Re-watching Season 6

Discussion in 'Dallas Season Reviews' started by James from London, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    “End Game”

    Arthur Bernard Lewis writes his third successive season finale. From behind the wheel of Donna’s car, Jessica explains her motives for kidnapping--and possibly killing--Mama to an imaginary Clayton: “There was no choice. I had to stop the wedding ... Ellie Ewing believing she was gonna be Dusty’s mother! Amy made the same mistake ... How many mothers can my son have??” All the major revelations in this plot--Dusty’s true parentage, Jessica’s murderous intentions--came during last week’s episode and what we’re left with is a pretty generic kidnapping sequence. Wisely, the action moves along pretty fast and the whole storyline is resolved in about twelve minutes of screen time. (If only Jenna Wade’s Season 7 abduction had been dealt with as swiftly.)

    There are a few callbacks to the previous season’s finale episode, with appearances by Dr Danvers, tending to Donna’s injuries a year after sedating Sue Ellen, and Sheriff Northern Exposure, last seen giving Ray the news of Walt Driscoll’s confession and suicide. (It was during the filming of this episode that Barry Corbin allegedly made the strategic mistake of admitting to Larry Hagman that he never watched the show, thereby ensuring this would be his last appearance. [I have a whole other theory about that now]) “Bobby and Clayton took the chopper and flew down to the Southern Cross,” JR tells the sheriff. “His sister’s got some kind of fixation about that ranch.” This is one of several instances in this episode where the action taking place off screen.

    A inserted shot from Season 4 of the Ewing helicopter landing at Southfork adds to the illusion that we’re seeing more than we are. The power of suggestion is also used to illustrate Jessica’s attack on Donna and Ellie at the end of last week’s episode. “There is blood in the [Krebbs] living room,” the sheriff is informed by his deputy. “Can’t tell yet if it's Mrs Ewing’s or Mrs Krebbs’, but there sure was a helluva struggle in that house.” The camera lingers on JR’s dismayed reaction, and we are put in the position of picturing JR picturing that struggle for himself.

    Upon Bobby and Clayton’s return from the Southern Cross, the accusations start flying. “If it wasn’t for Clayton and that crazy sister of his, none of this would have happened!” JR shouts. “She’s your sister, your responsibility!” “My responsibility?” retorts Clayton. “I went through Jessica’s diary ... You two were working together to stop the wedding. I know your techniques, JR. You may have just pushed her over the edge.” The two very nearly come to blows, which is the first outbreak of violence in the Southfork living room since ... why -- JR and Ray’s pre-inferno fight exactly a year before. As Jessica checks into a motel, Bobby confronts JR over Clayton’s accusations. “He was a stranger. We didn’t know anything about him,” JR protests, defending the investigation he made into Clayton’s background. “Well what the hell did you know about Jessica and you were working with her?” replies Bobby, and JR has no answer. (Soap villains who ally themselves with shady characters that turn out to be even more dangerous than they are, and possibly even psychotic, is an 80s prime time staple; Alexis Colby did it more than once, while Abby Ewing practically made a career out of it. As for JR himself, Lady Jessica is succeeded first by Angelica Nero and then by BD Calhoun.)

    Arthur Bernard Lewis gives Bobby a nice little speech which manages to tie the Ewings’ current crisis into the history of the series: “I always thought you cared for the family, JR. That’s what kept our relationship going despite everything else, despite the way you hated Pam, despite the way you fought for Ewing Oil, but if it’s true and you only care for yourself and the hell with the rest of us, then it’s over and we’re through as brothers.” In retrospect, this scene marks something of a turning point in the Ewing boys’ relationship. For the first time ever, it appears that JR is accountable to his baby brother: “I love Mama, you know that. I admit I did try to stop that marriage ... Just the thought of anybody trying to take Daddy’s place, I don’t think I could live with it ... But you gotta believe me, I didn’t want it to come to this.”

    From here on in, JR’s attitude progressively softens towards Bobby till, by the end of the series, Bobby has almost replaced Jock as the Ewing from whom JR seeks validation and approval. Whether this marks a progression, rather than a deterioration, in the character of JR is debatable. In any case, their conversation is interrupted by Ray who informs them that Donna’s car has been traced to a motel in Comanche. From then on until the ad break, it’s action all the way. Clayton, the brothers and the local police convene outside Jessica’s motel room, Clayton sings “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” through a megaphone and Jessica surrenders, rambling some half-baked nonsense. The Ewing brothers, resembling for the first time (but certainly not the last) a slightly portly version of THE A-TEAM, then burst into the motel room. There’s a glimpse of a shower curtain, but just as Bernard Hermann’s PSYCHO violins start shrieking in our collective subconscious, poor little Ellie is found stuffed in the trunk of the car. “I wanna go back to Southfork even if the three of you have to carry me,” she gasps. Bless.

    

The action then jumps forward about a week. The remainder of the episode takes place over the course of four days, Saturday to Tuesday, and is built around two specific events: Miss Ellie and Clayton’s wedding on Sunday, and the deadline at midnight on Tuesday night when the bank is due to foreclose on Barnes Wentworth. We pick the story up as Pam stops by Southfork for a chat with Sue Ellen. “Miss Ellie was a little feisty and very angry when the men brought her home, but then a kind of reaction set in and for a few days she was a little shaky,” Sue Ellen tells her, reporting yet more off screen events. After being so terrific all season, Victoria Principal seems a little wet in this episode. (Missing Bradford May and John Beck, perhaps?) The helmet hair and the wire-hanger-still-in-the-dress look of this scene don’t help. “Poor Clayton--what an ordeal,” she sighs. On the bright side, there’s another headline for Jessica to put in her scrapbook: ‘LADY MONTFORD HELD IN MENTAL HOSPITAL.’ In an attempt to lighten Pam’s mood, Sue Ellen goes upstairs to put on her comedy turban. Meanwhile, Jenna lets slip about her engagement to Bobby. “I thought you knew ... It was cruel.” “Well, you didn’t mean it to be,” Pam replies coolly and glides out the door. “She didn’t know Bobby and I were getting married,” Jenna tells Sue Ellen, now all turbaned up with no place to go. “By the way she acted, it’s obvious she’s still very much in love with him!” she concludes dramatically. God love Jenna--it’s taken her a whole season to figure that one out.

    Meanwhile, over lunch with Miss Ellie, Clayton dots the Is and crosses the Ts of the “Crazy Jessie” story line: “Jessica had a fixation, first with me and then with Dusty. She can appear normal for long periods of time and then suddenly fly into a murderous rage. The first time it surfaced was after Steven’s birth ... Apparently, she snapped when she saw Amy with him ... She thought you were gonna be Dusty’s mother too.” Ellie suggests they postpone the wedding, but he won’t hear of it: “Dammit Ellie, I think it’s time we put all this behind us.” And, bar a couple of fleeting references from JR in Season 7, that’s the last we hear of Jessica for five years. While Clayton’s attitude of ‘My sister who’s also my son’s mother set my wife on fire but you know these things happen’ is laudable, it costs him something in credibility as a character. It leaves him with nowhere to go emotionally--if he can take this much family tragedy in stride, what’s left to possibly upset him? Had there been some sort of aftermath to this story line with, say, JR revealing to Dusty the truth about his paternity in Season 7, the character might have been served better. (Whether or not the rest of the family--besides Ellie and the Krebbses--now know that Jessica is Dusty’s mother is unclear.) However, there is such disruption in continuity between this episode and when we first see Clayton and Miss Ellie as a married couple (not to mention certain head and personality transplants) that it’s understandable that the writers simply chose to let the matter drop.

    Saturday evening arrives and Cliff summons Leo Wakefield to an emergency meeting. The time has come to lay everyone in the company off except for the drilling crew on 340, he tells him. “The next interest payment is due in four days, and if we don’t hit oil with that new crew down in the Gulf, if we don’t hit in four days, then Vaughn Leland’s gonna shut us down anyway and we don’t have the money to pay.” “... Are you saying that’s it--in four days Barnes-Wentworth is out of business?” asks Leo. Cliff hesitates. “No. No, because there’s still Pam ... When she sees that I’m going under ... she’ll step in ... I can count on Pam.” Uh-uh. At that moment, Pam is packing a suitcase and having one of her inappropriately adult conversations with Christopher: “I can’t stay here in Dallas. I just can’t. Your daddy’s gonna have a new wife because of my stupidity ... There’s nothing left for me here ... Christopher, I don’t even know where I belong anymore!” The child looks up at her with those big eyes of his and thinks, “Eggs and toast, bitch! Eggs and toast!”

    

It’s Sunday and there’s an establishing shot, probably lifted from JR and Sue Ellen’s wedding in Season 5, of cars arriving for a festive occasion at Southfork. Back on the living room sound stage, JR is drinking a toast to the groom. “Clayton, you’re one of the few men I’ve never been able to beat,” he concedes with disappointing grace. “I sincerely admire that.” This uncharacteristic surrender seems to be based more on a reluctance by the writers to perpetuate the JR/Clayton feud into the next season than genuine motivation on JR’s part. Lucy, Donna and Sue Ellen are Miss Ellie’s matrons of honour, with Sue Ellen looking the prettiest in a groovy Carnaby Street style mini dress. “You look like a bride yourself,” JR tells her. (If this were 1968 and she was marrying George Harrison, perhaps.)

    BBG’s final (as we thought then) appearance is endearingly eccentric. “Mama, you do look beautiful,” Bobby tells her adoringly as she descends the stairs, when a more accurate description would be, “Mama, you do look... exactly the same as you always do.” We don’t get to see the wedding, but that it was lovely and nobody got abducted or killed or pushed into the pool during the ceremony is really all we need to know.

    Monday morning at Barnes-Wentworth. Cliff learns that Pam has taken an indefinite leave of absence, nobody knows where. “Jackie!” a panic-stricken Ken Kercheval yells hilariously. Over at Ewing Oil, it seems that no secretaries were invited to the wedding--in contrast to Bobby and April’s wedding by which time the cast had become so depleted that Phyllis, Sly, Kendal and Jackie were practically next of kin--as Bobby treats them all to some wedding cake, adding that “Mama and Clayton are cruising the Mediterranean taking a tour of the Greek Isles.” Ah yes, I can hear Donna Reed in Season 7 now saying, “Do you know that Athens has smog?” in that dinner-party-hostess-on-sedatives way of hers. Phyllis tells Bobby that Katherine Wentworth is waiting in his office. “I wish we could bottle that sex appeal of yours, Bob. It’d be worth more than oil!” observes JR, making the ladies giggle.

    The relaxed atmosphere of much of this episode is very unusual in a season finale. During previous finales, nearly every single character is undergoing some kind of traumatic crisis or life changing experience. Post Jessie, however, the only major characters to be suffering any kind of turmoil in this episode are Pam and Cliff. This seemingly low-key approach shouldn’t work (and doesn’t in Season 8) but, thanks to the excellent plotting and writing of Season 6, the characters have never seemed more like real people who have actual lives as well as storylines. Anyhoo, back to the storylines: Katherine takes Bobby’s news that “I’m going to marry Jenna Wade” even more badly than her half sister did and responds with the campest line of the season: “No, you can’t! Not that slut with the child from that awful Italian, I won’t let that happen!” The scene then sneakily establishes her as a potential suspect in the shooting of Bobby or JR. “It’s JR’s fault! He set me up and poisoned you against me!” she yells, then snarls on her way out the door: “It’s. Not. Over. Yet.”

    Monday evening, and while Sue Ellen and Lucy watch as Peter spins around the living room gesticulating awkwardly, Cliff’s plea to Vaughn Leland for an extension on his loan falls on deaf ears. “If you don’t strike oil by midnight tomorrow night, the bank is foreclosing and all the assets of Barnes-Wentworth will belong to the bank,” Vaughn tells him flatly. Slumped in defeat, Cliff is too busy looking out of his office window to see JR enter the room. “Well Vaughn, not all the assets,” clarifies JR, making his presence known. Cliff turns around in surprise. “If I remember correctly,” JR continues, “our deal calls for me to get control of Gold Canyon 340.” “What are you doing here?” asks Cliff. “I just thought you might wanna see the face of your other friendly banker,” JR replies, matter-of-factly. “Tomorrow night we’re gonna turn off the faucet and all your cash flow’s just gonna dry right up.” Cliff looks from JR to Vaughn, who nods in confirmation. Given that he has no personal grudge against Cliff, the enjoyment on Vaughn’s face actually makes him seem more evil than JR. JR goes on to explain to Cliff how he set him up “from the very beginning. ... You needed slappin’ down, Cliff. You’d been stealing deals from right underneath my nose, and after all this time, you know better than to butt heads with me. ... The only way I could get through that thick skull o’ yours was to have you bankrupt your mother’s company while I just sat back and watched ... Tomorrow morning the janitor’s gonna come in here and sweep you out with the rest of the trash, unless of course you do the honourable thing--get in the elevator, go up to the roof and jump off, huh?” This not so subtle reference to Cliff’s previous suicide attempt exactly two years earlier (following an almost identical scam by JR) has always struck me as particularly nasty. “Come on, Vaughn,” chuckles JR. “I’ll buy you a drink.” As they leave, Cliff stands unmoving in the darkness. 



    Tuesday morning. Donna and Ray are the first members of the family to grasp that this is a season finale and start behaving with a sense of urgency. Looking for JR, they find a cheerful Bobby eating breakfast. “From the size of JR’s hangover, he was celebrating pretty good!” he tells them. Donna has no time for such niceties: “Martha Randolph called me last night. She said Edgar was very despondent, that he had been drinking heavily and he’s on his way to Dallas for some kind of a confrontation with JR.” Seeing the sceptical expression on Bobby’s face Donna adds, “She also said he has a gun.” There’s a nice attention to detail here as the writers haven’t forgotten that the Krebbses and Bobby still don’t know why JR was blackmailing Randolph. (“JR didn’t use that information. He bid low on those leases.”) We don’t see Donna again until Season 7, but my theory is that after this scene she hacked her hair off in frustration at not being taken seriously by Bobby, even though she’s been right about absolutely everything that’s happened all year.

    After being out all night, Cliff returns home drunk for the best scene of the episode, his final bust-up with Afton. As they argue, Cliff fixes himself a drink, journeying from the living room bar to the kitchen and back again. The camera watches him throughout. There are no cutaways, no close ups, no reaction shots. The whole scene, lasting just over two minutes, plays out in one take. Ken Kercheval is electric--one moment shouting in Audrey Landers’ face, the next spontaneously spitting his drink out in disgust. Every time she flinches in surprise, it’s for real. Afton wants to know what’s happened to him. “I just destroyed my mama’s company, that’s all,” he explains flippantly. “She trusted me, you know that? She trusted me to run an oil company. Me. The world’s biggest loser.” “That damned offshore scheme of yours!” says Afton angrily. “That’s what I need right now is a lecture, ’Words of Wisdom from Dallas Oil Expert Afton Cooper’!” he sneers. “You missed the point, you missed the point because I could have made it, I could have made it if I had a little help from my friends and my family and where were you, ’expert’? Huh? You were off in Biloxi spending money buying cars and houses for your mama.” “Cliff, that money wouldn’t have made a difference!” “Might have. Just might have made the difference. When those drills stop turnin’ tonight at midnight and I’m THAT far from oil, THAT money just might’ve made the difference. JR knew that ... He set up ... I think he got me this time, I think he got me, I think he got me for good!!” “Oh please, Cliff! It’s always JR, it’s always him! It’s never your fault, is it? .... You have to forget JR. Don’t let him destroy you. Don’t let him destroy our relationship.” Cliff spits out his drink. “Relationship?!! That’s a joke! I can’t have a relationship as long as he’s alive!” “Cliff--” “Get out of here, just get out of here! I don’t want you! I don’t want anybody!!” And out storms Afton for the very last time. Heavy sigh.

    From the sublime to ... Christopher Atkins, stuffed uncomfortably into a three piece suit for lunch at the Oil Baron’s Club with Sue Ellen, dressed nattily in a Dennis the Menace jumper, and JR. (It suddenly seems so long ago when Peter, nude but for his genitals spray-painted blue, told Sue Ellen, in response to her request that he accompany Lucy to the Ball, “I only have one suit and it’s not even dark.”) JR finally drops the other shoe: “I know that you bedded my wife and I also know you felt you were the father of the child she lost ... and I can understand the reason why it happened, but I don’t like it any more than any other husband would ... Sue Ellen, there’s only one way he’s gonna stay outta jail. I want you back in my room and I want you back in my bed. From now on, I want you where I want you and when I want you ... What’s it gonna be?” “Don’t do it, Sue Ellen!” Peter yelps. “Peter, I have to,” smoulders Sue Ellen, without taking her eyes from JR. “I love her!” protests Peter. “Wonderful!” laughs JR. Peter lunges at him: “You lousy-” “Get this kid offa me ...!” shouts JR and Dora Mae sends in the goon squad. “I swear I’ll kill you!” vows a red-faced Peter as he is dragged away. (No Alan Beam he.) “I expect to find you in my bed tonight,” JR snaps at Sue Ellen. “I’ll probably be late. Wait up for me.”

    So, just as Bobby and Pam have been brought back to the position they were in before Katherine read Bobby her letter at the beginning of the season, (Jenna Wade notwithstanding) JR and Sue Ellen are now back where they were before Sue Ellen enforced the ‘separate bedrooms’ rule after the fire. Season 6 has come full circle!

    Back at his blue condo, Cliff is fighting a losing battle with a bag of ice when he hears on the TV news about another rich oil strike in the Gulf, this time by Lindero Oil (who?). Just as Katherine would a year later, he hurls his glass at the television. Surely this is the ultimate act of meta-self-destruction for a TV character--to attack the medium you exist within. “Damn you, JR!” he mumbles. “You’re not gonna do this to me again. Never again.”

    Over at Ewing Oil, JR sends Sly home. The anonymous call that traditionally precedes an office shooting, but which later turns out not to come from the guilty party, is now made. Back in 1980, it came from Sue Ellen; this time it’s Afton. Peter’s on his way out of his apartment when his phone starts ringing. Intuitively knowing the caller to be Charlene asking him to pose for another Specs Savers ad campaign, he throws the phone across the room. Excitingly, it’s then time for Teresa’s longest speech of the entire series, which she delivers to Lucy in Sue Ellen’s empty bedroom: “She was very upset. Suddenly she dropped everything that she was carrying, grabbed something from a drawer and left.” (Yet another unseen scene, but it couldn’t have been as lip-tremblingly dramatic as the equivalent moment in “House Divided”, where Sue Ellen took the gun off the bed and placed it in her purse.)

    Having already taken the call that delivered the saddest news of the season (Mark’s plane crash), Jackie now receives the call that delivers the happiest. It’s from Bull Dawson in the Gulf: “We just brought in a test well ... and it’s a biggun. Maybe the richest strike in the Gulf!” Jackie passes the news onto Vaughn, who’s on the verge of padlocking the company. “After I what I did to him, Cliff Barnes will crush me,” he realises. “JR and his lousy schemes; that man has crucified me!” That’s the last we see of Vaughn Leland, and so a big shout out to Dennis Patrick for one of the wittiest, wickedest performances of the entire series.

    Then it’s handheld camera and creepy music time at the Ewing offices as three bullets fly whack, whack, whack into the back of JR’s chair, out of which falls ... Bobby! Shock, surprise, see you next season! (Would have been funnier if was Sly, though.)
     
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  2. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I agree. This is my favourite season, one that I'm watching right now. This season has the sense everyone is on board. The actors have settled nicely into their characters and the writers have thoughtfully set out a ripper of a season where JR is weaving his dark magic.

    And a nice touch was seeing Harris Ryland make his first appearance. Ok, so Mitch Pileggi was playing a cowboy enjoying a beer with his mates at Billy Bob's while teasing Jenna Wade, until Bobby steps in and tells the cowboys to cool it.
     
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  3. Ray&Donna

    Ray&Donna Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I like Mitch Pileggi so much on THE X-FILES that I could never look at him in any sort of villainous way. :lol:
     
  4. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    :10:
    "The child looks up at her with those big eyes of his and thinks, “Eggs and toast, bitch! Eggs and toast!”":rolling: :giggle: :rlol: :bah:
     
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