Dallas Parallels: Women on the Edge

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pam Ewing, Pamela Barnes, Victoria Principal, TNT

Pam Ewing, the original “Dallas’s” heroine, and Pamela Barnes, her namesake niece on TNT’s sequel series, have more than a name in common. Both women marry into the Ewing family, both experience awkward introductions to life at Southfork, and their first encounters with J.R. are equally tense. Most notably, Pam and Pamela also suffer tragic miscarriages that send both of them to the edge — literally.

Pam’s quest to become a mother is a recurring theme of “Dallas’s early years. She and Bobby are overjoyed when they discover she’s pregnant at the end of the first season, but their parental dreams are dashed when Pam falls from the hayloft and suffers a miscarriage. She gets pregnant again at the beginning of Season 3, only to lose that child during another ranching mishap. Pam shifts her focus to her career, but when Sue Ellen leaves Southfork and takes John Ross with her at the beginning of Season 5, Pam’s memories of her miscarriages resurface.

Pam soon slips into a deep depression, alarming Bobby. At one point, he goes to visit his wife at The Store, the luxury retailer where she works, only to find her sitting in the baby department, holding a music box and lost in her thoughts. Then, in “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” Pam goes to the roof of a tall building and contemplates jumping off. Bobby rescues her and brings her home to Southfork, where he urges her to get psychiatric help. “Honey, I’m worried about you,” he says.

Pamela has similar experiences on TNT’s “Dallas,” although the echoes are faint. Not long after she marries Christopher, the son that Bobby and Pam eventually adopted, Pamela becomes pregnant with twins. When Christopher discovers Pamela has been keeping some big secrets from him — namely, that she’s Cliff’s daughter and Christopher’s cousin — he divorces her, leaving her to take up with another one of his cousins, John Ross. Then the unthinkable happens: Cliff engineers the explosion of a Ewing Energies rig with Pamela and the Ewings aboard, causing her to lose her unborn children.

“Let Me In,” one of the new show’s second-season episodes, chronicles the emotional fallout from Pamela’s miscarriage. The hour opens with alternating shots of Christopher tearing down the nursery at Southfork while Pamela decorates the room she had set aside for the babies in her home. The montage ends with her sitting alone in the room, holding a stuffed animal and wearing a blank expression — not unlike Pam’s scene in The Store’s baby department. Later, John Ross comes to Pamela’s penthouse and finds her sitting on the balcony, entranced. She isn’t suicidal, but it nonetheless brings to mind Pam standing atop the tall building. (Indeed, “Let Me In” scriptwriter Aaron Allen has said he took inspiration for this scene not from “Dallas,” but from the 1985 film “St. Elmo’s Fire.”) In the next scene, John Ross brings Pamela inside and expresses his concern for her (“We are all worried about you”), just like Bobby did with Pam after her breakdown.

The question is: Will the parallels end here? On the original show, after Bobby and Pam adopt Christopher, she recovers her mojo, although her maternal struggles continue to haunt her. When Bobby briefly reunites with old flame Jenna Wade and impregnates her, Pam must learn to live with the fact that her husband will have a child with another woman.

Now that Pamela is married to the adulterous John Ross, we wonder: Will she soon find herself following in Aunt Pam’s footsteps yet again?


‘Honey, I’m Worried About You’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Sweet Smell of Revenge

Let him help

In “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” a fifth-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) sits in his bedroom reading a newspaper while Pam (Victoria Principal) sleeps on the bed.

PAM: [Awakens] Bobby?

BOBBY: Yeah, honey?

PAM: I’m sorry.

BOBBY: Oh, don’t worry. How do you feel?

PAM: [Pause] All right.

BOBBY: [Sets down his paper, moves to the bed and sits near her] Pam, we got to talk.

PAM: I know.

BOBBY: About you, about the future.

PAM: I know.

BOBBY: I spoke to Dr. Conrad. She said she already talked to you about voluntary commitment to Brooktree.

PAM: Yes, she did.

BOBBY: Well, she wanted to know how I felt, and I said I wanted what was best for you. She said that, at the present, she thinks that is the best. And with 24-hour-a-day care, you could overcome your problems a lot sooner.

PAM: Because you think I should be watched in case I try to kill myself again?

BOBBY: Pam, that’s not what I said.

PAM: But that’s what you meant.

BOBBY: Honey, I’m worried about you, and I care about you, and I don’t want what happened before to happen again. Now, if it’s going to be better — or safer — for you to be at Brooktree for a time, time enough to overcome this depression, then that’s what I want … for you. [Silence] Pam?

PAM: [Closes her eyes] I’m tired.

BOBBY: [Sighs] Well, you think about it, all right?

She nods.


‘We Are All Worried About You’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Let Me In, TNT

Let him in

In “Let Me In,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) finds Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) sitting on the balcony of her apartment, brings her back inside and sits with her on the sofa.

JOHN ROSS: Where’s Afton? I thought your mother was taking care of you.

PAMELA: [Looking away] I sent her home … last week.

JOHN ROSS: Why’d you lie to me? [Silence] I think you should not be alone right now, Pamela.

PAMELA: I don’t care.

JOHN ROSS: Where’s your father?

PAMELA: Somewhere, making some deal. He sent me flowers.

JOHN ROSS: When was the last time you ate?

PAMELA: [Looks at him] Why are you here?

JOHN ROSS: I’m here because we are all worried about you. And I ain’t going anywhere until I know that you’re okay.

PAMELA: You’ll be here a long time.

JOHN ROSS: I’m going to go make you some tea. [Rises and exits as she closes her eyes]

How do you feel about Pam and Pamela’s painful losses? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 83 – ‘The Big Shut Down’

Here he goes again

Here he goes again

“The Big Shut Down” is the first “Dallas” episode John Parker has scored since the third season, and it features many of the compositions he created during that era of the show, including Ray and Lucy’s musical signatures and Bobby and Pam’s love theme. It’s always nice to hear these classic numbers, but does the show have to recycle so many old plotlines to go with them?

J.R. spends “The Big Shut Down” conspiring to buy up the oil supply to Clayton Farlow’s refineries so he can hold the crude “hostage” in exchange for John Ross, who now lives with Sue Ellen and the Farlows at their Southern Cross ranch. To finance this scheme, J.R. turns to smarmy banker Vaughn Leland – just like he did two seasons ago, when Vaughn arranged J.R.’s outlandish ploy to secretly mortgage Southfork.

“The Big Shut Down’s” climax – when J.R. signs the paperwork for his loan – even echoes “The Kristin Affair” scene where J.R. approves the deal that puts ownership of Southfork at risk. Both sequences take place in J.R.’s office and both end with him dismissing Vaughn’s ominous warnings. It’s less homage than outright retread.

“The Big Shut Down’s” other subplots feel just as familiar. In “Dallas’s” previous episode, “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” the show seemed to go out of its way to suggest Pam’s depression wasn’t linked to her fertility problems. But in this installment, Pam is once again bemoaning her inability to have children. In the third act, she even recalls for Dr. Conrad the whole third-season storyline about her obsession with John Ross, reminding us how we’ve seen all this before.

Of course, not everything here is old news. “The Big Shut Down” marks one of the first appearances of Katherine Wentworth, who’ll go on to become one of the great “Dallas” vixens. Morgan Brittany is sublime in the role, right from the start. In this episode, I especially love Katherine’s deliciously bitchy reaction when she discovers Cliff has redecorated her daddy’s old office at Wentworth Tool and Die.

It’s the first time we encounter what becomes one of “Dallas’s” most enduring truisms: Never upset Katherine Wentworth!

Grade: B


Her too

Her too


Season 5, Episode 6

Airdate: November 13, 1981

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

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Vaughn agrees to finance J.R.’s plot to cut off the Farlows’ oil supply. Jeff Farraday, the mysterious caller who contacted Bobby, sells him more information about Christopher. Pam meets Katherine. Donna steps in as Ray’s partner when Punk drops out of their latest venture.

Cast: Phillip Allen (Lloyd Bettinger), Tami Barber (Bev), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Deborah Benson (secretary), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Robert  Ginnaven (Chuck Williamson), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), David Tress (Walter Sher), Edward Winter (Dr. Frank Waring), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), Gretchen Wyler (Dr. Dagmara Conrad)

“The Big Shut Down” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Art of Dallas: ‘The Sweet Smell of Revenge’

Bobby (Patrick Duffy) rescues a suicidal Pam (Victoria Principal) in this 1981 publicity shot from “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” a fifth-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Don’t Want to Feel This Way’

Poor Pam

Poor Pam

In “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” Pam (Victoria Principal) is sitting in her bed at Dallas Memorial Hospital when Dr. Conrad (Gretchen Wyler) enters the room.

CONRAD: Mrs. Ewing? I’m Dr. Conrad. [Sits on the bed but Pam doesn’t look up] Perhaps you can tell me how you’re feeling right now.

PAM: [Makes eye contact, then looks away] Like nothing matters. Empty. Worthless. Like I’m dying or already dead.

CONRAD: I see. Where do you suppose these feelings come from?

PAM: [Makes eye contact, speaks sharply] I thought you were supposed to tell me that.

CONRAD: They’re your feelings.

PAM: [Looking away] I don’t know.

CONRAD: How long have you been feeling this way?

PAM: For a long time.

CONRAD: Do you know when the feelings began?

PAM: No. Not really. I think in one way, I’ve been feeling like this all the way back to when I was a little baby and –

CONRAD: And? What?

PAM: And my mother left me. [Angrily] Why did she do that? Leave a little baby? What did I do to deserve that? [Deflated] I’m sorry. I don’t mean that. I love my mother and it wasn’t her fault.

CONRAD: There’s always a lot of anger underneath any depression.

PAM: [Looks up, then away] You think I’m angry?

CONRAD: Well, I’m sure that wanting to stop the world and get off doesn’t come from feelings of sweetness and light. The important question is, what happened recently to arouse all those old feelings of hopelessness and futility? You have a good marriage, a loving husband, good job. You were feeling fine until just recently. And suddenly it all seems empty and futile. Why?

PAM: [Voice breaking] I don’t know why. I have these feelings and I don’t know why but I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

CONRAD: I know. That’s why we better start to find out why you do feel this way.

PAM: How do we do that?

CONRAD: Well, we might begin by trying to find out what it is in yourself that you’re trying so hard to kill off.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 82 – ‘The Sweet Smell of Revenge’

Saved, for now

Saved, for now

I’ve always considered Pam’s mental breakdown in “The Sweet Smell of Revenge” to be out of character for her. The woman who tries to jump off a high-rise rooftop in this episode isn’t the strong, spirited heroine I fell for when “Dallas” began. On the other hand, the show deserves credit for taking a creative risk with this storyline – and Victoria Principal deserves praise for delivering a gutsy performance.

Mental illness wasn’t depicted a lot on television during this era – and when the subject was addressed, it was often played for laughs (see the patients on “The Bob Newhart Show”). “Dallas” breaks a little ground with Pam’s storyline, even if some of the language in Linda Elstad’s “Sweet Smell of Revenge” script – psychiatrist Dr. Conrad suggests depressed people are consumed with “self-hatred” – doesn’t quite jive with how we think of the disorder today.

For the most part, though, this episode feels progressive, especially when it comes to the reaction of Pam’s family members to her diagnosis. None of them judge or mock her (not even J.R.!), nor do they pity her; they just want her to get better. Above all, I appreciate how “The Sweet Smell of Revenge” stops trying to link Pam’s depression to her fertility problems, even if the show later reverses course and once again presents motherhood as the cure-all for Pam’s crisis.

Regardless, the best thing about “The Sweet Smell of Revenge” is Principal, who does some of her finest work on “Dallas” in this episode – particularly in the scene where Dr. Conrad meets Pam after her suicide attempt. Principal goes through an emotional gamut here – from numbness to anger to despair – yet she never goes overboard. It’s a really good performance.

Watching this scene, I thought about how Pam was one of television’s most popular heroines when this episode aired in 1981. I don’t know if Principal had qualms about the writers sending her character into such dark territory; maybe she welcomed the challenge. Whatever the case, the actress gives it her all. It’s hard not to admire that, no matter how I feel about the storyline itself.

Grade: B





Season 5, Episode 5

Airdate: November 6, 1981

Audience: 22.3 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Linda Elstad

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Bobby has Pam committed to a sanitarium after she tries to jump off a building. Later, he receives a call from a man who wants $2,000 for information about Kristin and her infant son, Christopher. J.R. schemes to cut off the oil supply to the Farlow refineries. Ray and Punk consider a new real estate deal. Dr. Waring offers Mitch an internship.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Deborah Benson (secretary), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), J.R. Clark (Earl Holiday), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (caller), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), 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), David Tress (Walter Sher), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson), Gretchen Wyler (Dr. Dagmara Conrad)

“The Sweet Smell of Revenge” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.