Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Two Whole Families Are Involved’

Mama knows best

Mama knows best

In “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Vengeance,” Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits in the living room of Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), who stands nearby.

ELLIE: I want to talk about you. And J.R. And Cliff Barnes.

SUE ELLEN: Miss Ellie, this is quite unlike you to question me about my personal life.

ELLIE: Normally I wouldn’t, but there’s a lot more at stake here than just your personal interest. Two whole families are involved.

SUE ELLEN: I really don’t understand. [Sits across from Ellie]

ELLIE: Well, I’m sure that you know what your seeing Cliff Barnes is doing to J.R.

SUE ELLEN: But that’s J.R.’s problem, not mine. We’re divorced now.

ELLIE: Yes, I know that. But J.R. and Cliff are already at each other’s throats. And it’s beginning to have its effect on too many people.

SUE ELLEN: Are you asking me to stop seeing Cliff?

ELLIE: [Smiles] No. No, I don’t have any right to do that – if you’re serious about him. Are you, Sue Ellen? Or are you using him to get back at J.R.?

SUE ELLEN: Miss Ellie, I really don’t think it’s any of your business.

ELLIE: This thing almost destroyed the three of you once before. Do you think you’re strong enough to handle it again?

SUE ELLEN: I don’t know, Miss Ellie. I really don’t know.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 99 – ‘Vengeance’

Caught in a bad romance

Caught in a bad romance

Cliff and Sue Ellen’s renewed romance dominates “Vengeance,” but we see their affair mostly through the eyes of the other “Dallas” characters. Miss Ellie cautions Sue Ellen about the relationship and later frets about the affair during a lunch date with J.R., while Cliff gets an earful from Rebecca. No one seems to believe these two are really in love, including Sue Ellen and Cliff themselves.

Ken Kercheval and Linda Gray share one scene in “Vengeance,” when Cliff dines at Sue Ellen’s townhouse and asks her to marry him. It isn’t much of a proposal. Cliff doesn’t offer her a ring, although he promises he’ll take care of her material needs. “I’m on the verge of one of the biggest deals of my life, and I’ll be able to support you very well indeed,” Cliff says. She tells him she’ll need time to think about it, but the anguished expression on Gray’s face lets us know her character’s heart has its answer already.

Cliff also seems to know he and Sue Ellen aren’t good for each other. I believe Cliff cares for Sue Ellen, but there’s little doubt the main reason he’s gotten involved with her again is because he knows how much it will upset J.R. Notice how defensive Cliff gets when Rebecca tells him she worries her son and J.R. will “destroy each other” over Sue Ellen. “Now wait a minute, I’m supposed to give up Sue Ellen because I’m afraid of a fight with J.R.?” Cliff asks. Kercheval is always fascinating to watch, but he does an especially nice job conveying Cliff’s self-denial here.

My other favorite “Vengeance” moments include Miss Ellie’s conversations with J.R. and Sue Ellen, as well as Bobby’s confrontation with Jeff Farraday. (The latter scene is cool mainly because it takes place in the hallway outside the Ewing Oil executive suites. Who knew the geology and engineering departments were right around the corner from J.R. and Bobby’s offices?)

I also like Ellie and Rebecca’s scene in the Southfork living room, although just once I’d like to see these women stop worrying about their adult children and spend a little time talking about themselves. Both characters were central figures in the beginning of the Barnes-Ewing feud; wouldn’t it be nice to see them reflect on the history they share as the wives of Jock and Digger?

The “Vengeance” scene where Roger slips into Lucy’s car and orders her to drive away is also nicely done. Composer Bruce Broughton’s background score is chilling, and Charlene Tilton looks terrified. Of course, I can’t help but wonder why the Ewings allowed Lucy to get involved with this creep in the first place. Maybe they were too busy meddling in Sue Ellen’s love life?

Grade: B

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Drive, he said

Drive, he said

‘VENGEANCE’

Season 5, Episode 22

Airdate: March 12, 1982

Audience: 27 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Howard Lakin

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Cliff proposes to Sue Ellen, who tells him she needs time to think about it. J.R. spooks Clayton and sets up Cliff to take a huge financial fall. After Mitch tells Lucy their marriage is over, Roger abducts her. J.R. receives confirmation Christopher is Kristin’s son.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James Brown (Harry McSween), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), 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), Arthur Malet (Mr. Forest), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Gary Pagett (Murphy), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Ray Wise (Blair Sullivan)

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