Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 190 — ‘Deliverance’

Bobby Ewing, Charlie Wade, Dallas, Deliverance, Jenna Wade, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Shalane McCall

To the victors

“Deliverance” is the next-to-last episode from “Dallas’s” eighth season, but if you didn’t know better, you might think it was the finale. By the end of the hour, the year’s two major storylines are resolved: Cliff and Jamie’s lawsuit to claim two-thirds of Ewing Oil ends in humiliating defeat, while Jenna gets out of prison when Naldo’s killer confesses. I can’t remember how I felt when this episode debuted 30 years ago, but I would imagine it befuddled more than a few viewers. They must have thought, “If the show is going to tie up all its loose ends here, what’s left for the season finale?”

The answer, of course, is that “Dallas” would end the year with Bobby’s death in “Swan Song,” which would become one of the show’s finest installments. “Deliverance” can’t match the power of that episode, but at least it rewards the viewers who stuck with the series throughout its eighth season. The scenes that resolve Naldo’s murder mystery are particularly satisfying, thanks almost entirely to Patrick Duffy. When Bobby finally comes face to face with Schumann, the hit man who framed Jenna for the killing, he offers to set up the man’s wife with a fat bank account if Schumann confesses. “You help my lady and I’ll help yours,” Bobby says. This is one of those lines that Duffy delivers in his signature, Eastwoodian whisper, which never fails to give me chills.

Since Schumann already is facing life in prison for another murder, he agrees to help Bobby and explains how he killed Naldo and framed Jenna. As he confesses, we see flashbacks that fill in the gaps surrounding the shooting. Not everything holds up, though. According to this episode, when Naldo enters the hotel room where he’s eventually murdered, Schumann knocks him out, places his body on a table and then grabs Jenna from behind while she’s waiting in the hall. When the killing occurs in “Odd Man Out,” however, Jenna is yanked into the room mere seconds after Naldo enters. It’s also a little silly how quickly the police accept Schumann’s confession, but no matter. At least this storyline is finally over.

I’m also not going to complain about the trial to determine Ewing Oil’s ownership, which is completed in record time. Wally Windham, the mysterious character introduced in the previous episode, testifies that he purchased Digger and Jason’s shares of Ewing Oil in 1931 — only to sell them to Jock the following year. Windham is the only witness at the trial, and despite his earlier assertion that his story was long and complicated, he manages to tell it pretty succinctly here. Likewise, am I the only who finds it absurd that Jock left the bill of sale giving him ownership of a multi-billion-dollar corporation with his ex-wife Amanda, who lives in a mental hospital? Once again, I suppose I shouldn’t quibble. The lawsuit over Ewing Oil wasn’t as dreary as the Naldo murder mystery, but it wasn’t a shining moment in “Dallas” history, either. What’s important now is that it’s over.

Given the sense of finality in “Deliverance,” it’s no wonder the producers decided to end this episode with a Ewing victory bash at the Oil Baron’s Club. This is a fun sequence because it brings together so many different characters — including Jordan and Marilee, who were rooting for Cliff and Jamie in the fight over the company. (During the trial, Jordan even shows his solidarity with Cliff by offering him a fist pump.) I also get a kick out of Marilee making a beeline for handsome Jack the moment he arrives at the party, although I’m equally intrigued by another shot that shows her chatting with Ray. In fact, the only character who seems to be missing from the celebration is Jenna’s lawyer Scotty Demarest. This is an especially egregious oversight when you consider all of Scotty’s theories about the case were proven correct, right down to the fact the murder weapon was equipped with a sy-lun-suh.

“Deliverance” also brings us more evidence of Sue Ellen’s sad spiral: J.R. finds her passed out drunk in her bed at the beginning of the episode, and later, she discreetly nips from her flask in the courthouse corridor. (Shades of Sue Ellen sneaking a drink during “Jock’s Trial, Part Two.”) Shockingly, Linda Gray has only one line of dialogue in “Deliverance” — at the party, Sue Ellen says hello to Phyllis and Sly — although Gray’s limited screen time underscores how her character is receding into the shadows. Besides, Sue Ellen’s drinking will be dealt with more in “Swan Song,” along with the identity of the mystery woman who rips up the newspaper article about Jenna’s release (is there any doubt who’s under the blond wig?) and Bobby and Pam’s reunion, which the producers set up in “Deliverance” by having the characters finally admit that they still love each other.

Along these lines, this episode also finds J.R. telling Sly he’s glad Jenna will soon get out of jail because it means she can marry Bobby. “J.R., I thought you wanted Bobby and Pam to get back together,” Sly says. His response: “Well, that was last week.” Yes, it’s an amusing line, especially when Larry Hagman punctuates it with his chuckle, but it’s also a little too self-aware for my taste. Perhaps the producers need to indulge their campy impulses one last time before returning to serious dramatic territory in “Swan Song.” If that’s the case, all is forgiven.

Grade: B

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Charlene Tilton, Clayton Farlow, Dack Rambo, Dallas, Deborah Tranelli, Deliverance, Don Starr, Donna Culver Krebbs, Donna Reed, Dr. Mitch Cooper, Fern Fitzgerald, George O. Petrie, Harv Smithfield, Howard Keel, Leigh McCloskey, Dr. Mitch Cooper, Jack Ewing, Jordan Lee, Marilee Stone, Phyllis Wapner, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

Toast of the town

‘DELIVERANCE’

Season 8, Episode 29

Airdate: May 10, 1985

Audience: 19.2 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Peter Dunne

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: At the trial, Windham testifies that he bought Digger and Jason’s Ewing Oil shares and later sold them to Jock. Jenna is freed after Bobby persuades Schumann to confess to Naldo’s murder, but the assassin is unable to say who hired him. Dusty spots Sue Ellen drinking at the Oil Baron’s Club. Mitch asks Lucy to move to Atlanta.

Cast: Sam Anderson (Inspector Frank Howard), Mary Armstrong (Louise), Rod Arrants (Andre Schumann), Roseanne Christiansen (Teresa), Robert Clarke (Mason), Pat Colbert (Dora Mae), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Barnes), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), John Larch (Wally Windham), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Harvey Vernon (Judge Harding)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 188 — ‘The Ewing Connection’

Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Donna Reed, Ewing Connection, Howard Keel, John Ross Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Omri Katz, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Emergency, plus four

No matter how many times I see the “Dallas” characters come together during a medical crisis, it never seems to lose its dramatic punch. In “The Ewing Connection,” John Ross’s appendicitis produces one chills-inducing scene after another: Miss Ellie rushing upstairs after hearing the little boy screaming in pain, Ray bursting through the emergency room doors carrying the child’s limp body, J.R. dropping everything at the office when he receives the call informing him his son is sick. These moments underscore the ties that bind this family, reminding us that despite all their bickering, the Ewings genuinely care about each other.

John Ross’s illness also provides “Dallas” with an opportunity send Sue Ellen on what will become one of her final benders. Linda Gray’s character demonstrates surprising strength throughout the eighth season, continually resisting the urge to drink as her marriage unravels for the umpteenth time. “The Ewing Connection” even takes a few moments to celebrate Sue Ellen’s success in the scene where she attends group therapy and tearfully describes how she stayed on the wagon despite another nasty spat with J.R. Gray’s performance during the therapy scene is beautiful and moving, allowing us to feel proud of Sue Ellen not only for staying sober, but also for having the courage to share the experience with a roomful of strangers. This is what makes the episode’s ending so heartbreaking. After J.R. lashes out at her because she wasn’t with John Ross when he got sick, Sue Ellen picks up a glass of bourbon, tentatively brings it to her lips and finally gulps it down.

Sue Ellen’s downfall raises a few questions that aren’t easily answered. First, is J.R. right when he says she should have stayed home with John Ross? The script has the child’s illness play out gradually. He begins complaining about having a stomachache at breakfast, so Sue Ellen says he should stay home from school. Later, John Ross tells her he’s feeling better, so she decides to not take him to the doctor, saying he can spend the rest of the day in bed. She also points out that Miss Ellie will be around if he needs anything. Sue Ellen then goes to her group and returns home that evening toting a couple of shopping bags, explaining that she decided to buy herself a few things after her therapy session. This is when J.R. tells her John Ross’s appendix almost ruptured, calls her an unfit mother and storms off, leaving her alone to drink. Is J.R. unnecessarily cruel? Yes, but does he have a point about her parental judgment? Or is it unfair to blame Sue Ellen for something she couldn’t control?

This brings us to another point that’s open to interpretation. When Sue Ellen arrives home, J.R. is fixing a drink in the living room. He breaks the news about John Ross as only he can (“While you were out seeking help for your psyche and boosting the economy of the more fashionable boutiques of Dallas, your son was being rushed into surgery”) and she tries to defend herself, saying John Ross seemed fine when she left. The spouses move from the living room to the foyer, and as he calls her “a totally unfit mother,” he sets down the drink and marches upstairs. The question is: Why doesn’t J.R. take his drink with him? Does he leave it behind because he’s too angry to think straight? Or does he set down the glass, hoping Sue Ellen will drink it? Did he pour it for her in the first place? Is J.R. hoping she’ll relapse so he can divorce her, gain custody of John Ross and be free to pursue Mandy Winger?

Besides Sue Ellen’s relapse, “The Ewing Connection” includes two other moments of consequence: Donna learns she’s pregnant (Susan Howard does a nice job conveying her character’s mixed emotions in this scene), and J.R. and Bobby sign over 10 percent of Ewing Oil to their newly discovered cousin Jack in exchange for his promise to prove Cliff and Jamie have no ownership claim on the company. This is another example of one of my least favorite “Dallas” tropes from the later years, when the characters exchange stakes in this multi-billion-dollar company the way kids once traded baseball cards in schoolyards. Mercifully, Bobby persuades J.R. that the two of them should each give up 5 percent instead of asking the other shareholders (Miss Ellie, Gary and Ray) to sacrifice a portion of their shares. It doesn’t make much sense, but at least the math is easy to follow.

Finally, “The Ewing Connection” gives us two reunions, beginning with Lucy and Mitch’s appropriately awkward dinner in Atlanta. The characters make meaningless small talk, although one line of dialogue feels weightier now than it did when this episode debuted three decades ago. Lucy asks Mitch about his mother and sister; Mitch responds both are doing fine, which doesn’t tell the whole story, at least where Afton is concerned. Given what we now know about Audrey Landers’ character’s timeline, she was probably getting ready to give birth to her secret daughter Pamela Rebecca Cooper around this time. Maybe Mitch decides not to tell Lucy because he’s afraid she’ll go home and blab the news to everyone, which actually seems pretty likely when you stop and think about it.

The more meaningful reunion comes when Bobby and Pam spend an evening reminiscing about their marriage, sealing the conversation with a brief kiss. The producers wisely keep Priscilla Beaulieu Presley out of this episode, giving Bobby and Pam the room they need to begin finding their way back to each other. The kiss also foreshadows the characters’ reconciliation in the eighth-season finale, “Swan Song.” In fact, there’s a lot about “The Ewing Connection” that reminds me of that episode. The scene where J.R. rushes out of the room after receiving the call about John Ross is similar to the “Swan Song” moment in which J.R. gets the call that Bobby’s been hurt, and Howard Keel seems to sport the same shirt and jacket in both episodes. Likewise, when Sue Ellen comes home with her shopping bags, it’s not unlike the ninth-season scene in which she strolls into the living room, blissfully unaware that Bobby has died.

I know, I know. I’m getting ahead of myself again. What can I say? If “The Ewing Connection” is a trial run for “Swan Song,” then I’m more ready than ever to see the real thing.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Ewing Connection, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Last hurrah

‘THE EWING CONNECTION’

Season 8, Episode 27

Airdate: April 19, 1985

Audience: 17.9 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: J.R. and Bobby reluctantly agree to give Jack 10 percent of Ewing Oil in exchange for information to squash Cliff’s lawsuit. Sue Ellen falls off the wagon after John Ross is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Bobby and Pam kiss. Donna learns she’s pregnant. Lucy meets Mitch in Atlanta. The police track down Andre Schumann, the assassin who likely murdered Naldo.

Cast: Roseanna Christensen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Paul Gleason (Lieutenant Lee Spaulding), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Nicholas Pryor (Nathan Billings), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Barry Sattels (Greg Rupp), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 183 — ‘Dead Ends’

Dallas, Dead Ends, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Inner sanctum

The title “Dead Ends” refers to Pam’s fruitless search for Mark Graison, but it also describes “Dallas’s” final batch of eighth-season episodes. This show is now killing time. The writers don’t have enough story to fill 30 hours of television, and so the material they’ve come up with is getting stretched thin. There are occasional flashes of inspiration — in “Dead Ends,” most of them are supplied by Victoria Principal and the always reliable director Michael Preece — but for the most part, “Dallas” has entered its weakest era since its earliest days, when the series was still figuring itself out.

Here’s an example: “Dead Ends” shows J.R. receiving a visit from Swiss business associate Conrad Bunkhouser, who reviews their scheme to sell Ewing Oil assets to one of J.R.’s dummy corporations. The scene is virtually identical to an exchange these two characters had during the previous episode, right down to J.R.’s reminder that Bobby must never find out about the deal. There’s also a scene of Sue Ellen and Pam having their umpteenth conversation about the latter’s conflicted feelings about Mark, as well as a meeting where Bobby and Scott Demarest cross-reference the passenger lists from the two flights Veronica Robinson took from Tokyo to Dallas. We actually see Bobby start to tick off the names, one by one (Abbott, B.; Anderson, G.; Avildson, H. …), which is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

The only thing more tedious than Bobby’s attempt to clear Jenna for murder is J.R.’s pursuit of Mandy. He shows up on her doorstep and begs her to see him in “Dead Ends,” just like he did two episodes ago in “Sins of the Fathers.” I appreciate the show’s willingness to mix things up by denying J.R. what he wants, but this has been going on for almost an entire season. I’m ready to see him win again. Even this episode’s clash between J.R. and Cliff lacks punch. (Well, not literally.) In fact, the only time Larry Hagman’s character comes alive is when J.R. is moping around his office and Sly arrives to say she’s ready to come back to work. Preece cleverly stages the scene by having Hagman sit at J.R.’s desk in the foreground, and then Debbie Rennard pops through the door in the distance. It’s almost as if J.R.’s angel has appeared on his shoulder.

Principal figures into this episode’s other good scenes. First, after Mr. Chan refuses to allow Pam to visit the clinic he runs, she calls him and declares she isn’t going to back down from her attempt to see “Mr. Swanson,” the mysterious patient she believes is Mark. “You see, I’m very rich, and very determined. And if I have to, I’ll buy that damned clinic and walk in as the owner,” Pam says. It’s another example of how Principal’s character has finally regained her spirit after taking those detours into lunacy and wishy-washiness during previous seasons. Then, in the final scene, Principal is quite moving when Pam bribes her way into the clinic and comes face to face with Swanson, only to discover it isn’t Mark after all.

Or is it? After Pam leaves the room in tears, we’re led to believe her escort, Mr. Wong, has tricked her, although we can’t be sure why. Is J.R. leading Pam on another wild goose chase, or could Wong be working for Mark? When I watched this episode as a kid, I was absorbed with this storyline, as well as Jenna’s murder trial, J.R. and Mandy’s romance and Cliff and Jamie’s lawsuit. (I’m sure I also was fascinated by the perfectly placed wisps of hair that peek out from Marilee Stone’s hat in the Oil Baron’s Club scene, although I can’t say for sure.)

Now I watch “Dead Ends” and realize how lackluster it is. “Dallas” is capable of much better, as we see in the classic “Swan Song” episode that ends the eighth season. I look forward to revisiting that installment, which probably will seem that much sweeter once I’ve finished slogging through the remaining hours that precede it.

Grade: C

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Dallas, Dead Ends, Debbie Rennard, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Sly Lovegren

Happy returns

‘DEAD ENDS’

Season 8, Episode 22

Airdate: March 1, 1985

Audience: 21 million homes, ranking 7th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Pam comes face to face with the mystery man whose trail brought her to Hong Kong, but it turns out to not be Mark. The police rule Veronica’s death an overdose, but Bobby sets out to prove she was murdered. J.R. and Mandy go on a date, while Cliff and Jamie grow closer. Eddie bids Lucy farewell.

Cast: Sam Anderson (Inspector Frank Howard), Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Philip Chan (Edward Chan), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Pat Colbért (Dora Mae), Ben Cooper (Parrish), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Erik Holland (Conrad Buckhouser), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Sam Lam (Wong), Fredric Lehne (Eddie Cronin), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), David Price (Swanson), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Dean Santoro (Raymond Furguson), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 175 — ‘Odd Man Out’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Odd Man Out, Patrick Duffy

Raising the bar

“Odd Man Out” is the 12th “Dallas” episode directed by Larry Hagman, who demonstrates once more that he’s as talented behind the camera as he is in front of it. The main storyline finds Bobby depressed because he believes Jenna dumped him to reunite with her ex-husband Naldo; little does Bob know Naldo is actually holding Jenna captive. This isn’t the richest material in the show’s history, but Hagman makes it compelling nonetheless. He also rewards the audience with several scenes that draw upon the history of the characters and their relationships. With the exception of Leonard Katzman and a few others, did anyone know “Dallas” better than its biggest star?

“Odd Man Out’s” most suspenseful moment comes at the end of the second act, when Naldo leaves Jenna alone to pay their hotel bill. She sneaks into a phone booth, drops a coin in the slot and punches the buttons. An operator comes on the line and tells her the call will cost a dollar. “Damn. Come on,” Jenna says as she dumps change out of her purse, sorts it quickly and inserts more coins. Cut to Southfork, where Bobby sits on the patio, reading a newspaper as the phone next to him begins ringing. He doesn’t answer it right away (is he waiting for Raoul or Teresa?), and when he finally picks up and says hello, Hagman cuts back to the phone booth — where Naldo takes the receiver from Jenna’s hand and hangs up. “Don’t ever try anything like that again,” he says.

The episode takes another dramatic turn at the end. J.R., Sue Ellen and Jamie have taken Bobby out to dinner, hoping to cheer him up. Bobby proposes a toast: “To Jenna Wade and the life she’s chosen for herself, wherever she is and whomever she’s with.” Hagman then cuts to a shot of Jenna, lying unconscious on a hotel floor. A lamp is knocked over, the sleeve of her blouse is torn and there’s a gun in her hand. As she slowly awakens, two police officers burst into the room. “Freeze, lady,” one says. “Drop the gun. Drop it!” Jenna looks bewildered and glances over her shoulder — where she sees Naldo’s dead body. Freeze the frame, roll the credits.

Other standout scenes in “Odd Man Out” showcase the “Dallas” characters. In one sequence, J.R. is having lunch with Mandy when he receives a call from Dora Mae, who tells him Bobby is drinking heavily at the Oil Baron’s Club. J.R. doesn’t hesitate to leave Mandy’s side so he can help his brother. (Something similar will happen in the eighth-season finale, “Swan Song,” except the circumstances will be dire.) Later, J.R. bucks up Bobby by reminding him that Christopher needs him; besides recalling a conversation years earlier where Bobby pulls J.R. out a depressive slump, this moment reminds us how good Hagman and Patrick Duffy are together. In another fun sequence, J.R. plays cupid in reverse: He runs into Pam and makes sure she knows how upset Bobby is over his breakup with Jenna, and then J.R. tells Bobby that Pam is too busy with her search for Mark to care about his problems.

Speaking of Pam: Victoria Principal is wonderful in the scene where Benton, the owner of the San Serrano medical clinic, tells Pam that Mark is alive. The actress cries and laughs at once, which gives the audience the odd sensation of being happy for Pam even though we suspect J.R. is behind her wild goose chase. Hagman also allows “Dallas’s” other leading lady, Linda Gray, a chance to shine. The script doesn’t give Sue Ellen much to do, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook her. In two scenes, Sue Ellen asks other characters where J.R. is. In each instance, Gray delivers her lines with just the right amount of doubt and suspicion, letting us know that Sue Ellen realizes her husband is up to his old tricks again.

“Odd Man Out” also illustrates Hagman’s eye for detail. The episode’s opening shot is a close-up of caviar being dished onto a plate — a signal, perhaps, that the competitive Hagman wanted his show to cede no ground in “Dallas’s” rivalry with glitzy “Dynasty.” Hagman also understood the need for balance, though, which is why he shows Ray, Donna and Dave Culver enjoying a down-home meal around the Krebbs’ dining room table. Ray and Donna are bringing Dave up to speed on Jamie’s claims about Ewing Oil’s ownership, and at one point Ray pauses to ask Dave if he’d care for some corn. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Hagman suggested this gesture to make the scene feel more realistic. Think about it: When you watch “Dallas” dinner scenes helmed by other directors, do you ever hear someone ask to pass the salt?

Other highlights include a nice subplot about Clayton challenging Miss Ellie’s devotion to her sons by pointing out they are grown men who can take care of themselves. No matter how you feel about Donna Reed’s casting as Ellie, you have to appreciate how the show continues to give meaningful material to its oldest actors. The producers’ efforts to keep Lucy in the spotlight aren’t as successful. In this episode, she shuts off Eddie’s alarm so he’ll sleep in and skip work to spend the day with her. He’s angry when he wakes up and discovers this, and who can blame him? Did Lucy learn nothing from her too-brief foray into the working world?

On the other hand, when Lucy offers to support Eddie financially and he balks, she points out that if the roles were reversed, he probably wouldn’t think twice about supporting her. This is a good point. Lucy may not know much about the real world, but at least she recognizes sexism when she sees it.

Grade: A

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Dallas, Jenna Wade, Odd Man Out, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Odd woman out

‘ODD MAN OUT’

Season 8, Episode 14

Airdate: December 28, 1984

Audience: 20.8 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R. urges Bobby to get over losing Jenna. Miss Ellie and Clayton disagree over her involvement in her sons’ lives. Pam visits a Caribbean clinic that Mark supposedly visited two months earlier. Eddie quits his job. Jenna awakens next to Naldo’s dead body as police officers enter the room.

Cast: Don Banning (Roy Crowley), Burke Byrnes (Pete Adams), Pat Colbert (Dora Mae), Timothy J. Cutt (Leonard Boyle), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fredric Lehna (Eddie Cronin), Michael McRae (Benton), Daniel Pilon (Renaldo Marchetta), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Odd Man Out” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Dal-List: 18 Reasons to Love ‘Dallas’s’ Eighth Season

The middle

Middlin’ along

Dallas Decoder will soon begin critiquing the original show’s eighth season, which aired from 1984 to 1985. Here are 18 reasons to love it.

Side eye

Side eye

18. Whenever Pam throws shade. She does it a lot this season.

Metaphor much?

Metaphor much?

17. When Bobby stops wearing shades. Those things are as big as Southfork!

In good hands

In good hands with him

16. Dr. President David Palmer. Babe’s farmer shows up too.

Bitches be crazy

Bitches be crazy

15. This nut finally gets caught. Even better: She gets away.

Genus: Hipsterous precursorous

Genus: Hipsterous precursorous

14. Eddie’s wall of hats. Keep on trucking, dude.

Me, me, me

Me, me, me

13. Mandy’s wall of Mandy. Keep it classy, honey.

Be nice, J.R.

Be nice, J.R.

12. Jamie’s makeover. “What’s next? Are we going to cap her teeth?”

Poke an eye out!

Don’t poke out his eye

11. These lapels. All hail Sue Ellen, intergalactic space empress!

Never change, Ray

Never change, Ray

10. Ray’s workout gear. It’s also the outfit he wears to weddings, funerals, birthdays and bar mitzvahs.

Blonde ambition

Blonde ambition

9. This. I bet Jordan helped do her hair.

Groin show

Groin show

8. Sue Ellen’s parting shot. Who kneed J.R.?

Far out

Far out

7. Road trip! Best part of this storyline: Philip Chan guest stars as Edward Chan.

Stay

Stay. Please.

6. Jenna goes to jail. She also gets out. (Can’t have everything.)

Eat your heart out, Harv

Eat your heart out, Harv

5. Scotty Demarest. “It is a sy-lun-suh.”

Also: Schwing!

Swoon!

4. Cousin Jack. Best mole since Julie Grey’s.

Beats the sanitarium

Beats the sanitarium

3. “The Institute for Advanced Awareness.” Because if anyone needs their awareness advanced, it’s her.

Again with the metaphors

Again with the metaphors

2. We don’t like tomato juice either. But we never turn down eggs and toast.

Death is but a dream

Death is but a dream

1. “Swan Song.” Who cares if the last few scenes are a dream? This is “Dallas’s” finest hour. (Or its finest hour-and-a-half, if you want to get technical about it.)

Why do you love “Dallas’s” eighth season? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Here’s Everything That’s Happened on ‘Dallas,’ Ever*

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson

Ain’t over yet

It’s never too late to start watching “Dallas.” If you missed the original show and the first two seasons of TNT’s sequel series, fear not: This post will tell you everything you need to know before Season 3 begins on Monday, February 24. (*OK, this isn’t really everything that’s happened on “Dallas.” For that, you’ll have to keep reading Dallas Decoder every day.)

 

The Original Series (1978 to 1991)

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

In the beginning

Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), the youngest son of a rich oil and cattle clan, marries Pam Barnes (Victoria Principal) and brings her home to Southfork, the Ewing ranch. This upsets everyone, especially Pam’s daddy Digger (David Wayne), who blames Bobby’s daddy Jock (Jim Davis) for stealing his sweetheart, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), and cheating him out of half of Ewing Oil. While Bobby’s devious brother J.R. (Larry Hagman) is building the family empire and catting around, J.R.’s neglected wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) becomes an alcoholic and has an affair with Cliff (Ken Kercheval), Pam’s vengeful brother. Later, J.R. and Sue Ellen have a son, John Ross, while Bobby and Pam adopt Christopher, the orphaned child of Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) and sleazy Jeff Faraday (Art Hindle). Elsewhere, Ray Krebbs, Southfork’s foreman, discovers Jock is his daddy and marries savvy politico Donna Culver (Susan Howard), while Lucy (Charlene Tilton), the daughter of J.R. and Bobby’s middle brother Gary (Ted Shackelford) and his wife Valene (Joan Van Ark), gets engaged to everyone.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

End of an era

More drama: Digger dies and so does Jock, leaving Ellie to hold the family together with help from second hubby Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel). Southfork burns down, but the Ewings rebuild it. Cliff hooks up with Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers), who gives birth to their daughter Pamela Rebecca, but Afton refuses to let Cliff near the child because of his fixation with destroying the Ewings. Cliff and Pam’s half-sister Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany) arrives, becomes obsessed with Bobby and tries to kill him, then vanishes under a big hat. Sue Ellen beats the bottle and divorces J.R., while Pam has a bad dream, gets burned in a car crash and runs away. Bobby has an on-again, off-again romance with first love Jenna Wade (Priscilla Beaulieu Presley), who gives birth to their son Lucas and then marries newly divorced Ray. James (Sasha Mitchell), J.R.’s illegitimate son, shows up for a while and emulates the old man. Bobby marries April (Sheree J. Wilson), but she dies. J.R. marries Cally (Cathy Podewell), but she leaves. In the end, Cliff finally takes over Ewing Oil, leaving J.R. alone and suicidal.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Swan Song

Hurts so good

Best Episode: “Swan Song.” The eighth-season finale finds J.R. and Sue Ellen’s marriage on the rocks, unlike the vodka she’s secretly swilling in her bedroom.  Meanwhile, Bobby chooses Pam over Jenna, but crazy Katherine runs him over with her car. The episode ends with the Ewings bidding farewell to Bobby in a deathbed scene that’s so beautifully written and acted, you almost wish it wasn’t part of Pam’s dream. Almost.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Who Shot J.R.?

Shot in the dark

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who shot J.R.? Sure, taking a couple of slugs to the gut is no fun for our hero, but at least he makes billions of dollars in a risky offshore oil deal before he’s gunned down. Oh, and in case you didn’t hear, J.R.’s assailant turns out to be Kristin, his sister-in-law/ex-secretary/ex-mistress, who’s revealed as the shooter in one of the most-watched broadcasts in television history. (Props to Sue Ellen, who figures it all out.)

 

TNT Season 1 (2012)

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

When cousins clash

J.R. emerges from a nursing home and tricks Bobby into selling him Southfork so he can tap the ocean of oil flowing beneath it. Like their fathers, John Ross and Christopher (Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe) butt heads, except their rivalry has an added twist: John Ross has fallen for Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who was Christopher’s childhood sweetheart. Christopher marries Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo), unaware that she’s the daughter of Cliff, who is now the gazillionaire owner of Barnes Global and still hell-bent on destroying the Ewings. Rebecca kills her lover Tommy Sutter (Callard Harris) in self-defense and has Cliff’s henchman Frank Ashkani (Faran Tahir) dispose of the body. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen runs for governor; Bobby’s new wife Ann (Brenda Strong) feels threatened by ex-husband Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), who knows she’s harboring a dark secret; and John Ross, Christopher and Elena form a company, Ewing Energies, but the partnership is threatened when Elena breaks her engagement to John Ross and reunites with Christopher, who dumps the pregnant Rebecca.

Dallas, Family Business, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Bad does good

Best Episode: “Family Business.” In one of Hagman’s most poignant performances, J.R. learns Bobby is secretly battling cancer and returns Southfork to him, ending the season-long war for the ranch. Later, in a chill-inducing musical montage (set to Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”), poor Bobby suffers a seizure and Rebecca shoots Tommy, splattering blood over her unborn twins’ stuffed animals. Hmmm. Foreshadow, much?

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Pass the torch

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who loves J.R.? His son John Ross, who ends the season by gazing at the Dallas skyline with dear old dad and asking him to teach him “every dirty trick” he knows so he can push Christopher and Elena out of Ewing Energies. J.R. beams with pride and tells John Ross that he’s his son “from tip to tail.” Hey, J.R. may have given up the fight for Southfork, but he wasn’t giving up his devious ways — thank goodness.

 

TNT Season 2 (2013)

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, TNT

All about evil

Rebecca reveals she’s Pamela Rebecca Barnes and hooks up with John Ross. Ann shoots Harris after learning he kidnapped their daughter Emma when she was a baby and sent her to be raised by his control-freak mother, Judith (Judith Light). Ann gets probation, Harris recovers and Judith falls down the stairs. Frank takes the blame for Tommy’s death and kills himself at the request of Cliff, who causes Pamela’s miscarriage. When J.R. is murdered in Mexico, it appears Cliff is the killer, so Bobby, Christopher and newlyweds John Ross and Pamela plant evidence on Cliff to make sure he’s arrested. Oh, and Christopher also discovers Cliff covered up his mom’s death. Elsewhere, John Ross somehow inherits half of Southfork; Sue Ellen loses the election but continues to tangle with Governor McConaughey (Steven Weber); Emma (Emma Bell) sleeps with Elena’s ne’er-do-well brother Drew (Kuno Becker), becomes John Ross’s mistress and turns Harris in to the cops for drug trafficking; and when Christopher dumps Elena, jailbird Cliff asks her to become his proxy at Barnes Global, which the Ewings now control.

Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Mourning glory

Best Episode: “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” Our hero is laid to rest in an instant-classic hour that brings back several stars from the original series. The highlight: On the night before J.R.’s burial, Sue Ellen takes a heartbreaking tumble off the wagon, then delivers a mesmerizing eulogy for the man she calls “the love of my life.” Can someone please explain how Linda Gray didn’t win an Emmy for this performance?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Only you

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who killed J.R.? J.R. did, of course. It turns out he was dying of cancer and arranged his own death so Cliff could be framed for the crime, thus ending the Barnes-Ewing feud … for about 2 minutes, at least. Only a handful of people know the truth, including Bobby, J.R.’s loyal private eye Bum (Kevin Page), Christopher and John Ross, who gets it right when he says, “The only person who could take down J.R. … was J.R.”

What are your favorite “Dallas” memories? Share them below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 126 — ‘Hell Hath No Fury’

Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Those eyes

Sue Ellen is the perfect wife, living the perfect life, when “Hell Hath No Fury” begins. She fusses over J.R. at breakfast, smiles when he brings Roy Ralston home for dinner and gazes at him adoringly during his latest appearance on Ralston’s TV show. Of course, this is “Dallas,” so Sue Ellen’s bliss doesn’t last. During a visit to the hair salon, she runs into Holly Harwood, who later confesses to Sue Ellen that she’s having an affair with J.R. Sue Ellen doesn’t want to believe it, so Holly tells her to go home and check his shirt collar. Sure enough, the collar is smeared with Holly’s lipstick. The episode ends with our heroine clutching the garment and sobbing quietly.

Beauty parlor run-ins, lipstick-smeared collars, tear-streaked faces: If this sounds like the stuff of 1950s and 1960s soap operas, I suspect it’s purely intentional. “Dallas” routinely honors the tropes of daytime dramas and Douglas Sirk movies (witness Rebecca Wentworth’s weepy deathbed scene a few episodes earlier). This is something I’ve always admired about the show. The homage presented in “Hell Hath No Fury” is especially fitting: J.R. and Sue Ellen have an old-fashioned marriage; of course it should collapse under old-fashioned circumstances.

I also love how Lois Chiles and Linda Gray handle the material. Chiles is deliciously cunning as Holly, who wants to destroy J.R.’s marriage to get back at him for costing her company millions of dollars in a bungled deal. In the lunch scene, Chiles smiles — ever so slightly — when Holly sees how much her confession hurts Sue Ellen. Gray is wonderful too. This is another example of Gray using her big, expressive eyes to convey the depth of Sue Ellen’s pain. (I’m usually not one to notice makeup, but Gray’s blue eye shadow in this scene is a work of art. Eat your heart out, Donna Mills.) Even more moving: “Hell Hath No Fury’s” closing moments, when Sue Ellen retrieves J.R.’s shirt from the laundry basket, sees the lipstick and weeps. There’s no dialogue, but none is needed. Gray’s tears say it all.

If Sue Ellen’s marital turmoil in “Hell Hath No Fury” has an unmistakable retro vibe, then Pam’s feels slyly modern. Pam, who is now living in a hotel because she feels Bobby’s ambition has changed him, calls her husband at the office and invites him over for a drink. The couple spends the evening reminiscing, but when Bobby tries to leave, Pam kisses him passionately until they slump back onto the sofa. The next morning, she awakens to find Bobby planning her move back to Southfork. Pam corrects him: Just because she spent the night with Bobby doesn’t mean she’s ready to take him back. Bobby is aghast. “You make me feel like I should give you a bill for services rendered,” he seethes.

Oh, how I love this. How often have we seen the men of “Dallas” treat women as vessels for sexual satisfaction? Isn’t it refreshing to see a woman do the same thing? This entire sequence is about Pam acknowledging that she has sexual needs and fulfilling them. She calls Bobby and invites him over for a drink. When he declares it’s time to go home, she lets him know that she wants him to stay. And in the morning, when Bobby assumes Pam will now come back to him, she sets him straight. Don’t get me wrong: I feel bad for Bobby when he brushes past that chump Mark Graison on his way out of the hotel, and I believe Pam is wrong later in the episode when she agrees to accompany Mark to France. She is married, after all, and if she believes Mark is going to keep his promise to leave her alone during the trip, she’s a fool. Nevertheless, I applaud “Dallas” for depicting Pam as a woman who isn’t afraid to express her sexuality.

I’m also charmed by the scene where Bobby and Pam recall the first time they met. Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal’s chemistry is effortless, and I love how Arthur Bernard Lewis’s dialogue honors “Dallas” history. Pam remembers arriving at a Ewing barbecue on Ray’s arm and being surprised to discover the family isn’t as monstrous as Digger led her to believe. I also like how the scene ends with Duffy reaching behind him to turn off the lamp while locking lips with Principal. She does something similar during another reunion with Bobby in the eighth-season finale “Swan Song.” Along these lines, I also chuckle when Bobby greets Pam in “Hell Hath No Fury” with a winking “good morning.” This won’t be the last time he’ll say these words to her, will it?

The other highlight of “Hell Hath No Fury”: J.R.’s latest appearance on “Talk Time,” Ralston’s TV show. In typical J.R. style, the guest spot is part of a convoluted scheme. J.R. needs to find a way to visit Cuba so he can claim millions of dollars owed to him in an illegal deal, but of course Uncle Sam doesn’t know allow just anyone to visit the communist outpost. So J.R. goes on Ralston’s show and talks up the need for “businessmen” to get more involved in foreign affairs, apparently hoping his comments will inspire the State Department to send him to Cuba on a diplomatic mission. Whatever. Forget this absurd backstory and focus instead on how J.R. describes for Ralston his philosophy of government. “Government is big business. The biggest,” he says. “They’re in the police business and the land management business, the health and education business. All those bureaus are just departments of one big department store.” Does this not sound like the kind of rhetoric we’ve heard from real-life politicians for years?

Lewis’s script also offers a couple of pop culture references that make me smile. When Ralston visits Southfork, he suggests filming an interview with J.R. and Sue Ellen at the ranch, the way Edward R. Murrow once conducted interviews with celebrities in their living rooms on “Person to Person.” TV historians will recall Murrow’s show was a Friday night staple on CBS in the 1950s, a few decades before “Dallas” became a Friday fixture. In another scene, Holly lashes out at Bobby for interfering with J.R.’s Cuban deal. “You had to play James Bond and prevent the deal from going through,” she fumes. The line, which is clearly a reference to Chiles’s role in “Moonraker,” raises a question: If Bobby is Bond, does that make J.R. Blofeld?

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

That smile

‘HELL HATH NO FURY’

Season 6, Episode 23

Airdate: March 18, 1983

Audience: 20.8 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Ernest Pintoff

Synopsis: J.R. schemes to get the government’s permission to visit Cuba. To get back at J.R., Holly tricks him into believing she wants him, then lies and tells Sue Ellen that J.R. is her lover. Mark talks Pam into letting him accompany her on a trip to France. Bobby worries his Canadian field won’t come in. Lucy and Mickey continue to date.

Cast: John Anderson (Richard McIntyre), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James Brown (Detective Harry McSween), William Bryant (Jackson), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Fay Hauser (Annie), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Tom McFadden (Jackson’s partner), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Ron Ellington Shy (singer), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), John Reilly (Roy Ralston), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Hell Hath No Fury” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 10 Most Memorable Monologues

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, TNT, Trial and Error

Testify!

Few will forget the courtroom testimony that Ann (Brenda Strong) delivered at the end of “Trial and Error,” last week’s “Dallas” episode. Here’s a look at the Barneses’ and Ewings’ 10 most memorable monologues from the original series and its “Knots Landing” spinoff.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Curses!

10. Miss Ellie’s lament. With the Ewing empire on the brink of collapse, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) goes to the site of Jock’s first strike and curses his memory. “Damn it all, Jock. You couldn’t have been an insurance salesman. Or a shoe salesman. No, you had to have oil in your blood. In your heart. And now … our sons are fighting for their lives.” It’s one of the better moments from one of the show’s better later episodes. (“Judgment Day”)

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

She remembers mama

9. Pam’s discovery. Pam (Victoria Principal), believing Rebecca Wentworth is her long-lost mother, confronts the Houston matron in her opulent home. “I found you. You’re alive. And I’m so happy. I don’t know how to tell you how happy I am,” she says through tears. With every line, Principal seems to reveal a little more of herself, so much so that by the end of the speech, her lip quivers uncontrollably. Bravo. (“The Prodigal Mother”)

Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Barnes Wentworth

Runaway mom

8. Rebecca’s confession. After denying her identity, Rebecca (Priscilla Pointer) sits with Pam on a park bench and tells her the truth: She is, in fact, Pam’s mother. “I never divorced Digger,” Rebecca says as her voice begins to crack. “I was afraid that if I tried, he’d find me, and drag me back to that awful life. Pamela, I saw a chance for happiness, and I took it. Don’t blame me for that.” Pointer’s delivery is hauntingly beautiful. (“The Prodigal Mother”)

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Knots Landing, Ted Shackelford

No beach bum

7. Gary’s mea culpa. Gary (Ted Shackelford) begs Lucy to stay in Knots Landing and apologizes for his past sins, telling her he’s trying hard to be a better man. “I’m not a loser anymore,” Gary says. At one point, he becomes tongue-tied, as if he can’t find the words to convey his guilt and regret. In the DVD commentary, Shackelford laughs and suggests he paused because he couldn’t remember his next line. No matter. It still works. (“Home is For Healing”)

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bye bye, love

6. Sue Ellen’s kiss-off. In Linda Gray’s “Dallas” departure, Sue Ellen shows J.R. the scandalous movie she’s made about their marriage – and vows to screen it for the public only if he misbehaves. “If I feel that you’re not doing right by John Ross … or if I get up on the wrong side of the bed one morning. Or if I’m simply bored – then I’ll release the movie. And then, J.R., you will be the laughingstock of Texas.” Corny? Sure, but also mighty triumphant – and darn memorable. (“Reel Life”)

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

Never too late

5. Cliff’s regret. My favorite Ken Kercheval scene: Cliff summons Miss Ellie to a park and apologizes for perpetuating his father’s grudge against the Ewings. “Digger was wrong, and I was wrong. If it’s not too late. I’d like to make peace. I’d like to ask you to forgive me,” Cliff says. In an interview with Dallas Decoder, Kercheval fondly recalled his friendship with Bel Geddes. What a shame these two pros didn’t get more screen time together. (“Brother Can You Spare a Child?”)

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

American dad

4. Jock’s plea. After Pam suffered her first heartbreaking miscarriage, Jock (Jim Davis) sat at her bedside and begged her and Bobby not to leave Southfork. “Us Ewings, we’re just not an easy family to live with, as you found out. We’ve had things our way for so long that maybe – well, maybe it got in the way of our being just people. I guess that you don’t have no reason to really care, but I want to keep my family together.” Who knew the old man could be so soft? (“Barbecue”)

Dallas, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

He knows father best

3. Ray’s tribute. Ray (Steve Kanaly) tries to make Miss Ellie accept Jock’s death by reminding her of his humanity. “He was a man, just like anybody else. He had friends. He had lots of friends. But he had enemies, too. He was human, ambitious. He knew that the oil game was rough, hardball all the way. But he wanted what was best for his wife, and for his sons. And he did what he thought was right.” The most honest eulogy Jock ever received. (“Acceptance”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Honor thy daddy

2. J.R.’s promise. J.R. (Larry Hagman), after slipping into a depression over Jock’s death, addresses a portrait of his father. “I’m back, Daddy. And nobody’s going to take Ewing Oil away from me. Or my son, or his son. I swear to you. By God, I’m going to make you proud of me.” The combination of Hagman’s conviction, scriptwriter David Paulsen’s dialogue and Bruce Broughton’s rousing score never fails to give me chills. (“The Phoenix”)

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy

Exit the hero

1. Bobby’s goodbye. As Bobby (Patrick Duffy) lay dying in his hospital bed, he bids his family farewell. To Miss Ellie: “Oh, Mama. I’m sorry.” To Pam: “All that wasted time. We should’ve been married.” He seems to be looking at J.R. when he delivers his last words: “Be a family. I love you so much.” Duffy has never been better, and when the monitor flatlines and Principal leaps? Fuhgeddaboudit! Yes, the scene’s emotional impact is diminished somewhat by the fact it turned out to be a dream. Still, does “Dallas” get better than this? (“Swan Song”)

Which “Dallas” monologues moved you most? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 8 – ‘No Good Deed’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, No Good Deed, TNT

Up close

In “No Good Deed,” John Ross is jailed for a murder he didn’t commit and then savagely beaten by a couple of inmates who are connected to the real killers. The Ewings respond to this crisis by rallying around their tarnished golden boy, making this the first time the characters on TNT’s “Dallas” begin to feel like a real family. Not coincidentally, it’s also the first time the new show begins to really feel like the old one.

The original “Dallas” is often described as a series about rich people behaving badly, but the deeper truth is that “Dallas,” at its heart, was a show about family. TNT seems to fully realize this in “No Good Deed.” This is an hour of big, dramatic moments that once again demonstrate an essential “Dallas” tenet: No matter how much the Ewings fight among themselves, when outside forces descend upon Southfork, they all pull together.

Several scenes in this episode give me chills. In the first, Bobby is in the den, railing to his lawyer about J.R. and the plot to steal Southfork, when Ann enters the room with a stricken look on her face. “It’s John Ross,” she says. The goose bumps return in the next scene, when we see Bobby, Ann, Elena and Christopher burst through the emergency room doors and circle a badly shaken Sue Ellen.

As good as these moments are, “No Good Deed” also benefits from its many scenes of quiet familial warmth: J.R. arrives at John Ross’s hospital bedside in the dark of night and gently strokes his sleeping son’s hair. Bobby visits Miss Ellie’s grave and vows to protect the family, finally recognizing the people who live on the ranch matter more than the land itself. John Ross and Christopher stand in the Southfork driveway, shake hands and acknowledge they’re not that different from one another after all. “We’re both just trying to make our fathers proud,” Christopher says.

Then there are “No Good Deed’s” small but meaningful details: When a trembling Sue Ellen fumbles with a coffee dispenser in the hospital waiting room, Ann takes the cup and pumps the coffee for her. During a family conference in the Southfork living room, Ann rubs the back of a worried Elena. John Ross calls Sue Ellen “mama” when she brings him home from the hospital.

The nice thing about Julia Cohen’s script is that it doesn’t just make the Ewings feel like a real family, it also makes them feel like real individuals. “No Good Deed” is centered around the theme of sacrifice – Bobby offers to lift the ban on drilling the ranch, Sue Ellen surrenders her integrity, Christopher forgoes a piece of his gas hydrate project – and by seeing what the Ewings are willing to give up, we discover who these characters really are. (Shades of “Ellie Saves the Day,” one of the greatest episodes from the original series.)

“No Good Deed’s” most heartbreaking moment belongs to Sue Ellen, who musters the courage to bribe the medical examiner, only to discover her ethical lapse was for nothing. I can’t help but feel sorry for her when she stands at John Ross’s bedside and proudly predicts Marta’s death will be ruled a suicide, only to learn the charges against her son have been dropped because new evidence has emerged clearing him. It’s tragic stuff, but isn’t it nice to see Ann provide Sue Ellen with so much support and comfort throughout her ordeal?

Of course, the character who provides “No Good Deed” with its heart is the young man who is at the center of it all: John Ross. Yes, we feel sympathetic toward him after that savage beating, but those cuts and bruises merely symbolize how he’s finally become a flesh-and-blood character.

John Ross seems genuinely ashamed of his role in the plot to steal Southfork, as evidenced by his willingness to stay in jail rather than reveal his relationship with Marta and risk losing Elena’s faith in him. He also refuses to blame J.R. for his misfortune, another sign this is no longer the petulant brat we met in “Changing of the Guard.” I’ve been a fan of Josh Henderson’s from the beginning, but “No Good Deed” finally makes me a fan of John Ross.

“No Good Deed” is also distinguished by Michael Katleman’s arty direction, including the moody opening scene, where Henderson and Jordana Brewster’s faces fill the screen, recalling the tight close-ups that were a signature of the old “Dallas.” And while TNT’s show has a style all its own, there are times I wish it more deliberately mimicked its predecessor. How cool would it have been to hear a few notes of Jerrold Immel’s “Dallas” theme music when J.R. received the call about John Ross’s beating, the way we did in the classic episode “Swan Song,” when J.R. got the call Bobby was dying?

Katleman also does a masterful job in “No Good Deed’s” final scene, when Tommy backs Rebecca against the wall, threatens her and then plants his mouth on hers, thus revealing the Sutters aren’t siblings after all. I suspect that creepy buss will have “Dallas” fans buzzing today, but I hope they don’t allow the shock value to obscure all the warm and wonderful moments to be found in “No Good Deed.”

The Sutters may not be family, but after this episode the Ewings finally are, and my goodness, isn’t that nice to see?

Grade: A

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Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, No Good Deed, TNT

Touching

‘NO GOOD DEED’

Season 1, Episode 8

Telecast: July 25, 2012

Writer: Julia Cohen

Director: Michael Katleman

Audience: 5 million viewers (including 3.3 million viewers on July 25, ranking 24th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: When Cano’s thugs beat John Ross in jail, Sue Ellen bribes the medical examiner to rule Marta’s death a suicide so her son will be freed. Her sacrifice is for naught: Christopher gives Cano the South American rights to his gas hydrate project, which prompts Cano to release evidence that clears John Ross. Christopher makes amends with John Ross and reconciles with Rebecca, who is later confronted by Tommy, who isn’t really her brother.

Cast: Amir Arison (Varun Rasmussen), Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Damon Carney (Paul Jacob), Akai Draco (Sheriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Marisol Ramirez (Detective), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“No Good Deed” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: Another Ratings Win for TNT’s ‘Dallas’

Dallas, Josh Henderson, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Viewers came back too

The real test for new TV shows isn’t the number of people who tune in for the premiere – it’s the number who come back during the second week. If a series holds onto enough of its audience during week two, it’s a good sign viewers like what they see and will keep coming back for more.

TNT’s “Dallas” didn’t just pass its second-week test – it aced it!

The series premiered June 13 with 6.9 million viewers, including 1.9 million adults between the ages of 18 to 49, the group advertisers prize above all others.

One week later, TNT’s June 20 “Dallas” episode, “The Price You Pay,” drew 4.8 million viewers, becoming the evening’s most-watched cable show. Here’s what’s really impressive: This audience included 1.7 million viewers between 18 and 49.

In other words: Almost all the 18-to-49-year-olds who watched “Dallas” during week one came back during week two.

This doesn’t guarantee “Dallas” another season, but it’s an encouraging sign. Hopefully TNT will renew the series soon.

More Numbers

While we’re on the subject of “Dallas’s” June 13 debut, it’s now official: The two-hour premiere was cable television’s most-watched telecast last week, boosting TNT to a first-place finish among all cable channels.

And when you include the number of viewers who watched “Dallas” on DVRs within three days of the original telecast, the show’s total viewership rises from 6.9 million viewers to 7.8 million viewers.

By the way: This is the first time “Dallas” has finished first in a weekly ratings race since “Swan Song,” the 1985 episode that ended with Bobby’s “death.”

Hagman’s Advice to Henderson

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson

Enjoy the ride

In “The Price You Pay,” J.R. dispenses a lot of wisdom to John Ross, including Jock’s famous maxim that “real power is something you take.”

In real life, what advice has Larry Hagman offered advice Josh Henderson?

“You know, the first thing he ever said to me when we were on set was, ‘Enjoy the ride.’ He literally just said, ‘Have fun,’” Henderson told me and a group of other bloggers and critics during a conference call last month.

“I think what made the original [series] so special was that Larry, Linda, Patrick – the original cast – they truly had fun and they really like each other. And I think that when that happens, you can trust your coworker or the actor that you’re with in the scene more, meaning that you can go deeper with the characters to make a better TV show.”

Line of the Week

“Bullets don’t seem to have much an effect on me, darlin’.”

J.R.’s comment to Ann in “The Price You Pay’s” storage barn scene was a winking nod to his tendency to get shot on the original “Dallas.” Everyone knows J.R.’s sister-in-law/mistress/secretary Kristin pumped lead into him in 1980, but casual fans might have forgotten he also got plugged during a hunting trip (1979’s “The Dove Hunt”), by Sue Ellen (1988’s “The Fat Lady Singeth”) and by a crazed business rival (the 1998 reunion movie “War of the Ewings”).

Speaking of plugs: Dallas Decoder will critique the 1980 “Who Shot J.R.?” episodes, beginning next week. If you need a refresher on “Dallas’s” most famous storyline, be sure to check them out.

Power Trip

Are you playing “Rise to Power,” TNT’s online “Dallas” game?

Each week, fans are asked to align themselves with the character who has what it takes to “rise to power” during TNT’s next “Dallas” episode. Players earn points based on each character’s weekly “power ranking,” but additional points can be earned by touting the show on Facebook and Twitter.

The grand prize is a trip to Southfork. Weekly prizes include autographed posters, Ewing Oil hardhats and a collection of TNT’s “Dallas Quickies” tweets in book form.

That’s One Strong Drink

A reminder to check out the “Dallas Drinks” cocktail recipes from Cook In/Dine Out. This week’s drink is inspired by Ann Ewing, played by the awesome Brenda Strong. Make sure you serve it in a tall glass!

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” is published regularly. Share your comments below.