Re-watching Season 5

Discussion in 'Dallas Season Reviews' started by James from London, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Thanks again to @Toni for retrieving this thread. Again, I don't necessarily agree with myself anymore.

    (Not all the original posts are here. Some are lost forever in deletia, as Mack Mackenzie put it in Back to the Cul-de-sac. Funny how that word never took off, isn't it?)

    "Changing of the Guard"

    “CLIFF BARNES SUICIDE ATTEMPT: Former Public Official In Coma After Overdose.” (Dallas Press, October 1982) 

    The primary question hanging over this Season 5 premiere is a straightforward one: Will Cliff survive his suicide attempt? In the absence of a “Who Shot JR?” or “Who Killed Who In The Southfork Swimming Pool?” style mystery to unravel, Arthur Bernard Lewis (writer of all five season premieres between 1980 and 1984) is free to concentrate on characters’ reactions to recent events. In so doing, he cleverly sets up several key conflicts between characters which will recur and escalate throughout the rest of the year, as the main theme of Season 5 - Bobby and JR’s battle for control of Ewing Oil - emerges and develops. Pam, for instance, whose Season 4 story lines focused exclusively on her quest for a child, is plunged immediately back into the heart of the Barnes/Ewing feud in this episode. 

    Miss Ellie: Oh Pam, haven’t you heard? ... Cliff is Dallas Memorial Hospital ... He tried to take his own life ...

    Pam: Did it have anything to with JR and Sue Ellen?

    Miss Ellie: It was JR.

    No sooner has she learned of Cliff’s condition than Pam must delicately reject her husband’s offer of support: 

    Bobby: I’ll go with you.

    Pam: No, Bobby. If JR’s involved, I don’t think Mama will want to see a Ewing at the hospital. 

    Her instincts are correct. As far as Rebecca is concerned, Cliff is in a coma “for the same reason his father finally succeeded in drinking himself to death - the Ewings ... Pam, I know you’re married to a Ewing, but that shouldn’t blind you to the kind of people they are. Digger Barnes was in love with Ellie. So was Jock Ewing. Two men in love with the same woman, happens all the time - but when one of the men is a Ewing, he isn’t content to win the woman fair and square, he has to destroy his rival at the same time.”

    Pam: That’s ancient history.

    Rebecca: Is it? Well, history has a way of repeating itself. This time the triangle is Cliff, Sue Ellen and JR - and Cliff may be dying. I told Ellie this morning: I’m gonna break the Ewings. I have the money and the power to do it. My family will not suffer at their hands ever again!”

    Rebecca’s speech taps into the power of the DALLAS mythology. Her assertion that “history has a way of repeating itself” suggests that the fates of the Barnes and Ewing families are somehow pre-determined; in the same way that the love triangle between Digger, Jock and Ellie resulted in Digger’s destruction, so Cliff is now destined to tread the same path as his father. The tragic irony is that in attempting to break this cycle of fate, (“My family will not suffer at their hands ever again!”) Rebecca is sealing her own doom, for it is she who will be the next fatality of the feud. The inability to escape one’s fate is the essence of Shakespearean tragedy, and DALLAS’s fifth season (notably, David Paulsen’s first as Story Editor) is full of it. Every moment - each scene, each action, each line - builds inexorably towards the Southfork inferno at the end of the year. This creates a powerfully resonant sense of claustrophobia for all of the characters. There is no escape from the lives they have been born, or have married, into. Pam, attempting to resist this sense of fatalism, defends her husband’s family in this scene: “Mother, Cliff’s fight was with JR, not the whole Ewing family.” However, later in the season, she too will be compelled to take a stand against “everything the Ewings stand for.”


Back at Southfork, Miss Ellie is determined to make good on her vow to remove JR as President of Ewing Oil. “It seems that JR used Ewing Oil resources to set up Cliff in a phoney deal,” she explains to Ray and Donna. 

    Ray: And when the deal fell apart, Cliff tried to kill himself.

    Donna: Oh Lord, Miss Ellie!

    When she asks for Ray’s support in voting JR out of the company, he is obliged to confess that, some months earlier, “when I was the lowest, when I was tryin’ to forget that I was a Ewing”, he signed his Ewing Oil proxy over to JR. Despite Ellie’s forgiveness, (“Ray, I do understand”) Ray's need to redeem himself and prove himself worthy of Jock’s name will soon lead directly to the “adoption” of cousin Mickey, and to further tragedy.

    When JR returns to Southfork that evening, he finds Miss Ellie, Bobby and Lucy waiting for him. “Tight little family meetin’ we got here,” he observes. “Except for Ray, where’s he? Or is this only for those of us with both Ewing and Southworth blood coursing through our veins?”

    Miss Ellie: You know why Ray isn’t here. You stole his voting shares.

This is a classic “Southfork living room” scene. In this dramatic yet emotionally controlled atmosphere, JR and his mama truly lock horns for the first time of the series.

    JR: Is this little meeting to determine the fate of Ewing Oil?

    Miss Ellie: ... Both Lucy and Bobby know my reasons for wanting you out ... I vote my thirty shares and John Ross’s ten shares to dismiss you as President of Ewing Oil.

    JR: Mama, John Ross is here ... he’s back to stay. Now I’m gonna marry Sue Ellen, and you can’t vote his shares any longer; at least, not according to the rules in Daddy’s letter. So, therefore, I vote my thirty shares, John Ross’s ten, and Ray’s ten, that I remain the President of Ewing Oil. Now that is forty votes.

    Lucy registers her vote succinctly: “Out.”

    Miss Ellie: Well, we have a tie - forty votes apiece. Bobby, I think it’s only fair to warn you that if you vote to dismiss JR, you will have to step in and run Ewing Oil.

    Since his brief stint at the helm in Season 3, Bobby has exhibited scant interest in running his father’s company. However, with the upcoming battle for control of Ewing Oil dominating this season, it is important that this episode re-establish him as a worthy contender for the crown - hence his declaration in this scene that “I’m takin’ over as President of Ewing Oil.”

    This is immediately followed by a heated confrontation in the nursery between the brothers, in which Bobby presents JR with evidence that “you’re not Christopher’s father, you don’t have any claim on him at all ... You tried to blackmail me with a child you thought was your own. You’re scum!” After delivering a long overdue punch to JR, Bobby comforts a waterlogged Christopher with words that aptly describe his own newly acquired status within the family:

    “Don’t worry, Daddy’s got everything under control.” 

    This new-found authority is further underlined during a scene in which Bobby meets with the cartel to celebrate his reinstatement. "I do seem to remember last time you took over the reigns of Ewing Oil, we made deals with you and wound up with JR,” a dubious Jordan Lee points out. “Oil business hasn’t changed. Didn’t like what you saw last time, you resigned.” “I’m in for the distance this time, Jordan,” Bobby replies firmly. 

    Accordingly, he is all business on his first day back on the job, scarcely pausing to acknowledge either the revamped Ewing Oil offices or the first on-screen appearance of receptionist, Kendall Chapman. (Pity poor Kendall, aka Danone Simpson, who will have to wait another seven years for her first on-camera close-up!)

    Bobby wastes no time in summoning all the department heads to a conference meeting (affording us our first glimpse of EO’s rarely used boardroom) and requesting a complete breakdown of the company’s drilling and refinery operations, finances and oil reserves, “from the time I resigned and JR took over.” This is in stark contrast to JR’s “business” activities during the previous season, which had less to do with profiteering (aside from one itty bitty oil deal with the cartel) than procuring voting shares from family members (attempted bribery and/or blackmail of Ray, Bobby, Gary and Lucy) and trying to put Sue Ellen’s suitors out of business (the stockpiling of the Farlows’ oil supply, the suckering of Cliff into a phoney land deal). As Miss Ellie puts it in this episode, “JR, what you did had nothing to do with business; it was revenge, pure and simple.”

    While this episode’s “changing of the guard” between JR and Bobby ignites enough sibling resentment to fuel the rest of the season, Ellie’s disagreement with her first-born over his business methods anticipates her later attempt to break Jock’s will and sell the company. 

    JR: By turnin’ Ewing Oil over to Bobby, you stand a very good chance of ruinin’ everything my daddy spent his whole life workin’ for. Can you live with that? 

    Miss Ellie: You’ve left me no choice. 

    As well as setting up the familial conflicts that will rage throughout the rest of Season 5, this episode also finds time to deal with Cliff’s cliff-hanger, with the aid of some enjoyably cliched hospital dialogue, delivered with all due gravitas and the minimum of sentimentality.

    Rebecca: Doctor, is there any change?

    Dr Hollister: I’m afraid not ... The paramedics reported that at one point Cliff had stopped breathing ... It could mean a change in personality ... Now please, I don’t want you to worry prematurely.

    Afton: I don’t know how not to do that, Doctor ... He has to live, he just has to!

    Audrey Landers and Priscilla Pointer, along with Howard Keel, now replace Leigh McCloskey in the “Also Starring” credits at the beginning of each episode. Afton and Rebecca take advantage of their new status to refuse Sue Ellen admission to Cliff’s hospital room. 

    Afton: I love him. You don’t know the meaning of the word. You’re poison!

    Rebecca: Go home, Sue Ellen.
Once again, Pam is caught between the Barneses and the Ewings.

    Sue Ellen: I need to see him. 

    Pam: It’s Cliff’s needs we’re concerned about right now and the way Mama feels, if you were there, it would just cause tension. I’m sorry.

Even by her own standards, Sue Ellen is exceptionally dithery in this episode. She responds to almost every question in the same way.

    “Tell me honestly,” JR asks her in the opening scene. “Would you really have been comfortable doin’ that, lendin’ [Cliff] money? Truly?”

    Sue Ellen: I really don’t know.

    Later, Clayton poses this teaser: 
“Sue Ellen, even if Cliff comes out of this all right, do you honestly think you could ever be happy with JR?”

    Sue Ellen: I don’t know. Clayton, I really don’t know.

    Back to JR: “Seems kinda strange you bein’ here at Southfork and us not sharin’ the same bed ... How long’s it gonna last?”

    Sue Ellen: I don’t know.

    Sue Ellen’s state of indecision serves to delay the resolution of the secondary part of Season 4’s cliff-hanger: Will she and JR remarry? It also begins to restore some much-needed credibility to her character. In Season 4, Sue Ellen’s IQ level plummeted dramatically following her divorce from JR. She ricocheted continuously between Clayton, Cliff and JR as the plot dictated, without a moment’s thought or introspection. (This from a woman who had spent the previous two years undergoing four-times-a-week therapy sessions with Dr Elby; her life had been about almost nothing but introspection!) Over the next five episodes, prompted by the shock of both Cliff’s suicide attempt and her new continuity-be-damned mullet, Sue Ellen will gradually begin to take stock of the situation in which she now finds herself, and make some pragmatic decisions about her future. Despite her protestations in this episode that “if Cliff recovers, there may be some damage to his mind; if that happens, or if he dies, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to marry JR”, she is already allowing herself to be sucked back into the Ewing vortex by accepting an invitation to stay at Southfork. “I don’t think you should be by yourself,” Miss Ellie tells her. Judging from some of Sue Ellen’s comments in this episode, Miss Ellie may have a point:


“JR, I’m so confused right now ... I honestly can’t think about our future right now.”

    To Mrs Chambers: ”I’m so tired. I just walked around for hours, I was so confused. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know where I was.”

    “Miss Ellie, I’m so confused. I don’t know where to turn, or who to turn to.”

    To Clayton: “I’m pretty confused, and I need to talk to you."

    Gee, y'all think she might be confused??

    In other season premiere news, Lucy continues to briskly work her way through Soap Traumas 101. Having already done Kidnap and Rape, she ticks off Unwanted Pregnancy in this episode, with Abortion and Divorce soon to follow. “I can’t stand the fact that it’s Roger’s baby!” she informs confidante Muriel, as agog as she is goggle-eyed. While Lucy’s ordeals in the first half of this season occur in relative isolation from the rest of the drama, they will lead directly to her tentative romance with Mickey, and its - you guessed it - tragic consequences.

    By the end of the episode, Cliff has been given the all clear, at least physically. “He’s in a state of depression,” Rebecca informs Pam. “Unless Cliff begins to see the world differently than he did before, he could try suicide again. I swear, Pam, if JR were here right now, I think I could kill him!” 

“Mama, JR isn’t gonna hurt anyone anymore,” responds Pam, with dazzling inaccuracy.

In fact, the final scene of this instalment sees JR busily renegotiating his return to power over drinks with Holly Harwood. The audience, along with Bobby, is introduced to Holly by Jordan Lee earlier in the episode.

    Holly: Just think of me as another oil man, Mr Lee.

Jordan: Well you are that since your daddy left you Harwood Oil when he died.

    “She’s awfully young to be runnin’ an oil company, isn’t she, Jordan?” wonders Bobby.

“I’m bright enough to know what I don’t know,” Holly concedes to JR in their scene, explaining why she wants him to run her company. “You’re outta Ewin’ Oil, I don’t know a damn thing about runnin’ an oil company.”

    JR: All right, I’ll accept your offer ... on one condition - that I stay completely in the background. Nobody’s to know of my involvement ... I want twenty-five per-cent of Harwood Oil.

    Holly: You don’t come cheap, do you, JR?

JR: You wouldn’t want me if I did ...

    Holly: All right - deal.

    What does all this mean? Will JR be going into direct competition with Ewing Oil? As is often the case during Season 5, the significance of this scene - and Holly’s pivotal role in the family drama - only becomes clear in retrospect. All we know for now is that JR is back in the game.

    Holly (proposing a toast): To JR Ewin’, back in power again.

JR (returning the toast): As it should be!
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  2. Steven Wayne

    Steven Wayne Soap Chat Member

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    I love your analysis.
    The way Rebecca recounts the Barnes Ewing feud seems to give some insight into what she had to listen to while she was married to Digger Barnes. Who wouldn't run off if their husband kept telling her that his true love was stolen from him by another man?! Even that looks like part of her destiny.
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Billion Dollar Question

    The billion dollar question, of course, refers to the sealed contents of Jock's will, which have been a source of speculation since his death the previous year. JR has recently been removed as president of Ewing Oil by his mother and replaced by brother Bobby. Naturally, he is more than anxious to regain his power in Dallas and, by the end of the preceding episode, had gained access to a copy of his father's will. All the audience learned at that point was that he liked what he saw. Frustratingly, we are none the wiser by the end of THIS ep, but it serves to heighten the tension when all will be revealed in two episodes' time.

    Throughout this episode, JR keeps the pressure on Bobby (via the IRS) and Miss Ellie to have Jock declared dead so that the will can be read. In a particularly good confrontation over breakfast on the Southfork patio, he appeals to his mama to "do the right thing". By now, Jock's name has taken on an almost religious significance - "the right thing" and "Jock's wishes" are now one and the same: 
"Are you handling the family the way He would want you to?" he asks Miss Ellie, pricking at her conscience. 

Whereas one might ordinarily seek to do God's Will, here it is Jock's Will that must be opened and obeyed. In fact, by the end of the following episode, Jock's painting will have been installed above the bar in the Southfork living room - a fitting shrine to Jock The Father. Later attempts to remove this sacred picture - by Miss Ellie and Jeremy Wendell - are regarded as acts of blasphemy by the fundamentalist JR.

    While JR puts on the pressure, Miss Ellie prepares for her first social engagement without Jock, the Oil Baron's Ball. She and Mavis Anderson go shopping for her dress, affording them the opportunity for their first onscreen heart to heart. Curiously, even though it is later established that they have been best friends for over twenty-five years, it was only at the end of Season 4 that the character of Mavis was even mentioned. It is a testament to the acting of Alice Hirson, and her rapport with Barbara Bel Geddes, that the relationship is instantly believable.

 Five years later, in Season 10, Mavis admits to Ellie that Punk had an affair with his secretary shortly after Jock's death and that she had known all about it. Does this mean that Mavis is nursing her own private heartache during these Season 5 episodes?

    The most notable event of this episode is Lucy's abortion. I remember when I first saw this ep over twenty years ago (God help us!), how shocking and sudden this operation seemed. Certainly, it would be another five years before a British soap character (Michelle Fowler on EASTENDERS, 1988) would have a termination (although we were led to believe, for about thirteen years, that Susan Barlow had had one on CORONATION STREET in '86). 

Others on the forum have questioned the speed at which Lucy comes to her decision but as she herself says, "I was raped ... If I don't get this over and behind me, I think I may go out of my mind". I think it is to DALLAS's credit that the abortion storyline is not sensationalised or exploited for melodramatic effect. Lucy is left with a combination of confused feelings - relief, doubt, guilt, grief - but she is not 'punished' by the scriptwriters for her decision; there are no complications, she will still be able to conceive a child. This is in stark contrast to the two characters that had 'pre-DALLAS' abortions - Lee Ann De La Vega whose botched abortion (paid for by JR) left her barren and vengeful, and Cliff's fiance Penny Ames who died on the operating table.

    "I think [Lucy] believes she did something to cause it to happen," Pam speculates. And perhaps she's right - after all, Lucy did have consensual sex with Roger prior to being kidnapped and raped. It is possible that that is when she became pregnant. This would have been an interesting area for the programme to have explored. Yet it feels appropriate and believable that Lucy would choose to keep those thoughts to herself, and I certainly feel this understated treatment of the "issues" (such an overused word by producers of UK soaps, used to justify all sorts of patronising and sensationalist crap) of rape and abortion is preferable to the exploitative approach to to the Downs Syndrome topic in Season 8. (Don't get me started on THAT again!)
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It really needs to be used more. Particularly after the SoapGate "in flagrante deletia" incident of 2016.

    Ooh - that's interesting (and it's brought a much earlier Mack Mackenzie line to mind). It could be quite fun to watch you publicly rebut your comments.

    This made me laugh really hard.
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  5. Pammy P

    Pammy P Soap Chat Active Member

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    Brilliantly written - I read these earlier today, and have just re-scanned down. Brilliant!
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "The Big Ball"


It's only their third meeting, but already the cracks in JR and Holly's partnership are beginning to surface. She has followed his instructions and bought a refinery, but he still won't explain the reason for the purchase. "I make the decisions and you do as you're told," he says. Regardless of the fact that "Harwood Oil is still seventy-five percent mine," Holly is starting to realise just how powerless she is. Powerless, that is, in the boardroom; there's another area where she still holds all the cards. "Did I upset you when I turned down your little pass the other day?" she asks. "I thought that my tellin' you that I preferred your brother to you might have ruffled your feathers somewhat." It's the struggle for power between JR and Holly, both in business and sex, that defines their relationship for the rest of the season. "I don't care if you wanna be with two chimpanzees and a goat," he snaps at her. This is probably the only bestiality reference of the series.

    Much of this episode takes place away from Dallas--at the Southern Cross Ranch, where Sue Ellen is staying in an attempt to "think about things and get my life together", and in Ray's hometown of Emporia, Kansas to where he has returned for the funeral of Amos Krebbs, the man his mother's family still believe to be his father. (Guess they don't watch DALLAS.) It is as they are being confronted by their respective pasts that Sue Ellen and Ray each make a pivotal decision regarding the future. 

Sue Ellen is excited when she learns of Dusty's return to the Southern Cross. ("What we had was so wonderful. Most people never have those feelings.") Will he be the one to take her away from all this? However, their reunion is strained. "I haven't come back to complicate your life," he tells her stiffly, before introducing Linda, his blushing cowgirl bride. "I knew him before he even knew I was alive," Linda gushes to a shocked Sue Ellen. "My daddy taught him how to cowboy when he first joined the rodeo ... I've been in love with him ever since ... I know I can make Dusty happy. I just hope you can wish us well." Here, Sue Ellen is forced into the same situation she was in two episodes earlier when she graciously bowed out of Cliff's life. "I hope you and Cliff can make it together," she told Afton then, "and I hope that you can find happiness." Now she finds herself saying the same to Linda, only this time through gritted teeth: "You two seem to have so much in common, and even though Dusty and I care for each other, we could never have made it, and I sincerely hope you can." 

    During their final ever conversation, (Pam's subconscious notwithstanding) Dusty explains to Sue Ellen that his impotency is a thing of the past. "Everything was different when I started back on the rodeo circuit," he tells her. "The problem wasn't physical." "Are you tellin' me that it was psychological?" she asks. He sure is. Not only that, she realises, but the root cause of his disorder was their relationship. "Deep down inside, you thought I wanted too much from you," she says. "A normal life, life here on the Southern Cross; no more rodeos, no more cowboy." Like so many other socially mismatched couples on the series--Bobby and Pam, Ray and Donna, Lucy and Mitch--the roots of Sue Ellen and Dusty's incompatibility were evident when they first got together in Season 2. Back then, however, Dusty insisted that the differences between the Society Lady and the Rodeo Rider didn't matter. Now it seems he was wrong: when Sue Ellen tells him that "the best thing that happened to you was gettin' me out of your life," he doesn't disagree. Once again I'm reminded of Donna's observation in Season 3, "Love doesn't conquer all."

    Sue Ellen spends the early part of Season 5 examining her options, only to find all the doors not marked "JR Ewing" closing in her face. She even loses her surrogate father to another woman when she overhears Clayton encouraging Linda to call him "Dad". So where can she go from here? "Things are the way they are, and all we can do is try to find somethin' to make us happy," she declares. "Does that really mean JR for you?" Dusty asks. "Who else is there?" she replies bitterly. Who indeed? Her attempts to find happiness away from the Ewings have had disastrous results, emasculating one lover and driving another to suicide. At least when she lived at Southfork, most of the damage she and JR inflicted was on each other. And so it is to this familiar world, this familiar misery, that she chooses to return.

"I'll be coming back to Southfork," she tells Miss Ellie over the phone. "I just realised that Southfork is where I belong." This is not a happy realisation, however; she is weeping as she says this. "You know what your life will be if you marry him," Clayton warns her. And of course, deep down Sue Ellen knows exactly what life with JR has in store for her. Just as it is inevitable that he will cheat on her, so it is inevitable that she will pick up that first drink and, as an alcoholic, there is something in Sue Ellen that is drawn to this inevitability. She is pulled towards it like a magnet. It is her destiny, her punishment. Ultimately, it is all she knows and what part of her craves. As she herself will admit to Pam at the end of this season, "You are looking at the biggest masochist in Dallas." 

"It's time I go back to reality," she says to Clayton as she takes her leave of the Southern Cross (without saying good-bye to Dusty). Paradoxically, what she means by "facing reality" is acknowledging her own inability to live in the real world. Instead, she will once again immerse herself in the seductive trappings of Ewing life, retreating into what Bobby will describe as her "fantasy world where everything is perfect". "At least John Ross will have a secured future," she shrugs. "I know that JR wants to let him run Ewing Oil when he's grown." This is quite a turnaround; less than a year earlier she vowed to JR that "if Ewing Oil does to [John Ross] what it's done to you, I'm gonna suggest a different occupation". Now, however, she realises that, if she is to resume her identity as Mrs JR Ewing, she will have to sacrifice any notion of her own moral values, even with regard to her son. Instead, all her efforts must to go into maintaining the fantasy that a future with JR is tenable.


Over in Emporia, Ray is introduced to his Aunt Lil's truculent son Michael, ("Listen, would ya call me Mickey? The only one that ever calls me Michael is Ma") and things get off to a bumpy start. "Hear you work on a farm," says Mickey. "We call 'em ranches in Texas," smiles Ray. "Whatever you call 'em, the idea's the same," Mickey persists. "Not exactly. we don't farm, we raise cattle." "Terrific!" Mickey replies mockingly before sneeringly commiserating Ray on his loss: "It's awful, a real winner like Amos Krebbs kickin' off?" (How good it would have been to see an encounter between Mickey the punk and his wicked Uncle Amos.) "He was such a nice boy growin' up," lovely Lil sighs to Ray and Donna. "I don't seem to be able to reach him."

    The rest of DALLAS's male twenty-somethings, Mitch Cooper, Peter Richards and even Kit Mainwaring, were stuck in some early 60s, Bobby Darrin-esque time warp. Mickey is far more believable. Timothy Patrick Murphy's runtish good looks and authentic quality elevate what could easily have been a "gas pump attendant without a cause" cliché into a three-dimensional character.

    Amos's funeral--which isn't something we necessarily need to see--is an unexpectedly touching scene, poignantly shot and acted, especially by Steve Kanaly, as Ray takes the opportunity to pay his respects at his mother's graveside. "Probably best it happened this way, Mama," he says quietly. "Nobody knows the truth ... I hope you're happy. I'd sure like to think that you and Jock are friends. I hope so. I love you, Mama." (To be picky, Margaret's headstone, which states that she died in 1961, contradicts Ray's previously established back story--that her death prompted his arrival at Southfork in 1958.) 

    The tension between Mickey and Ray comes to a head after Lil admonishes her son for neglecting their house-guests. "Don't be such a pain in the butt!" he yells, prompting Ray to grab him by his shirt. "I don't wanna spend anymore time with you than I have to," he snarls, "but you better start givin' your mama so respect." "Or what?" "Or the next time I hear you spoutin' off like that, I'm gonna teach you respect and I'm just the guy to do it! ... I wanna hear a lot of 'yes sirs' and 'yes ma'ams', you understand?" Lil is thrilled by Ray's outburst. "Oh don't apologise to me!" she tells him as a chastened Mickey takes off on his motorbike. "It did my heart good to see someone take him in hand." "Well I guess all he really needs is some discipline," replies Ray. A silently observing Donna gets that same foreboding look in her eye she acquires whenever Ray takes the initiative in anything. It's a look that says, "This will surely end in disaster," and it usually does.

    Donna isn't the only Ewing wife who knows her man. "If there's one thing I know about JR, Bobby won't be able to keep Ewing Oil from JR for very long," predicts Sue Ellen. Sure enough, back in Dallas, JR is quietly continuing in his campaign to have Jock declared dead and his will read. After hearing from Mavis (whom he addresses deferentially as "Miz Anderson" despite Alice Hirson being only two years older than Larry Hagman) that Punk "and the boys" have decided to postpone the announcement of Jock's scholarship, he wastes no time in pressuring Punk into changing his mind: "Your announcing that scholarship in Daddy's name, especially at the Oil Baron's Ball, well it'd mean the world to Mama. She's got her life to get on with and what better way than surrounded by all her friends honouring Daddy's memory?"

    Bobby and Pam's first appearance in this instalment takes place as the Ewings (minus an AWOL Lucy) gather in the freshly decorated, lighter and brighter, Southfork living room on the evening of the Oil Barons' Ball. Sue Ellen's attendance marks her official return to the family. Ellie makes her entrance in a sparkly pink variation on her traditional sack dress. "Shall we go and show the Oil Barons what the Ewings are made of?" she suggests and everyone flashes their teeth in agreement. 

Although we are told that the Oil Baron's Ball has been an annual event in Texas for the past thirty years, this of course is its screen debut. Compared to future Balls, which will increasingly resemble a Hollywood awards ceremony, what with their thousand-dollar-a-plate-tickets, Oil Man of the Year trophies, designer frocks and photographers' flashbulbs, this first soiree is decidedly modest. Champagne fountains in the shape of oil rigs aside, there is little in the way of excess. The orangey brown decor of the ballroom feels more like a 70s hangover than 80s glitz, while the ladies look rather staid in their conservative gowns (Holly being the honourable exception). In fact, there's something decidedly rubber chicken-ish about the whole affair which, from a dramatic perspective, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    No sooner do the Ewings make their arrival than Punk and Mavis pounce on Ellie and whisk her away. Pam and Bobby look on concerned. "Mama's gonna be fine," JR insists. "She's gotta have her coming out party sooner or later." "Now why is it that I think my older brother's always up to something?" wonders Bobby. "Because he always is," replies Pam, dragging him onto the dance floor where they all but collide with Rebecca and Clayton. Pam is delighted by the coupling: "It's about time Mama met someone and Clayton Farlow fits that bill perfectly!" (It is an intriguing combination; imagine Lady Jessica doing to Rebecca what she tried to do to Ellie, and incurring the wrath of Katherine in the process--then we really would be in FALCON CREST territory.)

    Meanwhile, JR and Sue Ellen make a beeline for the bar. "JR Ewin'!" exclaims belle of the ball Holly. "What a pleasant surprise ... You cut a dashin' figure." JR introduces his "ex and future wife Sue Ellen," and exchanges nods with Holly's silent moustache of a boyfriend Jordan (it would appear that Holly and Marilee shop at the same branch of Hunks-R-Us). "It must be very difficult runnin' an oil company at your age," ventures Sue Ellen to her future nemesis. "Well I'm getting expert advice," purrs Holly, shooting JR a knowing look before drifting away. "Lovely, isn't she?" Sue Ellen comments warily. "Here's to the only woman in my life," JR tells her firmly, raising his glass, and you can see Sue Ellen looking into his eyes, making herself believe him. 

    Punk introduces Miss Ellie to "old friend" Frank Crutcher, played by a twinkly Dale Robertson. Off the top of my head, I think I'm right in saying that Frank shares with Angelica Nero the distinction of being the only two characters to make their debut appearance at an Oil Barons' Ball. Frank's compliments towards Miss Ellie ("May I say how pretty you look tonight? ... If you were a lot younger, you wouldn't have half the charm you've got right now") prompt a response ("You're not a used car salesman, are you?") not a million miles away in spirit from her description of Jock as "a man with dirty fingers nails". It's a sharp, give-as-good-as-she-gets jocularity that Ellie and Clayton rarely indulge in. No sooner does Frank ask for a dance than JR appears to escort his mother to their table. His possessive attitude towards her ("I thought Punk was Daddy's friend") is an early indication of how he will react to anyone he perceives as attempting to take Jock's place. JR then comes face to face with Cliff for the first time since the latter's suicide attempt. "Real happy to hear you're working for Marilee Stone," he wisecracks. "Try not to write any cheques on her money. Wouldn't want you to ruin her company like you did your mama's."


Back in Emporia, as Donna wonders about the wisdom of Ray involving himself further with Mickey ("He's family," Ray insists), the Krebbses are unwittingly initiating the annual tradition of at least one member of the Ewing family failing to attend the Ball. Miss Ellie is out of the country during Season 6, Lucy stays home with John Ross in Season 7, Ray and Donna are too busy acting their cotton socks off during the Down's Syndrome story of Season 8, Ray and Jenna go roller skating instead in Season 9, and Bobby stays home and mopes in Season 10. The series' final ball in Season 11 is the first one to be skipped by MC Punk.


"I haven't missed a single one of these since we got started," says Punk as he commences his speech, before going on to pay tribute to "a very special man, a man I'm proud to say was one of my closest friends ever since we was kids, wildcatting together over in the East Texas fields. Y'all might not think that he was such a good friend when I tell you that it was him that hung the name Punk on me. For all of you that don't know it, my real name's Marvin!" The crowd laugh then listen attentively as he describes his friend as "kind of a symbol of what we believe the oil business is all about. He was the kind of man who made Texas great." It's perhaps significant that Punk should describe Jock as the kind of man who made Texas--as opposed to America--great. The Texas depicted in DALLAS has always been a mythical place, an enclosed fictional world with its own set of laws and values which the viewer can observe (and agree or disagree with) from a distance. Perhaps that's why, no matter how unequivocal the praise for Jock during this tribute, the episode doesn't give off the same whiff of self-congratulation as DYNASTY does whenever the Carringtons pay homage to their silver-haired patriarch. At this point on DALLAS, there is still a kind of ambivalence, or dramatic irony, in the way the characters are depicted (whereas it feels like everyone on the set of DYNASTY was on such an 80s high that they believed their own glitzy bullshit and expected the audience to do the same). 

Punk's announcement that "every year from now on there's gonna be four worthy students go through SMU paid for by the Jock Ewing Memorial Scholarship" prompts applause from the oil barons and tears from Jock's widow. "I don't know what old Jock would have said about this, but I think maybe Miss Ellie could speak for him," he says. Bobby gets to his feet and applauds his mother, followed by JR, then Pam, Sue Ellen, and the rest of the room. Even Cliff joins in, albeit with an elaborately bored expression on his face and a pointedly slow handclap.

    Bobby and JR lead their mother to the podium and then stand either side of her. It's a nicely staged moment, if perhaps a little too staged. Similarly, Ellie's speech is just too articulate, too considered, to convince as truly spontaneous. As a result, it's one of those performances by Barbara Bel Geddes that, while impressive and absorbing, I find oddly unmoving. 

It's interesting to view this speech in the context of the rest of season. It is is the first of three occasions during Season 5 where Miss Ellie speaks publicly about her husband. The second is her brief outburst at the Ewing barbecue, the third her testimony during the court hearing over Jock's will. "Jock Ewing was a great man," her speech begins, "measured in the only true value of a man, not in money and power, but in friends. Looking around, I see so many of you that called Jock friend." "Good Lord, most of you are Jock's friends!" she will exclaim in dismay just eight episodes later when the same community of people she is addressing so tenderly here attempt to strong arm JR at the barbecue. "For [Jock] and for me, I thank you," she tells them sincerely in this scene. "Go home! Go home all of you!" she'll angrily instruct them at the barbecue. She concludes her speech by saying that "I was married to the finest man that God ever put on this earth." "Jock was not mentally competent," she will claim on the witness stand in eleven episodes' time. It's a long and painful journey that Ellie travels during Season 5, and she unwittingly embarks on it in the final scene when she tells the family, back at Southfork in front of the newly installed portrait of Jock, that "I've decided to call Harve Smithfield in the morning. It's time your daddy was laid to rest legally." Bruce Broughton's musical score then shifts from melancholic to irresistibly dramatic and ominous.

    Ha ha!

    Really? Which one?

    If I get as far as Donna Reed, I'll do that!
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    28th September 2008
    This one:

    Great. I'll watch this space.
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  8. James from London

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    "Jock's Will”

    The morning after the episode before, and for the first (but definitely not the last) time, JR is standing in the Southfork living room, looking plaintively at his father's portrait. Harve Smithfield arrives and declines his offer of a drink. "At this hour? I don't have your stomach!" "I'm not sure I do anymore," mutters JR. They are joined by Bobby and Miss Ellie. "Harve, last night in that speech I made," Ellie begins, "I heard myself talking about moving on, facing tomorrow. All the things I hadn't yet done myself ... I'm ready to do it now. Jock is gone and it's time to let the court make it official." "... I think we oughta do it as quickly as we can," urges JR, and Harve concurs. As the conversation around her turns to court dates, character witnesses and search party reports, the camera lingers on Ellie's saddened face. 

    During the conversation, Harve is keen to emphasise the importance of eye-witness Lee Evans to the hearing, ("The case would be a lot stronger with him on the stand") adding that the Ewings shouldn't assume the judge will rule in their favour ("You never know about these things, especially as Jock's body was never found"). These two points are revisited at the end of the episode's first act when JR admits to Harve that Evans is "havin' a little trouble gettin' out of the country" (i.e. South America) and asks, "Suppose the judge doesn't declare Daddy dead, how long are we gonna have to wait to submit new evidence?" Harve answers gravely: "We'd have to wait a full seven years"--by which time JR will be institutionalised while Bobby is trapped in a sham marriage to an angry pixie--"and the will would stay sealed until then."


The judge's verdict notwithstanding, JR and Bobby anticipate the reading of their father's will in very different ways. As Sue Ellen silently observes when she overhears him talking to John Ross, JR could not be more confident: "Before long, I'm gonna take you down to my big old office building down at Ewing Oil, put you up in that big old chair and spin you round, teach you all about the oil business just like my daddy used to teach me, and before you know it, you're gonna be takin' it over, all by yourself." When Sue Ellen later questions him about the will, JR gives nothing away. "Daddy was a fair man," he tells her. "I had a notion that he provided for me very well." "I know about your notions and they're usually based on research," she persists. 

Bobby, meanwhile, is on shakier ground. "That will is gonna determine who finally owns Ewing Oil and I have a terrible feeling it's gonna be JR," he tells Pam. "If Daddy gave him the company, then you and I are gonna get out of here ... I'm not gonna sit around and watch him take over again." This is reminiscent of Bobby's previous decision to leave the ranch, also in protest at Jock siding with JR, at the end of Season 2 . Now, as then, it will be the opportunity to control the company that keeps him at Southfork. "Pam, I can run Ewing Oil," he insists. "I've proved it. I didn't used to want to, but now dammit I do." This statement helps reinforce Bobby's credentials as a worthy contender for the role of company president. 

    Speculation regarding the future of Ewing Oil extends beyond Southfork, as Bobby discovers when he and Pam join Cliff, Afton and Rebecca for an enjoyably awkward restaurant dinner. "I just love these family get-togethers, don't you, Bobby?" exclaims Cliff wickedly. "I mean, the Ewings and the Barneses sitting down, festively breaking bread." This is the first time the two men have been in close proximity since Bobby fired Cliff as his senatorial assistant at the beginning of Season 4, and Cliff wastes no time in baiting his brother-in-law. "Marilee's got a marvellous company," he tells him. "I'll put in a good word for you if you want ..." "Cliff thinks JR's gonna get his old job back at Ewing Oil," translates Afton. "If JR is going to take over Ewing Oil again, as far as I'm concerned it's all out war," Rebecca announces. This proves too much for Pam. "If that's all you're gonna talk about, I'll leave," she declares, getting to her feet. "I thought for once we could a nice quiet dinner together, but all you talk about is JR and revenge. Now what's the point?" The scene provides an early indication of the familial conflicts Pam will face throughout this year; her loyalties haven't been so divided since Season 1. 

    Pam also finds time to dole out to Lucy the same brand of tough love she dispensed to Cliff a few episodes earlier: "I know how the abortion affected you, but moping around Southfork's not gonna make it better ... Get up! Get out of that night-gown, get out of this room! Join the world of the living again!"


The Krebbses are still in Emporia, where Lil fills them in on Mickey's back story. "When he finished high school, he drifted around for a while, tryin' to find himself I guess. One job after another, mostly working with his hands. Loves to work with his hands. Last job was at the packin' plant. Kept that one for nearly two years." "What happened?" asks Ray. "Hard times is all," shrugs Lil uncomplainingly. "The plant cut back, they let Michael go. Last one hired, the first one dropped, you know?" 

Ray and Donna are subsequently surprised to find Mickey manning a petrol pump. Ray wonders why he hasn't told his mother about his new job. "She's probably be pleased." "You think I'm pumpin' gas cos I got a natural ability for it?" replies Mickey. "Then why are you?" Donna asks coldly. "Cos it's better than doin' time," he tells them nonchalantly. Ray demands an explanation: "We are blood kin whether you like it or not. What is this jail business?" "Oh nothin'," Mickey shrugs. "Me and some guys wired a car one night, took it for a ride, wrecked it up a little bit. Some cops grabbed us, that's all." "That's all??" exclaims Donna. "Judge said I could either work off the damages or sit out the time," he explains. 

    In light of Marky's post above, it's interesting to observe the Krebbses' differing reactions to Mickey in this scene: while Ray fails to conceal a wry smile at his story, Donna reacts with contempt. Neither Ray's amusement nor Donna's disgust is articulated, which suggests that their responses might have been prompted by the actors as much as by the script. This isn't to say the actors necessarily share their characters' viewpoints (they are acting, after all). Nevertheless, a defining factor of Donna's character is the kind of fundamental righteousness Susan Howard brings to the role. Is any DALLAS character less morally ambivalent than Donna? ("Nobody has the right to play God!" "This baby is ALIVE!!") From what we know of the fervently NRA-supporting, God-fearing Howard, this feeling of intense moral certainty seems to be something both actress and character share. Howard's tendency to imbue even Donna's unspoken moments with this powerful sense of conviction (for example, the shot of Donna at Ray's trial in Season 6, her eyes closed and her hands linked together in silent prayer as she waits for the judge's verdict) is a major part of what makes her the most consistently compelling actor on the show. Is this righteousness enough to qualify Donna as a "snotty bitch"? Perhaps. Certainly, her judgemental attitude to Mickey's small-town misdemeanour contrasts sharply with the compassion she'll demonstrate when confronted with pervy but posh Edgar Randolph's far graver transgression the following year. There again, Edgar poses no emotional threat to her darling Ray. There again again, as the one fact we've been given about Donna's parents is that they were killed in an automobile accident, perhaps it's unsurprising that Mickey's blasé tale of vehicular mayhem doesn't sit too well with her.

    Within Mickey's tale also lies the first half of another of Season 5's deeply ironic bookends: the Mickey we are introduced to here is unrepentant about his role in stealing and wrecking a car; fast forward to the end of the season and he has matured to the point where he attempts to prevent someone else from driving irresponsibly--with tragic consequences. 

    No sooner do he and Sue Ellen set their wedding date (December 3rd 1982) than JR receives notification of the date of the court hearing. He assures Harve that their eyewitness "will be there if I have to swim him across the Gulf of Mexico." A phone call from Miss Ellie requesting Ray and Donna's presence at the reading of Jock's will the following day prompts Ray to invite Mickey to return with them to Southfork. Donna is characteristically dubious: "Ray, don't you think you are taking on just a little bit more than you can handle?" "I can keep an eye on him that way, Donna," Ray explains. "Jock did the same thing for me." Just as Season 5 is about JR and Bobby trying to prove themselves worthy of Jock as businessmen, it's also about Ray trying to emulate him as a father.

    The most brutal testimony at the hearing, as evidenced by Miss Ellie's emotional reaction, comes from Lee Evans' eyewitness account of the helicopter crash ("It dropped like a hunk of metal into the lake") and Bobby's description of the lake where he searched for Jock ("The bottom of that lake, Your Honour, is like quicksand. It sucks up everything that it touches.") Judge Karns delivers his verdict: "The judgement of this court is that John Ross Ewing Senior died in a place unknown in the jungles of South America." Needless to say, no reference is made to either Jock's pilot, Chico Steve, or his fellow passenger, Wyatt Haynes aka Wes Parmalee.


"Nothin' like a little inheritance to get a man to come back home," comments JR, upon hearing that Gary is flying in from California for the reading of the will (as well as a special DALLAS themed edition of KNOTS LANDING to be screened directly after this episode). "Gary and Ray--well, what's a family for if it can't take care of its losers?" he smirks to Sue Ellen.

    Having accepted Ray's invitation off screen, Mickey's first impressions of his new life at Southfork are far from favourable. "Yuck! ... You know, I didn't have to leave Kansas to go to prison. We got Leavenworth right there," he grumbles upon being told he'll be bunking with three other cowboys. Ray's suggestion that he adjust his attitude prompts a sneering response from Mickey: "Man, I thought you pulled some weight around here, but you're nothin' but a foreman over a lotta cows. How many years did it take you to rise to that position?" Ray then plays his trump card: "Jock Ewing was my father ... the man that built this ranch." "Ranch? Hell, Ewing Oil!" exclaims Mickey. "You're an heir to all that? ... I'll be damned! Well, that jacks you up a whole notch in my book!"

    Other developments in this episode: Thornton McLeish calling Bobby from Toronto with news of "an investment situation on some oil fields here that looks awfully good, and we're in the market for an American partner"; Cliff busy embarrassing his mother over lunch ("Ketchup! You got some ketchup?" he yelps at their French waiter) when cartel member Wade Luce stops by their table with the news that he's "leavin' the oil business altogether if I can sell my company," which causes Rebecca's brain to start ticking; a chance restaurant encounter between Miss Ellie and Frank Crutcher. ("I think Jock Ewing was a very lucky man to have been married to a woman like you," he says, placing his hand over hers. "I mean that with respect.") 

    And so to the ranch for the reading of Jock's will, where George O. Petrie delivers possibly the longest speech of the series as Harve divides the spoils. "Jock wanted his will divided into three areas," he tells the assembled family, Gary included. "Southfork, Ewing Oil, trust funds ... Miss Ellie, full title and deed to Southfork, as well as all future income derived from it, to be placed in your name. In addition, there's some $50,000,000 in assorted community property holdings on which both your names have appeared. This will now revert entirely to you. 

"Now, Jock set up two trust funds. The primary fund makes provision for the four Ewings sons. Each of you, JR, Bobby, Ray and Gary ... will receive the sum of $10,000,000, and Lucy, since you've passed your twenty-first birthday, you are also provided for in this fund, you will receive $5,000,000. This money is to be used as the beneficiaries see fit. There is one exception. Gary, your father insisted that access to your share be limited for the first four years to use of the interest and loan." "I guess Daddy was tryin' to help you, Gary," JR surmises mockingly, "keep you from squanderin' your inheritance on one of your weaker weekends." While Gary seethes inwardly, this stipulation is to be the source of much angst for him in the upcoming episode of KNOTS (when he's not busy having sex with Donna Mills, that is). 

"To provide for John Ross Ewing III and any other grandchildren," Harve continues, "Jock instructed me to set up a separate fund, out of which each grandchild, on his twenty-first birthday, will receive an equal portion. The money is to be divided by the number of grandchildren at the time."

    This means that when John Ross comes of age in 2000, (providing no more Ewings have been sired following the KNOTS LANDING reunion of '96) he would have to split the loot with big brother James and six of his cousins: Bobby's two sons, Ray's daughter and Gary's three youngest kids--the twins and illegitimate daughter Molly. If one recalls JR's concern in Season 4 after being informed by Harve's assistant that "all of the heirs would be provided for ... Your brothers could have sons and it seems to me [Jock's] will would provide for them also", then this represents a victory of sorts for Gary; simply by the virtue of the fact that his three kids would lay claim to the largest share of the grandchildren's trust fund, (not to mention Lucy's previously awarded $5,000,000) he has put one over on JR. 

    Harve then turns his attentions to the company: "The provisions that Jock worked out for Ewing Oil in this document are now null and void. They have been superseded by this codicil which he wrote when he was still in South America." He then goes on to read Jock's words directly: 

"It is no secret that the company I built, some call it an empire, is precious to me. Precious beyond anything in my life save my dear wife Ellie and my sons. It is, however, that very preciousness that makes the choice of my successor an agonising one. Gary and Ray, although your place in my heart is just as large and shines just as bright as the place set aside for your brothers, neither of you has ever shown any aptitude, or inclination for that matter, for business. Therefore, my choice of successor is narrowed to Bobby and JR. Sons, this is addressed to you. It's been my cherished hope that one day the two of you might run Ewing Oil as a team. That was my hope. Ewing Oil can have only one man at the helm, and that's got to be the man that wants it the most." This statement will be contradicted in Season 6 by Jock's letter from the grave appealing to his sons to "put your arms around each other and work that company like brothers", but for now, Ellie is appalled as she begins to realise what Jock has planned. "Oh Jock, no!" she murmurs. 

"Therefore, upon my death," continues Jock via Harve, "I want an independent audit conducted of all the company's holdings. I want everything divided on paper so that JR and Bobby each have control over exactly 50% of the total assets. Punk Anderson, a fine oil man and even finer friend, has agreed to act as administrator of my estate. After one year, Punk will conduct a second audit. Whichever son has managed to create the greatest gain for his half share of Ewing Oil will win 51% of the stock of the entire company and will be able to run it anyway he sees fit. The loser in this contest will get 19%, and the remaining 30% I want divided equally between Ray, Gary and Miss Ellie to make sure they'll never be without a share of the profits of the company I created which, incidentally, must never be owned by anyone other than a Ewing."

    This order will later be downgraded to a mere request to accommodate both JR and Bobby's agreement to sign over 10% of their shares to an anonymous stranger (who then turns out to be their cousin Jack) in exchange for his help in winning their court fight against Cliff and Jamie, and April's subsequent claim to half of Jack's shares. 

    "One final thing," Jock adds. "In the unfortunate event that before this year is up, one son predeceases the other"--and here we're given another close up of Ellie as eerie music chimes in on the soundtrack--"the remaining son will automatically inherit his shares and will take over the company." Sue Ellen, followed by Ray and then Pam, turns to look at JR and Bobby. JR is holding out a drink to his brother. "Well Bobby, to your good health and very long life." They chink glasses, their eyes trained on one another, as Jock's portrait presides over them both. 

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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Back to Episode 2. Big thanks to @JROG for retrieving this one from the underworld of deletia.

    "Where There's A Will"

    JR has one clear objective in this episode: "I wanna see my daddy's will." However, as Harve Smithfield explains, there is a stumbling block. "When your daddy was in South America, he added a codicil changin' the terms of his will dramatically ... He also added instructions that no one, I repeat no one, was to see that will before it was read to the entire family." "No matter what Daddy wrote, I'd like to see it," JR persists. "That will is sealed and locked away." "Well then unlock it and unseal it, Harve." "I was your daddy's attorney before you were born, JR. My allegiance is to his memory ... No one will see that will until such time as it is read to the entire family."

    While one would expect any reputable lawyer to exhibit such loyalty to a client, there is a subtle shift in the way supporting characters like Harve are portrayed in light of Jock's death. When the character was introduced back in Season 2, he was simply the Ewings' attorney. During their brief scenes together, there was nothing, save for an obligatory dose of Texan "good ol' boy" bonhomie, in either Harve or Jock's behaviour to suggest a relationship that went beyond the professional. In the vacuum created by Jock's death, however, Harve's role has been more clearly defined as that of "life long family retainer", devoted first to Jock and now to his memory. Similarly, Punk Anderson has retroactively gone from being an occasional drinking pal and business partner of Jock's to his best buddy "ever since we was kids". This sense of history is reinforced by the addition of Punk's wife Mavis, making her debut appearance in this episode. Despite being scarcely mentioned during the first four seasons, she slots seamlessly into the role of Ellie's closest friend and confidante.

    Indeed, such is the tight structure of Season 5 that no supporting player is without significance or purpose. Serena, formerly just an on/off call girl acquaintance of JR's, is elevated in this episode to the role of his accomplice when she participates in one of his schemes for the first time. The target is one John Baxter, Harve's hapless new son-in-law and employee, anxious to prove himself as a lawyer in his own right. Dangling just such a possibility before him, JR invites him to lunch at the Cirrus Room ... where they happen to bump into a lonely divorcee and, as JR explains, "an old friend of the family", played by Serena. No sooner does he invite her to join them than the conversation turns to her love life. "I don't know any eligible men," Serena laments. "I just wasn't cut out to spend nights by myself." As John listens captivated, JR feigns an office emergency and leaves them to enjoy lunch without him. "It's on me," he assures them. This is the same trick (in possibly the same restaurant) that he pulled a year earlier when he left Afton alone with the judge presiding over John Ross's preliminary custody hearing. While that scam fell flat, this one is a success--as JR discovers when he later enters the bedroom of the Ewing condo to find Serena and John in each other's arms. "I'm a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage and I'm damn disappointed in you, John," he declares. The irony of this statement, while clear on first viewing, only deepens in retrospect, thanks to Marky's astute observation of the what-goes-around-comes-around nature of Season 5. At the end of the year, JR will be caught in an identical trap to the one he has set here for John when Sue Ellen catches him in bed with Holly Harwood.

    This scene also introduces JR's habit of posthumously attributing quotations to his father, ("Like my daddy used to say ...") none of which (including this one, "Where there's a way, there's a will") Jock himself was ever heard to utter on screen. This is just one of several ways in which Jock's persona is subtly readjusted to fulfil the needs of various characters (and writers?) in the years after his death.

    When they meet the following day, John Baxter is relieved to hear that JR does not plan to report his indiscretion to daddy-in-law Harve. "What he doesn't know's not gonna hurt him," JR reasons. "If ever I can return the favour, just ask," says John. "I'm delighted you feel that way," replies JR. "I wanna see my daddy's will." John is taken aback. "That would be betraying a trust," he protests. "Now, what would you call cheatin' on your wife?" asks JR, "or more importantly, what would Harve call it?" Only now does it begin to occur to John that he has been played from the very beginning, and he realises that he has no choice but to agree to JR's request. "Oh and by the way, Serena sends her very best," JR adds, rubbing salt into the wound as he takes his leave. "You know how good her very best can be." John is left sitting alone, looking like he's about to throw up. (What a good character; too bad we didn't see more of him.)

    Part of the satisfaction in re-watching early Season 5 comes from the knowledge that nothing is wasted; even seemingly throwaway scenes or lines of dialogue are part of a bigger picture. When Pam tells her brother "JR's been voted out of Ewing Oil. Bobby's running the company now," Cliff's dismissive response--"The Ewings are all the same. Bobby, JR; it doesn't make any difference"--introduces the central theme of the season: When push comes to shove, how different are JR and Bobby? It's a question that Pam will have to confront soon enough.

    Equally, a seemingly routine meeting between Bobby and the Ewing Oil department heads swiftly establishes the wider economic context within which the fight for the company will soon be taking place. "Since I was last in charge, the world situation has changed somewhat," Bobby reflects. "Oil doesn't seem to be the hot item it once was." Accordingly, he agrees to 25% cutbacks in Ewing Oil's drilling and refinery operations. For now, at least, he is thinking long term.

    So is the show itself. Bobby's visit from former pimp pal Carl Daggett (played with consummate sleaze by Russ Meyer regular Charles Napier) will not pay off dramatically for another fourteen episodes. Nevertheless, Daggett's appearance serves to remind the audience that Bobby was not always Mr Clean, a fact that will resonate throughout the season: "You shoulda seen him in the old days. He was a real playboy. Right, Bobby? Your style, my ladies. Good for Ewing Oil too." When Carl offers his business card, ("If you need a little help to clinch a deal, I'm available") we see Bobby's somewhat self-righteous attempt to distance himself from his past: "I'm not makin' deals that way anymore, Carl, and neither is Ewing Oil ... Times have changed and so have I." Again, these are words that will return to haunt Bobby.

    And let's not forget Millie Laverne, Daggett's memorable feline companion ("If you're workin' late or anything, I run The Blue Onion," she purrs to Bobby) played by Aarika Wells. Sadly, this is Millie's only DALLAS appearance, (I think I'd have preferred her to Serena as JR's resident lady of the night) but Wells does show up in Season 2 of DYNASTY as a hooker who manages to sustain Steven Carrington's interest, as well as a wedding planner in the final ever episode of FALCON CREST and, more bizarrely, a judge during David Paulsen's era of KNOTS LANDING.

    While recovering from his suicide attempt, Cliff receives three concerned female visitors in succession. While Pam favours the tough love approach, ("You must be very happy. Everybody hovering around you, asking if there's anything you need, Mama feeling so guilty she doesn't even know what time it is ... I didn't think you were a quitter") Sue Ellen adopts a more penitent stance ("I feel that if I'd given you the money that you needed that this would never have happened ... I thought you were tryin' to use me, but I know better now"). Their basic message, however, is the same: "The rest of us take our mistakes and bounce back, Cliff," says Pam. "Even Digger. He was a drunk and a loser, but he played his cards till the end. I know you're a better man than he was." "Cliff, you have every reason, every reason in the world," Sue Ellen insists, "to keep on living, to keep on trying. You're too big of a man to give up like this."

    As interesting as it is to see the Ewing women shifting gears, (Pam back to her straight talking ways after more than a year spent staring prettily into space; Sue Ellen finally taking some responsibility for her actions after spending Season 4 blindly following her impulses) these scenes really belong to Ken Kercheval. Despite being flat on his back and doing more listening than speaking, he manages to colour his performance with various shades of despair--bitterness, anger, self-pity, and plain old-fashioned heartbreak. "Why don't you just leave me alone?" he says to Sue Ellen. "Go back to Southfork, start your life again. I hope you and JR are very happy together. Don't worry about ol' Cliff Barnes."

    The new reflective Sue Ellen has an interesting encounter with Afton, whom she asks to meet her at a restaurant, which sounds like it's called "Cardinal Puffs", but can't be (can it?). A wary Afton greets her adversary with a cheap shot ("I ordered you some coffee, I know you don't drink") and is taken by surprise when Sue Ellen apologises to her "for all the pain that I've caused you", before going on to wish her the best: "I hope that you and Cliff can make it together, and I hope that you can find happiness." Hatchets buried, the two women reflect on the similarity of their situations. "I think that he still loves you," says Afton. "Maybe because he thinks he can never have you." "Isn't it strange?" muses Sue Ellen. "We always seem to want what we can't have." "... There was a time when Cliff really wanted me and I turned him down," Afton admits ruefully. "Now the whole thing has turned around." "It sounds like you're describin' my life with JR," smiles Sue Ellen. "The unobtainable is always what he's after." Afton asks if Sue Ellen still plans to remarry JR. "I think I'm afraid of what'll happen if I do," she replies in a rare moment of candour, "but I think I'm more afraid of what'll happen if I don't." The implication is that Sue Ellen is doomed either way: she knows that if she marries JR, sooner or later he'll cheat on her and she'll end up back on the bottle, and if she stays single, she'll most likely fall off the wagon anyway, but have no JR to blame it on--and no Southfork to cocoon her from the realities of the outside world.

    Cliff receives his third female visitor after returning home when a masculine looking Marilee stops by. "You know, I'd like to know what it is about tryin' to commit suicide that suddenly makes everybody care!" he finally snaps. (But surely that was the intention--otherwise, why take an overdose when he was expecting Afton to arrive home shortly afterwards?) Marilee, however, is in a position to offer something more practical than Pam's and Sue Ellen's platitudes. "I'd like you to come work for me." "You wanna make me Vice President of Stupid Deals?" he asks. "You got burned in the past, Cliff, because you didn't know the oil business. But I'm willing to put you in a position where you can learn it all." Getting Cliff into the oil business (and fast!) will be vital to keeping him involved in the action during Season 5.

    Ray receives a letter "from my Aunt Lily" in Emporia, Kansas, telling him that "your daddy, Amos Krebbs" has been taken sick. "He's been moved to the charity ward, but even that is costing more than we can afford ... If there's any way you can help ..." Ray is upset even to read Amos's name. "That man is gonna haunt me till his dyin' day," he tells Donna. "Best just to send the money and forget about Amos Krebbs."

    Lucy's dilemma is dealt with soberly, with the minimum of melodrama. "Pam, I'm pregnant ... It's Roger's ... More than anything in the world, I'd love to have a little baby, but he raped me. Pam, I can't have Roger's child." "... Are you thinking of having an abortion?" Pam asks. "I don't want one, but it's the only way," she replies.

    The episode's final scene is our first opportunity for to see how eerily disorientating the new Ewing Oil set can appear when shrouded in semi-darkness. We see John Baxter waiting nervously in reception, but it's only when JR steps out of the elevator that we realise we're looking at him through the glass doors that separate Kendal's desk from the secretary area. In contrast to his charming demeanour earlier on, JR is unsmiling and businesslike. John hands over the requested document and JR instructs him to wait outside. Perched on Phyllis's desk, JR turns straight to the codicil at the back of the document. He likes what he reads. Echoing the final shot of "The Search", he lifts his eyes heavenwards and smiles slightly. "Thank you, daddy," he says quietly. "Thank you." Hmm. So what does he now know that we don't?
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  10. James from London

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    "Aftermath"/"New Beginnings"


I thought it would be interesting watch the preceding episode, "Jock's Will", in the way that nature (or at least the Elders of Lorimar) originally intended: in a double bill with "New Beginnings", the special DALLAS-themed instalment of KNOTS LANDING that immediately followed it in the CBS schedules back in October 1982. However, "New Beginnings" feels more closely connected to this instalment of DALLAS, as the timeline of both episodes run concurrently, with JR running back and forth between each show. 

    Events of the KNOTS episode pick up shortly after the reading of Jock's will. Although there are some scenes set back in California (mostly involving the attempts of Chip Roberts, Val's ambitious publicist, to ingratiate himself with the rest of the cul-de-sac residents), the main focus of the instalment are the storylines unfolding in Dallas. Accordingly, the scene is set at the beginning of the episode with a somewhat tinny version of the DALLAS theme accompanied by some stock footage of various Dallas skyscrapers, and a shot of a pretty pair of legs climbing out of a Texas cab and onto the red carpet outside a swanky hotel. These belong to KNOTS' femme fatale and Gary's new paramour, Abby Cunningham, who tips the driver (stetsoned, naturally) before asking for Mr Ewing's suite. As she is led through the hotel, happily soaking up the luxury of her surroundings, she fails to notice a sign announcing: "In person, Valene Ewing, author of 'Capricorn Crude' tomorrow in Hotel Lobby Bookstore."

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, Bobby, wearing the same shirt but a more relaxed expression than when we last saw him at the end of "Jock's Will", is playing with Christopher (as tearful and bewildered looking on KNOTS as he is on DALLAS) in the nursery. Gary sticks his head round the door to tell his brother good-bye and that he's not sticking around for dinner. "You don't look like a guy who just inherited $10,000,000," Bobby observes. "Well I didn't inherit $10,000,000," Gary replies. "I inherited the interest on it, an allowance ... I almost wish Daddy had cut me out of the will completely. I mean, leaving me the money this way, in trust, to be doled out, like I was a kid, kinda shows what he thought of me, doesn't it? Right up to the very end." "You really wanna share of Ewing Oil?" Bobby asks. "I'll give you half of my half." (In the interests of brevity, KNOTS doesn't bother to clarify that Bobby and JR have each inherited control, rather than ownership, of half the company.) "If I had a sense of humour, I'd call your bluff and take it," smiles Gary wryly. "You're OK, Bobby," he adds in parting. "You're probably the only one of us who is. One of these days you're gonna have to tell me how you managed to pull it off."


This is a great line, but one it's hard to imagine anyone in DALLAS delivering. The KNOTS LANDING perspective of the DALLAS world is a fascinating one because it's perhaps closer to David Jacobs' original vision of the series than what DALLAS itself subsequently became. Gary and Val's views of the Ewings are still based on what took place in the original back story, rather than on the slightly warmer, cosier TV family they have become over the years. As excellent as this season of DALLAS is, for instance, none of the Ewings is as venal as they were in the mini-series. (The exception, ironically, is Bobby, who is about to get in touch with his dark side as never before.) 

    The last time Val visited Dallas as a single woman was at the beginning of Season 2 when JR tracked her down to that motel room and tried to run her out of town. Now she's back, alone again having recently separating from Gary, but under very different circumstances. "I recognised you as soon as you walked through the door," gushes the desk clerk of the swanky hotel as she books in. "I've read your book twice already ... Meetin' you is like meetin' an old friend." "Thanks," Val replies shyly, signing his copy of her novel. "It's nice to receive such a warm welcome here in Dallas." 

    Having toasted Bobby's "good health and very long life" following the will reading at the end of the preceding episode of DALLAS, JR extends a similarly ambiguous gesture to Gary, who returns to his hotel suite to find a bottle of champagne accompanied a note from his elder brother: "Success and happiness." Lest we forget, Gary is a recovering alcoholic. He also discovers Abby waiting for him in his bed. "Win or lose, I wanted to be with you," she tells him. This is a reference to Gary's concern, recently established on KNOTS, that his inheritance might be in some way be contingent on his marriage to Val: "Daddy never trusted me, but he liked Val. He used to call her my anchor." (Who knew?) "It's just possible that I may come out of Dallas with nothing," Gary warned Abby in the preceding episode of KNOTS (originally broadcast the night before this one). "Look, you go to Dallas, you hear the will," replied Abby. "And if you come back a millionaire, fine, terrific; but if you come back without a penny, that's fine too, because from now on, rich or poor, we're together." An admirable sentiment, but what Gary doesn't realise is that Abby, in exchange for a sneaky peek at Val's manuscript, has already been tipped off by JR that his inheritance has nothing to do with Val.

    Even a dose of KNOTS LANDING lovin' fails to lift Gary's mood. "Come on, honey, lighten up," Abby tells him post-coitally. "I mean, it's so predictable, it's almost funny. The terms of the will make you feel like a child, you're powerless--" "I don't need it interpreting, Abby. All right?" he snaps. She dresses for dinner and is soon looking curly and fabulous. "Look, I know you're angry," she continues, "but it's not the end of the world. I mean, your father didn't exactly leave you penniless." "You still don't understand, do you?" Gary replies. "It's not the money. It's never been the money. Look, all my life my father made me feel worthless. Now that he's dead, I'm still feeling it." "Well, who said he was right?" Abby shoots back. "You know what? It's not your father that's making you feel worthless, it's you." As far as she is concerned, the solution is clear: "You walk away and you start living for yourself, and you stop thinking you are what your father thought you were." "Easier said that done." "No, not really. It's just up to you." Spoken like a true non-Ewing.

    In fact, in the context of DALLAS, where everyone from Ray Krebbs to Cliff Barnes, from Holly Harwood to Casey Denault, is driven by a need to make their daddy proud, Abby's words are almost heretical. (Actually, not just within DALLAS, but the whole 80s prime time soap genre. What makes Abby unique amongst soap antagonists of the era, is that she is unfettered by the past--her machinations are not motivated by an obsessive desire to honour a dead father or avenge an ex-husband. She does what she does out of choice rather than dysfunctional need.) 

    As Val opens the door of her hotel suite to receive her room service dinner for one, she narrowly misses seeing Gary and Abby walking down the same hallway on their way to dinner. They are equally unaware of her. Adding a sense of irony, Jerrold Immel's score from "Reunion", the Season 1 episode that introduced Gary and Val to DALLAS, plays on the soundtrack. "I really oughta spend more time with my mother before I leave," Gary is saying. "Could I go?" Abby asks. "I'd love to meet your mother." He is reluctant. "The reading opened up a lotta old wounds. I don't know if Mama's seeing visitors." Abby sets about using her charms to change his mind as only she can, and by the time the crowded elevator arrives, it's all they can do to keep their hands off each other.

    After dinner, they return to their suite where Abby's calculations based on his inheritance ("Do you know what the interest is on $10,000,000? ... Even at only 10%, it's a million a year and I'm sure that we can do a lot better than 10%") start to irritate Gary. She teases him, he picks her up in his arms, they turn around and find JR standing in the doorway. "I came here to console you, Gary. I see Abby beat me to it," he says evenly. "You know Mama's really upset with you for leaving Southfork ... I wanna make sure you spend some time with her. I'm gonna send my limousine to pick you up tomorrow morning." Turning to Abby, JR then drops the other cowboy boot: "I wanna impress my little brother here that it's very important that he leave promptly after that meeting ... I'm having the limousine wait to take you to the airport." "He's incredible, isn't he?" laughs Gary. "All that money, all that power--he just inherited half of Ewing Oil--and he's still afraid I'm gonna get in his way. I mean, even if I wanted to, how would I go about it, JR?" "Well, I'm not worried about you," JR replies. "It's Mama. Motherly love is very powerful stuff and, let's face it, you've always been susceptible to pressures from other people." Here, he shoots a glance at Abby. "Get out of here," Gary tells him. "You can take your observations and your limousine and your threats and you can get out." This takes JR by surprise. "You know, Abby, I think you've done this boy a world of good. He's got some guts." He makes for the door, then turns back. "I wish my daddy had lived to see this day: Gary with guts. Finally."

    This links back to a memory of Bobby's, recounted to Gary during "The Loudest Word" (KNOTS LANDING Season 2): "I can remember Daddy and Mama sparring with words. I was just a kid when you left, but I can still remember them talking about you. And Daddy would say that you didn’t have the Ewing guts, and Mama would say, 'Well, thank goodness for that', because she thought you had Southworth gallantry, and that was a much better thing to have. Mama thought guts were low grade courage, and gallantry was courage with grace."

    JR leaves and Abby puts her arms around Gary. "He's a million laughs, isn't he?" she says. "A million, geddit?"

    JR hurries home to Southfork in time for the opening scene of "Aftermath." For the second time that evening, he has arranged to have a bottle of champagne chilled and waiting. "I had a feelin' we'd be doin' a little celebrating tonight," he explains to Sue Ellen. "I've been waiting up for you," she tells him. Like Abby, she has been waiting for her man in her night-dress. "I thought tonight of all nights, you might wanna talk ... You're back in power, the place you know and love best." Unlike Gary, Sue Ellen is aware that her lover had advance information about the contents of the will. "I wouldn't even dare guess how you did it, but you did it," she tells him. "You like that, don't you?" JR asks. "My knowing what no one else knows." Their conversation turns to the contest for Ewing Oil. "I bet you can't even imagine who's gonna win," she smiles knowingly. "Oh honey," JR tells her, "if I can't win over that boy scout, I oughta have my merit badges taken away from me." They giggle and kiss.

    Upstairs, Pam is also dressed for bed, but Bobby is otherwise occupied. "You've already started working on it, haven't you?" she asks, seeing him work on a page of calculations, not unlike the ones Abby was making earlier. "You didn't waste any time." "You think JR's going to?" he replies, unaware that JR has already had a three episode head start. He is noticeably less relaxed here than in his earlier KNOTS LANDING scene with Gary; there is certainly no talk of blithely giving away half his shares in the company. In fact, his illogical insistence that "I'm not gonna stand back and watch JR steal something that rightfully belongs to Christopher!" sounds borderline obsessive. The sense of foreboding Pam expresses in this scene ("You know I'm behind you in this," she tells Bobby. "It's just I'm afraid it could hurt us") is reinforced by various characters throughout the episode. "I just don't wanna be anywhere near this slug-fest that JR and Bobby are gonna have," Ray later tells Donna. "I'm just so afraid about what this fight will do to the family," admits Miss Ellie to Punk. "That will's gonna be a disaster for all Jock's sons," predicts Pam while talking to Lucy. Bobby does not agree. "Actually, I'm kind of pleased at how it turned out," he tells Pam. "Daddy had confidence in me. He put me up against JR." To use Gary's words from earlier, "Kinda shows what he thought of me, doesn't it?" 

    Having checked in with Gary and Abby, JR and Sue Ellen, and Bobby and Pam, it's time to visit the one remaining couple in the family and get their reactions to the will. "I don't think you could be higher if you were flyin' on a kite," Donna tells her husband, lying next to her in bed. "Out of all of them, I think you and I came out the best in this whole thing," agrees Ray. "It sorta evens things out between you and me. You see, I got as much money as you do now. We got nothin' else to fight about!" Not for a couple of years anyway.

    By the next morning, Gary and Abby have reversed their positions regarding the visit to Southfork. "I want you to come," he tells her. "I really do." "I'm not gonna go, Gary," she replies firmly, "and I'll tell you something else. I think you'd be better off if you didn't go ... I don't mean that you shouldn't see Miss Ellie, but why don't you meet her somewhere else? Look, Southfork holds memories for you that you don't need in your life anymore. After today, you've gotta cut yourself free." "I'd still like you to drive out there with me," Gary replies. "No," she tells him. "Today's for family. Not for outsiders." As he leaves through the hotel lobby, he once again narrowly misses Val as her book signing session gets underway.

    Miss Ellie isn't expecting Gary at the ranch just yet, however. She, along with JR, Bobby, Punk Anderson and a couple of accountants are in Harve Smithfield's office. The year-long battle for control of Ewing Oil is about to commence. As one of the longest running storylines of the series, and also one of the most audacious, (setting up a corporate contest from beyond the grave--who does that?) it is important, for the audience as well as the participants, that a firm foundation for the contest be established. "It has to be done the way Jock intended," Harve instructs. "Now each son must be given a fair and equal start. What you have to do is separate all the assets on paper--the wells, fields, other property, all of it. Then split up each area individually." "You've also gotta consider the quality of each field," chimes in Punk. "It all breaks down to pumping capacity. That's where it's gotta be equal ... Till this split's accomplished, Ewing Oil's operating in a vacuum." The meeting concluded, JR turns to his brother. "Bobby, I don't know about you, but I got an office waiting for me at Ewing Oil." Meanwhile, Punk offers Miss Ellie a lift back to the ranch.

    Outside Harve's office, Ellie confides her concerns about the upcoming battle: "They're different, my boys. They both have a different outlook on life, but they're hard and brutal fighters, and sometimes they make me afraid." She will echo this sentiment later in the season when both sons turn against her: "I have no illusions about my sons when it comes to a fight." Punk, already functioning as Jock's posthumous best friend and executor of his estate, is invaluable to the story in terms of providing an insight into Jock's thinking during the last days of his life. "I was with Jock down there when he made this decision. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to do, was split his two boys. He agonised over it terrible." Ellie then poses the billion dollar question: "Then for Lords' sake, why did he do it?" "Because he always kept comin' back to this one thing," Punk explains, "that only the strongest was to take control of the Ewin' Oil company. He had to make sure which one was the strongest." One one level, Punk's reply is satisfactory; on another, it leaves room for some other possible explanation: senility, megalomania, or good old fashioned human fallibility. "I so wish there was another way," sighs Ellie. "So did Jock, Miss Ellie, believe me," Punk replies.

    Meanwhile, JR has made a little detour on his way to the office, returning to Gary and Abby's hotel suite. "I just talked to Sue Ellen," he explains to Abby as he hangs up the phone. "She said he hadn't arrived yet." Abby congratulates him on his return to Ewing Oil. "I knew I wouldn't be out for long," he assures her. "I think that little hiatus was good for me, good for Ewing Oil too." "You know, you're always so contemptuous of Gary. If he's so inept, why is he dangerous to you?" she asks. "Oh Abby, that man is full of anger, frustration; maybe even hatred, I don't know. If he ever channelled all that energy, he could make my life miserable. That's why I'm countin' on you to keep him outta Dallas." JR is referring to an understanding he and Abby reached on his last visit to KNOTS LANDING a few weeks earlier (JR: "You're not Valene. When they were together, he wouldn't come within spittin' distance of me, but you're different. You wanna be Queen of the Ewings." Abby: "I'll settle for Princess." JR: "You got it. You get the ermines and the jewels, but the crown stays in Dallas, cos the crown is mine." Abby: "If I do keep Gary out of Dallas, what do I get in return?" JR: "My blessing."). JR puts his hand on Abby's knee. She smiles, touches his face, then moves away. "JR, I told you. I love Gary. I owe him fidelity." "Because fidelity is to your interest right now," he nods. "Well, I gotta tell you, I'm sure glad we're on the same side." Poor JR: this is the second time in a matter of weeks that he has been rejected by a woman more interested in one of his younger brothers.


JR and Abby's pact to stay out of each other's territory also marks a parting of the ways between DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING. Abby has already urged Gary to cut himself free from Southfork. After this episode, KNOTS will also cut itself free, with no more crossovers between series, save for the it-never-happened-anyway scenarios of Bobby's funeral and "Conundrum". As KNOTS moves into a serialised format with its characters able to stand on their own two feet both dramatically and financially, it has no longer has any need of larger than life "Guest Stars of the Week" like Larry Hagman. The break makes sense ... except for one thing. Where does this leave Lucy? Sitting on Southfork sofa complaining, that's where.


"My father appeared like a dream," she tells Pam. "Now he's gone. He appeared then disappeared. The Case of the Vanishing Father ... Do you know he did not even spend five minutes with me alone last night? Not even five minutes! ... He heard the will and he ran with his tail between his legs." "He just needed time to think, to adjust to the terms of the will," replies Pam. This cuts no ice with Lucy. "Pam, I've been through a lot lately," she continues. "I was kidnapped! It didn't even matter to him!" Poor little Lucy. She obviously hasn't grasped the fact that she and her father are on different shows, and that he can't drop all his own storylines every time she gets kidnapped, raped, divorced, falls in love with a homosexual, etc. Pam does her best to explain how these things work: "He wanted to get on a plane and come out here ... but we played down the whole awful thing, for your sake as well as for his." "No matter what you say, I know what my father is," Lucy insists. "It's my own stupidity that makes me think he'll ever change."

    Except that Gary, along with Val, has changed. They have developed into ever more complex, three-dimensional characters in the three years since KNOTS LANDING began and will continue to evolve for years to come--unlike Lucy, who will resolutely remain the same bubble-headed woman-child no matter what potentially life changing experiences are thrown at her. Psychologically, Gary and Val have outstripped their daughter to the point where they no longer occupy the same dramatic universe. 

This much was made clear in the preceding episode of KNOTS LANDING (God, it's confusing) after Gary, in a weak moment, suggested to Val that she attend the reading of Jock's will with him. "What in the world would he think I'd wanna go to Dallas for?!" she exclaimed indignantly. The fact that she has a daughter living there whom she hasn't seen for nearly two years appears not to occur to her.

    Subsequently, it should come as little surprise that when Val does make it to Dallas in this episode of KNOTS, she apparently makes no attempt to contact her daughter. While Lucy will continue to be referred to on KNOTS, it is almost solely in connection with the fact that Gary and Val were deprived of the opportunity to raise her as a child. Indeed, this piece of backstory resonates strongly throughout KNOTS' sixth season, after Val's new born babies are also taken from her. Val and Lucy's present day estrangement is acknowledged to only once on KNOTS, at the end of this current season when Val is asked by best pal Karen if she and Lucy have been in touch recently. Val replies that they spoke only a few days earlier. Then at the end of the scene, she admits that it's actually been months since they've had contact. Karen nods understandingly and no more is said. It's both a terribly poignant moment and a credible one--how often are a biological parent and child reunited after years apart only to find that, despite the best efforts of all involved, too much water has flowed under the bridge for a relationship to be sustained? That the estrangement is not explained further only adds to the poignancy. DALLAS's closest equivalent scene comes in Season 7 when Val's former boss at the Hot Biscuit diner asks Lucy "to say howdy from me when you talk to her, here?" "Yeah, I will. If I talk to her." Lucy won't appear on screen with either parent again, but however pissed she might be with Gary in this scene, she will eventually revert to her default setting of defending him from JR's occasional living room jibes.

    JR and Val's final ever scene together ("Conundrum" notwithstanding) takes place when he appears at her book signing with a copy of "Capricorn Crude". He asks her to dedicate it "to my favourite brother-in-law in the whole wide world." "You are disgusting!" she replies. "It's not often I get the chance to talk to a real life celebrity!" he continues. "You know, everybody said I'd hate what you wrote about us Ewings, but I don't, I really don't, and it's nice having a best-selling authoress in the family, especially since I own her publishing company ... lock, stock and all the profits. Oh golly, I forgot. You're on your way out of the family, aren't you?" Ah, Hagman and van Ark--such different actors, but always so much fun together. 

    His crossover duties concluded, JR returns to work at Ewing Oil for the first time this season. He chivalrously marks the occasion by bestowing a rose each upon Sly, Phyllis and Kendall. He then utters the following fateful words to Sly, "Get Walt Driscoll of the OLM for me". Amongst the consequences of this instruction: a plane crash, a car crash, a fire, four deaths, a murder trial ... and a slew of stations selling cut-rate gas, so on balance, it was probably worth it. We also get our first glimpse of JR's larger, grander office, complete with oil-rig hat stand and a 3D map of Texas on the wall. "I know that things may heat up between you and me in the next few months," he tells Bobby, "but I just want you to remember the first and foremost, we're brothers. I wanna do everything fair and square, above board, and may the best man win." He offers his hand which Bobby declines.

    As well as JR returning to work, it's also Mickey's first day as a ranch hand. "There I was workin' the back of a car," he tells Ray, "Now I'm workin' the back of a horse. I tell ya, paradise must be right around the corner." Lucy also catches the back-to-work bug in this episode, telling her agent Blair she's ready to go back to modelling, on the proviso that she is allocated "a lady photographer" to work with.

    Eventually, Gary returns to the hotel. "I took a taxi out to the ranch," he explains to Abby. "I had the driver drop me off at the fence. I don't know why. Anyway, I stood there by it, lookin' at the property for a long time, remembering how I used to love the ranch, but hated being there. Hated the way they treated me. All the resentment started boiling up in me again, and as I stood there, somebody drove Daddy's car out, a ranch hand. Daddy always had the biggest model of the biggest car, American of course, and I stood there watching it go down the road away from the ranch, and it was like all of a sudden I realised he was dead and I felt like crying, which surprised me because all I'd been feeling was anger, and as I watched the car go, I felt kinda sad and I realised he was dead, and so were all his thoughts and feelings and opinions, about me included: dead. And it seemed pretty stupid to keep raging against a dead man." 

    This speech, which strongly evokes the scene in "Who Done It?" (Season 3) where an exiled Sue Ellen also climbs out of a cab to stand at the entrance to the ranch, helps explain the otherwise incongruous scene in DALLAS where Miss Ellie watches tearfully as Jock's car is taken away for servicing. For some reason, however, that sequence appears not in this week's episode of DALLAS, but a later one. 

Abby is moved by Gary's story. "He was wrong, you know, about you," she says of Jock, with tears in her eyes. For all her deviousness, Abby genuinely believes in Gary--because, as JR puts it, it is in her interests to do so. She asks about Miss Ellie. "I talked to her on the phone," he tells her. "I'll make a special trip soon as everything dies down." (For her part, Miss Ellie refers to Gary only once in "Aftermath", towards the end of the episode when she tells Donna, "I'm so angry that Jock hurt him like that.") Gary presents Abby with a fancy necklace. "That's for helping me find the way," he tells her.

    The final scene of "New Beginnings" takes place in the hotel lobby. "Paging Mrs Ewing," calls the tannoy. "Paging Mrs Gary Ewing." Abby and Val arrive from different directions and meet, finally, in the middle. Save for a brief encounter at the dry cleaners during an earlier episode of KNOTS where each was too surprised to speak to the other, this is the first time the two women have come to face to face since Val found Gary and Abby in bed together at the end of the previous season. KNOTS being KNOTS, the anticipated soap bitchery is not forthcoming. "Val!" exclaims Abby in surprise. "Well, you look terrific. Success seems to agree with you, I guess." The irony is that Val's success as a novelist is entirely due to Abby filching her manuscript and leaking it to a publisher, as a way driving a wedge between her and Gary. "Thank you, Abby," Val replies graciously. "I might say the same about you. Success seems to agree with both of us." There follows a moment of something like mutual respect, and then Gary appears, throwing the situation off balance once again. Abby takes his arm, and Val takes her leave. On her way out of the hotel, she stops briefly to look at the poster advertising her appearance and then continues walking, head held high, lonely but somehow victorious. The episode ends, not with a big dramatic freeze frame or close up, but almost tentatively with Gary watching Val as she goes, and Abby watching Gary, as if realising this is the new status quo: Gary may have achieved a kind of peace with his father's memory, but he is still haunted by his past with Valene. 

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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Aftermath" (continued)

    Back in DALLAS, as the Ewings make the front page, ("WILL DIVIDES EWING OIL") the action moves beyond the family to focus on the reactions of outsiders, specifically Rebecca Wentworth and Cliff. "So JR is back. All right," murmurs Rebecca as she places a phone call to Wade Luce. This is the scene in which I first noticed, My, what big hands Priscilla Pointer has. 

    On an evening out with a wonky-eyed Sue Ellen, (either one of Linda Gray's eyelashes had come unglued or she was nursing a nasty sty) JR has his only confrontation with Rebecca of the entire series when he happens upon her dining with Clayton Farlow. "I'm so glad he's pullin' himself together," he tells her with reference to Cliff. "Don't patronise me, JR," she replies coldly. "I haven't forgotten what you did to my son, and since the only way to your heart is through your company, I intend to do everything in my power to make that company bleed."

    "Everything in Rebecca's power" essentially consists of buying Cliff an oil company and then dying in a plane crash, the first of which she does in this episode. "I hope you put it to real good use," Wade Luce tells her as they shake hands on the deal. "I'm planning to do just that," Rebecca replies, arching an eyebrow weirdly.

There is something intriguingly, frustratingly enigmatic about Rebecca. She has one of the most interesting back stories of any DALLAS character, yet remains stubbornly underwritten. Meanwhile, Priscilla Pointer adds a strangely cold, almost twisted edge to the character (those big hands; that arched eyebrow).

    "I like Rebecca," Clayton tells Sue Ellen. "She's a strong, proud lady." "Funny, she never impressed me as being particularly strong," Sue Ellen replies sniffily. Clayton chuckles: "She's scratched her way over the tough side of the tracks. Taught herself how to type so she could work at something else besides waitressing. Practically taught herself how to read ... Rebecca Wentworth's strong all right." Scratched her way--again, those claw-like hands come to mind. This is the first mention of Rebecca's illiteracy, and it will be referred to again in the next episode. 

Rebecca's declaration of war on JR provides both Sue Ellen and Pam with an opportunity to stand up and be counted. "Any attack against him would be an attack against me," Sue Ellen warns Clayton, lest he considers siding with Rebecca. "My future and the future of my son is tied with JR ... I'll fight right by his side." "You can't attack JR without attacking my husband," Pam tells her mother, "and I won't stand by and watch him be hurt by this battle!"

    Elsewhere, the news of JR's return to power has left Cliff brooding over Chinese take out. "So what?" responds Afton. "Leave it alone, Cliff. It doesn't have to mean anything to you ..." "What if he uses his new position as a power base to have Marilee Stone dump me?" asks Cliff through a mouth full of Moo Goo Gai Pan. "That man has blocked every move I've ever made. Every step I've ever taken, he's found my legs and kicked them up from under me!" "That's because the direction you choose is wrong," Afton tells him. "Cliff, you're gonna have to start moving in your own direction now. Bury your feelings about JR, he is so unimportant ... You're gonna have to bury your hatred and your hostility. Don't you see how it's poisoning you?"

    I've watched this season of DALLAS countless times, (this was when I started collecting the show on videotape as a kid) but I've only just noticed the significance of Cliff's reaction at the end of this scene. He doesn't speak, but Afton's words clearly hit a nerve. Ever since he accepted that strings-attached job at the OLM at the end of "For Love or Money" in Season 1, Cliff has been a target for JR. Now that he has hit bottom, maybe it really is time for him to start moving in a different direction. But then along comes Rebecca to steer him right back towards JR. "I bought the Wade Luce Oil Company," she announces. "I want you to head the company for me ... and I wouldn't mind a bit if you used it as a bludgeon against JR Ewing ... You've never been given my full support before. I'm willing to give it to you now." To suggest that Afton and Rebecca are fighting for Cliff's soul is probably overstating the case, but they are definitely pulling him in opposite directions. Caught between these two mother figures, (Afton being the modern day equivalent of Rebecca and all) Cliff regresses to a childlike state. "I don't like pistachio anymore," he grumbles in the infamous "I don't like pistachio anymore" scene. Afton sighs wearily.


The fight for control of Ewing Oil may have only just begun, but in this episode, JR and Bobby each has the crucial meeting that will determine how his respective fortune is made. Bobby's is with the McLeish brothers, Thornton and Garrett, who offer him a deal on a string of oil fields in Canada. "It looks like a can't miss situation," he tells Pam later. "I don't know if I can take it ... It's a large investment and it's a long range project. It could be a year, eighteen months before we realise any profits ... If it doesn't come in within a year, it could cost me the company." 

    Meanwhile, JR is on Holly's boat, assuring her that his return to Ewing Oil does not mean he will forget about her company. "Harwood Oil's very important to me," he insists. "Have faith." "I do," she replies. "It's oil that I don't have. At least, not enough of it to make that refinery pay." "Well, you'll be gettin' some. As a matter of fact, it's walkin' our way right now." This is an introduction to Walt Driscoll, currently Head of the Office of Land Management--a position once filled by Cliff, but unmentioned on screen since JR tricked him into resigning in Season 2. "The oil watchdogs in Texas?" asks Holly, as a helpful reminder to the audience. "Kissin' cousins of the environmentalists," confirms JR. As Walt climbs aboard the Good Ship Harwood, Holly vanishes below deck. "Pretty little thing, isn't she?" observes JR, her swim-suited bottom disappearing from view. "And she has a thing for men our age. If you like, I could make a little suggestion." "I'm married, JR," Walt replies. "You were married fifteen years ago too. That never stopped you." "Different times, JR, and a different woman ... I got a brand new wife and I tell you, just no one can hold a candle to her." 

This little exchange quickly establishes three things: (1) JR doesn't differentiate between having control of Harwood Oil and having control of Holly--as far as he is concerned, her body is simply another company asset; (2) JR and Walt have a business-mixed-with-pleasure association that goes back several years; (3) Walt has a new wife to whom he is devoted.


JR gets down to the nitty-gritty: "Before the Ewing Oil split, my little brother made a series of voluntary production cutbacks and I'd like to pick up on the slack, boost my production, just on the oil wells that I control, of course." "... Just bring it up to the old limits," Walt replies. "Actually, I was thinking of going beyond those old limits." "You know I can't do that, JR ... What do you want to pump more oil for, anyway? Everybody's sittin' on what they got now." This is the question everyone, including the audience, will be asking for the next six episodes. "I got other plans," says JR cryptically. "I think it's crazy," retorts Walt. "The OLM's not gonna sanction a production boost now. It's not 1978, you know." (I have no idea what that line means, but I like it--it sounds authentic.) "You don't need the board to back you. You can sign that variance all by yourself," persists JR. "I could, but I won't," Walt replies flatly. JR then proceeds to quote from the Book of Jock for the second time this season: "Like my daddy used to say, the opera ain't over--" "Till the fat lady sings?" interrupts Walt. Hey, that's the title of the Season 10 finale: "The Fat Lady Singeth"!

    Back on dry land, JR assigns Harry McSween to dig for dirt on ol' Walt Driscoll: "There's no better way to make a man see the light than a little squeeze on his wounds." At the end of the episode, Harry reports that Walt's come up clean ... but there's still that brand new wife of his: "She's had three arrests for reckless driving ... No convictions. I've got an idea somebody up at the department's lookin' after her." "... So Driscoll is crazy about a lady with a driving problem," muses JR. "It's lucky she hasn't killed someone," Harry suggests. "Well give her time." JR replies, "Her luck can't last forever." Interestingly, this is the second successive DALLAS episode to close on an ambiguously phrased death threat ("Jock's Will" ended with JR ironically toasting Bobby's "very long life") that ultimately proves a red herring.
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  12. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    28th September 2008
    Is is. It really, really is!!

    I seem to remember watching these episodes back-to-back once, but the way you've pulled the chronology and continuity together here has wowed me. It feels like experiencing a long-lost extended episode.

    As I'm sure you remember, by the time New Beginnings aired in the UK, the Dallas Ewings were separated not just by space but by time - four years of it. So not having experienced this crossover the first time round I'm grateful for anything that can demonstrate the sense of event and synergy, particularly the subtle little details you've highlighted (Bobby's shirt, for example) that have added to the experience without me even consciously realising.
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Hit and Run"


This instalment takes place over a three-day span, which is how long it takes for JR to pull off his latest scheme (which is actually a prelude to a bigger scheme, which in turn is part of a much larger plan). When the episode begins, we don't know exactly what he's up to. We see him drive away from Southfork, before turning into a parking lot a TV second later. Through dark glasses and a car window, he exchanges some enigmatic words with Harry McSween. "You got your team together?" he asks. "I've already briefed 'em," Harry replies. "They know what to do ... We'll know every time she blows her nose. Soon as she does it twice in a row, I'll call you." Soon as who does what twice in a row?

    The contest for control of Ewing Oil officially begins in the company boardroom after JR is given control of fields 1 through 17, Bobby 18 through 34, and both brothers an equal share of the refinery: "25,000 barrels a day each," Punk tell them. "Your daddy was a fine man. I'll like to see you all do him proud." While JR and Bobby head off to begin the fight, Harve hands Punk an envelope. "This is a sealed letter that came with Jock's will," he explains. "His instructions were for you to unseal it at the time of the final audit." And when Punk does read the letter, its contents will render JR and Bobby's actions throughout the next year, and the devastating consequences of those actions, more or less pointless. Dramatic irony or cop out? Perhaps a bit of both. 

    "Welcome to the presidency of Barnes-Wentworth Oil," announces Rebecca as Cliff surveys his new office for the first time. "You outdid yourself, Mama," he replies. An actual Texas location, it's slightly smaller than the sound-stage office set that will become a DALLAS fixture over the next six years. As yet, there is no adjoining door for Pam to barge through, but it does boast a genuine view of the city and, bizarrely, a selection of rugs on the wall. (With the oil industry in a slump, perhaps the company has been diversifying into the acquisition of bric-a-brac.) Cliff's former position as Marilee Stone's Vice President is explained away by Rebecca's line to Afton: "She was very gracious to let him go so easily." As the scene develops, a gentle but firm tug of war ensues between Afton and Rebecca. "Cliff, this is going to be a brand new start for you," smiles Afton, looking optimistically towards the future, while Rebecca is all about paying past grudges. "It's not just the office, it's the muscle behind it," she tells Cliff. "Power is like most other things. You have to use it carefully, but you will have enough of it to deal very effectively with Ewing Oil." Cliff remains quiet for the most part, content to let the two subtly slug it out between them. "Mrs Wentworth--" says Afton. "Now didn't I ask you to call me Rebecca?" interrupts her passive-aggressive opponent. "Rebecca ..." she continues, "fighting with JR now, is that really so important?" "That's Cliff's decision," Rebecca replies firmly, turning towards her son, "But make no mistake, one of these days you're going to have to butt heads with JR. I just want you to be ready." Cliff smiles noncommittally and looks down at the city. 

    Last week, "WILL DIVIDES EWING OIL" was a Dallas Press front page headline. In this episode, "LUCE OIL PURCHASED BY BARNES WENTWORTH" makes it as far as the Business and Finance section, but it's still major news at Ewing Oil. Phyllis points the article out to Bobby who wastes no time in thrusting it under JR's nose. "With Cliff taking Wade's place in the cartel, you can imagine how much business they'll be doin' with you," he tells him smugly. "I can handle him," replies JR. "But can you handle the whole cartel, or even me, with Rebecca nippin' at your heels?" Bobby persists. "I can beat you despite Rebecca, that light weight son o' hers, and the cartel." "... You're whistlin' in the dark because in a year's time, I'm gonna be President of Ewing Oil. You're on the ropes, JR." This is a more confident and aggressive Bobby than we're used to seeing. JR plays it cool, until Bobby leaves his office. Then we see how rattled he is. He calls Harry. "What have you got on that Driscoll woman?" JR demands, far less collected than he was during their parking lot exchange that morning. "I don't give a damn, Harry. You find somethin' right now!" He slams down the phone and throws the offending newspaper article to the floor. The musical score swells dramatically and the screen fades to black.

    The following morning, Sue Ellen arrives at Southfork in search of a storyline. Unlikely as it may seem, she too has been reading the financial pages and has learnt of Rebecca's latest acquisition. "I just know that JR and Cliff are gonna fight and maybe I can stop it before it starts," she tells Pam and Miss Ellie. "Maybe I should talk to Cliff." Pam doubts this would do much good. "I think the only way is for me to talk to my mother," she decides. So she and Rebecca arrange to meet at 227 Antioch Drive later that day for the best scene of the episode. 

    Just like Barnes-Wentworth, the impressive house on Antioch Drive (grander, in some ways, than Southfork) is an extravagant purchase by Rebecca that will continue to feature in the series long after her death. Both locations even become part of the opening credits from Season 7. The house will provide a backdrop to several seminal DALLAS moments, including a marriage proposal, a murder and two resurrections from the dead. 

After admiring the grounds, Pam gets down to business. "I know how angry you are at JR, and God knows you have every reason to be," she begins, "but I'm asking you now, please stop this vendetta before it gets out of control ... Buying Cliff an oil company is one thing, but buying Wade Luce's company and getting him into the cartel, that could hurt all of Ewing Oil. It'll turn the cartel against the whole family. That affects Bobby, Christopher and me!" There is a wonderful juxtaposition between Pam's delicate appearance--she looks awfully pretty in a flimsy summer dress--and the directness, even harshness, of her manner towards Rebecca. "You're taking sides. Is Cliff more important to you than me?" she asks bluntly. "That's not the issue!" side-steps Rebecca. "You have the Ewings' strength behind you. Whose strength does Cliff have?" "He should have his own," Pam replies. "Yes he should," Rebecca agrees, "but he doesn't, not yet, and maybe that's because when he was growing up, when I should have been there to give it to him, I was off trying to develop some of my own." She turns away from Pam, adopting a familiar martyred pose. 

    Prior to this scene, Pam has so been anxious to sustain a bond with her mother that she (along with the writers) has skated over the really interesting, knotty stuff at the core of their relationship. Not any longer. "Mother, you've always had strength," she says, arms folded and voice laden with cynicism. "You proved that when you left your children to go out and start a new life. It's a cold, calculating kind of strength. Is that what you want for Cliff?" This is the first time the show has tapped into any lingering resentment Pam has at being abandoned as a child. 

"Pam, I was seventeen," Rebecca pleads. "I could barely read or write. I wasn’t ready to be a wife or a mother. And Digger, Digger was destroying me. I didn’t want to leave you, but I had to save myself and somehow I found the strength to do it."

    This is as specific as Rebecca ever gets about her reasons for leaving her children. The reference to her age at the time ("I was seventeen") is an interesting one. From previous snippets of backstory, we know that Pam would have been at least ten months old when Rebecca left and that in addition to Pam and Cliff, Rebecca gave birth to two other children while she was with Digger, both of whom died of (undiagnosed) neurofibromatosis. This means that she would have given birth to four children, and buried two, by the age of sixteen. Add to this her illiteracy, her child-bride marriage to a bitter alcoholic still in love with another woman, her affair with Hutch McKinney and his murder, her desertion of her children, her subsequent bigamy and reinvention as a society matron, and one has all the ingredients for a truly compelling character--heck, one has all the ingredients for a Douglas Sirk movie--yet, frustratingly, all the dots of that backstory are never quite joined together as they might be. This scene is as close as it gets. 

    "Don't you understand?!" shouts Pam angrily. "JR and Bobby are not gonna roll over and play dead just because you want revenge. This thing could destroy all of us!" Her warning once again falls on deaf ears, as Rebecca retreats behind her customary veneer of a sort of impenetrable serenity. "This is something I have to do," she replies calmly, looking skyward.


"She wouldn't listen to reason. It scares me, Bobby," Pam tells her hubby back at the ranch. (It's a testament to Victoria Principal's outer beauty that she manages to look lovely in this scene despite the fact that her hair, face and lips have all turned a similar shade of copper.) "I sympathise. I really do," he replies, "but to tell you the truth, I have more on my mind right now than Cliff Barnes and your mother." Pam listens patiently as he rehashes his dilemma over the the McLeish brothers' offer: "It's too good to pass up ... I refuse to make a perfect deal just so JR can inherit it." Pam makes supportive noises, but admits she doesn't have an answer. "We may not have answers, but we got each other," he replies and they kiss. This is probably the first time since Season 1 that Pam and Bobby have made such a genuinely sweet (as opposed to wet) couple, which only makes their later split more poignant.

    Meanwhile, JR is at last making satisfactory progress with his investigation into "that Driscoll woman." "She doesn't have any kind of a schedule," reports Harry. "Just a hairdressing appointment, that's all." That's all JR needs to put the next phase of his plan into action. "I put you in a pretty compromising position," he tells Walt Driscoll apologetically over the phone before inviting "you and your new wife" out to dinner. Walt suggests they meet first for drinks at his place. "I don't want you puttin' yourself to any trouble," JR tells him, before hanging up the phone. "... Cos I'm bringin' the trouble with me," he adds, all but winking at the camera. The music swells, a fade to black--you know the drill.

    Day 3. By now, the McLeish brothers, tiring of Bobby's prevarication, have approached Cliff about investing in their deal. Unaware of this, Pam (exhibiting the kind of patience that she will soon run out of) keeps the brothers amused for an hour when an indecisive Bobby fails to show for a business lunch. (I like to imagine she used the time to pitch them her skin creams.) "They seem confident that the wells are gonna hit inside the year," she says persuasively when Bobby does show up, and he finally agrees to the deal that will go on to win him the company. (And it was Pam who swung it for him--ah, the irony.)

    Meanwhile, Cliff is holding forth during a cartel meeting at the Cattleman's Club. "I know you all respect Bobby Ewing," he tells them, "but in a year's time, JR's gonna be in control of that company ... The deals we make with Bobby now ultimately are gonna be to JR's advantage." "So you're suggesting we just don't deal with Ewing Oil, period?" asks Jordan. "JR has damaged all of us," Cliff replies. Marilee agrees with him, ("I wouldn't give JR the right time of day, much less some good deal.") and Curly and Moe go along for an easy life. It's hard to tell if this proposal is Cliff's way of moving in a new direction, Afton-style, or part of Rebecca's plan to make life as difficult as possible for JR. His words to Sue Ellen, whom he runs into on JR's arm as he exits the Cattleman's, suggest the latter: "I hope you haven't let him talk you into giving back any of that divorce settlement. You may be needing that money soon." Sue Ellen, anxious for all the screen time she can get, suggests to JR that they spend the afternoon together, but he is busy putting the finishing touches to his Scheme of the Week and so declines.

    We get our first glimpse of Walt Driscoll's wife as she canters out of Mr Michael's hair salon (as opposed to Mr David's, as favoured by Sue Ellen. Interesting that the two big set ups that bookend the season--JR's of Walt; Holly's of JR--both pivot on socialite wives with regular hair appointments). No sooner does Carol Driscoll get behind the wheel of her car than she knocks over a stunt guy, vaguely familiar from almost every bar fight in the series. The guy's pal (the one with the Guzzler Bennett perm) helps him to his feet and assures Carol that he'll be OK. The Guzzler look-alike advises her to "get out of here before the cops show up." Carol thrusts some money at the stunt fella and skedaddles. "I'd say we just saw a case of hit and run!" concludes JR from his vantage point of Harry McSween's car across the street.

    Walt and Carol are playing host to JR that evening when Harry makes his inevitable appearance. "But he wasn't hurt! That man I hit wasn't hurt!" protests Carol frantically when Harry gravely informs her that the stunt guy has been hospitalised and "is in serious condition." "Sergeant, we're awfully sorry," says Walt with amusing lameness. "I'm afraid I'll have to take her in," Harry insists. JR requests a few moments alone with the Driscolls and offers to intercede with Harry on their behalf: "I'd be stickin' my neck on this one, Walt." "JR, if you could see my wife out of this, I'd owe you. I really would." He agrees to help, then adds solemnly, "Carol, Walt, what are friends for?" Big music. Freeze frame. Credits.

    Elsewhere in this episode, Ray rips Mickey a new one after finding him gambling with his fellow cowboys while he's on the clock: "This isn't Vegas. This is a workin' ranch!" "What are you--my boss or my jailer?" asks Mickey. Then Ray and Donna take Mickey up to the main house to introduce him to the rest of the Ewings, save for the two who will impact his life most directly--Lucy and Sue Ellen. "I hope Texas appeals to you," Pam tells him sexily. "Always a pleasure to meet one of Ray's kinfolk," remarks JR dryly in the first of three brief encounters he has with Mickey during the season. "It's good to know there's a whole wagon load of Krebbses running the ranch now." "I'm not a Krebbs, I'm a Trotter," Mickey clarifies. "Oh. Well, I'm bound to sleep more soundly tonight knowing that," JR replies. 

    Miss Ellie finds herself going on a date after Frank Crutcher calls to ask her to lunch. "You are a very attractive, young and wealthy widow. Those invitations are gonna come in," Donna tells her encouragingly. We learn that Frank was married for 39 years. "Just two weeks short of our ruby anniversary she died," he tells Ellie. "I still have the necklace I bought her for that occasion ... I've been a widower for three years now. I know what you're going through and I know how lonely it can be." I like Frank; he's such a nice man.

    Lucy returns to modelling. Her new photographer, Funky Annie, appears to have wandered in from the set of FAME by mistake ("Girl, we gotta get cookin'!"). For reasons best known to I don't know who, Funky Annie dresses Lucy up as a bull-fighter for her new role as the Texas Cola Girl. The advertisers look on nervously ("She's got her hand in front of the label") and the whole thing's a bit of a mess. Where's that Roger Larsen magic when you need it? Rog may have turned out to be a bit of a hammy psychopath, but he at least knew how to get a Langdon-esque pout out of La Lucy. Couldn't he have been wheeled into the session, strapped onto a two-wheel gurney and wearing a hockey mask, Hannibal Lecter style? The FBI could have left his little finger free to work the camera. The photo shoot is interrupted, perhaps fortunately, when Lucy receives a call from her divorce lawyer, Mr Colton. Played by John Laroquette (from NIGHT COURT, apparently; I don't think that was ever shown over here), his defining characteristic seems to be that he eats chalk. His subsequent meeting with Lucy is the closest this season gets to a filler scene, as he suggests Mitch might feel entitled to part of her $5,000,000 inheritance. "I really feel as though we should contact him," he says. In spite of the fact that Mitch has spent every waking moment of the previous two seasons doing and saying everything he can to demonstrate how little interest he has in the Ewing money, Lucy agrees. 

    Oh thanks, that's very nice to hear. I remember thinking as I was writing it, "Well, I know I find this kind of thing interesting but I'm not sure anyone else will!"
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Ewing Touch"

    "Within forty-eight hours, all hell is gonna break loose around here," JR to Walt Driscoll after receiving his oil variance.

    Carl Hennessey, JR's go-to man when it comes to setting up dummy corporations, ("I have used holding companies, umbrellas; it would take forty-seven separate steps for anybody to figure out that you and Petro State are the same") makes his first appearance in the episode. So too does actor Josef Rainer who plays the parts supplier Bobby roughs up ("Either you give your supplies or I'm gonna take you apart and then I'm gonna get them myself!"). He will also appear as the young Sam Culver in THE EARLY YEARS, the advertising executive to whom Sue Ellen delivers her "I am selling SEX!" speech in Season 9, and as Dr Harry Glassman opposite Margaret Michaels' Pam in Season 11.

    JR now has his dummy corporation and his variance, but no one can figure out what he's up to. "JR, I still don't understand," puzzles Carl Hennessey. "You had me set up a dummy corporation to buy a company like that? ... That company's small potatoes." "... A lot of small potatoes mashed up together makes a pretty good meal," JR replies cryptically. "Sounds like you have a master-plan." "Yeah, I do. I've got a plan that's gonna guarantee me control of all of Ewing Oil." 

Walt Driscoll is equally baffled. "The OLM's giving you permission to pump full out if you want to," he tells JR, "though Lord knows why you would." "You let Him and me worry about that," JR replies. "The OLM's made quite a few enemies these past few years," Walt continues. "There's talk of putting it out of business. This may just help this along." 

    As news of JR's variance spreads throughout the episode, it looks as though Walt could be right. "The Office of Land Management is a farce ... If this unprecedented act doesn't give us a mandate to call for the OLM's dissolution, I don't know what does," pontificates Dave Culver. "The OLM is obviously corrupt," concurs step-mom Donna, recommending with her usual fire and brimstone that it be replaced by "a new energy commission, one that is responsible to the needs of the people and not just special interest groups!" It's ironic that JR (unintentionally) and Donna (forcefully) should play such key roles in the downfall of the OLM: In Season 1, JR did everything he could to get the office disbanded, including a failed attempt at blackmailing Donna into influencing her husband into withdrawing his support. Back then, however, Donna insisted that the OLM was "doin' a helluva job."

    "My debt to you is paid in full," says Walt as JR hastily bundles him off to the Caribbean. "All it may cost me is a job and a career ..." not to mention his marriage, his car, his sanity, and ultimately his life.

    "Ewing fields 1 through 17 will be pumping at maximum capacity," JR informs his bemused heads of department. "You all pump it. I'll take care of the rest." 

At least now we know why JR wanted Holly to buy that refinery five episodes ago, even if she doesn't. "It's about your refinery," he tells her during a pool-side business meeting. "See, you inherited a whole bunch of contracts from suppliers when you bought it. Now, a lot of those contracts are ready to expire in the next couple of weeks and I don't want you to renew 'em." "What good's a refinery without crude?" asks a bikinied Holly. "You'll be gettin' a whole lotta crude real soon," he assures her. "I really wish I understood what you're doin'," she sighs, before provocatively inviting him to stretch out next to her and explain it all. He declines the offer. "You mean you're givin' up on me without a fight?" she pouts. "I'm trying to stay pure for my wedding," he explains, "and if I remember correctly, you turned me down once already." "JR Ewin' doesn't take one no for an answer." "We have a nice relationship," he replies coolly. "I'd hate to mess it up." It's interesting that JR should be so aloof here, yet only a few episodes later, he will more or less rape Holly in his office.


It's a busy episode for Miss Ellie. She attends two court hearings and a political meeting, invites a man back to her place, receives a smack-down from a former friend, dresses up as a clown, travels back in time, and laughs as she has never laughed before. 

The first court hearing, for Christopher's adoption, takes place in the same courtroom where Jock was declared dead only three episodes earlier. Call it the Circle of Ewing Life, or the legal acknowledgement thereof.

    Following a celebration lunch, Ellie takes the opportunity to try and make peace with Rebecca. "You and I share a grandson now," she reminds her. "Let the two of us work together to put a stop to this family feud. Cliff has his own company now and JR is busy ... They really have no reason to fight each other." "That's a very fine attitude for you to have, Ellie," Rebecca replies archly, "but then again, it wasn't your son who almost died." It's not often we see someone answer back to Miss Ellie, (unless she's being played by Donna Reed) particularly not another woman. Fellow in-law Patricia Shepherd lets her have it in Season 8, but I'm not sure if that counts. Losing patience, Ellie reprises her "We're Ewings and we stick together" shtick from Season 4: "If it's a fight you want," she warns Rebecca, "just remember, other people have fought the Ewings before and they've regretted it." 

    Meanwhile, Funky Annie continues with her bizarre ad campaign: Lucy posing on rollerskates while dressed as Shirley Temple in front of a fake Roman balcony--does that say Texas Cola to you? "That was beautiful!" lies creepy client Bill (who as a child, escaped from the Nazis in lederhosen in THE SOUND OF MUSIC). When he tries to interest Lucy in some red wine and pasta, she panics: "I just can't mix business with my personal life ever again!" (except when it comes to modelling with Peter, going into business with Eddie or investing with Casey).


Back at Southfork, Miss Ellie assembles the rest of the clan for a toast "to the newest official member of the Ewing family, Christopher Ewing". There was a time when such a scene would have all sorts of dramatic undercurrents (particularly for JR), but the terms of Jock's will mean that the addition of another heir is no longer a source of dramatic conflict. Nevertheless, Ellie succeeds in wiping the smiles off everyone's faces with the news that she has invited Frank Crutcher to dinner the next evening. The family's surprised-into-silence reactions serve as a dummy run for their open-mouthed response to the news of Clayton and Ellie's engagement in Season 6.

    The following morning, Ellie finally finds time for a scene that, chronologically, should have taken place two weeks earlier, when it was described in the corresponding episode of KNOTS LANDING. She receives a visit from Bud of Bud's Automotive fame. "It's about Mr Ewing's car, ma'am ... The thing of it is, it was way overdue for servicin' ... So unless you plan to sell it or somethin', I should take it in." When he asks her for the keys, she looks momentarily thrown. "They must be up in the room somewhere," she murmurs and goes back inside the house to look for them. It's quite a poignant moment. Then she watches sadly as Jock's car is driven off.

    Gary picks up the story in KNOTS LANDING's "New Beginnings" episode: "I took a taxi out to the ranch. I had the driver drop me off at the fence ... I stood there by it, lookin' at the property for a long time, remembering how I used to love the ranch, but hated being there. Hated the way they treated me. All the resentment started boiling up in me again, and as I stood there, somebody drove Daddy's car out, a ranch hand. Daddy always had the biggest model of the biggest car, American of course, and I stood there watching it go down the road away from the ranch, and it was like all of a sudden I realised he was dead, and I felt like crying, which surprised me because all I'd been feeling was anger."

    There's a cool frame-within-a-frame shot of Ray entering the Stud Barn at Southfork, but the stud he is looking for, Mickey, is nowhere to be found. Eventually, Ray finds him hanging out with a couple of chicks in a bar. "Here comes the warder," cracks Mickey, continuing his theme of jail-related put-downs ("I didn't have to leave Kansas to go to prison", "Are you my boss or my jailer?" etc.). The conversation that follows is reminiscent of the Season 4 barroom showdown between Bobby and Ray (Ray: "Will you get off my back, please?" Bobby: "I will as soon as you shape up, and shape up means running Southfork the way it's supposed to be run"). "From now on, I'm your shadow," Ray snarls at Mickey. "That means I'm on your tail day and night. I'm either gonna make you or I'm gonna break you!" 

This is a turning point for Mickey and Ray's relationship and leads on to what Marky describes as "the most nakedly homoerotic exchange in DALLAS history". "Ridin' a horse is much better than cleanin' up after one," a saddle-carrying Ray informs his cousin, "When I get through with you, you'll be as comfortable on a horse as you are on a bar stool." "Why don't we just forget this?" replies a nervous Mickey, standing braced against Ray's truck. Ray stands behind him, rubbing his shoulders. "By the time I get through with you, you'll be able to ride just as well as I do," he assures him. (And after this scene, Mickey never plays hooky again.)


Over pre-dinner cocktails, Ellie reveals to Frank Crutcher and the Andersons that "when Jock and I were first married, he used to threaten to send me out to cooking school." Punk sidles up to JR for a quiet word. "JR, I've been hearin' rumours," he murmurs. "Did you really get a variance to pump full out?" "Oh come on now, Punk," chides JR. "You know Mama doesn't like business discussions before dinner." Then Bobby marches into the living room for a confrontation with his brother. "Whatever it is, it's gonna have to wait till tomorrow. Nothin's more important than what's goin' on right now," deflects JR. "When was the last time you saw Mama laugh like that?" Bobby looks over to where Miss Ellie stands with Frank, cackling lustily over some Queen Anne china-related anecdote. "Not since before Daddy died," he replies. (Frankly, I don't think I've ever heard Miss Ellie laugh like that, before or since.)

    Later, Bobby finds his mother sitting thoughtfully in the kitchen wearing a clown costume, or at least a night-dress with a frilly collar that looks a bit like a clown costume. "It felt strange, seeing you with another man," he admits. "He's been very kind ... but he's just a friend, that's all," she replies. "Nobody will ever take your daddy's place." And this is perhaps the moment where Ellie decides not to take the relationship with Frank any further.

    Returning to the courthouse for Lucy's divorce hearing, Miss Ellie sits next to a woman who looks like, but surely can't be, Serena the hooker. Nobody else in the episode seems to know or care anything about the demise of Mitch and Lucy, or Moosey as they would likely be referred to today.

    Cliff takes losing out on the McLeish brothers' Canadian deal philosophically, until he finds out he was beaten by Bobby. Not only that, but "his wife helped out??" Any doubts that Cliff has rejoined the Barnes/Ewing feud are dispelled with his vow to "turn the Ewing empire into a broken down, two-pump filling station." "Fine," sighs Afton, "but you're gonna have to do it with brains, Cliff. Not passion." Her words fall on deaf ears as Cliff and Pam have one of their enjoyably familiar "Pam, you're a Ewing through and through" spats at Reunion Tower, the establishing shot of which will become the opening image of the revamped title sequence in Season 7. "You made your choice on the Barnes/Ewing feud," he tells her. "No Cliff, you made my choice for me." "To fight against your brother." "To fight with my husband." "Against me." "Well that's your choice." An element of sibling rivalry for their mother's affections creeps into their squabble. "This stupid feud is gonna cost you what little family you have!" snaps Pam. "If this battle with the Ewings goes on, me and Mama will be together," Cliff retorts, "I won't be the one to lose the family. You will!" The eventual outcome, of course, is that they will both lose her and be left with only each other. I've always liked the way this scene ends, with Cliff storming off and Pam angrily throwing to the ground the money that he has left on the table. 

    While Cliff sulks, Afton sets the scene for next week's episode. "Why don't you come to the club tonight, huh?" she suggests. "It's getting to be the place in town ... A lot of influential people are dropping in. I've met some of them. They'd be good contacts for you, people you should socialise with."

    Cliff is then called away to an emergency gathering of the cartel. Almost simultaneously, Donna tells Miss Ellie that she has been asked by Dave to attend an urgent, if generic sounding, "political meeting" and invites her along. The subject of both meetings: the breaking news that JR has been granted a variance by Walt Driscoll, who has taken a sudden vacation. "JR's up to something. Now we all know that," declares Marilee at the Cattleman's. "We gotta find out what he's up to, we gotta stop him!" yelps Cliff in agreement.

    A similar sentiment is echoed at Donna's meeting (which appears to be taking place at the bottom of Holly Harwood's garden). "What upset me the most was so many of those people were Jock's friends," frets Miss Ellie afterwards. "Seeing them turn against Ewing Oil, it's difficult ... You know, Donna, someday somebody's gonna have to stop him." "I'm afraid you're right," Donna agrees. What neither woman yet realises is that they will both soon try to stop JR; Miss Ellie in court, Donna as part of the Texas Energy Commission. 

    One of the "influential people" Afton was telling Cliff about is Gil Thurman, owner of "one of the biggest refineries in Texas. I wanna buy it," JR tells him. Like everyone else in the episode, (except for maybe Funky Annie) Gil wants to know why. "Maybe first you oughta tell me exactly what you're gonna do with all that oil." "What any good oil man would do," JR replies, "sell it, make a healthy profit, and make sure that the company my daddy founded is headed by the man who can best run it. Me." Gil pulls a face, as if to say, "Don't hand me that end of episode rhetoric bull." JR chuckles. Freeze frame.

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  15. Matthew Blaisdel

    Matthew Blaisdel Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    past orbit, on the way out of the solar system
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Fringe Benefits"

    An unusual episode, in that the central plot--Cliff and JR pursuing the same refinery, helped (or hindered) by their respective lady friends--is both introduced and resolved within the space of a TV hour. As such, it fits (along with "Trouble at Ewing 23", "The Search" and the crap one from Season 11 where Bobby and JR are stuck in an elevator) into a select subgroup of post-Season 2 episodes which could almost be described as self-contained.

    The instalment opens with JR sitting down to a candle-lit dinner prepared by Sue Ellen's own fair hands. Given that her most strenuous domestic activity thus far was half-heartedly watering a plant in Season 4, this is quite an achievement. "Now that I know my way around a kitchen, I kind of enjoy it," she reveals. Despite JR's suggestion that "we can have a lot of quiet little dinners like this when you move back to Southfork," Sue Ellen's culinary skills are never exhibited again after this episode. They're merely a dramatic contrivance to give her some involvement in JR's latest scheme. (Similarly, Pam will cook one solitary meal for Bobby in-between their divorce and remarriage, before handing the oven gloves back to Teresa for good in Season 9.) "I'm tryin' to buy this refinery from Gil Thurman and he's comin' on a little stubborn," JR explains, "and it just occurred to me, dinner was so wonderful tonight that we could entertain him right here. You know, treat him like royalty. You could turn on that charm of yours. It'd help me a lot." "Just how much charm?" asks Sue Ellen warily. "I'll leave that up to your exquisite taste," he smirks.

    This episode also provides us with our last chance to hear Afton sing, prior to her challenging Henna 'n' Synthesiser phase of Season 11. "And when there's nothing left for me to do, I will still be loving yooooo-hoooooo-uuuuuuu," she trills for an audience of delighted extras, once again shaking their heads in disbelief at her sheer musical brilliance. The performance takes place at the club referred to only as The Club, which boasts the same establishing shot as The Disco where Mitch worked as a valet in Season 3.

    This The Club is presumably the same The Club as the one where Afton made her debut as a sophisticated (as opposed to saloon) singer back in Season 4, in front of Cliff, Sue Ellen and Clayton. It doesn't seem quite as classy a joint as it did then, however. At the conclusion of her set, Afton is approached her boss who tells her, "There's a man over there who's very anxious to meet you, name of Gil Thurman. He's important." From his tone, it would seem that schmoozing sleazy customers is part of Afton's job description. And they don't come much sleazier than Gil Thurman, played by the impressively sinister Albert Salmi. He strokes her bare arm by way of greeting. "You and me, we know some folks in common," he drawls lazily. "As a matter of fact, they're some relatives of yours. The Ewings." "The Ewings are not my relatives," she tells him firmly. "I'm includin' in-laws, like Lucy Ewing Cooper bein' married to your brother," he persists. "Not anymore," she replies. (Interesting that this is the first time since their actual divorce that anyone has acknowledged Lucy and Mitch's split. In fact, this is the only reference to Lucy in this episode, La Tilton having been given the week off. No sign of Mickey either--probably still a little saddle sore after last week's riding lesson from Ray.) "Listen, I have no connection to the Ewings," Afton continues. My, how times have changed--when she arrived in Dallas back in Season 3, Afton did everything she could to capitalise on her new family connections; now, she couldn't be more keen to disassociate herself from them. That kind of evolution is part of what makes her such a rich supporting character. "I might just have me a deal going with the numero uno Ewing, JR hisself," boasts Gil. "I own a refinery, one of the biggest and best in Texas." "I see. And JR has his eye on it?" asks Afton, suddenly interested. She invites him back the following night. "I really would like to see you again," she tells him.

    Later, she recounts the meeting to Cliff. "Is he important?" she asks of Thurman. "Well, he thinks he's more important than he is, but he's in there," he replies. It's a good description: Gil might be rich by most people's standards, but there's something shabbily low status about him. We get a strong sense of someone decadent and burnt out--a kind of Don Simpson of the Dallas oil community, perhaps. (Admittedly, it's hard not to let the circumstances of Albert Salmi's death inform my impression of the characters he played. And as good as he is as Thurman, he was even better as Alec Baldwin's tormented minister father in KNOTS LANDING.) It might have been interesting had JR become a similarly debauched, desperate character in the series' final years, instead of a mopey grandpa. "I bet JR does wanna buy his refinery," chuckles Cliff when Afton clues him in on the pending deal. "He needs a refinery cos he's up to his gills [pun intended?] in crude right now."

    Cliff wastes no time in assembling a meeting of the cartel. "I just found out JR's put a bid in on a refinery. I wanna up that price and beat him to it ... I just wanna find out if you three had any interest." True to form, Jordan and Andy are dubious. "Should we pursue this just because Cliff wants to stick it to JR?" wonders Andy. "True," concedes Cliff, "nothing would give me more pleasure than to kick JR's butt but [what's with all the word play in this ep, Cliffy?] that's not the only interest I have in spendin' that kind of money ... If we can get this and the price is right, we'd be crazy not to take it." "I think we should pursue it," declares Marilee, and Curly and Moe fall into line behind her.

    The importance of Thurman's refinery to JR is underlined during a meeting with Russell Slater, last seen helping him ruin Cliff at the end of Season 4. "Russell, you're the best broker in the business," JR reminds the audience. "Are you tellin' me there's not one single refinery for sale?" "Not in Texas, there isn't," Slater replies. "As a matter of fact, not in the whole South West ... The last refinery sale I remember was to Harwood Oil. You know the company?" It's fun to see JR feign ignorance here: "Harwood? Yeah, yeah. I think I do." Russell advises him to keep after Thurman ("I think it's your only shot"), and so JR calls Gill to invites him to dinner at Sue Ellen's townhouse (56 Fair Oaks Grove, in case anyone feels the need to make a pilgrimage) the following night. Somewhat pathetically, Gil keeps JR waiting while he pretends to consult his diary before accepting. "Sue Ellen'll be real pleased," smarms JR. "She's been lookin' forward to meetin' you."

    That night, Afton introduces Cliff to Gil at The Club. "Whatever JR's offer is, I would like the opportunity to meet it and better it," says Cliff. "What would interest me is not a better offer," Gil replies, "but a deal that had a little somethin' extra in it, somethin' that would make me happy personal." His exact meaning might be lost on Cliff, ("Yeah OK, whatever it takes") but Afton sure catches his drift. Thanks to the camera moving in on her dismayed face as the two men talk, we also realise that Gil's idea of "a little somethin' extra" is Afton herself.

    The scene in which JR helps Sue Ellen plan the menu for Gil's dinner party is quite amusing. He vetoes her suggestion of Plait du Poisson d' avocat a la creme ("Not bad for high school French") and Jock's favourite wine in favour of "a coupla of steaks" accompanied by bourbon. "With dinner?" asks Sue Ellen. "Before, with and after." "Darlin', who are you inviting--King Kong?" The discussion then moves on to her wardrobe. "Mrs Chambers brought down three dresses for you to look at." (Evidently, Sue Ellen's new-found domesticity doesn't extend to taking her own clothes out of the closet.) JR makes his choice, a low cut glittery number. "Why did you choose the sexiest?" she asks. "It's called the old Ewing one-two," he explains. "Gil likes pretty ladies, and the sight of you in that will set him up, and I'll move in for the kill, and between us, we'll buy ourselves a refinery." By now, the audience understands that Gil is interested in more than pretty dresses, and it's starting to look as though JR's plan has "disaster" written all over it.

    Sure enough, the evening gets off to an awkward start as Gil arrives on Sue Ellen's doorstep with JR nowhere to be seen. While she pours him a drink, ("I started with bourbon about three hours ago. I guess I might as well stay with the winnin' ticket!") Gil makes a cack-handed attempt at social chit chat: "The last I heard was you and Clayton Farlow's kid were off to San Angelo." "That's really none of your business," Sue Ellen replies. She then spends the next hour fending off his alcoholic advances: "Why don't you and me split, leave a note for JR: 'Gone Fishin', go to my place? Then you won't have to worry about bein' walked in on." Finally, JR arrives, full of excuses ("I had an emergency! One of my wells caught on fire!") and bonhomie. It's too little, too late as far as Gil's concerned: "Frankly, I don't think we've got any business to talk over because I haven't heard the right offer yet ... Thank-you for the booze. Good-night." "Sue Ellen, what the hell did you do wrong?" yells JR. "You used me," she retorts. "He wanted me to go to bed with him right now! You knew he was gonna come on to me like that." "Are you sayin' I was usin' you like a hooker?"

    As tempting as it is to consider, it's clear that JR wasn't expecting Sue Ellen to bed down with "that disgustin' animal". So the question remains, why involve her at all? If JR knows Gil well enough to know how he likes his steaks, ("Just throw 'em on the barbecue and char 'em real black; he likes 'em well done") then surely he's familiar with his appetite in other areas. Why not just set Thurman up with a call girl? As JR says to Sue Ellen, "I've been in business a lot of years and if I think I can close a deal with a client by offerin' him a hooker, I'd do it, honey, I admit it!" And after all, isn't that what the "bees" are all about? Possibly, it's a test to see if the soon-to-be Mrs JR Ewing can be incorporated into JR's business schemes, (in the way that he and Cally execute a more successful version of "the old Ewing one-two" on Gustav Hellstrom in Season 11) but the stakes seem rather high to take such a chance in this case. If nothing else, it at least provides Linda Gray with one last opportunity to do "angry acting" before settling down to sixteen episodes of marital bliss.

    Meanwhile, Afton wonders if there's any way she can avoid the inevitable. "Is it really worth getting into this refinery deal just to spite JR?" she asks Cliff. "There's more to it than that," he insists, oblivious to her reasons for asking. "Beyond the value of the investment ... I'm thinking about me and the cartel ... See, don't forget the last time I was up against JR, I got suckered, and they know that. So I've got to prove to them that I can do it. I've just got to. And I've got to prove it to myself. Oh, Afton, look, this might be the most important deal of my whole life!"

    Later, Afton sits with Gil at The Club. "Why don't we turn the cards face up?" he suggests. "At this point, I guess you could call me a wealthy man. I wanna sell the refinery ... Frankly, I don't care who I sell it to ... What I'm interested in are the fringe benefits." He strokes her arm again. This time she recoils and gets to her feet. He grabs her wrist. "Oh, that's a shame. I guess I'm just gonna have to call JR and tell him he's got it. Barnes really wants my refinery, doesn't he?" She sits back down.

    Next morning, she shows up at Cliff's. "I was working kinda late last night so I just went straight back to my place," she explains. "I finally figured out why this deal is so important to me," burbles Cliff excitedly. "Because once, just once, I would like to beat JR in a straight deal. No trickery, no chicanery, but just because I'm the best man." "I have a feeling you'll get the refinery," she murmurs flatly. Adorable as Afton is, she isn't quite as adorable here as she is adorably shrewd in Season 4 or adorably sympathetic in Season 6. Instead, most of her scenes in this episode seem to end with her staring into space and looking a bit glum. We won't really feel the impact of her ordeal until Thurman returns in seven episodes' time, looking for "another ride on the roller-coaster."

    Later, Cliff receives a visit from Gil who confirms what Afton has already predicted. ("You're the winner ... The King of the Deal Makers has lost it ... You know how to put a deal together.") He heads straight for JR's office: "I've got a news item for you and I just didn't want you to hear it from anyone else but me ... I just closed a deal for the Thurman refinery right underneath your nose." "... Are you really gonna cross me again?" JR asks. "Yeah, but this time I'm not comin' up against you alone. I've got the whole cartel behind me. As a matter of fact, I've got every independent oil man in the State of Texas on my side ... Now you're alone. You've got nobody. You've got nothin' but your ocean of oil to drown in." JR chuckles, but once Cliff has gone, his face rearranges itself into a scowl.

    While this storyline dominates the episode, the scenes that surround it ratchet up the sense of impending disaster regarding the fight for Ewing Oil and are actually more interesting.

    Speculation is still running high over JR's variance. Even Sue Ellen is curious. "I'm really tryin' very hard to understand this. I do read the papers and I know there's a surplus of oil and you're still pumpin' full out and on top of that, you wanna buy a refinery. Now what is goin' on?" she asks. "Darlin', it's just too complicated to explain," JR replies. Miss Ellie is not so easily patronised. "A lot of oil men are up in arms over what you're doing!" she tells her son. "Is that Miss Ellie I hear talkin', or Frank Crutcher?" wonders JR. Punk turns to Bobby for an explanation instead. "Being the administrator of your daddy's estate," he tells him, "I've got a moral responsibility to see that these assets are properly conserved, so to speak ... Your mother and me and the oil community are not only puzzled, but we're alarmed at what's goin' on. Why did JR get a variance on oil production and why did the OLM give it to him?" "Or, why is he pumping his fields to capacity and what's he doin' with all the oil?" adds Bobby. "You got any answers?" Punk asks. "No, I don't." Bobby explains that he has made a vow to keep his nose out of JR's side of the company: "He's got a right to run his half of Ewing Oil whatever way he sees fit." However, this commendable sense of fair play can't hold for much longer. "I tell you, there's a lot of people breathe easier if you could get some inklin' of what's goin' on," Punk persists, and Bobby reluctantly agrees to make some enquiries on his behalf. A call to the Ewing refinery reveals to hear that JR has not increased his production output there. ("If anything we're down a little," he is told. "Maybe a few hundred barrels.") Bobby is confused (and so am I, come to that). "Well, what is JR doin' with all that oil?" he wonders aloud.

    There are a couple of interesting scenes with John Maclin, a never seen before, never heard of again buddy of Jock's, who tries to enlist first JR and then Bobby in a long range oil deal. Each of them declines, explaining that they can't risk investing in a venture that won't pay off until after the contest for control of the company is over. "You two aren't buildin' Ewing Oil, you're usin' it for a battlefield," Maclin tells Bobby. "Ewing Oil may be a shambles by the end of the year." This is the first real warning that the fight could spiral out of control and end up destroying the very legacy it was put in place to protect. This note of impending doom is echoed by Miss Ellie. "I'm just so afraid that their rivalry is gonna tear the family apart," she tells Ray fretfully. "Each passing week, I see it getting worse ... I've never been so afraid for my family."

    In between whipping up cordon bleu dinners, speaking high school French, trying to make sense of the financial section of the Dallas Press and fending off amorous drunks, Sue Ellen also finds time for an arm-in-arm stroll with Pam. For the first time, they acknowledge how their relationship has changed since the series began. "I hated you when Bobby first brought you to Southfork," Sue Ellen admits. "That's funny. You never showed it," Pam replies dryly. "But then, you were so wonderful to me when JR and I were fighting over John Ross ... " The two women agree not to let their husbands' rivalry sour their new found friendship. On one hand, this is a bit of a shame--Sue Ellen's cynical jibes towards Pam during the first three years of the series added an edge to her character and some zing to the Ewing family gatherings, and without it, her character will take a step closer to Nice Woman Linda Gray territory. On the other hand, it makes sense that Sue Ellen would attempt to re-enter Southfork life on a more positive footing, and it is to DALLAS's credit that it rarely resorted to generic bitchiness purely for the sake of it.

    Pam's relationship with Rebecca is faring less well: "Mother, I feel very bad. Christopher's growing and changing every day, and it's such a shame you're not seeing it happen ... After all we went through to get our baby, you just turn away."

    All of this leads up to the best scene of the episode, (Miss Ellie's scene with Ray running it a close second) as Pam and Bobby argue over the terms of Jock's will for the very first time. "It's ruining our lives, Bobby. All of us," Pam complains, somehow managing to keep her dignity while bobbing about on an inflatable lilo in a sexy pink bathing suit. "My mother can't bring herself to even come to Southfork anymore ... Sue Ellen is my friend and we want to stay friends, but I don't know if that's even possible now ... and worst of all, you and JR at each other's throats. Do you know what that's doing to Miss Ellie? Why didn't Jock think of his own wife when he wrote that will? ..." "Pamela, that's just the way it is and we're gonna have to live with it," Bobby replies. "Why do we have to?" she asks subversively. "Why don't we take Christopher and move away, just leave?" Hmm, whenever Pam talks about leaving the ranch, you know it's serious. "And give Ewing Oil back to JR on a silver platter?" "Oh to hell with Ewing Oil!" "All right, we leave. And we leave Mama to JR's tender mercies. Is that what you want? ... My daddy put a challenge to me in that will, and somewhere in that challenge is his confidence in me, confidence that I might have even just a little bit of what he had, of the guts that it took to build Ewing Oil, and if he had the confidence in me, Pam, I'm not gonna back off. Not now and not ever." This kind of fighting talk, when Bobby really connects with what it means to be Jock Ewing's son, is probably the dialogue that Patrick Duffy delivers with most conviction.
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "The Wedding."

    Jack Bauer voice: "The following takes place during the four days leading up to and including the morning of JR and Sue Ellen's wedding."

    DAY 1: Clayton arrives at Southfork by helicopter just time for the wedding rehearsal. He is greeted with a hug and a peck on the cheek from Miss Ellie, which is considerably more affection than she's displayed on any of their previous meetings (which have consisted of a few friendly-but-awkward exchanges at the Southern Cross, and some iced tea chit-chat at last year's barbecue). In this episode, their relationship shifts from acquaintance to friendship as Ellie invites him to stay with the family until after the wedding ("It'll be so nice to have you"). He also meets future best buds Donna and Ray for the first time.

    As the Ewings rehearse their wedding moves on the patio, (the unusually informal atmosphere and hand-held camera work almost making it seem like we're observing the actors rehearsing) an almost unseen Mickey lurks in the background. Bored, he slips inside the house. Lucy finds him in the kitchen, idly inspecting the wedding silver. "You better get out of here before I call somebody," she tells him. "You wanna call for help? Go ahead," he shrugs, casually brandishing a knife in her direction. "You remind me of someone," she observes ironically. "He's in jail." "How come you're not in that weddin' number?" he asks. "I was at the first JR and Sue Ellen wedding," she tells him nonchalantly. "Once was enough." (Her off-camera reason relates to the advanced state of Charlene Tilton's pregnancy when filming of this season began, which is why she doesn't appear in any of the Texas location scenes). "The family rebel, huh?" he replies, before suggesting that that gives them something in common. Lucy refutes this notion. "Maybe you're right, Miz Ewing," he smirks. "It must be easy to be a rebel when you're rich."

    There's a fun moment where JR, asked by the minister about the identity of his best man, replies: "Who else? My brother Bobby," which takes everyone, not least of all Bobby himself, by surprise. Bobby will stand up for JR again when he marries Cally in Season 11 and JR returns the favour at Bobby's weddings to Jenna and Pam, but by then the brothers have become boringly close and the joke is lost (although Bobby does at least get to threaten JR with physical violence as Pam walks down the aisle in Season 9).

    The rehearsal over, the family disperse for the day: Sue Ellen invites Pam to accompany her to a dress fitting for the wedding; JR goes into Dallas where he first tricks Holly into selling certain assets to his dummy corporation ("Who's Petro-State?" she asks) before taunting Cliff with an invitation to the wedding; and Bobby heads for Ewing Oil where a "mad as hell" Jordan Lee is waiting for him:

    "Your brother's what's the matter!" yells Jordan. "He's pumpin' oil out of the ground like there's no tomorrow! ... He's duckin' everyone. He's not even takin' his phone calls ... Walt Driscoll's done a disappearing act. We figure it's because he was bought and paid for by Ewing Oil." Bobby has been smiling condescendingly throughout Jordan's rant, but this last part gets his attention: "My half of Ewing Oil had nothin' to do with it," he insists. "Bobby, JR is up to somethin' and we want him stopped now!" Jordan replies. Bobby gives him the same spiel he gave Punk in last week's episode: "JR sticks to his half of the business and I stick to mine." "As far as the oil community's concerned, they don't give a damn who's half is what," retorts Jordan. "JR's activities are taintin' Ewing Oil, the company - period ... Lemme tell you somethin'. Bettin' around town is JR's gonna chew you up for breakfast and spit you out. Year from now, he'll have the company and you'll end up with the hind end of nothin', and nobody in town will deal with anybody named Ewin'." So much for the bonhomie with which Jordan toasted Bobby's future success at the beginning of the season. He's on his way out the door when Bobby's voice stops him: "Jordan! You're dead wrong, and when all this is over, you and the boys are gonna be linin' up outside that office door to do business with me--the President of Ewing Oil--and not JR!" Bobby's simmering, building anger is a thread that runs counterpoint to the wedding through the episode. Spurred into action by Jordan's words, he sets up a meeting with Ewing Oil's accountants and geologists.

    Back at the ranch, Ray puts Mickey's nose out of joint by telling him to stay away from Lucy. "Oh, I get it," Mickey snaps. "Grubby ranch hand shouldn't mess around with Miss Moneybags. She's a Ewing and that's too good for me, right? ... Hey, maybe I oughta go into town and get myself some tramp! That's more my style, isn't it?!" The poor-boy chip on Mickey's shoulder is a heck of a lot more entertaining than the one that was on Mitch's, that's for dang sure.

    Meanwhile, Clayton nearly chokes on his lemonade when Miss Ellie casually tells him that she was "afraid it might upset you, giving Sue Ellen away" - until he realises she's referring to not to his own secret crush, but to Sue Ellen's past with Dusty. "Things change," he shrugs. "My only regret is that Dusty's not in the oil business like your boys ... Jock was a lucky man. At least two of his sons carried on his work and while he lived, he had a lovely and devoted wife by his side ... Must be nice to have a big family around. Sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren. I know the boys are in competition right now, but still, I think I envy you, Miss Ellie."

    Pam, Sue Ellen, JR and Bobby reconvene at Southfork for cocktails that evening. Still fired up from his meeting with Jordan, Bobby tries to get some answers out of his brother. "Bob, I thought we'd decided not to discuss business at home," JR reminds him. Miss Ellie and Clayton appear just in time to hear Bobby accuse JR of "draggin' my reputation down in the mud with you, and the reputation of the Ewing name!" "You still think being surrounded by family is so wonderful?" Ellie asks Clayton ruefully. This is another example of how well structured this season is: Clayton's stay at Southfork coincides with the precise moment JR and Bobby's business rivalry spills over into the family's home life. Consequently, he is in a prime position to offer Miss Ellie a shoulder to lean on, and as the brothers' fight intensifies throughout the rest of the season, so does their unspoken courtship.

    DAY 2: Bobby has assembled an array of accountants, geologists and bit players in his office. "The problem is, this company is not gonna be in two halves forever," he explains, "and when it is a reunited Ewing Oil, I need to know what the effects of [JR's] all-out pumping are gonna be ... tax-wise, geologically, everything." He tells the men they have twenty-four hours to put their reports together.

    Bobby isn't the only one fretting about JR and his variance. "I'm real concerned about the way you're operating your half of the business," Punk tells JR over a drink. "I'm gonna remind you again that I'm the administrator of your daddy's will ... I'll stop you if I have to. I know this isn't what your daddy intended because I was there when he wrote the codicil. Now you be a good boy and start playing by the rules or I'm gonna blow the whistle on ya!" Punk gives good ultimatum, but there's nothing he can actually do to stop JR. Nevertheless, Larry Hagman has the good grace to look rattled at the end of the scene.

    That evening, Donna and Ray go out dancing with Bobby and Pam. (This may be 1982, but it seems disco isn't dead after all. Perhaps Rick James woke up after a badly written dream and found it taking a shower.) While Ray and Donna are getting their funky on, Pam frets over the discovery that "Donna's the one behind the big push for the new energy commission through the senate." Dave Culver gate-crashes the party with some political flim-flam which boils down to: "We have to announce upfront that somebody with a state-wide reputation for integrity will serve on the commission. Everyone agreed that you're the right person, Donna ..." Donna makes the usual self-deprecating noises, but we all know she secretly believes she should be President. Disregarding Pam's misgivings, ("If Donna's involved, it's gonna turn into a three-sided family fight") Ray and Bobby encourage Donna to accept the position. "I think your first order of business should be to get rid of that variance JR got from the OLM," Bobby tells her firmly before leading Pam onto the dance floor in the hope of getting her to reprise her slinky mini-series boob wiggle. "Well, that's a different Bobby," observes Dave, becoming the first of several characters this season to comment on the Bobster's transformation into a leaner, meaner Ewing.

    In contrast to all these JR-fixated characters, Clayton and Miss Ellie agree that "tonight, there are no problems" as they break bread together in a very nice restaurant scene. "To a gracious and lovely lady," toasts Clayton. "To the most considerate of men," counter-compliments Ellie. "You know, you and Jock would have gotten on very well ... You really remind me of him very much." Coming from the woman who recently described Jock as "the finest man that God ever put on this earth", this is no faint praise. Indeed, Clayton is never more warmly likeable than he is here and during the remainder of Season 5. But wait ... who's that sitting in a booth near the back of the restaurant? It's Rebecca! Much like Mickey in the opening scene, she has been there all along, but we only gradually become aware of her presence. She notices Clayton and Ellie just in time to see him reach across the table to take her hand. The camera moves in close on Rebecca's dismayed reaction: the reluctant witness to the birth of a twinkly romance. "I think I'd like to go home now," she says quietly to her oblivious dining partner, Cliff. And that's it: the most explicit indication we get that Rebecca has feelings for Clayton. While so much of Rebecca's story feels underdeveloped, there's something satisfyingly poignant, even dignified, about the way her emotions in this regard remain unspoken.

    Day 3: Having already skipped the wedding rehearsal, Lucy takes a modelling assignment in Galveston (with that slimy little man from THE SOUND OF MUSIC) in order to avoid the big day itself: "I don't wanna be here when Sue Ellen messes up her life again," she tells Grandma. "She started to become a decent person when she was away from JR." (She did??) "Yes, well I remember you didn't like the old Sue Ellen very much," replies Miss Ellie diplomatically. "I have a feeling I'm not gonna like the new Sue Ellen much more," Lucy replies. Ain't that the truth?

    Last week, Pam suggested to Bobby that they take Christopher and move away from the ranch. During the final scene to take place at Bette Davis Towers, (Good-bye, "Sweet Mrs Chambers"; we hardly knew ye) Sue Ellen makes a similar suggestion to JR: "You know, everything would be just about perfect if it weren't for all those tensions at Southfork ... Do you suppose, just suppose, that you and John Ross could move in here after the wedding ... just until the battle for Ewing Oil is over?" No prizes for guessing JR's response: "Darlin', I can't leave Southfork. It's my home and, more important, it's John Ross's home ... I've gotta protect my inheritance and yours and John Ross's." In retrospect, his next words--"If there's gonna be a fight, I'll do what I have to"--sound like a warning, as one of the things JR will "have to do" is Holly Harwood. "And you should too, honey," he continues, "cos you're in this with me." "You're absolutely right," Sue Ellen acquiesces. "We are in this together, and I guess we both have to do what we have to do."

    Bobby reconvenes with his geologists and accountants, who aren't very optimistic about the long-term effects of JR's pumping-to-capacity policy: "Not very sound management of tax benefits ... I'm worried about the older wells ... I see problems ahead."

    Back at Southfork, it's suddenly pre-dinner cocktail time again. (I remember writer Clive James once observing how mealtimes on DALLAS seem to occur every twelve minutes.) Clayton and JR are on one side of the living room having an unlikely discussion about football, while Sue Ellen and Miss Ellie are on the other, listening agog to Pam's eye-witness account of an aerobiser "in a string bikini the size of a stamp". They are interrupted by a furiously determined Bobby. "Here!" he exclaims, thrusting a sheath of papers at JR. "Reports from our geologists and our accountants ... You can't pretend that everything is normal anymore. Every one of those men thinks that you're tryin' to do is gonna ruin the future of Ewing Oil!" "Bobby," Ellie intervenes, "I'd like it better if you discussed this with JR in private." "I have tried, Mama, and I know how you feel about all this too: 'Let's not argue about business in front of the family', but don't you understand that when we're quiet about things like this, it plays right into his hands? It becomes a cover up for JR?"

    Here, Bobby has put his finger on a key component of the Ewing family dynamic: a policy of denial enforced by Jock and Miss Ellie and adhered to by the rest of the family. Without this unspoken agreement to look the other way, would JR really have been able to extricate Lucy from both her parents to be raised, essentially, as an orphan? And how else to explain Sue Ellen's unchecked alcohol consumption during the first seven months of her pregnancy? "Bobby, don't fault JR," said Miss Ellie warningly back in "Reunion" (Season 1). In other words, don't dig too deep, don't uncover the truth. "I'm not gonna do it anymore!" Bobby tells her now. "I want everything out in the open!" How ironic that Bobby will soon be more involved than ever in concealing, sometimes even colluding in, his brother's crimes rather than exposing them.

    JR blithely dismisses Bobby's concerns. "I certainly don't need any advice from you on how to run an oil company," he chuckles. "Well, maybe this is one time you do need some," pipes up Pam. "Pamela, I thought we agreed to let our men run Ewing Oil," responds Sue Ellen coolly. "Can't you see what JR's trying to do?" pleads Pam. "Yes," replies Sue Ellen, making eye contact with her husband, "he's protecting what is rightfully his." This is Sue Ellen "doing what she has to," just as she promised JR that morning. He raises his glass to her in acknowledgement. "Well, what about what's rightfully Bobby's?" Pam snaps at her. This has erupted into one of those terrific six-way living room arguments that haven't been seen since Jock was alive and that reached a kind of zenith in Season 2, in which every character has a specific point of view and at least one zinger line of dialogue with which to exacerbate and advance the conflict. "I'm simply trying to carry out the terms of Daddy's will!" insists JR, playing the part of Mr Reasonable. "Daddy never thought you'd use that will to destroy Ewing Oil!" shouts Bobby. "Butt out, Bob," JR replies. Bobby makes a grab for his brother, affording Clayton his first attempt to play peacekeeper. "Gentlemen, gentlemen--" he begins before Ellie takes over, riding herd on her boys: "All right, that's enough. Stop it! Tomorrow, there's gonna be a wedding in this house ... JR, I'm very pleased that you and Sue Ellen and John Ross will be reunited under this roof, but I am not pleased to stand by and see this family torn apart because of the terms of Jock's will!" "Daddy's will is crystal clear," replies JR unrepentantly, "and because of that will, the chips will have to fall where they may."

    Day 4: The morning of the wedding, but there's still time for a couple of strong female two-hander scenes before the celebrations get underway.

    First, to Antioch Drive where we join Rebecca mid-incredulity. "Cliff is going to the wedding??" she asks Afton. "I don't believe it! ... Those damned Ewings!" "... I think that he's still in love with Sue Ellen," Afton sighs. "The first thing he said when he came out of his coma was Sue Ellen's name." Rebecca gives one of her "fight for him!" pep talks--her version of Miss Ellie's riding crop story, I guess--before taking Afton's petite hands in her own huge, claw-like ones.

    Then back to Southfork, for a nice scene in which Donna tells Miss Ellie that she has been asked to join the board of the new energy commission. "You have to do what you think is right," Ellie tells her. The scene climaxes with dramatic close-ups of both Susan Howard and BBG as they refer back to their conversation of two episodes earlier: "Even if it means that I'm the one who has to stop JR?" asks Donna. "Even if you have to stop JR," confirms Miss Ellie.

    The guests have started arriving and the ranch is soon awash with extras, something that doesn't go unnoticed by Ellie. "Is it my imagination," she murmurs to Clayton and Punk, "but except for the two of you, I don't see any oil men here." Indeed, the only other recognisable guests are Cliff and Afton, who arrives sporting a charmingly lopsided hairdo. Such is the dearth of familiar faces that Mickey gets to sit on the front row of the congregation. (Season 5's web of doom is drawing Mickey and Sue Ellen ever closer: in the very episode that he meets Lucy, she re-marries JR and moves back to Southfork.) Inside the house, Sue Ellen, looking very - um - formidable in her bizarre American footballer wedding dress, makes amends with her matron of honour Pam, sweet in a Miss Beadle from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE sack dress. On her way down the driveway-cum-aisle on Clayton's arm, Sue Ellen spots Cliff amongst the onlookers. She stops briefly in her tracks and shoots him a dirty look before continuing on her way. It's a moment that, strangely, no one but the audience at home seems to realise has happened. (I'm reminded of what THE X-FILES describes as "lost time", i.e. following an alien abduction, people in the vicinity often report "losing" nine minutes so no one can remember it happening.)

    "If there be any man who can show just cause why these two should not be lawfully joined together, let him now speak or else hereafter forever hold his peace," asks the minister after Sue Ellen has finally joined her ex and future hubby at the altar, or the wedding-in-front-of-the-garage-doors equivalent thereof. In the current soap climate in Britain where a wedding isn't a wedding without the bride being unveiled as a child abuser before throwing herself off a building, or the groom-to-be escaping through a toilet window, or the bride's brother upstaging the ceremony by attempting suicide, what happens next might seem a tad conventional as wedding cliff-hangers go, i.e. Cliff Barnes suddenly leaping to his feet, but it was plenty nail-biting back in '82, and even more importantly, provided Ken Kercheval with his first freeze-frame for 93 episodes.
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  18. Jon Ewing Jr.

    Jon Ewing Jr. Soap Chat Member

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    North Carolina
    I cant wait to read your insight on the fight where everyone is thrown in the pool. I love the way JR kicks that dude in the pool and Clayton just comes out of nowhere to punch JR.
    I often always wondered if Bobby comes running up to Cliff and JR with the purpose of breaking them up or pushing them in the pool?
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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    This episode begins exactly where the last one ended (the two would have made a good double length instalment, I've always thought) as JR and Sue Ellen, followed by Clayton, then Ray and Donna, then Punk and Mavis and finally Ellie, follow the minister's gaze and turn to see Cliff standing in the middle of the congregation (if you can have a congregation in a driveway). Instead of bursting into a chorus of Yvonne Fair's 1976 soul classic "It Should Have Been Me", Cliff walks out of the ceremony (if you can have a ceremony in a ... etc.). The minister nervously dabs his brow with his handkerchief. "Get on with it," mutters JR. As the vows get underway, we cut to a shot Cliff of pouring himself a drink at the bar (shades of Digger in "Barbecue"), thereby undercutting the possibility of schmaltz, always a risk with a soap wedding. We can hear the rumble of distant thunder, which appears to be genuine Texas weather as opposed to the tornado-style plot device of JR and Cally's wedding six years later.

    The same rinky-dink band that played at Lucy and Mitch's nuptials have been wheeled out of mothballs to provide the music for this occasion too. No sooner do they manage to wheeze out a few notes than Punk (his many duties as executor of Jock's will apparently including that of Ewing entertainment co-ordinator) has all the extras up and jigging. The regular cast, however, is in less of a party mood. Afton broods, Mickey checks out Pilgrim Pam's tush, and everyone wonders where Cliff has got to. "I can't believe the audacity of that man comin' here," huffs the bride. "Now maybe he'll crawl out of our lives for good," replies the groom.

    There's a nice bonding exchange as Ray expresses his concern to Bobby about the effect of the contest on Miss Ellie. "With JR and I goin' at it like we are and Gary out in California if anyone's gonna look after her, I guess it's gonna have to be you," Bobby tells him. "She's not my mama," Ray points out. "As far as I'm concerned, she is your mama," replies Bobby. It's a touching moment, (Steve Kanaly's reaction sells it) but tinged with self-interest for Bobby, who effectively offloads any personal responsibility for Miss Ellie's welfare onto his half-brother. Something similar occurred at Lucy's wedding when Gary, in welcoming Ray to the family, used Ray's new status as a Ewing to assuage his own guilt: he could return to California with a clear conscience knowing that there would be a family member running the ranch.

    Clayton runs into JR, gloating by the samovar. "You sure know how to savour your victories, don't you?" "No sense cookin' unless you're gonna eat the meal." There follows the first of two statements in this episode that will come back to haunt JR at the end of the season: "JR, I may have given Sue Ellen away," Clayton tells him, "but that doesn't mean I don't care what happens to her. I never want to hear of you causing her to be unhappy again."

    By now, Cliff is pretty much drunk as a skunk and Pilgrim Pam tries to get him to leave. "You're being dis-invited!" she snaps. "What are you, the new Ewing hatchet lady?" he slurs. "I thought you'd still be here, Barnes," chips in a passing JR. "Never too far from the free food and drink, huh?" Cliff informs Afton of his plan to dance with the bride. "If you so much as go near that woman, I am leaving," Afton warns him. He ignores her; she leaves. Sue Ellen dithers weakly as Cliff approaches her. "I've come to dance with the bride," he tells her. "You owe me that." Damn straight she does. "Where is that jackass taking her now?" wonders Ray, as Cliff leads Sue Ellen towards the dance floor (or what passes for a ... etc.). "Out of JR's sight, I hope," answers Donna. Good old Mickey, spotting an opportunity to stir up some trouble, has his second of the three exchanges he will have with JR during the season. "Well hello there, er -" "Mickey." "Mickey. What drug you outta the horse barn?" "... Well, you've gotta lot to say for a man whose bride's off dancin' with your enemy."

    "You've outstayed your welcome," snarls JR when he finds Cliff and Sue Ellen together. "You may have botched killin' yourself, Barnes, but I'm sure as hell not goin' to." Cliff punches him, sending him dangerously close to the edge of the pool. We think he's gonna fall in, but instead, he collides with a couple of extras, the female of whom (let's call her Mrs Extra) falls in instead. Mr Extra and Cliff both then make a grab for JR. JR elbows Cliff in the stomach, before kicking the butt of Mr Extra, now bending down to help Mrs Extra out of the pool. This sends Mr Extra into the water as well. Cliff lunges at JR again, then Bobby arrives and grabs Cliff's arms, pulling him off JR. JR punches Cliff. Clayton appears and punches JR, who once again ends up teetering on the edge of the pool. Cliff grabs JR, they struggle, Bobby makes a grab for JR (not sure why), and then all three topple into the water with Bobby still trying to keep the other two apart. Pilgrim Pam pushes past the extras to get a better view. "Stop it! Stop it!" yells Ellie. Cliff does an impressive kind of 360° degree turn in the water. Back on dry land, Ray has gone into testosterone overdrive and pushes a random onlooker for no specific reason. The onlooker retaliates and Mickey jumps from nowhere onto the onlooker's back which sends Ray, Mickey and the onlooker all crashing into the pool. Ray and Bobby then drag Cliff out of the water, and the final shot of the sequence is JR chuckling in the pool, which feels more of a Larry Hagman reaction than a JR one. (See also his amused response to getting pushed in by the pool by Donna in Season 4.) Nonetheless, it's a very fun scene and very DALLAS.

    The rest of the episode is a little unusual in that JR is effectively removed from the action while he and Sue Ellen take a honeymoon trip to a sort of a mini Southfork-by-the-Sea. "Mighty pretty place you have here," comments somebody or other. "Yeah, if weren't so damn boring I'd come up more often," he replies.

    "I don't suppose anything's been happenin' since I've been away," says JR when he returns to Southfork at the end of the episode, and he's almost right. Miss Ellie keeps a low profile after the wedding, Pam appears only once, and the Krebbses' scenes only confirm what we've already been told: that Donna is to be a member of the new Texas Energy Commission. Bobby, meanwhile, spends his time asking the same question he (and most everyone else) has been asking for the past four episodes: "What the hell is [JR] doin' with all that crude?"

    This is more interesting than it sounds--especially as Bobby, with some help from a couple of OLM members (including Jon Cypher, aka Val's record producing beau from KNOTS LANDING, aka Pee Wee De Vilbis's lawyer-cum-mouthpiece on DYNASTY) and nice old Mr Eugene, goes on to develop an intriguing theory about JR selling his oil to an embargoed nation. ("We're talking about the countries the State Department won't let American firms deal with," explains an OLM guy helpfully, for the benefit of those of us who wouldn't know an embargo from a hole in the head.) While this theory will prove to be a red herring, (i.e. a way of filling an episode while JR is away) it also works as a kind of narrative double bluff so that by the time JR agrees to Walt Driscoll's Cuban deal in seven episodes time, the reckless nature of such a venture has already been established: "Profitable ... ugly and dangerous as hell," is Mr Eugene's verdict. "I wouldn't wanna be in JR's shoes if the Justice Department caught him. Then again, I wouldn't wanna be in your shoes either," he tells Bobby. "Because the authorities won't differentiate between his side of Ewing Oil and yours. They'll just shut down the whole operation."

    During his investigation, Bobby finally stumbles on a connection between JR and Holly. (Something to do with JR's oil being shipped to Galveston and Holly having a refinery in Galveston, but nothing to do with Lucy modelling in Galveston.) "Is he that advisor you asked me about when we met in the restaurant?" he asks. "He's more than that," Holly admits. "He owns 25% of my company ... The Ewings know the business. I guess I chose the wrong one." This line echoes Sue Ellen's at the end of Season 1: "If I'd only met you first, Bobby, I'd have married you instead of JR." "Could my association with him hurt Harwood Oil?" wonders Holly. Her anxiety stems from a meeting of independent oil folk (Rebecca, Punk, Cliff, Jordan, Holly, Marilee and Andy all seated around a table--no DALLAS season makes better use of its supporting cast) at which JR is the main topic of conversation. "We should contact every refinery in the state and tell them that if they want to do business with us, they have to refuse JR," proposes Cliff. He is backed up by Rebecca, coming on like a mob boss: "Since many of the major refineries rely on Wentworth Tool and Die for their key parts, we're capable of shutting them down." "That can a little ticklish legally, Rebecca," points out Punk nervously, while Holly says nothing. "I had no idea your brother had so many enemies," she tells Bobby later.

    Cliff and Rebecca's plan filters through to Honeymoonland where JR rejects Sue Ellen's itinerary of horseback riding and swimming in favour of a meeting with a local refinery owner: "I don't wanna say they gave me a warnin' or nothin', but I sure understood my refinery'd be a lot healthier without that dose of Ewing crude." "Jim, you could make a fortune off this," persists JR. "Do you have any idea how much oil I have to have refined?" "Yes sir, I do and I don't envy you none holdin' on to it either." Ironically, it is this pressure from the independent oil companies to the refinery owners that eventually leads JR to do what Bobby suspects he is doing already, i.e. selling to an embargoed country. It also leads directly to Rebecca's fatal plane journey.

    As part of her and JR's "new life together" regime, Sue Ellen tags along to the meeting and pretends to understand what they're talking about. The second of those statements that will return to bite JR on the stetson comes when Sue Ellen asks him for a commitment: "No other women, no games. A total commitment, all the way ... I couldn't handle it any other way." "You won't have to," he assures her, "I promise you."

    Post wedding, the best scene of the episode is the first proper fight between Cliff and Afton, in which she barges into his apartment in a sweater as tight as she is furious. ("How dare you go off and dance with her and leave me standing there like a moron?!") It's got some of the hokey-yet-visceral "anger turns to passion" quality of JR and Sue Ellen's early ding dongs, and also presages the terrific Cliff/Afton shouting matches of Season 6. "I have had it with you!" she rants. "I am getting out of here. You can live here all alone with your dreams and your fantasies!" She starts gathering her clothes from the bedroom closet. "When you look at me, what do you see? Do you see me, or her?" "What do you take me for?" he replies. "I take you for a fool!" "Well take the damn stuff, I don't care. Split! You know I'll tell you something, the last thing I need right now is female emotionality!" "Emotionality? You are the perfect person to be talking about emotionality." (I can recall when I first watched this scene how tickled me and mine were by the repetition of the word "emotionality"; I have never heard it used before or since, and am quite surprised to find that my spell-check recognises it as an honest to God word.) "Why do you think JR Ewing whips you every time your paths cross?" asks Afton rhetorically. "Because you always use your emotions, Cliff, you never use your brains." "Well, what about that deal with Thurman? ... It didn't have anything to do with emotions. It was just real good business ... Why don't you call him and find out? He'll tell you." "No, I have a better idea. Why don't you call Thurman and find out exactly how you got that refinery!" "What are you talkin' about?" asks Cliff. Uh-oh--realising she's said too much, Afton tries to change tack: "I have done everything for you that I possibly could have. I have been your doormat, your nursemaid." "What about Thurman?" Cliff persists. "I have done - I have done everything for you," she falters. "What do you mean you've done everything?" he snarls, snatching the clothes she is carrying and throwing them to the floor. "Did ya sleep with him? Did you?" "You were so full of yourself." "You did, didn't you?" "What difference does it make? You don't care about me, you care about her. You care about Sue Ellen." "I care about you. Did you sleep with him?" He grabs her by the arms and spins her round. "Tell me. Did you?" He pushes her onto the bed. "You care about her!" she yells. "Did you sleep with Thurman? I have to know!" "Have to know what?" "HAVE TO KNOW DID YOU SLEEP WITH HIM?!" he roars. She hesitates before answering. Then: "No." He climbs on top her and snogs her face off, as you do. This is our last glimpse of the original Barnes boudoir--the scene of Sue Ellen parading in her teddy and Digger collapsing (not at the same time, sadly) and where Karen Fairgate changed her mind about starting an affair with her daughter's teacher when KNOTS LANDING borrowed the set for its third ever episode.

    Another landmark is the final ever scene between Pam and Lucy. It follows Lucy's disastrous dinner date with Bill Johnson, the creepy Texas Cola guy, for whom she has been modelling in Galveston. They end up back in Lucy's dingy hotel room, (if that's the best room Blair Sullivan could negotiate, someone needs a new agent) where she apparently decides to have sex with Bill out of politeness. They kiss, and he gets all excited: "I thought maybe you didn't like guys or somethin'!" This is the closest DALLAS ever gets to a lesbian reference (Angelica and Grace's subliminal-to-the-point-of-non-existence subtext notwithstanding). But then Lucy breaks away and Bill goes into a huff. "You have got some real problems!" So Lucy returns home where she cries some fake looking tears and confides in her golden-faced aunt one last time: "I went cold, Pam. I just started shaking all over!" While I wouldn't say that I actively lamented (or even noticed) the end of the Pam/Lucy relationship the first time around, it does show a side of Pam we don't see elsewhere. She has always seemed more naturally maternal in her scenes with Lucy (half-scolding: "What happened?!" half-protective: "He frightened you?") than in those with Christopher, where one is always conscious of watching Victoria Principal interact with someone else's child, rather than a scene between a mother and son (the reasons for which don't lie solely with Principal.)

    The honeymooners return home in the final scene to find Miss Ellie, Ray and Donna having their pre-dinner drinks out by the pool (how very Season 2 of them). While Sue Ellen slips inside to see John Ross (good to see the Ewings keeping up the old tradition of excluding the child from all family gatherings whenever possible), Donna gives JR her big news: "I've been appointed to the new Texas Energy Commission and the first order of business will be to rescind that variance you got from the OLM." "I've seen commissions all my life and before they can decide who sits which end of the table, that variance won't mean frost on a buzzard to me," he replies dismissively. Before Donna can respond indignantly, (and perhaps ask what "frost on a buzzard" means) Bobby asks for a word with JR and the rest of the family are summoned to dinner. Nevertheless, it's great to watch Susan Howard silently acting away in the background of the scene, shooting dirty looks at JR and straining to hear his conversation with Bobby as Ray leads her firmly away by the elbow. "JR, I know all about Galveston and I know about your deal with Harwood Oil," begins Bobby before presenting JR with his shipping-oil-to-embargoed-countries theory. "I assure you a thought like that never crossed my mind," replies JR, coolly and truthfully. "Brother or no brother, whatever it takes I'll stop you from destroying Ewing Oil," vows Bobby in close up. "You can try, Bobby," comes an eerily disembodied offscreen reply (presumably added in post production). We then cut to a final shot of JR, looking sinister and yet slightly camp in his off-duty neckerchief scarf thingy.
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  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Barbecue Three" (written, as were all the barbecue episode between Seasons 4 and 7, by Arthur Bernard Lewis)

    The show uses up its annual Victoria Principal flesh allowance in the opening scene, with Season 5's final glimpse of Pam in her bathing suit. "It feels so good bein' back at Southfork," Sue Ellen is telling her. "JR and I have a real understanding this time ... to change the way we were, to be more like you and Bobby ... Make a real commitment to one another." "So you're behind him all the way?" she asks. "Of course," Sue Ellen replies, "and I know that's how you are with Bobby." This isn't the first time Sue Ellen has used Bobby and Pam as a yardstick by which to measure her relationship with JR. In Season 2, she admitted to Dusty that it wasn't until Bobby brought Pam home as his bride that she realised what was lacking in her own marriage. However, one of several ironies in this season is that Sue Ellen is basing her marriage on a model that no longer exists. As will soon become apparent, Pam isn't behind Bobby all the way. "JR has changed, Pam," Sue Ellen continues. "You really believe that?" "Yes I do," she replies. "I have to." That last sentence is almost an acknowledgement on Sue Ellen's part that the truth and what she has to believe aren't necessarily the same thing. The scene ends with Pam suggesting they both "help Miss Ellie with the invitations." Yep, no sooner has the last wedding guest been fished out of the pool than it's time for the Ewing barbecue.

    It would seem that Sue Ellen's new "best foot forward" policy extends beyond her marriage to other members of the Ewing family, as she invites Lucy to join her, Pam and Ellie for lunch, "my treat". This is the friendliest Sue Ellen's been to her niece since the mini-series. Nevertheless, Lucy declines. "Pam, is it me?" Sue Ellen wonders. "She didn't come to the wedding ..." Pam advises her not to take the rebuff personally: "The kidnapping really left a lot of scars on Lucy." "Is there anything we can do?" she asks, to which Pam shakes her head. Hey, here's an idea: why not wait until Lucy's got her life together and then cripple her new boyfriend in a car crash? Maybe then she'll start opening up to you.

    Speaking of Lucy's boyfriend-to-be, Mickey comes to the house looking for Miss Ellie, but finds Lucy instead, her feet propped up on the living room couch and a book in front of her face. "I look around here and everyone's years older than we are," he tells her. (Bet VP loved hearing that line.) "Listen, if you're not seeing anyone steady, maybe we could go into Braddock, get a couple of beers." "You're kidding!" Lucy laughs, back on the defensive after her experience with the creepy SOUND OF MUSIC guy in last week's episode. "Oh I get it," replies the chip on Mickey's shoulder, "Lucy Ewing couldn't be caught dead drinkin' beer with a ranch hand." "You're only part right," she smirks, "I wouldn't be caught dead or alive with you." "How could anyone tell if you were dead or alive?" he shoots back with unerring aim. "All I see is one small block of ice."

    A potential pitfall of designing a whole season around two brothers fighting over control of their family company is that it could have become very inward looking. Two sons indulging the eccentric whim of their dead father--why should anyone care? But one of the (many) clever conceits of Season 5 is to place the fight between JR and Bobby in a larger context. Not only do we see the impact of the contest on their immediate family, but also on the wider oil community and even the national economy. To that end, the inaugural meeting of the Texas Energy Commission is given an emphasis that in strictly narrative terms is quite unnecessary, (we don't really need to hear a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance) but as a way of adding context and texture to the storyline, works wonderfully. The TEC scenes are set around City Hall, (a oft-used Dallas location I have always liked, but never knew the name of until Garry helpfully identified it for me) and feature, according to the KGIM's stubbornly inept star reporter, "the largest collection of influential oil men Dallas has seen since the Oil Baron's Ball." "If somebody dropped a bomb on this place, Texas would be outta the oil business," wisecracks Ray. Indeed, Clayton, Cliff, Marilee, Rebecca, Holly, Punk, Jordan and Andy are all in attendance, in some cases relegated to the status of silent extras, but each adding a sense of believability and importance to the scene. "Well if he didn't do anything else, JR sure united the independent oil men," observes Bobby. "Against him!" Ray replies. (It's no coincidence that, as part of an effort to return the series to its pre-dream roots, the opening episode of Season 9 features a similar gathering in the same location to launch the oil community's anti-OPEC lobby.)

    Donna sweeps in in a big red hat, countering press speculation as only she can: "There are as many rumours about JR Ewing as there are restaurants on Greenville Avenue, and my job on this commission is not to put anybody in his place but to do what I think is best for the State of Texas." After the Pledge of Allegiance, we are introduced to the rest of the TEC: the commission chairman played by Blake Carrington's banker, the enjoyably seedy George Hicks, and Mr Figueroa, a token Hispanic who doesn't say much. JR makes a late entrance, observing from the back of the hall. ("He's the main attraction," says Bobby wryly. "He wouldn't miss that for the world.") "As the first order of business," begins the chairman, "I move that the commission order that all oil producers return to the same production levels as set a year ago by the OLM." Donna seconds that emotion. Hicks opposes: "I don't think we should use the figures of a defunct agency ... We should start from scratch." "... That could take months," protests Donna. Hicks is outvoted, three to one, prompting applause from the body of the hall. "The ruling will take place immediately," decrees the chairman. However, an ominous note is sounded from the TEC equivalent of Dictionary Corner: "It will not be official until ten days from today." That's all JR needs to hear, and he ducks out of the hall. "What the hell can JR do in ten days?" shrugs Marilee as the meeting disperses.

    We then cut straight to JR on his office phone: "Seven days. That's right. Not eight days, not nine days, seven days. Yeah, I know what I told you, but the signals have been switched." The build up to the revelation of whatever the hell it is JR is up to is most skilfully structured. Every line leaves us with a further clue, but really we're none the wiser. "There's just two calls left," Sly tells him, "one to Houston and one to Fort Worth." He pours her a drink and proposes a toast: "To JR Ewing [who else?] and Ewing Oil, one company indivisible."

    The episode then jumps forward seven days. In spite of protests from his minions that "there hasn't been enough time. It's only been a week and all the meters haven't been set" and "the press hate to cover a blind story," JR is calmly insistent: "Everything has to be ready this afternoon ... I want everyone in the country to know what I'm doin' here, not just Dallas and not just the State of Texas ... I'm gonna be gone for the rest of the afternoon," he informs the secretaries on his way through reception, then adds devilishly: "In about an hour, I think you're gonna be swamped with telephone calls. Refer 'em all to Bobby, would you?"

    Bobby, however, has been summoned by Holly Harwood to an emergency meeting in her skimpy swimsuit. She tries to loosen his tie, but he's not having any of it. "Damn!" she complains. "I'm not gonna get anywhere with you, am I? ... I should have realised that with your reputation for honesty, you're probably a faithful husband too." "Is there something wrong with that?" he asks. "No," she replies. "That's exactly what I'd like to have." And so it is that Holly joins Marilee, Kristin and Jenna on the pile of women Bobby has gallantly rejected thus far in the series (with Carol the call girl and Katherine soon to follow). Holly takes her spurned seduction in stride and shifts the conversation to JR. "I can't trust him anymore," she declares. "I got suspicious and it took some of the best lawyers and accountants quite a while to figure out that JR had set up a dummy corporation called Petro-State ... He convinced me to sell off certain Harwood Oil holdings to Petro-State." "What did you sell him?" Bobby asks. "Gas stations," she replies. The scene ends with a close-up of Bobby looking totally perplexed: "Gas stations? What's he doin' with gas stations?"

    No sooner are the words out of his mouth than we cut to a brilliant reveal of JR's master plan - the unveiling of a sign on a gas station forecourt that reads, JR EWING GAS 89.9 UNLEADED. We find JR close by, surrounded by reporters and TV cameras. "Isn't this price cutting going to make the other oil companies very unhappy?" they ask. "Yeah, I expect it will," he replies nonchalantly. "I just wanted you to know that I have been maligned and threatened by my competitors who would prevent me from bringin' back affordable gasoline to the American consumer." Then, for the first time in the series' history, JR looks directly into the camera lens to address the viewers at home: "Americans have suffered long enough from these high prices and JR Ewing is here to give them the break they so justifiably deserve and I defy anybody, politician or not in Austin or Washington, to try and stop me." He breaks into a smile and the screen fades to black. It's an intriguingly conspiratorial moment between character and audience: we know he's lying about his motives, he knows we know, and he also knows we won't blow the whistle on him. It's almost as if we're the ones he's bribed with cheap gasoline to keep our mouths shut.

    Fade up on Cliff and Afton at home, watching JR give the same speech on TV that he's just delivered to us. Such are the multiple implications of JR's scheme that several female characters in this episode are assigned the equivalent role of the traditional DOCTOR WHO assistant, whose principal function is to ask, "Doctor, what's happening?!" thereby affording the Doctor, or in this case the Texas menfolk, the opportunity of delivering information to the viewers at home. First in line is Afton. "I don't understand it, Cliff. I mean it looks like he's cutting his own throat," she says with reference to JR. "He's cutting the throat of every oil man in Texas," corrects Cliff. "He's gonna force us to cut our profits."

    It's always an effective linking device to have different sets of characters watching the same TV news report, and the atmosphere at Southfork is almost funereal as the family hear that "KGIM has learned that JR Ewing owns or controls several chains of gas stations in Dallas and North East Texas. Estimates put the number in excess of two hundred." "Have you heard from Donna?" Miss Ellie asks Ray gravely. "That special meeting's still goin' on. She said she could be there all night," he replies. In contrast, an upbeat JR is on the hallway phone to yet another journalist: "Sure, you can quote me! If the commission lets me keep on pumpin' full out, I'm gonna charge those prices, maybe even less!" He then joins the family in the living room and fixes himself a drink. "The word has spread from New York to California," he tells them gloatingly. "See what happens when you try to do somethin' nice for the people?" "Is that why you did it, JR? For the people?"" asks Ellie. "No, Mama. I did it cos it's good business." "You did it so you could take over Ewing Oil!" pipes up Pam, looking uncharacteristically (but sexily) white-faced and gothic. The brunette on the couch next to her murmurs something about women staying out of business matters. "I'm sorry, Sue Ellen, but I can't sit quietly by while JR destroys Bobby with dirty tricks!" barks Pam. Bobby arrives and JR offers him a drink: "We can settle my winning the battle of the Ewing brothers." "You're gonna celebrate flat on your butt," Bobby replies. "Bobby! JR!" calls out Ellie in dismay. Ignoring her, Hagman and Duffy fire their dialogue at one another, machine gun style: "You're gonna show huge short term profits and deplete our reserves doin' it!" "Bobby, you know the terms of the will as well as I do. The name of the game is huge profits!" "You're destroying everything Daddy spent his life building!" "You're tryin' to tell me how to run my half of the business?" "You're damn right I am!" "You know where you can put that, don't you?" "I'll show you where!" Bobby makes a grab for JR. Ray, in his newly appointed role of Ellie's protector, steps into separate them, tearing a strip off of them in the process, just as Jock would have done: "Break it up! You wanna fight, you can go out behind a stable!" It's a little ironic that as Bobby and JR fight so fiercely to become their father's successor, Ray has already replaced him--in this one area at least. "Bobby, if you'd like to concede right now, we can end a very stressful situation," says a shaken JR, attempting to regain his dignity. There's a close-up on Ellie, looking anxiously hopeful as if Bobby might actually agree to this proposal. He doesn't, of course. "You haven't won anything yet," he snarls at his brother before walking off, Pam following closely on his heels. As JR turns towards the camera and takes a slug from his glass, we can see his hand trembling. One of the great things about Larry Hagman's performance: he never shies away from showing JR's physical intimidation.

    It's tempting to describe virtually every scene in Season 5 as a turning point in the story, but such is its "house of cards" structure that almost every scene is a turning point. JR and Bobby's living room confrontation is no exception as it leads directly to two discussions, one between Bobby and Pam, the other between Miss Ellie and Ray, which both contain "points of no return" for the characters.

    The morning after the argument, Pam emerges from the ranch house to see a brooding Bobby working off his frustrations on horseback. She approaches him cautiously. "I wanted to talk to you last night, but I've never seen you so withdrawn," she tells him. There's a scene between them in the Season 2 premiere (also written by Art Lewis) that begins almost identically. The key difference is Victoria Principal's portrayal of Pam. Childlike to the point of idiotic in the 1979 scene, three years later she manages to convey tentativeness without sacrificing thought and intelligence. Nonetheless, it's now her turn to play DOCTOR WHO girl as Bobby explains to her the method behind JR's madness: "He's come up with the perfect formula for winning. He pumps a lot of oil. He turns it over fast in his own gas stations. He doesn't show a lot of profit per barrel, but he makes up for it in volume. At the end of the year, his half of the company is gonna show enormous revenues." "But the Energy Commission ruled against him," she points out. "They'll have to overturn that ruling," he replies. "How can they come out against low prices? ... Pam, I think I may lose." And here comes the turning point. "Bobby, are you saying that it's all over?" asks Pam, to which Bobby replies: "No, no. What I'm sayin' is, it's gonna turn into a whole different kind of fight. Pam, Daddy taught me a lot of tricks in my early days with the company, things that I hated doing, but I learned and I learned real good, and I can get right down in the mud if I have to." "You're talking like JR," she observes. "No not like JR, like me," he replies. This is the first of several instances leading up to their divorce in which Pam will accuse Bobby of somehow betraying the core values of the man she married. Each time, fascinatingly, he will insist that the contrary is true: that this is the real Bobby. The scene ends with yet another key moment as Pam tells Bobby: "You know I'm behind you no matter what, but I'm starting to be frightened about what this is gonna turn into."

    Later, while thanking Ray for stopping the fight between JR and Bobby, Miss Ellie inches closer to the decision she will make at the end of the episode: "Oh Ray, I have such a feeling of helplessness. I can't believe that Jock didn't realise that JR would go to any lengths to gain control of the company." " ... You're gonna have to pull back, Miss Ellie," Ray advises, "You gotta let these two boys settle this thing." "I can't, Ray. I feel that no matter what Jock's will says, I have to try and keep this family from flying apart. If I could just understand why Jock did it." "Well, maybe we're lookin' too deep ... I've said this before," he tells her, referring to the conversation between them in "Acceptance" (Season 4) pertaining to Jock's involvement in Jonas Culver's suicide. "It hurt you to hear it then, but I say this out of respect. Jock was human. He was capable of making a mistake ... " "It's very hard for me to believe that Jock could have made a mistake that would destroy everything he worked for," says Ellie slowly, as if the notion were occurring to her for the first time.

    JR's sole words of encouragement in this episode come from Sly. "I just wanna tell you that I think what you're doing is terrific. I hope you can keep it up," she tells him. This is the first time we've heard her venture a personal opinion, and it's an early indication of the loyalty she has for her boss (when she isn't being blackmailed by Cliff Barnes) that distinguishes her from her secretarial predecessors. JR rewards her with a confidence: "If I can keep the commission at bay, the only thing standing in my way is refinery capacity. I'm pumpin' more oil than I can turn into gas. I just got to find myself another refinery or two." This seemingly minor plot point--JR's quest for refinery capacity--will spawn a whole other set of plot twists and turning points (Clayton and Sue Ellen's falling out, JR's rape of Holly, Rebecca's plane crash) which, in turn, will have their own set of consequences, and on and on, until the Southfork fire at season's end.

    Meanwhile, preparations for the Southfork barbecue continue. In spite of the brunette on the sun-lounger claiming that "this is gonna be the biggest barbecue we've ever had," there is decidedly less anticipation leading up to the annual meat-fest than in previous years. Prior to the original barbecue, Digger's invitation had the family on tenterhooks, while the emphasis in Season 4's was on Jock's imminent homecoming. This year, however, the pre-party discussion is more about who won't be attending than who will. "The only people we haven't heard from are members of the cartel," muses Ellie, while a picturesque shot of Pam driving up to her mother's house precedes a scene of her and Clayton trying to Rebecca to come to the barbecue. "Pam, will you tell your mother to stop being so stubborn?" Clayton asks. (My, how familiar he's become with all the regular characters!) Pam then delivers her usual speech to her mama about spending time with Christopher and Miss Ellie. "JR is just one member of the Ewing family. Now I dislike him as much as you do, but I have never let him drive a wedge between me and the rest of the Ewings," she claims, conveniently forgetting that her Season 1 estrangement from the family was prompted by JR's framing of Cliff for murder. "Look, I know how you feel," chimes in Clayton. "JR's tried to put me out of business, he's attacked me personally, but I am not gonna allow him to keep me from people I care for." Rebecca adopts that martyred look of hers and gazes off into the distance. "I need some time," she declares, but you know she's got no intention of wiggling her behind in the direction of Southfork.

    However, she changes her mind at one of those weird garden party/business meeting things that are so popular during Season 5. She, Jordan, Marilee, Punk, Cliff and a couple of dozen extras are in attendance. Rumour has it, according to Jordan, that the Texas Energy Commission is planning to "rescind their original order and let JR have his variance." Shamefully, it falls to oil baroness Marilee to adopt the role of DOCTOR WHO's clueless assistant and ask, "What are they worried about?" "What politicians are always worried about," Cliff manfully explains, "Public image ... JR's gotta be stopped at any cost ... There is only one thing to do. We all get together and we undercut him." "Now that's really throwing gasoline onto the fire," replies Jordan poetically. "I don't want any part of that." "Then let's meet JR face to face," proposes Marilee. "How?" Jordan asks. "You can't even reach him on the phone." "Well now folks, there is one way that this can be done," suggests Punk, all of people. "JR's gonna be at the Southfork barbecue, Sunday. I got my invitation and I intend to be there. What about the rest of you?" Cut to a shot of Rebecca looking grimly determined: screw Pam's and Clayton's sentimental entreaties about family, now she has a real reason for visiting Southfork!

    The episode then jumps forward in time again to the barbecue, which occupies the last quarter of the episode (about twelve minutes of screen time). For some reason, nearly everyone is dressed like they're auditioning for one of Howard Keel's old MGM cowboy musicals. There are two honourable exceptions: Punk, who has an über-cool Johnny Cash Man in Black look going on, and Holly, who's gone for a vaguely gypsy look instead and snaffles the Belle of the Barbecue Award in the process. She angrily confronts JR: "Why didn't you tell me you were behind that dummy corporation called Petro-State? ... I may be inexperienced, but I am not a little girl. You used me and Harwood Oil as a tool in this competition with your brother!"

    For the second barbecue running, there is a never seen before ex-girlfriend of Ray's in attendance, while a distracted Pam (cunningly disguised as Annie Oakley) once again gives permission to a woman with ulterior motives to dance with her husband. Last year, she was too preoccupied with Christopher to notice Katherine coveting Bobby; this year, it's Holly who gets her blessing when Cliff's unexpected arrival catches her attention instead ("It's insane after what happened last time!"). Cliff is not the only surprise guest. "Miss Ellie told me no one from the cartel was coming," Pam says when Jordan arrives with his occasionally mentioned, but never previously seen wife Evelyn. (Given that we were informed in the Season 2 episode "Paternity Suit" that Jordan's wife is pregnant, she's a little older than might have been expected). Rebecca also shows up, setting foot on Southfork for the first time since vowing to "break the Ewings" in the Season 4 finale. An unwitting Clayton takes credit for her appearance: "I finally reminded her that on the exact spot we renewed an old acquaintance."

    While JR gloats over his gasoline coup, ("I've just secured the future of my little family," he chuckles to Sue Ellen on the dance floor) an undercurrent of unrest begins to filter through the party. Donna returns from a commission meeting complaining that she is "the only member that doesn't wanna overturn our ruling ... Bein' against low prices is like bein' against motherhood and apple pie." "I can tell you there's a helluva lot of unhappy oil men here today," murmurs Punk. "We've run out of time," adds Marilee darkly. "I got a bad feeling about what's happening here today," says Ray, paraphrasing Han Solo.

    Mickey, meanwhile, tires of dancing with Ray's nameless but pretty ex ("I'm also wearin' one of his old shirts") and crashes Lucy's party-for-one in the living room. "Am I too short for you?" he asks after she rejects him again. "Dance with me," he persists. "Just one dance then I'll go." He moves towards her, she backs away nervously. "You're really scared and it's not just me," he realises--no slimy Texas Cola guy he. "Lucy, I know what it's like to be scared." "Leave me alone, Mickey."

    Back at the barbie, Pam spies Holly planting a kiss on Bobby's cheek, but before she can wrestle her naked to the ground, Cliff, backed by Jordan and a few extras with Village People moustaches, storms the dance floor and orders the band to stop playing. (Seems you can stop the music after all.) "JR, we wanna talk to you," he announces loudly as extras flee the dance floor for fear of being caught in the cross-fire and ending up at the bottom of the pool again. "Well, Barnes, if it's about business, you know where my office is," JR responds with forced jocularity as Sue Ellen hovers nervously behind him. "You don't even return your phone calls, JR!" calls Jordan. (The phone call thing seems to really bug Jordan; it's the third time he's mentioned it.) Watching from the sidelines, Ray the protector suggests to Ellie that she go inside the house, but she declines. "We wanna talk to you about the gas war," continues Cliff. "The politicians are afraid of you, we aren't. We want you to ... put prices back where they belong." "Cliff, that sounds like a threat," says Bobby coming to the aid of the very brother he had to be pulled off of earlier in the episode. The irony of this is not lost on Jordan: "Bobby, what are you doin' stickin' up for JR? He's ruinin' you too!" "Jordan, I don't like it any more than you do, but right now you're talkin' not business but family." That's Ray's cue to join his brothers. "My stations are losin' a fortune, Bobby. One more week and I'm out of business," pipes up Village People man. (Now this guy's complaint is valid. However, the show is not interested in him and he is never heard of again. We'll have to wait for Season 9 and the Scotfields for the blue collar workers to receive a voice.) "If you wanna get to JR, you're gonna have to come through us," warns Bobby. "If there's any blood spilled here today, Ah guarantee you it won't just be Ewing blood," adds Ray in his best John Wayne snarl.

    The rest of the scene plays like a distorted version of that year's Oil Baron's Ball. Ellie takes centre stage, flanked by Jock's sons, just as she did after Jock's scholarship was announced. "Good Lord, are you all crazy? Most of you are Jock's friends!" she shouts, addressing the very same people who heard her speak at the Ball. "Until you come to your senses, I don't wanna see any of you. Now go home. Go home, all of you!" As the Dallas oil community skulk meekly away, Pam and Donna join their men and Sue Ellen to strike a pose for the episode's final tableau. And as the SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS clad Ewings stand in front of their homestead staring defiantly out at the departing guests, it's a real "frontier spirit" moment.

    Left alone with her family at the end of "The Big Ball", Ellie spoke of her intention to go to court to have Jock declared dead so that his will could be opened. Now, she makes the same announcement in reverse: "I've had enough of this insane competition between you two. I'm going to court to break Jock's will so that I can sell Ewing Oil!"
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