Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 84 – ‘Blocked’

The gentleman from San Angelo

The gentleman from San Angelo

Howard Keel makes his ninth “Dallas” appearance in “Blocked,” but this is the first time we get a sense of who his character, Clayton Farlow, is. By the time the episode ends, two things are clear: Clayton has become a formidable foe for J.R. – and Keel has become the show’s best addition since Susan Howard arrived during the second season.

I always remembered Clayton as being the quintessential southern gentleman, so it’s been surprising to re-watch Keel’s first few episodes and be reminded that’s not how the character started out. Clayton is pretty gruff in the beginning. The best example is probably the Farlow family dinner scene in “Showdown at San Angelo,” when Clayton brusquely shoots down Sue Ellen’s suggestion that she and Dusty could go into town after their meal to see a movie.

“Blocked” marks the moment the Clayton I love emerges. In this episode, he learns someone has shut off the flow of oil to his refineries, yet he never loses his cool over it. The situation also reveals Clayton’s compassionate side: He dips into his company’s cash reserves to keep his employees from being pink-slipped, and once the Farlows realize J.R. is behind the shutdown, Clayton refuses Sue Ellen’s offer to leave the Southern Cross to spare the family further trouble.

Of course, Clayton may be kind, but he’s no pushover. In the final scene, J.R. tells Clayton he’ll release his crude – if Clayton kicks Sue Ellen and John Ross off the Southern Cross. Mr. Farlow is resolute: “No deal, J.R.” What a fantastic moment. Often when J.R. is backed into a corner, I sympathize with him, but in this instance, I root for Clayton – which is about as good an indication as any that he’s become a bona fide “Dallas” hero.

“Blocked” has other several good scenes: Senator Dickson chastises Bobby for missing several committee votes (nice of the show to remind viewers Bobby is a public official), Cliff and Afton trade barbs when he drops by the Stardust and Sue Ellen storms into J.R.’s office to confront him over his plot against the Farlows.

“Blocked” also includes the memorable moment where Donna pushes J.R. into the Southfork swimming pool. It’s a fun sequence, but after this episode, it’s pretty clear that if anyone is going to sink J.R., it’s going to be the gentleman from San Angelo.

Grade: B

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The skunk, sunk

The skunk, sunk

‘BLOCKED’

Season 5, Episode 7

Airdate: November 20, 1981

Audience: 24 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Clayton refuses J.R. offer to release the Farlows’ oil in exchange for John Ross. Bobby determines Jordan didn’t father Christopher and fears Pam won’t recover from her depression. Mitch accepts Dr. Waring’s job offer.

Cast: Gary Bayer (Don Martin), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Deborah Benson (secretary), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Robert Ginnaven (Chuck Williamson), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Andy Jarrell (Neal Hart), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), David Tress (Walter Sher), Joseph Warren (Senator Dickson), Gretchen Wyler (Dr. Dagmara Conrad)

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

The Art of Dallas: ‘Showdown at San Angelo’

Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) puts John Ross (Tyler Banks) to bed at the Southern Cross ranch in this 1981 publicity shot from “Showdown at San Angelo,” a fifth-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘It’s Not Our Fight’

How he met their mother

How he met their mother

In “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Showdown at San Angelo,” Clayton (Howard Keel) approaches Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), who is playing with John Ross (Tyler Banks) outside the Southern Cross ranch house.

CLAYTON: Mrs. Ewing? Clayton Farlow. [They shake hands.] Not the best of circumstances to meet under.

ELLIE: That’s unfortunately true.

CLAYTON: I can understand how you and Mr. Ewing miss the boy. Since he’s been here, he’s brought a lot of joy to me.

ELLIE: My husband feels he belongs at Southfork. He’s a Ewing.

CLAYTON: [Chuckles] That he is. But what my son wants is just as important to me as what J.R. wants is to you. And he wants Sue Ellen and John Ross here. The boy belongs with his mother.

ELLIE: My husband usually gets what he wants.

CLAYTON: He’s not in Ewing country now. And what happens is between Steven and J.R. It’s not our fight.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 80 – ‘Showdown at San Angelo’

Still searching

Still searching

At the beginning of “Dallas’s” fifth season, Sue Ellen flees Southfork with John Ross and seeks sanctuary at the Southern Cross, the ranch where her onetime lover Dusty Farlow lives with his father Clayton. In “Showdown at San Angelo,” we get a glimpse of what our heroine’s new life is like – and how different it is from the one she left behind.

Make no mistake: The Farlows are like a Bizarro World version of the Ewings. Both families are rich and powerful – and both have big ranches and cool choppers – but the similarities pretty much end there.

Consider the “Showdown at San Angelo” scene where Bobby and Ray each threaten to pulverize J.R. after he makes a series of mean-spirited wisecracks during breakfast on the Southfork patio. It’s a far cry from the staid dinner scene at the Southern Cross, where the table talk is about refineries and livestock.

Yet just because Sue Ellen’s new home is different doesn’t mean it’s better. Dusty, crippled after a plane crash, is unable to make love to her. When one of their warm embraces turns passionate, Sue Ellen apologizes, recalling those early “Dallas” scenes where she was embarrassed to let J.R. know she felt unfulfilled sexually. No wonder she sneaks into John Ross’s nursery for a good cry in this episode.

The show seems to be letting the audience know Sue Ellen still hasn’t found her place in the world. She was unhappy at Southfork; things aren’t much better at the Southern Cross. The new ranch might be a haven, but it isn’t Sue Ellen’s home.

We see this during “Showdown at San Angelo’s” memorable final scene, when J.R. and Miss Ellie visit the Southern Cross to see John Ross. (This also marks the first time Ellie meets Clayton, who will eventually become her second husband.) It turns out J.R. is only using Ellie as a Trojan horse to nab John Ross, and when she discovers this, she refuses to go along with his ploy.

As J.R. and Ellie board the Southfork helicopter and fly away, Sue Ellen holds John Ross tightly and the Farlows close ranks around her. It’s almost as if they are holding her tightly. Might they also be holding her back?

Grade: A

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Meet the Farlows

Meet the Farlows

‘SHOWDOWN AT SAN ANGELO’

Season 5, Episode 3

Airdate: October 23, 1981

Audience: 21.3 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Miss Ellie returns to Dallas without Jock, whom the State Department has recruited for a mission to South America. Bobby and Pam consider adopting a child but are frustrated by the lengthy waiting list. Rebecca persuades Cliff to run Wentworth Tool and Die, one of her late husband’s companies. Mitch graduates medical school. J.R. tries to use Ellie to nab John Ross from the Southern Cross but she refuses to comply.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James L. Brown (Harry McSween), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Bruce French (Jerry Macon), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Lynn Wood (Ms. Bruce), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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