Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 94 – ‘My Father, My Son’

Coming around again

Coming around again

Toward the end of “My Father, My Son,” J.R. persuades Sue Ellen to join him and John Ross on a visit to what he calls “the kiddie park.” The family’s afternoon plays out in a montage of scenes: We see Daddy and Mommy watching their little boy on the swing set, J.R. and John Ross spinning on a merry go round, son chasing father through a maze. It’s very sweet but also a little sad.

Poor Sue Ellen looks miserable. Is she unhappy because she’s spending the afternoon with her ex-husband? No, I believe Sue Ellen wants to be with J.R. – and she hates herself for it. Despite the pain he has caused her, Sue Ellen still loves him. She’s also beginning to realize she wants him back. So at the end of the playground scene, when J.R. is driving his family home and John Ross’s balloon escapes through the car window, it might as well be Sue Ellen’s dreams of independence drifting away.

And what about J.R.? Why is he is working so hard to charm Sue Ellen and John Ross? As is so often the case with J.R., the answer is complicated. I believe J.R. genuinely misses his son and wants to spend time with him. It’s also clear J.R. wants John Ross’s voting shares in Ewing Oil, and he knows the only way he can get them is by wooing Sue Ellen and the boy back to Southfork.

But J.R. also seems to love Sue Ellen as much as she loves him. Some of this is expressed through jealousy: Recall how he tried to drive a wedge between Sue Ellen and Dusty in “The Split.” And at the beginning of “My Father, My Son,” notice how rattled J.R. becomes when he spots her dining with Cliff in the restaurant.

The most revealing moment of all comes in this episode’s final moments. In another nice scene between Larry Hagman and Tyler Banks, J.R. tells John Ross a bedtime story at Southfork. Once the child’s eyes close (Banks really seems to drift off during the course of this scene), J.R.’s true feelings emerge. “You know, John Ross, I have a feeling your mama’s going to be back on Southfork real soon,” he says. “Yeah, I think she’s learning that absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

In that instant, we know J.R. may as well be talking about himself. Absence has made his heart grow fonder too. Isn’t it nice to be reminded he has one?

Grade: A


Gone baby gone

Gone baby gone


Season 5, Episode 17

Airdate: February 5, 1982

Audience: 23.1 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Will Lorin

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R.’s friend, industrialist Wally Hampton, agrees to lure Cliff out of Dallas by hiring him for a job in Tulsa. Cliff tells Afton he still loves Sue Ellen. Bobby learns he’ll need an affidavit from Sue Ellen to adopt Christopher. Lucy kisses Roger after discovering Mitch’s friendship with Evelyn.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Bruce French (Jerry Macon), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Claude Earl Jones (Wally Hampton), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Patricia McCormack (Evelyn Michaelson), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Ron Tomme (Charles Eccles)

“My Father, My Son” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Art of Dallas: ‘The Split’

Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) bikes home after retrieving the mail in this 1981 publicity shot from “The Split,” a fifth-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You Do Like to Get Down in the Dirt’

American gladiators

American gladiators

In “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “The Split,” a helicopter lands on the football field at the Cotton Bowl. Dusty (Jared Martin) exits and walks toward J.R. (Larry Hagman).

DUSTY: Ewing.

J.R.: Well, that was a very impressive entrance. You looking to see if I had any troops stationed outside?

DUSTY: I didn’t come here to play games, Ewing. What is it you wanted?

J.R.: Well, we got almost 72,000 empty seats there. [Motioning toward Dusty’s cane] You sure you wouldn’t like to sit down?

DUSTY: Look, why don’t we just get on with it, huh?

J.R.: All right. I suppose you think I came here to ask you to give me my boy back.

DUSTY: Yeah, that had occurred to me. So don’t even bother.

J.R.: Well, actually, I came here to do you a service.

DUSTY: Really?

J.R.: Ever since I found out about your … your problem – at the trial – well, I’ve been thinking about you.

DUSTY: I don’t know why you should think about me at all. Except for the fact that your wife is living with me.

J.R.: Well, in a sense, I suppose that’s true – technically. But how long she’s going to be living with you under the circumstances, I wouldn’t make a hazard to guess.

DUSTY: [Smiles] You do like to get down in the dirt, don’t you?

J.R.: I find it advantageous at times, yes.

DUSTY: All right, let’s get this over with.

J.R.: All right. My wife – and she is still my wife – is a lady of very tempestuous moods. Mostly sexual. Now I can give you a rundown of the names of her lovers if you’re really interested but –

DUSTY: No, not at all.

J.R.: There is a point here. I don’t want to be so crude as to call her a nymphomaniac, but all while she and I were enjoying a very healthy relationship, she was out looking for more elsewhere.

DUSTY: [Walks toward J.R., stands close to him] You are a disgusting man, Ewing. You think I don’t realize what kind of cheap trick you’re pulling here?

J.R.: Maybe a trick. But it’s certainly the truth. Hasn’t it occurred to you? Now surely you remember how she was before your accident. My bet is that you could hardly keep her out of bed. [Dusty backhands him] How long do you think she’s going to stay with a sexual washout? Hell, she can’t go without it forever. [Dusty turns and begins walking way; as J.R. continues speaking, he steadily raises his voice.] Maybe she won’t have to. I’ve seen your daddy. Maybe she’s staying with you because she’s not going without it. There’s only one person who’s man enough to keep that lady happy and on the Southern Cross. [Shouting] And that sure as hell ain’t you. [Chuckles as Dusty stops and looks down.]

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 85 – ‘The Split’

Mind games

Mind games

Sending J.R. and Dusty to the Cotton Bowl for their big showdown at the end of “The Split” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but who cares? The sequence is a logistical feat, and Larry Hagman and Jared Martin deliver terrific performances. This is one of those moments from the classic “Dallas” series that fans still talk about.

Leonard Katzman, who wrote and directed “The Split,” opens the scene with J.R. arriving at the stadium in his Mercedes. He drives through the gate, down the ramp and parks at the edge of the AstroTurf. This is the sort of thing Ewings can get away with. As J.R. gets out of his car and walks onto the field, we hear whirring, and then Katzman switches to a wide shot as Dusty’s helicopter floats in from the Dallas skyline and touches down on the 50-yard line.

The arrival is another example of how the Farlows are constantly one-upping the Ewings. Southfork is grand, but the Southern Cross is grander. Jock’s relationship with his sons is full of angst, while Clayton and Dusty get along just fine. One family spends years obsessing over the birth of their first grandson, and after he finally arrives, the other family ends up raising him.

Interestingly, J.R. doesn’t summon Dusty to the stadium because he wants him to turn over John Ross. No, this is about Sue Ellen. J.R. wants his wife back, and he knows to get her, he must first drive a wedge between her and Dusty. Why else does J.R. go to the trouble of insulting Dusty’s manhood and insinuating Sue Ellen and Clayton are sleeping together? This whole sequence is confirmation that J.R. still loves Sue Ellen.

As for the setting of the scene, the only reason to have it take place at the Cotton Bowl is for metaphorical value. J.R. and Dusty are a couple of gladiators, after all. And while I’m generally not a fan of excess – please note this site isn’t called “Dynasty Decoder” – there are times when big moments are called for. J.R.’s confrontation with the man who stole his woman is one such instance.

You also have to admire “Dallas” for going to all this trouble, as Martin recalls in Barbara A. Curran’s “Dallas: The Complete Story of the World’s Favorite Prime-Time Soap:”

“[T]he chopper had to arrive on time and touch down at the right spot, the light had to be constant, with no wind, Larry and I would be standing on the right spot, with the cameras rolling and in focus and if either actor came up dry all the elaborate step-by-step mechanics would need to be repeated – at great cost.”

TNT’s “Dallas” memorably paid tribute to Hagman and Martin’s scene at the end of its first episode, “Changing of the Guard,” when John Ross went to Cowboys Stadium to meet with Marta del Sol. Having those characters meet in that setting made no more sense than having J.R. meet Dusty at the Cotton Bowl.

But I loved it all the same.

Grade: A


He'll take his wife, please

He’ll take his wife, please


Season 5, Episode 8

Airdate: November 27, 1981

Audience: 23.5 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Jock divides control of Ewing Oil among the family. Bobby decides against running for re-election. Donna’s book about Sam Culver is published, while Ray’s development deal hits a snag. Afton stops moonlighting for J.R. and spills his secrets to Cliff. J.R. tells Dusty he’ll never make Sue Ellen happy.

Cast: Bernard Behrens (Haskell), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Andy Jarrel (Neal Hart), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Barbara Stock (Heather Wilson), Robert Symonds (Martin Porter), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), David Tress (Walter Sher), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing), H.M. Wynant (Edward Chapman), Gretchen Wyler (Dr. Dagmara Conrad)

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