt,” when he stares down rifle-wielding Tom Owens, and “Return Engagements,” when the humbled Ewing patriarch is a surprise guest at Gary and Valene’s wedding.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

This either

Meanwhile, Bel Geddes brings her trademark quiet strength to “Ellie Saves the Day” and “Return Engagements,” but the actress also shows us her character’s vulnerable side in “Mastectomy, Part 1” and “Mastectomy, Part 2,” the episodes that won Bel Geddes an Emmy. She earned the award, but I can’t help but think how much sweeter her victory would have been if the equally deserving Davis had been honored too.


Choosing the season’s best narrative is tough – Sue Ellen’s struggle with motherhood and Ray and Donna’s tortured love story are each strong contenders – but J.R.’s risky Asian oil deal gets my vote for most compelling plot. This storyline isn’t about exploring J.R.’s business acumen as much as it is about delving into his psyche: By revealing how far the character is willing to go to build Ewing Oil (he mortgages Southfork!), the show lets us know J.R. is every bit as compulsive as Sue Ellen. She may be powerless over booze, but he’s addicted to his own ambition.

Least favorite storyline: Lucy becomes engaged to Alan Beam to spite J.R. Really, “Dallas”?


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

Save them, Mama

Choosing the third year’s finest hour is tough. A strong case can be made for “A House Divided,” the finale that famously ends with J.R. getting shot (for the second time this season, after he’s ambushed in “The Dove Hunt”). But my ultimate choice is “Ellie Saves the Day,” the poignant hour that brings the Ewing empire to the brink of collapse. If you want to understand why Bobby fought so hard to protect his mama’s legacy on TNT’s “Dallas,” watch this episode.

Worst third-season entry: “Power Play.” Lucy romances Alan at a roller disco, Kristin captures their canoodling with some artfully framed Polaroid snapshots and Jock starts jive talking. “You dig?” he asks Lucy at one point. Um, no big guy. We don’t.


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Kristin Shepard, Larry Hagman, Mary Crosby


So many choices: I love when Patricia Shepard predicts John Ross’s future in “The Silent Killer,” the pep talk Bobby offers a worried Jock in “Ellie Saves the Day” and the “Paternity Suit” sequence where J.R. picks up his infant son for the first time. There’s also Miss Ellie’s encounter with phony-baloney Marilee Stone and Linda Bradley (also from “Paternity Suit”), as well as the lovely beach scene where Gary and Val make amends with Lucy, which occurred on “Knots Landing” but is too good to not mention here.

Ultimately, my favorite scene is the “Mother of the Year” sequence that mimics the rhythms of an oil strike. J.R. sits in his office, staring at his telephone, depressed because he hasn’t hit a gusher in Asia. Then the phones begin ringing as news of his big strike trickles in, leading to J.R.’s joyful eruption (“Yee-ha! We hit!”). Brilliant.

The season’s most ridiculous moment: when Kristin “accidentally” pours her drink into her sister’s lap during their “Divorce, Ewing Style” lunch date. Sue Ellen, how did you not know you were being set up?

Supporting Players

Dallas, Donna Culver, Susan Howard

The best, fur sure

Susan Howard, who was still a guest star during “Dallas’s” third season, is the best supporting player, hands down. This is the year Donna is torn between honoring the memory of her dead husband and beginning a new life with Ray – and the actress does a beautiful job conveying her character’s torment. Besides Patrick Duffy, no one delivers breathy, soul-searching dialogue better than Howard.


Forget about the metaphorical value associated with the jeans the rebellious Sue Ellen wears in “Rodeo” and focus on how good Linda Gray looks in them. Get it, girl!

The green spandex pants Kristin wears in the same episode might be the season’s most dated costume, but I’ll confess: I kind of love it.


I also love, love, love John Parker’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” which is heard at the end of “Rodeo,” when Ray finally calls Donna after ignoring her letters. The tune, which becomes another of Ray’s anthems, is rivaled only by Jerrold Immel’s theme as my favorite piece of “Dallas” music.


Best: “Once I heard you were back in town, I just had some of my friends check out some of the cheaper motels.” – J.R.’s greeting to Val in “Secrets.” I could watch Hagman and Joan Van Ark go at it all day.

Worst: “And when I didn’t get married, I thought I was gonna die. But instead, I went to college.” – Lucy recalling her romantic history to Alan Beam in “The Heiress.” Oh, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton is such a charming actress. Why do you insist on giving her ridiculous lines?

What do you love and loathe about “Dallas’s” third season? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Dallas Styles: Lucy’s Pigtails


Pigtails were a fashion trend on television in the 1970s. Melissa Gilbert famously wore them on “Little House on the Prairie,” but the style wasn’t just for kids. Louise Lasser was almost always seen in tight braids on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” while Suzanne Somers sometimes sported double ponytails on “Three’s Company.”

Lucy hops on the pigtails bandwagon during “Dallas’s” third season. The look makes her trendy, but there are probably practical reasons for this, too. Charlene Tilton mostly wears the style during outdoor scenes at Southfork, where the tight braids undoubtedly protected her hair from the Texas wind during location shoots.

Lucy’s pigtails also reflect the show’s inability to decide if the character is a girl or a woman. In “Secrets,” Lucy is wearing pigtails when her mother Valene tries to comfort her, only to have Lucy smack away Val’s hand. This is a childish act, yet Lucy is no child. After all, the scene takes place on the college campus where she is a student.

The pigtails hold other symbolic value. In the “Secrets” scene, Joan Van Ark wears her hair in two loose ponytails, so having Lucy mimic Val’s style offers a subtle reminder of the characters’ connection.

Whatever the reason for Lucy’s pigtails, one thing is certain: Tilton looks darn cute in them. Still, I wish “Dallas” would have treated her character more like a grownup – hairstyle and all.

The Art of Dallas: ‘Secrets’

Valene (Joan Van Ark) turns to Bobby (Patrick Duffy) for help in this 1979 publicity shot from “Secrets,” a third-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘It Won’t Work Anymore, J.R.’

Dallas, Joan Van Ark, Secrets, Valene Ewing

No tell motel

In “Secrets,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Valene (Joan Van Ark) answers a knock on her motel room door. It’s J.R. (Larry Hagman).

J.R.: Hello, Valene. I never thought I’d see you back here again.

VAL: How’d you find me?

J.R.: [Enters, closes the door behind him, looks around the room] Oh, it wasn’t too hard. Once I heard you were back in town, I just had some of my friends check out some of the cheaper motels. Figured you’d be living you’ve been accustomed to and sure enough, here you are.

VAL: [Opens the door, stands next to it] Get the hell out of here.

J.R.: Now, what do I have to do to get you to stay away from us? I warned you not to come back to Dallas.

VAL: [Steps away from the open door] I just wanna see Lucy.

J.R.: I bet you do. I’ll bet you I know why, too.

VAL: Oh, no. You would never understand why. Not in a million years.

J.R.: [Sits on the edge of the bed] Well, I do understand that you and that drunken brother of mine would do just about anything to live in Southfork again. Get a slice of the pie, before it’s too late.

VAL: You think money’s the answer to everything, don’t you?

J.R.: I think it’s an answer to you. And I think you’re using Lucy to get at it.

VAL: Well, I don’t care what you think – because you’re wrong! And I’m not leaving here until I do see Lucy!

J.R.: No, honey. You’re wrong. You’re leaving here before nightfall.

VAL: Get out of here, J.R. I swear I’ll call the police if you don’t!

J.R.: [Grins] Well, I like your sense of humor. Now, go on, pack your little bags. You’ll be out of here in about five minutes.

VAL: All right. And if I don’t?

J.R.: Well, if you don’t, I’ll have a friend of mine escort you out of town and keep you out. Permanently.

VAL: It won’t work anymore, J.R. I have run from you for the last time. There’s nothing left for you to do to me. I’ve got nothing left to lose – except Lucy, and I’m not gonna lose her again!

J.R.: You’ve already lost her. You just don’t know it.

Bobby and Lucy (Patrick Duffy, Charlene Tilton) appear in the doorway.

BOBBY: I don’t think so, J.R.

J.R.: [Stands up] I was doing it for you, Lucy. I couldn’t stand to see her hurt you again.

LUCY: Thank you for standing up to him, Mama. [Walks to Val, embraces her]

BOBBY: Lucy, you just stay and talk to your mama as long as you want. When you’re done, you can bring my car home. [Tosses keys on the bed] J.R. will be glad to take me home. We have a lot of things to talk about, don’t we, J.R.? [Grabs him by the arm, moves him out of the room, shuts the door behind them]

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 33 – ‘Secrets’

Dallas, Joan Van Ark, Secrets, Valene Ewing

Runaway mama

“Secrets” is about the perils of motherhood. In this episode, Sue Ellen remains aloof toward her newborn son, Valene struggles to reconcile with Lucy, and Pam agonizes over her pregnancy. Poor Miss Ellie is left to fret over them all.

If the eternally wise and loving Ellie is “Dallas’s” ideal mama, then Sue Ellen occupies the opposite end of the motherhood spectrum. In the previous episode, “The Silent Killer,” she refers to baby John as her “punishment” for having an affair with Cliff, although I’m not sure this is how she really feels.

Consider the “Secrets” scene where Sue Ellen gazes at the baby in his crib. She looks more intimidated than resentful. Maybe Sue Ellen, after being hurt by both J.R. and Cliff, is simply afraid to let down her guard?

Val is also estranged from her child, although she spends “Secrets” trying to patch things up with Lucy. To its credit, “Dallas” doesn’t gloss over Val’s mistakes. When Val says she, Gary and Lucy “never had a chance” to be a family, Lucy quickly corrects her. “We had a chance, all right,” Lucy says. “We were all together at the ranch. We could’ve made it, except it got too rough for you two, so you both ran off.”

Lucy’s decision to forgive Val at the end of “Secrets” is a little pat, although Joan Van Ark is so good in the scene where Val stands up to J.R., I’m willing to overlook the tidiness of the resolution.

Pam’s story is less satisfying. In “The Silent Killer,” she discovers her family suffers from a genetic disease that could be fatal to children and decides she doesn’t want to risk having a baby, only to learn she’s already pregnant in “Secrets.”

Pam turns to Cliff for advice. She lets him know she’s considering terminating the pregnancy without telling Bobby, continuing her pattern of keeping secrets from her husband.

I’m sure “Dallas” wants us to feel sorry for Pam, and I suppose I do, but this twist makes me think maybe it’s best if she doesn’t become a mother. After all, she’s turning out to be a lousy wife.

Grade: B


Dallas, Pam Ewing, Secrets, Victoria Principal

Maybe baby?


Season 3, Episode 4

Airdate: October 12, 1979

Audience: 16.2 million homes, ranking 15th in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Val returns but Lucy rejects her attempt to reconcile. J.R. pressures Val into leaving, but she stands up to him, making Lucy proud. Pam discovers she’s pregnant and, fearing the child might die of neurofibromatosis, contemplates an abortion.

Cast: William H. Bassett (Dr. Paul Holliston), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jocelyn Brando (Mrs. Reeves), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)

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