Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 32 — ‘Like a Bad Penny’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Like a Bad Penny, TNT

Not afraid to lose

John Ross has never reminded me of J.R. as much as he does in “Like a Bad Penny.” To salvage a botched business deal with a powerful sheik, John Ross competes against him in a high-stakes poker game and deliberately loses, even though it means gambling away his prized “J.R.” wristwatch. Except the watch is never really at risk, is it? John Ross bets that by humbling himself in the sheik’s presence, he’ll win the man’s approval and eventually recover the timepiece, which is precisely what happens at the end of the episode. Could J.R. have played it any better?

At every turn in “Like a Bad Penny,” Josh Henderson evokes a little of the old Hagman magic. After John Ross throws the game and surrenders the watch, he offers the sheik a J.R.-esque, fake-sincere apology for bungling the deal in the first place. Then, John Ross huddles privately with Pamela and hints his defeat is part of a bigger scheme. This is the kind of conversation J.R. used to have with Sly on the original “Dallas”; whenever the chips were down, he’d let his loyal secretary — and by extension, the audience — know he had one more trick up his sleeve. John Ross does something similar here by offering Pamela a sly grin and a nugget of J.R.-style wisdom: “Sometimes the only way to win is to show the other person you’re not afraid to lose.”

Sure enough, in “Like a Bad Penny’s” most satisfying scene, the sheik’s son Nasir comes to Southfork, tells John Ross the sheik wants to do business with him after all — and returns the wristwatch. This is a poignant moment because it gets to the conflict brewing within John Ross. Earlier, when he loses the watch, he expresses his relief to Pamela, saying he wants to his “own man, instead of the man everybody else wants me to be.” John Ross seems sincere in that scene, but you can also see how happy he is when he gets the watch back and hears Nasir say, “My father saw J.R. in you.” I can’t help but feel sympathy for John Ross: He desperately wants to escape J.R.’s shadow, but he’s also as desperate as ever to make his father proud. (I also have to wonder: What kind of snow job did J.R. pull on his old friend the sheik to make him think he was such an upstanding, honorable businessman?)

I’m less enthralled with this episode’s depiction of Pamela. If John Ross is the “new” J.R., is she doomed to fulfill Sue Ellen’s old role of the subservient wife? Despite all the “us against the world” talk between John Ross and Pamela at the top of the hour, she’s relegated to the background during the big poker scene. Even worse, she’s still in the dark about her husband’s affair with Emma. (At this point, who doesn’t know John Ross and Emma are sleeping together?) Also worth mentioning: While John Ross eventually reclaims his watch, Pamela doesn’t get back her emerald earrings, which she puts up as collateral so he can enter the card game. It’s just like the old days, when Sue Ellen always seemed to pay the price for J.R.’s transgressions.

But not all the Sue Ellen/Pamela parallels are lamentable: In the poker scene, I love how costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin puts Julie Gonzalo in that spectacular black-and-white dress, evoking one of Linda Gray’s signature looks. Speaking of Gray: She’s very moving in Sue Ellen’s sanitarium scenes, although it’s hard to see the character slip back into her bad, old habits. During her conversation with Ann, Sue Ellen blames J.R.’s cheating for turning her into an alcoholic, which suggests she has forgotten all the lessons she learned during the original series about taking responsibility for her own life. Bobby also falls back into an old pattern when he insists on taking Sue Ellen home to Southfork over the objections of her doctor. This lapse I don’t mind, though, because the Ewings’ insistence on taking care of their own has always been one of “Dallas’s” charms.

“Like a Bad Penny,” the first “Dallas” script from Pierluigi D. Cothran, is directed by Millicent Shelton, who previously helmed “Trust Me,” the episode that brought back Judith Ryland in such memorable fashion. There are no coke-snorting shockers here, although it is kind of surprising to see “Dallas” adding more characters. Besides introducing Nasir, the sheik’s son, this episode brings back Drew; the Mexican drug lord Luis; and Hunter, the mysterious McKay offspring who surfaced in “Like Father, Like Son.” I recognize “Dallas” needs newcomers to interact with the core cast, but I would’ve preferred the show devote more attention to Sue Ellen’s sanitarium stay or to Elena, who needs clarity. She doesn’t mind lying to Christopher about Nicolas’s identity, but she refuses to show Pamela the video of John Ross and Emma? And can someone explain why both Ramos siblings blame the whole Ewing family for J.R.’s sins against their father?

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m being overly critical, because there’s a lot about this episode to admire. Christopher’s entanglement with Heather and Bo has turned into one of the third season’s most effective storylines: The McCabes bring a touch of working-class humanity to the show, helping to keep it grounded, and all of the actors are doing good work. I also get a kick out of Emma’s investigation into Harris’s shenanigans in “Like a Bad Penny”; if ever she tires of being John Ross’s girl on the side, she could have a future as “Dallas’s” resident girl detective.

This raises a question: Who — or what — does the title of this episode refer to? Is it the John Ross/Emma video clip, which pops up repeatedly during the course of the hour? Is it Candace’s blue dress, which seems destined to join the list of “Dallas’s” most famous outfits? Is it Drew? Or is it J.R.’s watch? If it’s the latter, here’s hoping more of J.R.’s “bad pennies” turn up. I’m impressed by the clever way “Dallas” is using props to help keep his spirit alive, beginning with the J.R. Ewing Bourbon bottle in “D.T.R.” and now the wristwatch in “Like a Bad Penny.” The scene where Nasir stands at the Southfork gate and places the timepiece in John Ross’s hand is surprisingly moving; it’s almost as if J.R. himself has come home.

Let’s just hope John Ross remembers to check the watch for bugs.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Linda Gray, Like a Bad Penny, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Blame game

‘LIKE A BAD PENNY’

Season 3, Episode 7

Telecast: April 7, 2014

Audience: 1.87 million viewers on April 7

Writer: Pierluigi D. Cothran

Director: Millicent Shelton

Synopsis: John Ross meets Nasir Ali and persuades his father, a powerful sheik, to supply the capital he needs to buy a controlling interest in Ewing Global once it goes public. Bobby and Ann get Sue Ellen released from the sanitarium and bring her to Southfork to recover. John Ross and Harris each dismiss Candace, who tells Emma about her father’s scheme to frame John Ross for a sex crime. Christopher tries to help Bo, who tells Heather he wants to reconcile. Drew returns to Dallas and vows revenge against the Ewings after discovering J.R. swindled the Ramoses out of their land. Elena refuses to show Pamela the video of John Ross and Emma, so Nicolas goes behind her back and sends it Pamela on his own. Nicolas also meets with his secret partners: Hunter McKay, who wants to bring down the Ewings, and the Mexican drug lord Luis, who wants to take over Ewing Global and use it to launder the cartel’s drug profits.

Cast: Jonathan Adams (Calvin Hanna), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Dallas Clark (Michael), Gail Cronauer (Dr. Monika Englert), Jude Demorest (Candace Shaw), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Janeen Howard (Nadia), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Fran Kranz (Hunter McKay), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Pej Vahdat (Nasir Ali)

“Like a Bad Penny” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Gets a Slight Ratings Boost

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Playing Chicken, TNT

Ratings flash!

“Dallas” experienced an uptick in the ratings this week: “Playing Chicken,” the latest episode, debuted to 1.985 million viewers on March 10, including 512,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, the demographic that advertisers pay top dollar to reach.

The total audience grew by roughly 50,000 viewers, or about 2.6 percent. The previous episode, “Trust Me,” debuted to 1.934 million viewers on March 3.

However, when you include viewers who recorded “Trust Me” on their DVRs and watched it within three days, the episode’s audience reached 2.7 million viewers. This audience includes 1.1 million adults between ages 25 and 54, a demographic that TNT targets, and 864,000 adults in the 18-to-49 demo.

So far this season, “Dallas” is averaging 2.2 million viewers on Monday nights, compared to 2.7 million viewers on Mondays last year. Of the three original dramas that TNT is showing this winter, “Dallas” ranks second: On Tuesday nights, “Rizzoli & Isles” is averaging 3.5 million viewers, while “Perception” is averaging 1.9 million viewers.

Earlier this week, Dallas Decoder suggested three things fans can do to help boost “Dallas’s” audience. Don’t forget to keep talking about the show — online and in real life!

DeGeneres Does ‘Dallas’

Ellen DeGeneres will welcome two “Dallas” stars to her talk show this week: Jesse Metcalfe is scheduled to appear on Thursday, March 13, while Jordana Brewster will be a guest on Friday, March 14. “Ellen” is syndicated, so check your local listings for broadcast times.

Summer in ‘Dallas’

“Dallas’s” third season will continue through mid-April, and then the show will take a midseason break and return in the summer. How long will we have to wait?

TNT hasn’t announced the airdates, but the cable channel did outline some of its summer plans this week. On Sunday, June 22, the action series “The Last Ship” will debut at 9 p.m., followed by the fourth-season opener of the sci-fi show “Falling Skies.” Meanwhile, the FBI drama “Legends” is slated to premiere on Wednesday, August 20, at 9 p.m.

In addition to these shows, TNT’s summer lineup will include new episodes of “Major Crimes,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Perception” and “Franklin & Bash” and the launch of “Murder in the First,” a crime drama from producer Steven Bochco, whose son Jesse Bocho is a frequent “Dallas” director, including helming “Playing Chicken.”

Double Doses of ‘Dallas’

Starting this week, TNT is doubling up on “Dallas” on Monday nights. Each new episode will continue to debut at 9, and then TNT will show it again at 10.

TNT had been filling the 10 p.m. slot with “The Private Lives of Nashville Wives,” a new reality series. The numbers weren’t good, and so TNT is shifting that show to Monday nights at 11.

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

Dallas Burning Questions: Season 3, Week 3

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT, Trust Me

Confronting the truth

Here are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Playing Chicken,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode:

Is Harris telling the truth? In “Trust Me,” last week’s episode, Bobby and Ann (Patrick Duffy, Brenda Strong) were stunned to discover Harris (Mitch Pileggi) was released from jail. When Bobby and Ann began investigating the circumstances of his release, they were summoned to a darkened warehouse, where a mystery man who identified himself as a CIA agent ordered the Ewings to stop snooping into Harris’s business. Harris emerged from the shadows and explained why: He’s secretly working with the CIA to bring down the Mendez-Ochoa drug cartel, and if Bobby and Ann keep asking questions, it could blow his cover and jeopardize lives. “They have pictures of our daughter — and you, Annie,” Harris said of the cartel. “Now if they find out who I’m working for, they’ll kill both you and Emma.” Should Bobby and Ann believe him?

What will happen to Judith? Earlier in the episode, when Harris learned Emma (Emma Bell) had agreed to give the Ewings access to Ryland Transport’s new drilling and cargo ships, he wondered if his daughter was still taking drugs and threatened to send her to a “secure therapeutic setting.” Emma retaliated by springing Judith (Judith Light) from the rehab hospital, and before Harris knew it, Mama Ryland had seized control of the family business. Judith made Harris take her to Mexico, where she met with the drug lord Luis (Antonio Jaramillo), negotiated a new deal to smuggle his cocaine into Texas — and then sampled the product herself. “Hot damn! Mama like,” Judith said after snorting Luis’s coke. Little did she know Harris was secretly recording the meeting. What will he do with the evidence?

Will John Ross “frack” Southfork? To finance the Ewings’ new Arctic drilling venture, John Ross continued to insist on tapping the oil under Southfork by using an environmentally questionable process known as “fracking.” He claimed the ranch’s oil-rich “shale formation” falls within his surface rights, so Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) asked seismologist Howard Rieder (Christian Clemenson) to investigate, hoping to prove his ambitious cousin wrong. John Ross tried to bribe Howard to make sure the test came out his way, but Howard confessed all to Bobby, who told him to keep the money and give him the test results straight. When the results came in, they showed the shale is indeed with the surface rights. “That settles it. … We’re fracking Southfork,” John Ross said. Will he?

What will happen to the ranch hands? When Heather (AnnaLynne McCord) heard the Ewings might frack the ranch, she angrily confronted Christopher and explained it would put many ranch hands out of work. Christopher explained that he and Bobby want to protect Southfork and invited Heather to the Ewing Barbecue, where she kissed him and told him she’d like to see more of him in the future. If the fracking occurs, will she still feel that way? And what will happen to Southfork’s other ranch hands, including Emma’s onetime beau, Bo (Donny Boaz)?

• Will Sue Ellen and Pamela discover the truth? Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) asked Bum (Kevin Page) to follow John Ross to confirm her suspicion that he’s cheating with Emma. Bum photographed John Ross and Emma cavorting in John Ross’s penthouse, but Bum lied and told Sue Ellen that her son “never went near” Miss Ryland. Instead, Bum showed the pictures to John Ross and told him to wise up and stop cheating on Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), who also began to notice her husband’s wandering eye. Will Sue Ellen and Pamela’s suspicions be proven correct?

Are Elena and Nicolas closing in on the Ewings? At the Ewing Barbecue, Elena (Jordana Brewster) snooped around Bobby’s laptop and came across an email to Carlos del Sol in which Bobby wrote, “Talked to Rhonda Simmons. She agreed to play ball with us about JR.” Elena showed the email to Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace) and explained that Rhonda (Emily Kosloski) was the witness whose testimony placed Cliff in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on the night J.R. was killed. “That’s got to mean something,” Elena said as she studied Bobby’s email. Meanwhile, when Elena realized Nicolas would run into Carmen (Marlene Forte) at the barbecue, she reluctantly told her mother she was plotting against the Ewings but didn’t offer details. Carmen was aghast. Will she keep Elena and Nicolas’s secret?

• Are the Ewings closing in on Elena and Nicolas? Elsewhere, Christopher quizzed Nicolas about his business dealings with Cliff (Ken Kercheval) and realized the details didn’t add up. Christopher shared his suspicions with Bobby, who told him to go to Mexico to see what he could find out about Nicolas’s past. What will Christopher learn when he goes south of the border?

What “Dallas Burning Questions” are on your mind? Share your comments below and watch TNT’s “Dallas” tonight.

TNT’s Dallas Styles: ‘Trust Me’

AnnaLynne McCord, Dallas, Harris Ryland, Heather, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Julie Gonzalo, Linda Gray, Mitch Pileggi, Nicolas Trevino, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT, Trust Me

The crowd may have been smaller than in days gone by and no one got dunked in the pool, but there’s one area where this week’s Ewing Barbecue lived up to tradition: the clothing. The Southfork shindigs on the original “Dallas” always allowed the characters to dress a little more playfully than usual, and so did the barbecue in “Trust Me,” TNT’s latest episode.

My favorite look belonged to Linda Gray, who sported a nifty brown cowgirl hat that brought back memories of the hats Sue Ellen wore to the Southfork hoedowns of the 1980s. I also couldn’t help but smile when AnnaLynne McCord’s character, Heather, showed up at the party in that beautiful white dress; it reminded me of the simple, elegant dress Pam Ewing sported at “Dallas’s” first barbecue in 1978. I also loved how costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin paired Heather’s dress with weathered cowgirl boots; it was an ideal combination for McCord’s tomboyish character.

Juan Pablo Di Pace was the best-dressed man at the barbecue (although Jesse Metcalfe was a close second in that dark blue denim shirt). Nicolas, an out-of-town Latin American businessman, came to the party dressed just like we would expect him to: Instead of western garb, he wore a light-colored sport coat and trousers and an open-collared white shirt that strategically showcased the St. Christopher’s medal that’s so important to the character. I also loved Pamela’s blue blouse and dark pants and boots — and how gorgeous did Julie Gonzalo’s hair look under that Southfork sunshine? (Kudos, Charles Yusko!)

My other favorite wardrobe selection from “Trust Me”: the purple shirt Mitch Pileggi wore in the scene where Harris pulled a gun on Judith. Only Pileggi could make a paisley print look badass — and wasn’t it nice to finally see him in something other than the gray T-shirt he’s been wearing since the end of the second season?

What were your favorite looks in “Trust Me”? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and read more “Dallas Styles.”

Say What?! This Week’s Best Dallas Sound Bites

“Dallas” delivers the most delicious dialogue on television. The best sound bites from “Trust Me,” this week’s episode, come from a single source: Judith Ryland (Judith Light).

Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, Trust Me, TNT

What are your favorite lines from “Trust Me”? Share them below and read more “Say What?!”

TNT’s Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Mama Like’

Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT, Trust Me

That’s one way to powder your nose

In “Trust Me,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Harris and Judith (Mitch Pileggi, Judith Light) meet Luis (Antonio Jaramillo) in an equestrian center in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

LUIS: Harris, my friend. Good to see you out of jail.

HARRIS: [Shakes his hand] Thanks to you, my friend.

LUIS: The least I can do for a man who knows the value of silence. A talkative man might have faced a much different ending.

JUDITH: Harris, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?

LUIS: When your son told me he was bringing his mother, I was … surprised.

JUDITH: Please, call me Judith.

LUIS: I hate surprises, Judith. They can lead to … unpleasantness. [Turns, begins to walk away]

JUDITH: [Follows him, arm in arm with Harris] Be that as it may, I’m now in control of Ryland Transport, so you’ll need to deal with me.

LUIS: We have a level of trust with your son, which he’s earned with years of working together. [Turns to face her] You have not earned such trust.

JUDITH: You think I’m wired. You’re right. [Hands Harris her cane] We’ve only just met, and trust is the most important ingredient in a business relationship. [Unbuttons her jacket, exposes her bra, pulls Luis’s hands out of his pocket and places them on her body] Without trust, there can be … misunderstanding. [Moves his hands up and down her legs] And misunderstanding can lead to doubt. And doubt can lead to suspicion. I feel like we’ve known each other forever. [Places her hands on Luis’s chest] Don’t you? [Begins to button up again] Due to my son’s previous legal difficulties, we can assume that all Ryland trucks will be scrutinized at the border.

LUIS: We assume this as well.

JUDITH: That is why from now on, all the trucks we use will be owned by a shell company that will be carrying drilling fluid and wastewater.

LUIS: And what about the checkpoints inside of Texas? I believe those have been compromised as well.

JUDITH: We avoid them by staying off the highways. We use the shale trucking routes instead. Six thousand miles of unmapped private roads without a border patrol agent in sight. And all of this will cost you just pennies on the dollar more.

LUIS: Whoa, whoa, whoa. We’ve already got a deal in place.

JUDITH: Well, that was with my son. Every day your cocaine pipeline is shut down, it costs you millions. Let’s not quibble over crumbs.

LUIS: [Looks at Harris, who looks away] Agreed.

JUDITH: Now, let’s seal the deal with a taste of our product. [Luis summons a boy who hands him a box. He lifts the lid revealing cocaine. Judith smiles, picks up a tube and snorts a line.] Hot damn! Mama like. [She snorts another line, then rubs some on her gums]

LUIS: [Closes the box, hands it to the boy] All right. Now that I’ve agreed to your conditions, I think it’s time you agree to mine.

JUDITH: It’s the polite thing to do.

LUIS: One interruption in our supply chain was unfortunate. Another would be fatal — for you and your family.

HARRIS: My daughter has nothing to do with this!

LUIS: Which would make it all the more … tragic, don’t you think?

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 27 — ‘Trust Me’

Dallas, Harris Ryland, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, Trust Me

Snow job

Is “Trust Me” the most audacious episode in “Dallas” history? It’s hard to think of another one that shocked me more. Judith Ryland seals a deal with a Mexican drug lord by snorting a few lines of coke, Harris Ryland is revealed as a CIA informant — these are not the kinds of things we’re used to seeing on this show. Some fans are upset with the producers for taking our beloved franchise in such wild directions, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. “Dallas” measures its longevity in decades; at this point, I’d be disappointed if the people in charge weren’t exploring fresh storytelling terrain.

Besides, it’s not like the twists and turns come from out of nowhere. Both scenes fit with the theme of “Trust Me,” which shows how the characters deal with the people who doubt them — and how they deal with their doubts about themselves. The word “trust” pops up repeatedly: Harris tells Judith that Emma can’t be trusted. Elena and Nicolas each tell Carmen to trust their choice to work against the Ewings. Elena tells Christopher to trust her ability to handle Nicolas. Bobby wonders if the old Southfork seismographs can be trusted. Even when “trust” isn’t used, it’s implied: Witness the scene where John Ross stands in front of Pamela, raises his right hand and swears he isn’t cheating with his new secretary. Talk about splitting hairs.

And then there’s Judith’s coke-snorting scene. It’s inexplicably staged in some kind of dirt-floored equestrian arena, where the Mexican drug lord Luis is surrounded by an entourage that includes a young man holding a golden box of cocaine, several thugs toting big guns and two costumed rodeo performers who stand on horses, twirling lassos. A setting like this wouldn’t feel out of place in a Tarantino film. Judith and Harris arrive to meet with Luis, and before you know it, she’s putting Luis’s hands all over her body and talking about the importance of trust in business relationships. Judith implies the point of her self-directed pat down is to prove she’s not wearing a wire, but does anyone doubt she’s also seeking cheap thrills? For that matter, isn’t she also telegraphing a message about her mettle to Harris, who stands next to her, his mouth agape?

The scene continues with Judith shrewdly explaining how she’s going to use shell companies, wastewater trucks and unmapped roads to smuggle Luis’s drugs into Texas — and then we get to the moment that sent “Dallas” fans into a tweeting frenzy on the night “Trust Me” debuted. Judith leans into Luis’s cocaine box, snorts, throws back her head and delivers her hashtag-ready exclamation: “Hot damn! Mama like.” She even rubs a little coke on her gums for good measure. I suppose this is another way for Judith to prove her trustworthiness to the cartel, but let’s not kid ourselves: “Dallas” is trying to shock us — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love this show’s insistence on being unpredictable. If this scene does nothing else, it demonstrates how eager the people who make “Dallas” are to entertain us. How can you not appreciate that?

As much as I admire Judith Light’s fearlessness in this scene, I have to hand it to Mitch Pileggi, whose reaction shots are priceless. (Director Millicent Shelton, who also helmed last season’s Harris-centric “Let Me In,” is smart enough to keep cutting back to him throughout Judith’s antics in the arena.) I also love how Light and Pileggi play off each other in their other scene in “Trust Me,” when Judith returns to the Ryland roost and announces she’s taking charge of the family trucking — er, transportation — business. Bruce Rasmussen’s script gives Light one delicious line after another, including an allegory that could have rolled off the silver tongue of J.R. Ewing: “Money and morality are like two cars on a one-lane road. When they meet, morality’s going to end up in the ditch.” Light savors every syllable, and once again, Pileggi holds his own. I think it’s telling that after I saw “Trust Me,” I spent more time quoting one of Harris’s lines (“You think you know what you’re getting into, but you don’t”) than any of Judith’s. I don’t know what I love more: Pileggi’s Texas accent, or the way he snarls his dialogue.

It’s also worth noting how much “Trust Me” humanizes Harris Ryland. In the scene where Judith negotiates the new deal with the cartel, notice how Harris doesn’t say a word until Luis implies he’ll hurt Emma if the Rylands don’t hold up their end of the bargain. “My daughter has nothing to do with this!” he says. For that matter, notice how Harris keeps a framed photograph of Ann with baby Emma in his office. This is a man who cares about the women in his life, even if he sometimes calls them names. (Pileggi’s other great line in this episode describes Emma: “She’s a little monster who put me in jail.”)

This also explains why I welcome the episode-ending revelation about Harris’s connection to the CIA, which requires more than a little trust on Bobby and Ann’s behalf. Like Larry Hagman, Pileggi is such a charismatic actor you can’t help but root for his character, no matter how wicked he becomes. I was having a hard time cheering for Harris, though, knowing that he was a drug trafficker. Now I’m glad I can cast those concerns aside. (I can cast them aside, right “Dallas”?) I don’t think there’s any danger of Harris turning into a white knight, but I’m glad to know there are lines he won’t cross.

Of course, as much as the Rylands fascinate me, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how good the rest of “Trust Me” is. The Southfork barbecue scenes evoke the spirit — if not the down-home grandeur — of Ewing shindigs from days gone by. It’s fun to see John Ross rankle all the women in his life — mother, wife, mistress — by chatting up the other pretty ladies. (One is played by “Survivor” contestant Andrea Boehlke, who is Josh Henderson’s girlfriend in real life.) The only thing I enjoy more is Pamela’s hot dance with the ever-intriguing Nicolas Treviño — not just because it’s good to see Pamela give her flirtatious husband a taste of his own medicine, but also because it demonstrates why the magnetic Juan Pablo Di Pace is such a smart addition to this show. Di Pace enlivens every scene he appears in; as one of my fellow fans pointed out on Twitter the other night, he has chemistry with everyone, including Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher, whose tête-à-tête with Nicolas over a couple of Miller Lites is another barbecue highlight.

Rasmussen’s script allows “Dallas’s” supporting performers to shine too. No one impresses me more than Kevin Page, whose character Bum has become the conscience of this show. Besides Judith Light’s dialogue, Page has the episode’s most memorable line when he shows John Ross the pictures he took of him and Emma and says, “Grow into your father’s greatness, not his weakness.” Bum’s mysterious-but-strong connection to J.R. makes him the only character on this show who can get away with putting John Ross in his place; he could become an even more effective surrogate father than Uncle Bobby. It’s tempting to chastise Bum for deceiving Sue Ellen about John Ross’s adultery, except there’s no doubt he’s only trying to spare her heartache. And am I the only one who wants to see more scenes between Page and Linda Gray?

This episode’s other M.V.P.: Marlene Forte, who has two great scenes. In the first, Carmen is aghast to learn Elena is working against the family to whom Carmen has pledged her loyalty; in the second, Carmen comes face to face with Nicolas, a boy she helped raise who is now Elena’s partner in crime. I love when Carmen touches the medal around Nicolas’s neck and tells him, “If even for a moment I sense that you are leading either of my children into the darkness, not even St. Christopher will be able to save you.” I’ve always believed Carmen has the potential to become one of this show’s moral centers, and now it looks like that might be happening.

It’s true that Nicolas’s backstory with the Ramoses is a little odd: I suppose we’re meant to believe Carmen and her husband raised him in Mexico but left him behind when they moved to Texas with their biological children, which is why Nicolas isn’t familiar to the Ewings. It’s another example of how the details on this show are sometimes fuzzy, although I’ve learned it’s not worth sweating the small stuff because the new “Dallas” almost always gets the big picture right. Will I still feel that way at the end of this season? Who knows? I have no idea where this series is headed next, but after watching its first 27 hours, I have faith in the people who make it. They’ve earned my respect — and my trust.

Grade: A

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Bum, Dallas, Kevin Page, TNT, Trust Me

Independent lens

‘TRUST ME’

Season 3, Episode 2

Telecast: March 3, 2014

Audience: 1.9 million viewers on March 3

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Millicent Shelton

Synopsis: At Sue Ellen’s request, Bum follows John Ross, but Bum lies and tells her there’s no evidence her son is cheating on Pamela. At the Ewing Barbecue, Christopher and Heather grow closer and Pamela arouses John Ross’s jealousy by dancing with Nicolas. Elena snoops around Bobby’s laptop and discovers an email that connects him and Carlos to Rhonda. Judith takes over Harris’s drug trafficking operation and negotiates a new deal with the cartel. When Bobby and Ann begin investigating Harris’s release from jail, Harris reveals the truth to them: He’s secretly working with the CIA to bring down the cartel.

Cast: John Athas (U.S. Attorney Ellis Larsen), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Andrea Boehlke (barbecue guest), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Christian Clemenson (Howard Rieder), Candace (Jude Demorest), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Akai Draco (Sherriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Gino Anthony Pesi (George Tatangelo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“Trust Me” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Trust Me, We Have Lots to Discuss Tonight on #DallasChat

Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Light, Trust Me, TNT

Trust her?

You’re invited to join Dallas Decoder’s next #DallasChat on Twitter, which I’ll hold Tuesday, March 4, from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern time. We’ll discuss “Trust Me,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode.

Leave your suggested questions about “Trust Me” in the comments section below, tweet them to me @DallasDecoder or post them to my Facebook page. I’ll choose one or more questions and ask them during tonight’s discussion.

If you’re new to #DallasChat, here’s how it works: For one hour, I tweet a series of questions to my fellow “Dallas” fans. Each question is numbered and includes the hashtag #DallasChat, so your answers should do the same. Please include the show’s official hashtag, #DallasTNT, in your tweets too.

Here’s a sample exchange:

Q1. Are any of the Rylands trustworthy? #DallasTNT #DallasChat

A1. Well, you can always trust Judith — to be evil. #DallasTNT #DallasChat

Here are two tips:

• During the discussion, enter #DallasChat in Twitter’s search field. This will help you watch the search results so you can follow the conversation. Click “All” to see all the related tweets.

• Be sure to include #DallasChat in your tweets. This allows the other participants to see your contributions to the conversation.

I look forward to seeing you tonight!

The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 8 Ewing Barbecues, Ranked

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, Trust Me, TNT

Upholding tradition

The Ewings throw another Southfork barbecue in “Trust Me,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode. Here’s a list of every barbecue from the classic show’s era, ranked in order of preference. (Please note: The two rodeo episodes aren’t included. Don’t worry; they’ll get their own list one day.)

Bert Remsen, Bobby Ewing, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Dandy Dandridge, Howard Keel, Patrick Duffy

Top gun

8. Barbecue VIII (1987). The original “Dallas’s” final barbecue feels a little warmed over, sad to say. Things briefly get exciting when aging wildcatter Dandy Dandridge (Bert Remsen) shows up and tries to shoot Cliff — a nifty bit of poetic justice that recalls Digger’s attempt to kill Jock in “Dallas: The Early Years.” The rest of the affair, though, is more of a retread than an homage: J.R. and Cliff exchange insults for the umpteenth time, Sue Ellen once again tries to get under her husband’s skin and Christopher spends another episode moping around because he’s adopted. Is this “Groundhog Day” or a Southfork shindig?

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Dances with wolves

7. Barbecue II (1982). Most of the action at this party happens on the dance floor: With Pam upstairs mooning over baby Christopher, Bobby waltzes with Katherine, whose crush on her brother-in-law is as plain as Ray’s extra-martial interest in sexy Toni. Later, J.R. stands on the balcony and seethes while watching Sue Ellen and Cliff (Linda Gray, Ken Kercheval) — whose shirt appears to have lost all its buttons — have a jolly time two-stepping below. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Miss Ellie receives the fateful phone call informing her that Jock’s helicopter crashed on its way home. Way to kill the festive mood, “Dallas.”

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

Birds of a feather

6. Barbecue IV (1983). This barbecue is mostly fun: Bobby and Mark Graison give each other the stink eye at the bar, Jenna Wade is bitchy to Pam on the patio and Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) runs around the driveway in a Native American-inspired outfit that features the most strategically placed tassels in the history of costume design. So why doesn’t this soiree rank higher? Blame baby-faced stalker Peter Richards, who summons Sue Ellen to the barn, where he gives her a smooch and professes his undying love for her. Gross! It’s enough to make us lose our appetite for Mama’s chili.

Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Jamie Ewing, Jenilee Harrison, J.R. Ewing, Marilee Stone

Slap splash

5. Barbecue V (1984). Myth: Every time the Ewings throw a barbecue, someone gets pushed into the Southfork swimming pool. Fact: This only happens once, and it occurs at the 1984 hootenanny, when Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald) slaps Cousin Jamie (Jenilee Harrison), who responds by shoving Marilee into the water. The best part is the hilarious kicker: When J.R. reaches down to pull Ms. Stone out of the chlorinated water, he says, “Marilee, you all right, honey? Did it go up your nose?” No matter how many times I watch this episode, I never tire of seeing Larry Hagman deliver that line.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Dis-invite

4. Barbecue VII (1986). This hoedown ends on a dramatic note, with Bobby arriving with evidence that proves Wes Parmalee, the man who claims to be back-from-the-dead Jock, is an imposter. Before we get to that, though, we’re treated to several scenes that showcase Hagman’s comedic genius. In one, J.R. chastises Pam (Victoria Principal) for inviting “that moron brother of yours to my barbecue.” Later, J.R. witnesses Cliff and Jamie’s latest marital spat and can’t resist offering his two cents. Jamie: “You know, Cliff Barnes, you’re the sorriest excuse for a man that I have ever met!” J.R.: “Well, I’ll second that!”

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Drunk history

3. Barbecue I (1978). Here’s the one that started it all. “Dallas’s” first season ends with an episode that takes place in a single day, as Texas’s newest in-laws, the Ewings and the Barneses, get together for an epic Southfork cookout. Everyone gets down in the dirt at this one: Digger and Sue Ellen each fall off the wagon, J.R. falls flat on his face when Bobby punches him and Pam falls from the hayloft and suffers a miscarriage. My favorite scene belongs to caterers Tilly and Sam, who spend the afternoon gossiping about the Ewings. This is the only time these characters ever appeared on “Dallas”; is it too late to bring them back?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Center of attention

2. Barbecue III (1982). The second barbecue of 1982 finds everyone hatin’ on poor J.R. The members of the cartel are royally peeved that he’s undercut them by opening a chain of cut-rate gas stations, and so is Bobby, who’s so upset, he gets drunk (!), neglects Pam (!!) and flirts with Holly Harwood (!!!). Finally, the cartel gangs up and confronts J.R. It’s showdown at the Southfork corral! But wait, what’s this? Here come the other Ewings, who circle J.R. and remind the cartel that when you take on one member of the clan, you take them all on. It’s not just the quintessential Ewing Barbecue scene, it’s quintessential “Dallas.”

Dale Midkiff, Dallas, Dallas: The Early Years, Jock Ewing, Molly Hagan

Get the party started

1. Barbecue VI (1986). My sentimental favorite. The prequel movie “Dallas: The Early Years” culminates at a 1951 barbecue, where a teenaged J.R. loses his virginity in the barn and a drunken Digger shows up with a gun and takes aim at Jock (Dale Midkiff). Ellie (Molly Hagan) intervenes and saves her husband’s life, and then with all the Barnes and Ewing children frolicking around them, Jock embraces Ellie and turns reflective. “What are these poor kids going to end up like?” he asks. Cut to the final scene: After bratty Cliff tangles with J.R., he drags kid sister Pammy away from her new playmate — little Bobby Ewing. Jerrold Immel’s famous theme music rises in the background, the camera pulls back for a bird’s eye view of the ranch and then the familiar shots from “Dallas’s” classic title sequence begin to sweep across the screen. Now that’s how you end a barbecue!

What’s your favorite “Dallas” barbecue? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Dallas Burning Questions: Season 3, Week 2

Bobby Ewing, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Return, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Huddle up, y’all

Here are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Trust Me,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode:

What’s Elena and Nicolas’s next move? In “The Return,” last week’s third-season premiere, Elena (Jordana Brewster) formed a secret alliance with Cliff (Ken Kercheval) and agreed to help him prove the Ewings framed him. She lied to Carmen (Marlene Forte) about her scheme and took a job at Ewing Global, where she began snooping around for evidence against the family. Elena also recruited her childhood friend Nicolas Treviño (Juan Pablo Di Pace), a self-made billionaire who used to be known as Joaquin, to serve as Cliff’s proxy. Nicolas, who considers Elena’s parents to be his own, told Elena he wants revenge as much as she does. What will Elena and Nicolas do next — and what will Carmen say when she discovers their plan?

Will Bobby or John Ross prevail? To finance a major drilling venture in the Arctic, the Ewings decided to sell off their company’s consumer division, but Nicolas scuttled the deal. John Ross (Josh Henderson) suggested the family could raise the capital for the Arctic project by drilling on Southfork, but Bobby (Patrick Duffy) refused to go along, pointing out that he and Gary control the mineral rights. John Ross countered with evidence that suggests the oil under Southfork has risen to the surface, which means he could access it as the ranch’s co-owner. Will Bobby or John Ross win this fight?

What will Sue Ellen do? With Harris (Mitch Pileggi) in jail and Judith (Judith Light) in a “rehab hospital,” Emma (Emma Bell) became Ryland Transport’s chief executive. She agreed to give John Ross access to the company’s drilling and cargo ships — but only if he agreed to continue sleeping with her. He did, but he wasn’t very careful about it. When Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) spotted him coming out of Emma’s bedroom, John Ross lied and said he and Emma were just talking business. Sue Ellen didn’t look like she believed her son. What will she do with her suspicion that he’s a cheat?

Where does Harris go from here? The Mendez-Ochoa cartel bribed a judge to release Harris from jail and sent two shady characters to greet Harris as he emerged from custody. The men showed Harris a picture of Emma and Ann (Brenda Strong) and told him if he doesn’t resume his drug shipments, they’ll make Emma wish she was dead. What will Harris do?

What’s next for Christopher? After Elena apologized to Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) for concealing Drew’s role in the rig explosion, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) told Elena he was sorry for treating her so badly in Zurich. Elena told him she’s not ready to take him back, which is just as well since Christopher seemed quite taken with Heather (AnnaLynne McCord), a spunky Southfork ranch hand. Will she help him heal his broken heart?

What “Dallas Burning Questions” are on your mind? Share your comments below and watch TNT’s “Dallas” tonight.