Re-watching Season 7

Discussion in 'Dallas Season Reviews' started by James from London, Feb 24, 2017.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Thanks again to @Toni for resurrecting these posts -- and apologies to the concerned person who kindly sent me a private message to tell me I was wasting the few remaining years of my useless life by continuing to post about a long-dead TV series for ignoring their advice that I should do something else instead.

    "Killer at Large”


    Ooh, new location pictures in the opening credits! The city looks brighter, glitzier; its buildings taller, more modern, even sorta space-agey. It’s weird not to see Barbara Bel Geddes in the opening credits. Patrick Duffy succeeds her as the first actor in alphabetical order. There are updated panel pictures of Cliff (finally), Donna (new hair), Pam (new hair) and Lucy (balancing a stetson on her head). Steve Kanaly’s clips remain stubbornly unchanged since Season 2; something to do with his “timeless cowboy” image, perhaps. The big news is the addition of Howard Keel and Jenna, looking distinguished and beautiful respectively and making the whole opening credits sequence feel fuller than ever before.

    This is the fourth successive season premiere written by Arthur Bernard Lewis. 

The action picks up moments after where the Season 6 cliff-hanger left off. It’s Tuesday night at the Ewing offices and as we see the door of one elevator tantalisingly close, the other opens and out hurries ... Afton. (Don’t tell me the banshee cleaning woman who discovered JR at the beginning of Season 3 was unavailable?) This is the second of only two visits Afton makes to Ewing Oil. The first is shortly after her arrival in Season 3, and so having return here in her last episode helps bring the character full circle (sorta). “JR, I wanna talk to you,” she shouts. “You and your lousy schemes, you ruined everything!” She barges into JR’s office only to find Bobby lying unconscious on the floor, in much the same way that she discovered Cliff after his overdose at the end of Season 4. (Afton-on-the-spot was also first with the news of Rebecca’s fatal plane crash in Season 5.) “Cliff, what have you done?” she murmurs, crouching over Bobby.

    Back at Southfork, JR returns home to a quiet house. “Where is everyone?” he calls out. “I’m everyone,” Lucy replies, sounding like a unisex Chaka Khan. “What happened with Peter?” she asks. Oh, Lucy, Christopher Atkins is so last season. “I have reliable information that he’s on his way to New York right now,” replies JR. “They’ve dropped all the charges against him.” Lucy is suddenly transformed from Chaka Khan into Hercule Poirot. “Charges dropped? Lack of evidence?” she muses, mentally twiddling her moustache. “Peter’s on his way to New York and Sue Ellen’s back in your room ... It’s all very neat, JR. Almost like someone with a lot of power and influence stepped in and settled the case ... You set Peter up, didn’t you? ... Peter was playing around with Sue Ellen and you found out! I’ve been a damn fool. Nobody around here cares about anyone or anything!” Time to sling some hash, girlfriend.

    While JR is changing into his jim-jams, a freshly mulleted Sue Ellen (is the new hair a desperate attempt to turn JR off?) steals into “their” bedroom, takes a gun from her purse, puts it in a drawer and then ... well, to be honest, I’ve never been quite sure what it is she does next. She appears to take another gun from the exact same position and place it under her pillow. I don’t quite get it. JR appears. “Get undressed,” he snaps.

    As police sirens wail through downtown Dallas, Bobby is wheeled out of the Ewing building on a stretcher, just as his brother was four years earlier. There is a smaller (if still unlikely) crowd watching this time around; I guess when you’ve seen one facially obscured Ewing brother on a stretcher, you’ve seen ‘em all.

    Over at the Krebbs’ house, the news isn’t good. Donna has an unflattering new haircut, (which admittedly improves in subsequent scenes) and to add insult to injury, the props man has handed Susan Howard a romance novel to hold. She regards the book with an amused detachment. Edgar Randolph calls, but doesn’t make much sense. (“It’s a terrible time, Ray. A terrible time!”) He agrees to meet with Donna and Ray the following morning.

    Ray calls JR to make sure he isn’t dead or anything, but JR is more interested in having his way with Sue Ellen. “Don’t force me,” she pleads, but he ignores her. “All I want you to do is gimme the same kind of attention you gave that college boy,” he murmurs. “If it helps you can think of him, honey.” She reaches under her pillow for the gun, but before she can pull a Holly Harwood, the phone rings. It’s a nurse calling from Dallas Memorial (the very same nurse who helps Pam escape from the hospital in Season 10. How’s that for continuity?). “Bobby’s been shot!” JR tells Sue Ellen.

    Lucy tags along with them to the hospital where his condition is described as “critical.” He has two bullet wounds and internal bleeding, but the nasty looking head injury, the one that made him look seriously dead in the cliff hanging freeze frame, is explained away as a graze from “a third bullet across the temple. We don’t think that one did any serious damage.”

    Afton, after being questioned by Burke Devlin from DARK SHADOWS, (“Are you saying that I did it?” “Don’t leave town unless you call us”) joins JR, Sue Ellen and Lucy (the three Ewings she had most interaction with during her early days on the show) at the hospital. But there is no time for reminiscing. Afton has one more bombshell to drop: “Bobby was shot in your office,” she tells JR. “There were bullet holes right through the back of your chair.” “Oh my God,” he exclaims. “That means someone was trying to kill me!”



    It seems there’s “critical” and then there’s “critical” and by the next morning, (Wednesday) Bobby is out of danger. “He came through the surgery well,” Sue Ellen reports. It’s a wise move on the writers’ part not to draw out the life-or-death aspect of Bobby’s shooting. What worked in 1980, when JR’s life hung in the balance for two whole episodes, probably wouldn’t fly so well in 1984. During the span of DALLAS’s run, television audiences grew increasingly sophisticated (eventually becoming downright cynical). Whereas in 1981 it seemed conceivable that it really could be Pam or Sue Ellen doing the Dead Woman’s Float in the Southfork pool, three years later, we’re pretty certain Bobby isn’t going to expire from his bullet wounds. In fact, the entire “Who Shot Bobby?” concept is an unspoken admission to the audience that “Hey, remember that whole ‘Who Shot JR’ thing? We know we’re never gonna top that and you know we’re never gonna top that, so let’s not even try.” What saves the story line from becoming cheap self-parody, however, is the conviction with which it is told. There is, thankfully, not one wink to the audience, not one rolling-eyed “here we go again” moment in the entire episode. The importance of what has become a tradition, even a ritual, of the DALLAS season premiere--the scenes in which we see each of the central characters reacting to the news of the previous season’s cliff hanger--should also be noted. While these moments do nothing to further the plot--after all, we’re just watching information being conveyed that we’ve been privy to since the end of last season--and the characters’ standard reactions (usually “Oh my God!” followed by a stunned expression) rarely provide us with any fresh insight into their psyches, we still need to see the event impacting on the characters before it can truly impact on us. It’s only when the character’s reactions are glossed over--following Pam’s car crash, for example--that we realise how crucial these moments are. To that end, much of the second act of this episode is given over to the remaining characters being told not only about Bobby’s shooting, but also Cliff’s oil strike.

    There is, however, a striking lack of logic to the sequence of these events. Bobby was shot at approximately 8.30pm, but Sue Ellen waits almost twelve hours before notifying his fiancee. “I didn’t wanna call you till he was out of danger,” she explains lamely. “I was hoping you hadn’t heard the news reports.” But why hasn’t Jenna heard the news reports? In fact, why wasn’t she on the news? Did no one in the Texas media think to call the former heiress for a quote?
    Meanwhile, Ray and Donna are busy being stood up by Edgar on a street corner when, through a shop window, they see Bobby’s face on a TV news report. “Looks like he’s been hurt!” concludes Donna. So that means neither Sue Ellen nor Lucy could be bothered to call them with the news either. Guess the Krebbses really are the second class relations.

    Over at Barnes-Wentworth, Jackie finds Cliff asleep in his car in the parking lot. (There’s a parallel here with Sue Ellen, who woke up in her car in the airport parking lot the morning after JR was shot.) Cliff looks almost dead, as well he might after pulling his second all night bender in a row. “Cliff, you’re sleeping in the parking lot,” Jackie informs him amusingly. “Wake up! ... Bull Dawson called. 340 came in. He said it’s the biggest strike ever!” Cliff’s dishevelled, disbelieving, delighted response is truly touching: “I struck oil?! ... Before Vaughn Leland’s deadline ran out? You mean I won? ... You mean I beat Vaughn Leland? You mean I beat JR? ... You mean, after all these years I finally won??! ... I’m a winner!!”

    Katherine is in Houston, buying back her parents’ house. (Full points again for continuity--the location is the very same as the house Pam tracked Rebecca down to in Season 3). While Bobby’s shooting comes as no surprise to Katherine, news of his recovery certainly does. “The fact that he was found so quickly is probably the reason he has survived so far,” announces the radio report. So not only is Afton responsible for Cliff’s oil strike, (she is the one who advised him to change crews, remember) but she has also saved Bobby’s life. Whattagal! Katherine’s expression is appropriately enigmatic, but “darn that pesky blonde!” is possibly the uppermost thought in her mind. In fact, when she later plants the gun in Cliff’s condo, might her plan have been to frame Afton for the dirty deed?

    It has long been a DALLAS tradition for Pam to be the last person to hear bad news. Whether it’s Baby John’s kidnapping, JR’s shooting, Kristin’s death, Cliff’s suicide attempt, Sue Ellen and Mickey’s accident, the Southfork fire or Jenna’s arrest for murder, she (along with Bobby if he’s with her) remains in blissful ignorance until every other cast member has had their “Oh my God”/stunned expression moment. And so it proves here. “I wanted to call Cliff and congratulate him,” she tells Jackie excitedly from San Antonio. “I just read about his oil strike!” So, she managed to read about the oil strike but not about the shooting, even though the events happened almost simultaneously. Does this mean Pam subscribes to a newspaper that only prints happy news? It doesn’t take Jackie long to knock the smile off her face: “Bobby’s been shot!” “Oh my God!” Pam quivers. “I’m coming back to Dallas!”

    There’s more bad news waiting when she gets there. “Pam, Bobby’s blind,” Jenna tells her. “Do they think it’s permanent?” Pam quivers. They listen solemnly to a bunch of medical gobbledygook from Bobby’s doctor, President Palmer from 24, (who ends up getting shot himself! Oh it’s all so ironic and Kennedyesque.) As the ex-wife, there really is no place for Pam at the hospital, but she hovers anyway, Jenna tolerating her presence for the time being.

    Back at the office, a twitchy JR (“My life is in danger!”) meets with Burke Devlin from DARK SHADOWS to run through the list of suspects. This bit’s always fun. “Afton Cooper appears in the clear,” reports Captain Devlin. “Cliff Barnes is another story. We’re checking on him. Same goes for Edgar Randolph.” JR reminds him about Katherine Wentworth and “a young man named Peter Richards.”

    Marilee Stone (big hat) drops by with some more names for the list. “I know of a dozen people who’d like to shoot you, including me,” she tells JR. “If I had a gun, I’d put a bullet between your eyes right now!” JR looks at her in confusion. “You act like you don’t know what Cliff Barnes did,” she continues. “He brought in what could just be the richest tract in the Gulf ... I was partners with Cliff Barnes until you talked me out of it ... The cartel and every independent in Texas will be linin’ up to do business with him ... You’re yesterday’s news!”

    It’s Wednesday evening and Cliff returns home with a bottle of champagne to find Afton (big red hat, never lovelier) with her bags packed. “I’ve gotten permission from the police to visit my mother in Biloxi,” she tells him. You know, until I started posting about individual episodes, I never really noticed what a good character Afton is. She was always just ... there. In a way, that’s her genius. This, her final scene, is the highlight of the episode and probably the best exit any character gets from the series. Not only is it a touching farewell scene, but it also advances the plot. “I think you went to the Ewing office to kill JR and you shot Bobby by mistake,” she tells Cliff. He ridicules the notion, but it then becomes clear that he cannot account for his whereabouts at the time of the shooting. (At this point, he has no recollection of being at The Mandy Winger Bar and Grill.) “You blacked out before, I guess you blacked out again,” Afton persists. “So I blacked out!” he replies, trying desperately to shrug it off. “So you could have done the shooting!” (Again, this is the exact same dilemma that Sue Ellen was faced with after JR was shot.) “Look, if that’s what you wanna think that’s fine, but I got a rich oil strike to celebrate.” “Doesn’t it even bother you that Bobby was shot?” she asks. “No,” Cliff replies defensively. “He’s a Ewing. Wanna drink?” “I’m not drinking with you,” Afton replies, tears in her eyes. “You are the coldest man I have ever met. You make JR Ewing look like a saint.” She heads for the door. Cliff is perplexed. “Well, say hello to your mama in her new house!”--oh I just love that they kept that as a running gag right to the end--”When are you coming back?” “I’m not.” “That’s ridiculous!” “No, Cliff. Our relationship is ridiculous. It’s over. I just wish I could say it’s been terrific ...” “Just when everything’s going great!” “Great? Great for whom? For you. The only one you’ve ever cared about. Cliff Barnes.” And with that, she’s gone, (pregnant, don’t forget!) leaving Cliff alone in the dark with his champagne. A beat. “Who needs her?” he says to the silence. Does KK have tears in his eyes as well? Guess we’ll have to wait for the DVD release (fingers crossed) to be sure.

    

Thursday morning. Bruce Broughton’s achingly poignant, sweeping score plays over early morning footage of downtown Dallas, making it feel as though the whole city has somehow been affected by the shooting. Flanked by bodyguards, JR arrives outside the Ewing building. The mood suddenly shifts gear as Edgar Randolph steps out of nowhere. “EWING!!” he cries before firing his gun in JR’s direction. After Mark Graison’s off-screen plane crash and Miss Ellie’s off-screen kidnapping, it’s good to get some on screen, honest to goodness action, even if poor old Edgar does prove a lousy shot. “You’re sick and you damn well near killed my brother too,” JR tells him as police cars and bystanders gather in the background. “JR, I’m gonna spend the rest of my life tryin’ to kill you!” yells Edgar before being dragged away, swearing vengeance just like Sue Ellen, Walt Driscoll and so many others before him: “I’ll get you, JR. I’ll get you!”

    Meanwhile, a remorseful Marilee shows off her thunder thighs to Cliff Barnes, aka “the most courageous man in the oil business ... I don’t know how to make it up to you. I’ll do anything, Cliff.” They end up doing anything on an inflatable air bed next to Marilee’s pool. (It’s a wonder one of her talons didn’t cause a puncture.) Cliff then gives her the memorable kiss-off (“That, Marilee, was the last time you and I will be partners in any endeavour, professional or otherwise. I don’t need your money, I won’t miss your body, I hate to be double-crossed and I don’t forgive and I don’t forget.”) which will come back to haunt him during Season 9.

    Patrick Duffy smartly sidesteps any “For Your Emmy Consideration” blind acting by donning a pair of dark glasses for his hospital scenes. The writers have ingeniously decided, with the aid of a wibbly wobbly flashback, to make a mystery out of Bobby being in JR’s office when he got shot. “I had an overseas call to make,” he explains to Jenna and Pam. “The person on the other end couldn’t hear me ... For some reason, I decided to look in the mouthpiece. I was a little surprised to find my phone bugged ... Maybe all the phones were bugged ... The logical place to start lookin’ was JR’s office ... I went to the desk, sat in JR’s chair and picked up his phone. I was about to unscrew the mouthpiece when I [got blam, blam, blammed].”

    Pam intercepts Katherine (big hat, hypodermic in her handbag) outside the hospital. “ You’re a troublemaker!” she tells her. “Go back to Houston and stay out of our lives!”

    In the last scene of the episode, a guilt-ridden JR finally faces his brother. He addresses him in the same apologetic “You gotta believe me, Bobby” tone he adopted in the wake of Miss Ellie’s kidnapping. “Bobby, you took two slugs in the guts because of me. I know that. You don’t think I’d take advantage of you at a time like this, do you?” The brothers are interrupted by the latest news bulletin from Captain DARK SHADOWS. “There was no ballistics match between the bullets they took out of Bobby and Edgar Randolph’s gun,” Fogarty tells JR. “Whoever tried to kill you is still at large.” Oh goody!

    And here are some further observations I made about this episode when I last re-re-watched it a couple of years ago:

    When JR employs bodyguards, it feels like an act of weakness — an example of physical cowardice that Jock would surely have disapproved of.

    Of course, Afton’s departure becomes even more interesting when viewed in hindsight, when one realises that the character, like Sammy Jo when she first departed DYNASTY in Season 2, must be pregnant at this point. Her line to Cliff, “I’m not drinking with you,” leapt out at me this time around. For the first time, it occurred to me that Afton might already know she’s pregnant here. Perhaps it’s even the reason — combined with the fact that “Cliff Barnes has just become a mighty big man in this town” — that she decides to leave. Nothing if not intuitive, could it be that Afton senses what a dangerous combination power and a child could be for Cliff? Given how things will pan out in New DALLAS, one of her final lines to him — “You are the coldest man I have ever met; you make JR Ewing look like a saint” — now sounds oddly prophetic.

    JR assures Bobby that he will take care of Ewing Oil in his absence. “That’s a little like having the fox watch the henhouse,” Bobby replies drily. JR will use the same metaphor himself a few decades later. “You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse,” he tells Cliff and Afton’s offspring at the beginning of New DALLAS’s second season.
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    “Battle Lines”

    Captain Fogarty drops by the office to give JR the current low-down on the list of suspects: “In addition to Randolph, we’ve cleared Afton Cooper for the moment ...” (Why? Because Audrey Landers’ contract wasn’t renewed?) “It appears that Katherine Wentworth was in Houston at the time of the shooting ...” (doh!) “I talked to Vaughn Leland ...” (off screen, dammit; thereby robbing DARK SHADOWS fans of a reunion between adversaries Burke Devlin and Jason MacGuire.) “Did you find Peter Richards yet?” JR asks. “The police in New York are still trying to locate him,” replies Fogarty vaguely. (Have they checked all the all male go-go bars?) “Your prime suspect is Cliff Barnes,” JR insists, but Fogarty isn’t convinced: “Cliff Barnes just struck it rich in the Gulf. The last thing he’s thinking about is vengeance.” “But did he strike oil before or after the shooting?” “I don’t know,” shrugs Fogarty. (Gosh, he’s not very good, is he?) “I had another thought,” he adds. “Sue Ellen ... Wives do kill husbands and vice versa. Do you know where she was the night of the shooting?” “No,” replies JR. Regrettably, Fogarty’s questioning of Sue Ellen also takes place off screen so we never get to find out where she went after fleeing Southfork with a gun either. 



    Katherine (turban, potted plant) makes a second attempt to visit Bobby in the hospital (and possibly kill him; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that turban came complete with Angelica Nero style dagger compartment). This time her plans are interrupted by Lucy who is being randomly bitchy for the sake of it, (“Are you just gonna sit there and watch him sleep??”) and very good at it she is too. 



    “You think JR might have had your phone bugged?” Ray asks Bobby. Donna posits a different theory which will turn out to be more interesting than what actually happened: “Do you think it’s possible that the person, whoever it was that bugged your phone, could also be the one that did the shooting?” On Bobby’s behalf, the Krebbses, Phyllis and a man with a fancy box do a bug sweep of Ewing Oil and find that JR’s and Sly’s phones are the only ones that are clean. “Damn!” exclaims the hospital bound Bobster, “With me here he can take over that company and run it any way he damn well pleases, and that’s just what he plans on doin’!”--again, a juicier scenario than what actually plays out on screen. “I gotta have somebody in there to protect my interests.” Ray suggests Donna, (“She’d make a good watchdog for ya”) thereby setting in motion a series of events that will lead to the breakdown of the Krebbs’ marriage (but don’t feel too badly, Ray; I’m sure it was doomed anyway).

    Donna’s stint at Ewing Oil resembles Pam’s in Season 8 inasmuch as she makes an impressive entrance (Susan Howard managing to inject the words, “Hello, Sly” with an impressive amount of contempt) followed by ... not very much. In each case, JR is taken aback to find one of his detested sisters-in-law sitting behind Bobby’s desk, ready to kick Ewing ass. “I am here to protect his interests, to look after his share of the company,” Donna explains crisply. “In case it’s slipped your mind, darlin’,” a testy JR replies, “Bobby’s my brother. I’ll look after his interests.” “Well, it’s because you are Bobby’s brother that he needs me here; you are the one he needs protection from.” Ouch! Even Pam’s Season 8 request for herb tea didn’t have that much bite.



    The irony, if one can call it that, is that Bobby doesn’t need protection from JR. Because JR has suddenly decided there are more important things in the world than taking over Ewing Oil; things like love and family and playing fair (and who knows? Maybe apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves). This is a horrible cop out. It reminds me of the frustrations of watching a show like ALLY McBEAL or SEX AND THE CITY. On those series, the basic premise seemed to hang on the central character looking for, but never quite finding, her ideal partner. If she did meet someone who seemed ideal, a reason would have to found (i.e. contrived) why they could not stay together--because if they were to stay together, the character’s ultimate goal would be attained and the show would no longer have a reason to exist. DALLAS has a similar premise in that its central character, JR, is constantly striving for, but must never be allowed to achieve, absolute control of Ewing Oil. An obstacle must therefore be placed in his path, in the form of a restraining influence. During the first three years of the series that influence was clearly Jock. After his death, Jock’s influence was replaced by that of a newly empowered Ellie. When JR and Bobby became equal partners of Ewing Oil in Season 6, it meant that JR became partially answerable to his kid brother as well. This brings us to the beginning of Season 7 where it would seem that, with Mama out of the picture and Bobby incapacitated, JR is finally off the leash and can run riot. The logical progression of the character would be for him to invoke some long overlooked clause in the Ewing partnership agreement which will allow him to have blind Bobby declared incompetent and thus seize control of the entire Ewing empire. But here, logical character progression runs bang up against the premise of the show, which dictates that JR’s impulses must be restrained-- somehow. So clearly, something has to give: either the show’s premise changes and evolves (in the same way that KNOTS LANDING’s did over the years) or JR’s character progression is stunted and compromised in order that DALLAS’s essential status quo be preserved. As we discover in this episode, the programme makers choose the second option whereby JR, in the absence of an external restraining influence, is obliged to restrain himself. 



    This manifests itself during a curious scene in which John Ross, after paying lip service to the absence of former best bud Peedurr, (“I miss him”) asks JR if he is planning to take over Ewing Oil now that Bobby’s in the hospital. “Mama said Bobby can’t see right now,” he reasons. “John Ross,” JR replies, “there’s something I wanna explain to you, son. One of these days, I expect to control of all of Ewing Oil and Bobby won’t work there, he’ll be doin’ somethin’ else, but I want you to remember that he’s my brother and I love him very much and it just wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of him while he’s sick. That’s somethin’ you don’t do to people you love.” This is the first time we have heard JR declare his love for his brother, which seems to fit the theory that now that the original Miss Ellie has gone, it is Bobby--as opposed to Donna Reed--who replaces her as the parental (i.e. restraining) force in JR’s life. And as Bobby himself is not presently in a position to reign in JR’s wilder impulses, JR’s newly discovered sibling devotion must do so instead. “But when he’s well and able to defend his shares in Ewing Oil,” he continues, “well, I’m gonna fight him for them, and of course I’ll win, and I’m gonna ...”

    Empty promises, empty words. JR’s not gonna fight Bobby, in the same way that he’s not involved in the kind of industrial espionage that Bobby and Donna suspect him of. Sadly, JR’s bark is proving worse than his bite--too much of that sort of thing and you end up with the kind of “crusty but ultimately benign” character television drama was full of before DALLAS came along, and to which JR’s “stop at nothing" ruthlessness was supposed to be the antidote. “You gotta remember, with family you play fair cos there are rules to follow and if you do, you’ll be able to live with yourself,” concludes JR. This, from the man who forged his father’s will, mortgaged his mother’s house, and used both Jock’s heart surgery and Miss Ellie’s mastectomy to manipulate events to his advantage. Now, after seven years of playing, he’s suddenly telling us there are rules? This is like the horrible moment in FALCON CREST’s seventh year when Angela Channing affectionately announces that she enjoys her battles with sworn enemy Richard. And there's us assuming she was taking it seriously all these years--ain’t we the schmucks?

    This, to me, is DALLAS’s biggest cop out since JR gave Sue Ellen an easy ride at their Season 4 divorce hearing for no more valid reason than it would throw the show off track if she were to lose custody of her son. 

The cop out is compounded by the writers having Sue Ellen overhear, and be impressed by, JR’s “heart-warming” speech to John Ross. (Character wise, it would make more sense if JR’s speech was a figment of Sue Ellen’s imagination, a fantasy she had concocted to make the idea of reconciling with him more palatable.) With Sue Ellen’s attitude to her husband already softening, the writers are able to sidestep the thorny issue that was raised at the end of Season 6 when JR made it clear that he was prepared to force Sue Ellen into having sex with him on a regular basis. “Would JR really go through with raping his wife?” we asked ourselves over the hiatus. However, the question should have been: “Would the programme makers allow JR to go through with raping his wife?” The answer, as it turns out, is a big fat “No”. “I am in no mood for sex!” says JR for the first time ever, and you can be sure he will continue to say it until Sue Ellen becomes willing to have sex with him voluntarily. This renders JR’s entire revenge scheme against Sue Ellen and Peter Richards null and void and I’d like my money back please. 



    Carrying on from where last week’s poolside humiliation of Marilee left off, Cliff spends much of this episode paying back those who conspired against him--Vaughn Leland, (“I’m filing a complaint against you and your bank for unfair banking practices”) Sly (“I just came here to tell you that you’re a double cross and a sneak”) and finally JR, whom he confronts loudly and publicly at the Oil Baron’s Club. “I would like to thank JR Ewing, Dallas’s newest banker,” he proclaims, handing JR a cheque for his share of the loan. “I want to personally thank you for my success, and of course someday I hope that you’ll publicly thank my daddy for making Ewing Oil what it is. You see, you tried to do to me what Jock did to Digger but ... this time a Barnes beat the hell out of a Ewing!” The best response JR can manage is to glumly pour a glass of champagne over Cliff’s head. “Now, don’t forget your cheque!” Cliff laughs. 



    Cliff also finds time to catch up with Pam for the first time since before Mark’s death, Bobby’s shooting, Afton’s departure and his own oil strike. “I’m on top of the world for the first time in my life!” he says, standing in the back of Pam’s house (which appears to have been relocated to Spain). “Cliff, now that everything’s going right for you,” smiles Pam, “don’t you think it would be nice if you and Afton settled down and got married?” “She walked out on me,” replies Cliff. “Right after Bobby was shot.” Pam’s sweetly worked up reaction and Cliff’s offhand response has always struck me as an endearing, amusing exchange--Pam: “Well Cliff, that was an awful time for her! I read in the papers that she found him! Didn’t you know that? I mean, she really liked Bobby! That was awful for her!” Cliff: “I know, OK, well, you know, I’m sorry Bobby got shot too. I liked him even though he is a Ewing. Been a lot better if it was JR ... Oh, don’t be hypocritical. Who would have mourned him except his mother maybe?” Pam’s reply to Cliff asking her when she plans to return to work (“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”) gives him the opportunity to make light of her chronic indecisiveness: “Nobody is ever gonna accuse you making hasty decisions!” he laughs. Bless. With Mark and Afton gone and Katherine excommunicated, these two are suddenly all that’s left of Pam’s Gang from Season 6.

    In-between murder attempts, Katherine stops by Cliff’s place where she refuses to let him buy back his share of Wentworth Tool and Die. She also declines to congratulate him on his big success in the Gulf. “Cliff, you were just lucky ...” “You got the cutest personality, Katherine. Anyone ever tell you that?” He then turns his back on her to take a call from Jordan Lee ... big mistake. 



    Pam (short fluffy hair, lovely) has an odd scene in which she visits Bobby at the hospital, makes a long-awaited revelation, (“You know the letter Katherine read to you, the one that made you go ahead with the divorce? ... I didn’t write it, Katherine did”) that leaves Bobby reeling (“That letter changed everything. Pam, we might not have gotten divorced if it hadn’t been for that!”) and then immediately goes home!

    She returns a few hours later for the best scene of the episode. Just as she intercepted Katherine on the hospital steps during last week’s instalment, so Jenna now does the same to her. This is the first real confrontation between these two women since Season 2, when Jenna was played by Francine Tacker. There is an interesting parallel between Jenna here and Afton and Rebecca at the beginning of Season 5 when they refuse Sue Ellen admission to Cliff’s hospital room. Audrey Landers and Priscilla Pointer had just been elevated to “Also Starring” status at the beginning of each episode; Priscilla Presley has just been promoted to the opening credits. In both instances, there’s a subtextual feeling of these actresses/characters somehow asserting their new-found status by standing up to the show’s more established divas. “I don’t think you and Bobby have that much to say to each other,” Jenna informs Pam bluntly, refusing to let her pass. “You divorced him. Bobby and I are going to be married ... The Ewings like me, including JR. Without you, the Barnes/Ewing feud will stop.” None of which Pam can deny because it’s the simple truth. “You gave up all rights to him when you walked out on him,” Jenna continues, “and especially when you agreed to marry Mark.” Ah, now that bit smarts--you can see it in VP’s face. However, Pam is not about to explain her true reasons for accepting Mark’s proposal. “Jenna, don’t tell me what my rights are,” she says, trying to control her anger. “Think about Bobby,” Jenna pleads, “not about yourself. If you really love him, stay out of his life.” Interestingly, Jenna’s motives aren’t entirely selfless in this scene either. Bobby has already said he won’t marry her unless his sight returns. The last thing she wants is his sexy ex hanging around. Unaware of this, Pam walks away in silent defeat. (Would Jenna really have gotten the upper hand so completely if Presley wasn’t now a fully fledged cast member? I wonder.) 



    Pam and Cliff have another sweet scene when she returns to work (or, at least, to eat lunch and look good) at Barnes-Wentworth. Then suddenly, Cliff is arrested outside the building. “The charge is the attempted murder of Bobby Ewing ... We got a warrant and searched Mr Barnes’s townhouse. We found the gun that shot Mr Bobby Ewing.” God knows, a scene like this is hardly original--by this point in the series, Cliff has been arrested for the murder of Julie Grey, suspected of shooting JR and questioned over the death of Kristin Shepard, (only Jamie Ewing and Johnny Dancer to go!) but the writers still find a way to keep events fresh and exciting. The main focus of this scene isn’t Cliff, but Pam. It is through her eyes that we see JR watching from his car as Cliff is led away. “You can’t do this!” she yells at the police in vain. JR smiles and drives off. Pam’s eyes narrow as she watches him go.

    And here is some of what I wrote after re-re-watching this episode more recently:

    In the past, I've always had a problem with the scene in this week’s DALLAS where JR explains to John Ross that it wouldn’t be fair of him to wrest control of Ewing Oil away from Bobby while he’s in the hospital: “You've got to remember, with family you play fair because there are rules to follow and if you do, you’ll be able to live with yourself.” JR’s words here felt to me like a cop-out on the part of the writers, a way of reigning in the character’s ambition, not out of a preexisting sense of family loyalty, but simply in order to preserve the show’s status quo, whereby the two brothers continue running the company together, however uneasily.

    However, New DALLAS has given me a different outlook. When Bobby is stricken with cancer towards the end of New DALLAS’s first season, an equally frail JR reluctantly abandons his plans to drill for oil on Southfork and instead signs ownership of the ranch back to his brother. That situation is depicted so meaningfully and poignantly that its power sort of reverberates back through the years to imbue the JR/John Ross scene with a credibility I never felt it had before. Similarly, the way Sue Ellen seems to drift back to JR’s side in this episode, after keeping him at arm’s length for so long, was something I always found frustrating and disappointing, as if the writers didn’t know what else to do with her character. Viewed from this distance, however, it seems inevitable. Regardless of the rights and wrongs (or even the dramatic highs and lows) of the matter, this is simply how their relationship functioned: Sue Ellen could only ever keep JR at bay for so long.

    Re the scene where Sue Ellen comes down to breakfast to find JR brooding after spending a sleepless night on the Southfork patio and tries to get him to open up: Again, viewed from a post-New DALLAS perspective, such a scene — JR and Sue Ellen bickering and talking almost like a conventional long-married couple — takes on a poignancy it never had before, and that it probably wasn’t even intended to have.
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "If at First You Don't Succeed"

    The episode kicks off with scenes of JR and Bobby at the hospital and then Cliff and Pam outside the courthouse, each pair of siblings discussing Cliff's arrest for Bobby's shooting and the events at the end of Season 6 that make him such a prime suspect. "Bob," JR explains to his brother, "the night before you were shot, before Barnes's tract came in and he thought he'd lost every cent in the world, I went to his office and I told him just how big a fool I'd been playin' him for. I tricked him, Bob." Then Cliff picks up the story: "My world was comin' apart. Believe me, I wanted to kill him. All I could think was, JR has done it to me one more time." The scene between Cliff and Pam feels alive and energetic, and there's a nice bit of comic timing at the end as Pam shoots Cliff a suspicious look after he admits that he really can't remember whether or not he did the shooting. Kercheval and Principal seem to grow increasingly comfortable with one another as time goes by, and their scenes just get better and better. By contrast there's something slow and lumbering about JR in this episode, especially during the bumbling apology he makes to Bobby. This is not the first time JR has felt remorse for his actions, but while his previous bouts of conscience (such as his internal struggle in the face of parental pressure to take responsibility for Sue Ellen's alcoholism and pregnancy during "John Ewing III, Parts I&II" or the realisation in "Ewing's Inferno" that the battle for Ewing Oil had gotten way out of control) have been fascinating to watch, adding layers of complexity to the character, this new, aw shucks "Oh Bob, I can't tell you how sorry I am" persona undermines the character, making him seem merely weak and childlike. JR has never articulated his feelings more blatantly, and less interestingly, than here: "Bobby, I gotta a few things to say. It's not gonna be real easy for me so if you don't mind sittin' there listenin' to me, I'd appreciate it ... Guilt has never been one of my strong emotions, you probably know that better than anybody, but since Barnes shot you I've been feelin' a lot of it and if I could, Bob, I'd change places with you in a minute." Bobby, meanwhile, continues in the role of the disapproving, scolding parent. His line, "I don't blame you for goin' after Cliff, but I sure as hell don't agree with your methods", closely resembles Miss Ellie's reprimand to JR in Season 5, also regarding his feud with Cliff: "I understand your reasons, but I detest your methods".



    Strangely, the closer this episode gets to Southfork, which is the heart of the show after all, the more unfocused it becomes. A family dinner scene, between JR, Sue Ellen, the Krebbses and Clayton (on leave from his honeymoon) feels lopsided. Without the unifying presence of Miss Ellie or even Bobby, it feels unlikely that this disparate group would gather together for a meal. "I just thought it would be nice to be around family for a change," explains Sue Ellen in airhead hostess mode. A humourless JR grumbles about each of his dinner guests in turn, starting with his half-brother, ("Family? That's a joke. The only one who qualifies is Ray and he misses by a half") followed by half-sister-in-law Donna ("I'll tell you what I'm pessimistic about--you bein' in my office") and finally his new step-father for abandoning Miss Ellie ("You should be with her, instead of leavin' her all alone thousands of miles away in some foreign country."). He then allows Clayton, of all people, to put him in his place: "Come on JR, the only thing we ought to be concerned about is Bobby. Now think about how he's gotta to be feeling right now."

    

Priscilla Presley and Linda Gray both have their worst scenes to date in this episode. Presley is all over the place during an angry rant at Bobby's bedside and it looks like she's struggling to remember her lines. "I don't know, Bobby, every time you start trusting JR something happens," she stutters in fits and starts. "Why didn't the bullets hit him??" Given the harmonious relationship that has existed between Jenna and JR up until now, this outburst seems a little harsh. Linda Gray's rock bottom comes during a poolside conversation between Sue Ellen and Clayton in which she attempts to explain why she has reconciled with JR yet again. There's an apologetic air about the scene, as though the writers are using Sue Ellen's words to justify to the audience their stuck-in-a-rut decision to rehash this same old story, but the harder they try, the weaker and sillier Sue Ellen becomes. "I guess it must be hard for a lot of people to understand why I keep going back to JR." "It certainly is for me, Sue Ellen," frowns Clayton. "I don't always understand it myself. It's just that there's a side to JR that most people don't get a chance to see ... Clayton, it's complicated. Oh I know JR does some of the most appalling things at times. But then there are other times, times when he's no more than a little boy--alone, lost even. It's a side I don't get to see very often. When I do it just draws me right back to him." "And that's despite everything you know about him?" he asks, a hint of disgust in his voice. As a viewer, I share Clayton's "here she goes again" bemusement, but the writers seem to be sending out mixed messages. By going to great lengths to depict JR as suddenly vulnerable and misunderstood, they now appear to be validating Sue Ellen's view of JR. Only she and the audience are privy to the fact that he has been softened by the writers. ("He loves me very much, you know," simpers Sue Ellen, "and he loves his family. He's very upset about what happened to Bobby ... That's why I know that it's wrong that Bobby brought Donna into Ewing Oil.") This means that the rest of the characters, by assuming he's the same mean bastard he's always been, ("He brought her in because he knows what JR is capable of!" insists Clayton) are now in the wrong. It's a similar, if far less extreme, shift to that which occurred after DYNASTY's first season where Blake Carrington was transformed from a cold, ruthless patriarch into an unfairly maligned, increasingly saint-like figure. "I know he wouldn't think of hurting Bobby at a time like this!" Sue Ellen protests, by which point Linda Gray is sounding like Charlie's younger, whinier sister. "You still hate JR, don't you?" she huffs. "No, I don't hate JR," sighs Clayton, (like Bobby, he has now been given the role of the exasperated, long-suffering parent) "though Lord knows I have reason to. I just hate the misery he's always causing other people. Be careful of him, Sue Ellen." But we all know she won't be.



    We're also treated to a sex scene between a morose JR and a sweat-drenched Sue Ellen in the exercise room that is as gratuitous as it is queasy-making. "I don't know what it is, Sue Ellen," sighs JR. "I just seem to have this real knack for hurting other people ... I miss the touching and the warmth," he intones, rubbing his pudgy little fingers over her moist neck and shoulders. "Sue Ellen, I'm so alone. I've managed to turn everyone against me. I only have you and John Ross and that's it." She shivers and gasps and moans. Who knew maudlin self-pity could be such an aphrodisiac? "Sue Ellen, I need you. You don't know what it's like to see be so alone surrounded by so much hate." But JR's always been surrounded by hate. He used to get off on it, now it's turned him into a whinging blob. "Just relax, relax. Feels good, doesn't it? Remember how it used to be? Now isn't this nice?" Eww, no not really. Previously, JR and Sue Ellen's love scenes--in fact, all the love scenes on DALLAS--arose out of the action; it was never just about us watching them at it. There's something decidedly DYNASTY about this sequence. There's no sense of place. Is it really happening at Southfork? And with Linda Gray's slightly narcissistic oohing and aahing, it feels like there's some other agenda being pushed here; it's less a dramatic performance, more an "Over 40 and Fabulous" women's magazine article made flesh.



    Curiously, both JR and Sue Ellen are far better in their scenes with Pam than they are with each other. Victoria Principal is really the star of this episode. In an early scene, an angry Pam lies in wait for JR outside the Ewing building. "What were you doing there yesterday when my brother was arrested?" she demands. "How did you know he'd be arrested at that precise moment? " "Well I have friends in the department," JR explains. "I went down there to see the expression on that worm's face when the police arrested him for shootin' my brother." "... He had every reason to shoot you!" yells Pam. "You know I'm gettin' kinda tired of that ol' song, 'Mean nasty JR beatin' up on poor innocent Cliff Barnes.'" replies JR mockingly, suddenly back to his good old, bad old best. "You're beginnin' to sound more and more like him, you know that?" "Well that's fine with me," snaps back Pam, "because that means I'm beginning to sound more and more like a Barnes, thanks to you. I've never believed in the Barnes-Ewing feud, JR, but now I'm going to join it. I'm gonna do everything I can to help Cliff and I'm not gonna rest until all our family scores are settled!" Although it'll take another fifteen episodes for Pam to actually "join" the feud and even then she won't do much beyond write a few cheques, this still feels like a hugely symbolic moment. After six years of fence sitting, she has finally chosen a side. In fact, a direct line can be drawn between this scene and the vow she made to JR in "Election" (Season 1): "I'll tell you something. I don't know how to play by your rules, but some day I will and you're going to pay for what you've done to my brother." 



    There are several different Sue Ellens in this episode. As well as the menopausal Donna Summer groaning and moaning in the exercise room, there's the airhead hostess at the Southfork dinner table (reminiscent of the Sue Ellen we first met back in the mini-series) and even a reprise of Season 6's Nice Woman Linda Gray during her comically disastrous attempt to comfort Jenna by comparing Bobby's blindness to Dusty's impotence. (Seeing the look of alarm on Jenna's face, she hastily retracts the comparison: "Look, I shouldn't have brought this whole thing up, I'm really sorry!") The most enjoyable Sue Ellen, however, is the one that re-emerges during her encounter with Pam i.e. the brittle, bitchy Sue Ellen from Season 1. The scene start out quite promisingly as Sue Ellen appears in Pam's new garden on a diplomatic mission. (You can tell the producers are pleased with this location cos they're shooting the hell out of it.). "Frankly, with all the fighting that's been going on with our families, I think it's so important that you and I remain friends," Sue Ellen says before dropping the other shoe: "Everything would be so much better if everyone stopped blaming JR for everything that went wrong ... I know how much you care about Cliff, but Pam, he did pull the trigger." Following her run in with JR, Pam is quick to go on the defensive: "If he did, he did it for a very good reason." "Reason or not, that's a very irrational act. No sane person tries to kill somebody." "If he is irrational, Sue Ellen, who do you think made him that way?" "He's always been that way ..." Things quickly and amusingly escalate. "Are you saying the Barnes-Ewing feud is one-sided?" Pam asks angrily. "No, but feuding is one thing, murder is something else," replies a sweetly sarcastic Sue Ellen. "The Ewings have never tried to kill a Barnes." "Maybe not with a gun, but they certainly have in business," replies Pam. Eventually, Sue Ellen gets in touch with her inner opportunistic snob and gives it full reign: "You know something?" she snaps. "I have always hoped that you and Bobby would get back together, but the gap between our families is far too wide. You are clearly a Barnes and I can't even imagine you defending Cliff after what he did to Bobby. Maybe the best thing for everybody is for you to let go, and Bobby can marry Jenna. Then the Barnes and the Ewings can go their separate ways once and for all!" By this point, I'm not sure how much of Sue Ellen is a real character and how much is a cartoon, but the scene works as a fun way to further isolate Pam from the Ewings (including Bobby), making her all the more sympathetic and interesting as a result. Victoria Principal does excellent work in a scene towards the end of the episode where Pam comes to Cliff's office, to find him hanging that wonderfully awful portrait of himself. "I had my doubts at first, but I'm convinced now that you didn't shoot Bobby," she tells him and then adds, her eyes brimming with genuine tears, "We're finally gonna be a family. And we're gonna be as strong a family as the Ewings ever were." 



    While obviously lacking the wonderfully evocative camera work and lighting that Bradford May brought to Season 6, this episode still has a very nice look. It feels expensive; not in a see-how-much-we-spent-on-the-table-arrangements DYNASTY way, but in a crisp, cinematic way. The colours, including those on Travilla's outfits, are rich and vivid, not yet succumbing to tacky 80s camp. There's a really good scene between JR, Donna and Martha Randolph at Ewing Oil where both women are far more glamorously dressed than they would have been a year earlier, and somehow it adds a lush quality to the scene. Donna is in JR's office questioning his purchase of two properties without Bobby's authorization: "The Kesey fields and the Murphy lands." "If you think I'm gonna discuss business with you, you're outta your mind!" JR is telling her when they are interrupted by Sly, informing JR that Martha Randolph is in reception. "Shall I show her in?" she asks. "No, don't show her in!" he hastily replies. "Of course show her in," insists Donna. Enter Martha, excellently played by Joanna Miles, in a cold rage: "You are evil, Mr Ewing. You are evil through and through. What I don't understand is how you always escape punishment." "Martha--" begins Donna, putting out a hand towards her. "Don't touch me," snaps Martha, before returning her unflinching gaze to JR. "I've heard about your brother. Now he's paying for your crimes. Who's next, Mr Ewing? Who's going to be next?" "Will someone get this woman out of here?" asks an amusingly panicked JR. "My husband is in a mental institution because of you," she continues. "That maniac tried to kill me!" protests JR. "My only regret is that he missed because it wouldn't have cost him anymore if he had killed you. One of these days, somebody's going to do it. I just hope I'm there to watch." She then seems to freeze for a second, before ignoring Donna's further attempts at help and walking out. The confrontation serves no further dramatic purpose, beyond giving JR something else to feel sorry for himself about, but the strength of the acting and the look of the scene complement each other excellently.

    

The seeds of two new storylines are sown in this episode, both of which are kinda controversial and signal the beginning of the end of an era. "The body of a man identified as Jason Ewing was found in Fairfax," Harve Smithfield informs JR. "Apparently, he died of heart attack." "JR, who was he?" asks Sue Ellen, speaking for us all. "He was Daddy's brother," replies JR. Well, there are certainly worse ways of introducing a long-lost-yet-somehow-never-before-mentioned character. (Matt Cantrell, anyone?) "Jock and Jason had a falling out," Harve pitches in helpfully. "I think it was before you were born, wasn't it, JR?" "Well, I vaguely remember him. I don't think Bobby or Gary would though, but you're right. Daddy and Jason never saw each other again ... What does his death have to do with us?" Oh you'll find out, JR ... eventually (but you'll have to wade through some pretty sluggish episodes to get there).

    Meanwhile, Lucy travels all the way back to the beginning of the series to revisit the Hot Biscuit. "By the look on your face, you were either far away or long ago," says the kindly man behind the counter who's probably called Al (kindly men behind counters usually are). "I was thinkin' about my mama," Lucy tells him. "She used to work here ... Valene ... She's living out in California now." "You be sure to say howdy from me when you talk to her, here?" "Yeah, I will. If I talk to her." That's really the only acknowledgment we ever get from Lucy that she and Val are estranged (Val has a similar, if more subtly written, line in KNOTS LANDING a couple of years earlier) but, to me, it's all that's needed. "Valene--she was a pretty good waitress," remembers Al. "Hard worker. Sure wish I had somebody here like her now ... I don't guess you'd be looking for a job, would you?" "I'm not a waitress!" laughs Lucy. "It ain't hard to learn and the tips are good," he assures her. "It's good honest work ... Your mama did it. If it's good enough for her." Little Lucy's face lights up, and it's an oddly touching moment: finally, she's found somebody in this crazy Lorimar world who wants her.

    We're also introduced to Cliff's alibi/saviour/fantasy woman, Mandy Winger, who appears out of nowhere as if from a dream. "This woman swears that you and she had drinks together at the Gulf Cocktail Lounge," Captain Dark Shadows tells Cliff. "That was the night Bobby Ewing was shot." "I'm not surprised you don't remember me," smiles Mandy. "You'd had about five too many ... You were really nice that night. I liked you." All she's interested in is Cliff himself. She doesn't care about his money. She doesn't even accept an alcoholic drink. "How do you feel about Chinese food?" Cliff asks. Word soon reaches JR. "I want you to find that lady," he tells Harry. "Check her out real good."



    Accompanied by a team of security guards and a handheld camera, JR visits a sleepy Bobby at the hospital. As he leaves, Bobby receives another visitor. First we see the red fingernails, then the sinister syringe, then the pretty face with the secret smile and the 1940s hair. It's naughty Katherine!
     
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  4. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I dread this season...and I'm fast approaching it as I re-watch Dallas for the umpteenth time. I first have to mourn the loss of one of my favourite characters, Katherine. Why did the writers have to send her down the psychopath road with a gun, a syringe and finally her choice of weapon, a car. The next two annoyances is the introduction of Donna Reed and Jenilee Harrison. When Dallas rolled out the first time I knew little of Donna Reed's work history. Who was this actress about to replace Barbara Bel Geddes? I've never blamed Donna for her involvement with Dallas. That fault sits squarely at the feet of Lorimar Productions. It simply should not have happened.
    The second thing that was about to be unleashed was Jenilee and that snarling uncomfortable smile she had. Casting must have been asleep when she walked through the door.

    I thought Dallas had hit its groove the previous season. The cast had settled nicely into their respective characters and Bradford May's photography gave Dallas a richness it so deserved. But something had happened between the seasons. It was clear not all was well behind the scenes and it showed in Season 7.
     
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  5. Presea

    Presea Soap Chat Addict

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    I share your sentiments. I never bought the dvds beyond the season 7 (dvd) because there simply weren't enough things I liked after that point to make me want to rewatch season 8 (dvd) and beyond. Dallas lost it's groove for me as well.

    My answer to them making Katherine a psycho is that they didn't want her character to become too powerful. Katherine had the potential to be a highly successful business rival in Dallas, as well as someone who could have made the "normal" relationship drama (as in, normal love interests, not an obsession) interesting to see if they had gone that route with her. Sadly, the writers wasted a golden opportunity with a great actress, and we got stuck with characters like Jamie, Cally, April, etc. I also believe that the writers didn't want women to look too successful. And by successful, I don't count things like Sue Ellen's magic knowledge of the lingerie business and Michelle Stevens' ridiculous takeover of Ewing Oil. At this point, the writers were obsessed with the idea of only Pam being powerful through means of inheriting endless fortunes off of dead people (Katherine's death before the dream happened, especially) all in order to prepare her for a fight with JR that never happened due to Victoria's departure, and that she probably would have only fought half halfheartedly at times due to her attachment to the rest of the Ewings. I, personally would have much rather seen Katherine kicking JR's and Cliff's asses than that. I sometimes wonder if Larry Hagman himself had reservations about Katherine becoming too powerful. I remember Morgan Brittany even mentioning in an interview that he had told her that there could never be another JR Ewing. Quite ridiculous when you consider what happened to JR's character down the line.

    In my opinion, Jamie was a character that had potential to be interesting, despite the fact that Jenilee's acting did sort of bore me. At first, I thought that Jamie would be a rough tomboy who wasn't afraid to compete with the guys and win a place at Ewing Oil. I was disappointed to instead see someone who lets JR's taunts get to her, betrays her own family, and starts a romance with Cliff of all people. I did start to like her a little near the end, but then she died again, and that was that. Even though I never felt the hatred for Donna Reed in Dallas that I have seen among a lot of posters, I can understand how frustrating it would be if Barbara Bel Geddes had never returned and we had been stuck with her as a permanent Miss Ellie. A lot of her acting just seemed too passive with the emotions to me. Granted, there weren't a lot of exciting things for her to do in that season, but it was still boring.
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Jamie"

    Naming an episode in honour a new character who doesn't appear until the closing seconds of the final scene? How very DYNASTY!

    

Much of this instalment is spent tying up the final threads of the Season 6 cliff-hanger. "JR's" would-be assassin is unmasked ("Call the Dallas police," he orders as Katherine is held by his security guards. "She's the one who took those shots at me!"), her true motives revealed ("You?" she sneers. "Don't make me laugh. I never tried to shoot you ... It was Bobby I wanted dead ... If I can't have him, nobody can!"), the framing of Cliff explained ("That's how they found gun here!" he realises. "She planted it ... the day she came to see me"), Bobby's blindness cured ("That colour's nice on you," he tells Jenna. "I've always liked you in that colour." "How did you know I was wearing this colour?" Since when has "purple" been such a dirty word?), the mystery of the bugged phones solved ("It was during that whole Cliff Barnes thing," JR explains. "I bugged everybody's phone ... I just went a little crazy, that's all!") and Katherine's escape made ("I have a feeling our charming little sister just skipped bail," Cliff tells Pam). 



    All this dotting and crossing of narrative i's and t's doesn't leave much room for fresh conflict. Probably the juiciest scene takes place on the courthouse steps when Katherine runs into Cliff and Mandy. (Although she doesn't say much, I like how quickly Mandy is assimilated into the action.) "If you came to see me arraigned, you're too late," Katherine snaps. "The show's over!" "You mean they let you out??" replies an incredulous Cliff. "I tell you, there's something sadly wrong with our judicial system when they let a woman like her out on the street!" This is the last time brother and sister will ever meet, but Katherine remains hostile to the last. "I wanted to get two thorns outta my side at once," she explains when Cliff admonishes her for trying to pin the shooting on him. "She's the only family Pam and I have," he reflects to the beautifully mute Mandy. "She tried to destroy us both." 



    JR is still performing way below par, grovelling to Bobby one minute ("Bob, I want you to know somethin'. I never used that bug. I never listened to one of your conversations ... You gotta believe me ... Bob, I'd never hurt you. You're my brother, you know that") and intimidated by Cliff the next. "I'm gettin' the feelin' that that man's not as dumb as he used to be," he tells Sue Ellen in an admittedly nicely shot and acted bedroom scene. "He'll never be you," she replies. "I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever be me again," he mopes. "No matter what I do, I can't seem to win anymore." 



    There's even a nightclub scene in which JR and Sue Ellen spot Cliff and Pam from across the room and, rather pitifully, attempt to scuttle away before Cliff can see them and say mean words, but they're too late. "I've just spotted one of the most celebrated has-beens in the oil industry, JR Ewing!" Cliff crows loudly. Cornered, JR finally comes out fighting. "A kid with the syphon could have sucked oil out of that tract faster than you did ... Your sister's the real fast mover in your family," he points out, turning his attentions to Pam and her escort, Joe Don Ford (an older Keanu Reeves). "I gotta hand it to you, you're not wasting any time, Pam. Poor old Mark Graison not a month dead and you're out there on the town, whoopin' it up." "This is a business meeting, JR," insists Pam. "Yeah, I noticed by the way you're dressed," he replies. Mandy is not privy to this exchange, having excused herself at the beginning of the scene in order to "freshen up". Only in retrospect do we realise this is a deliberate move by the writers to keep JR and Mandy apart. 



    Mandy's presence inspires some nice moments. We get our first peek into Cliff's bedroom during a post-coital mushi pork scene. Cliff's fondness for Chinese food has been firmly established since Season 1, but it's only now that it becomes a running gag, especially as it relates to the women in his life. "I hate eating out of cartons," sighs Mandy. "I may not be too fond of Chinese food, but I'm sort of fond of you ... There's something really attractive about you in a weird sort of way." Unknowable as Mandy ultimately is, there is something credible about her relationship with Cliff. You can buy the fact that he at least makes her laugh. Their night is interrupted by the doorbell. Cliff puts on his robe and goes downstairs to answer it. In bursts Pam with the bad news about Katherine: "They caught her at the hospital tonight. She tried to inject him with poison ... It's hard to believe. Our own sister." "We'll be better off without her," Cliff assures her. "You seem pretty upset. You wanna stay here tonight?" Ken Kercheval then does a very funny double take as Cliff suddenly remembers the brunette in his bed surrounded by empty Mushi Pork cartons. 



    Pam's first meeting with Mandy, which takes place off screen later in the episode, prompts her to pay tribute to Afton. "It's really hard for me seeing you with another woman," she tells Cliff. "Do you realise that Afton was a part of your life--no, she was a part of our lives--for almost four years? And suddenly she's gone, vanished ... She stood by you when no one else would. She took your abuse, your cynicism. She loved you ... You haven't given her a second thought." "Not true, not true," Cliff insists, shaking his head. "I loved Afton. She just wanted more than I could give her ... All my life, I have had one drive and that's to be the winner that Digger wanted me to be ... I'm not saying that that's right, but that's me." "Don't you realise the price you pay, losing someone like Afton?" It's a sweet scene and a very nice way of acknowledging Afton's years of service to soap opera; heck, it's more than Ray and Jenna get after moving to Yurrup. 



    Pam has some other nice bits in this episode, and I'm just not talking about her two swimsuit scenes. (Boy, they are really burning through their VP flesh allowance this season!) After hearing that Katherine has sold $12,000,000 worth of Wentworth Industries stock on the open market, (and let's also retroactively throw her two-thirds of Tool and Die into the sale as well; how else to explain the storylines in Seasons 8 and 9 in which Cliff miraculously still owns the share he sold to Katherine at the end of Season 6?) Pam and Cliff fly to Houston to confront her. In her absence, they take the opportunity to look around the old Wentworth house. "I remember the first time I ever saw it," says Pam. "That detective I hired to find Mama brought me here. It was the first time I heard anything about Katherine." This is David Paulsen referring back to the first DALLAS script he ever wrote, "The Prodigal Mother". 



    Towards the end of the episode, Pam realises that she's still got what it takes to get under Bobby's skin when he stops by her place to pick up Christopher for the weekend (affording us our first look at the house's facelifted front) and ends up pushing a fully clothed Joe Don Ford into her pool. "Why don't you get him out before he leaves a ring?" he suggests on his way out and Pam permits herself a saucy little smile.

    

Elsewhere, it's Lucy first day as a waitress. Ask for coffee and she'll bring you juice; if you want your eggs fried you'll get 'em scrambled, and forget about your toast because Lucy already has. Fast forward a week and by the time an unsuspecting Ray calls in for some sustenance, (accompanied, I'm pretty damn sure, by the same score that was playing the first time Cousin Jimmy drove Lucy to the Hot Biscuit back in "Reunion") she's starting to get the hang of it. (We also get our first glimpse of Lovely Betty in this scene.) "Lucy, what on earth are you doin' here?" Ray asks, not unreasonably. "I'm workin'," she replies. While on her break, Lucy delivers a speech to Ray that, much like the pool-side one Sue Ellen gave last week, ("I guess it must be hard for a lot people to understand why I keep going back to JR") seems to be the writers' way of admitting that they've run out of things to do with these women: "Ray, do you realise I haven't done one thing in my life that I can really be proud of? ... I was terrible at school, my marriage was a failure, modelling was joke and as for men, that's just been one catastrophe after another ... I've got status, money and that wonderful Ewing name. None of it's ever meant happiness for me ... I wanna feel like I'm part of this world, not just some ageing rich kid." It really is quite sweet. "Don't say anything to the family about this," she asks Ray, "especially JR."



    Lucy isn't the only one with a secret. "I sure have enjoyed sitting behind your desk," Donna tells Bobby, before going on to confide that, "I enjoyed it so much, I invested ten million dollars of my own money in a little oil company that I found." Donna and Ray have always been the most accessible, down to earth characters on the show, but it's hard for the average person to know what buying "a little oil company" worth "ten million dollars" actually means. Does that buy her an office? A desk? Perhaps in an effort to make this storyline more relatable, the writers come up with a situation whereby Donna has bought the company without consulting Ray. "It all happened so fast, I didn't have a chance to discuss it with him," she explains to Bobby. Cut to Donna welcoming Ray home from work in a pretty dress, a basket of fried chicken on the table and some beers in the cooler, before breaking the news. "I bought somethin' and I was just tryin' to figure out a way to tell you," she tells him as if she were the little suburban wifey who's gone a bit nuts with the credit card. In other words, she behaves totally out of character, something which Ray's bemused, how-am-I-supposed-to-respond-to-this expression seems to acknowledge. 



    Finally, as the Ewings, Krebbses and a near naked Jenna gather for a leisurely afternoon by the Southfork pool (Ray having replaced Peedurrr as John Ross's swimming coach), a dusty stranger walks up the drive towards them. Is it a boy? Is it a girl? No, it's Hilary Swank in BOYS DON'T CRY. "Is this the Ewing ranch? ... You must be JR Ewing." "Who are you?" "Jamie ... Jamie Ewing. Jason's daughter. My daddy and your daddy were brothers." Philip Capice's Executive Producer credit is so depressed, it can't make it any higher than the bottom of the screen.

     
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Family"

    Written and directed by Leonard Katzman. 



    A slightly odd episode to establish a slightly odd character. Unless one counts Ray, Jamie is the first long lost Ewing to appear in the series. The first in seven years; that's pretty restrained for a soap--especially when compared with DYNASTY, where Blake Carrington managed to acquire a long lost wife, father, son, daughter, sister, brother and niece during that show's first seven seasons. 

A new Ewing isn't something to be introduced lightly, therefore, and Katzman is clearly at pains to give Jamie a concrete backstory. In this episode alone we find out, among other things, her age (twenty-five), how old she was when her mother died (five), the places she travelled as a child ("Canada, Mexico, South America ... wherever there was oil, that's where we were"), her educational background ("Daddy taught me how to read and write, but I guess you could say that I know most of what I know from seein' it rather than read about it") and how, after Jason's death, "there didn't seem much point in stayin' up in Alaska so I came here, be with the only family I got ... I took a bus part of the way, hitchhiked the rest. Then I ran outta money in Laramie, so I stayed there and washed dishes till I saved up some more."

    Compare this with everything we've learned about Season 7's other newcomer, Mandy Winger, thus far: her name ("It's Mandy -- not Amanda -- Mandy") and that she doesn't care for Chinese food. So then why, after we've been given so much information about Jamie, does it still feel like there's something missing?

 The main problem is that, in spite of JR's conviction that "that little girl wants something", Jamie doesn't want anything. Both she and Mandy are strangely passive characters. The DALLAS women they have essentially replaced, Afton and Katherine, arrived in town with all sorts of desires: to get rich, to get revenge, to sleep with a married man, to steal her sister's husband. Jamie wants none of those things. She just wants to hang out, "be with the only family I got". The only dramatic contribution she has to make to the series is the all-important document at the bottom of her travel bag which won't be revealed for another six episodes (and it will then take a further five before she does anything interesting with it). 



    Then there are the reactions of the rest of the Ewings to Jamie. When one thinks of other significant arrivals at Southfork--Pam, Gary and Val, Wes Parmalee, Cally, Jessica, even James--much of the interest comes from the individual responses of the family members to the intruder in their midst. As well as learning about the newcomer, it's often an opportunity to view existing characters from a new perspective. This is not the case here. Jamie is not a Barnes from the wrong side of the tracks or a family black sheep or a possibly resurrected patriarch or a child bride or a psychotic sister-in-law or a bastard son; she's an inoffensive cousin. But because she's a Ewing with an important storyline in her possession, she gets to stand in the driveway and recount her life story. The rest of the family gather round and listen politely, occasionally prompting her with questions like dutiful reporters at an unexciting press conference.

    There is an attempt to whip up some intrigue with the possibility that she is an impostor pretending to be Jason's daughter. JR, naturally, provides the voice of suspicion: "It would be the easiest thing in the world for somebody who knew he was dead to come waltzin' in here, want us to take 'em in." Bobby and Ray also express mild doubts over Jamie's claim to true Ewingness, while Jenna disagrees with her about the relationship that existed between their respective fathers. "Old Jason never had anything to say but nice things about Lucas Wade," Jamie claims. "I know they hated each other," insists Jenna. It's all pretty tame stuff that's more or less discounted when Harve's investigation into Jason's life corroborates much of Jamie's story. (Although Jenna and Jamie's dispute is never again referred to, Jamie's rather shifty looking behaviour in their scene together can perhaps be explained away when we later learn how anxious she is to protect her father's reputation from the "black-hearted" reality of the man himself.) 

As proof of her identity, Jamie proffers an Alaskan drivers license and an old photograph that she claims is of Jason and Jock. JR recognises his father, but can't be sure the other man in the picture is his uncle. "Where's Miss Ellie?" asks Jamie. "She'd know for sure."

    Once again, Miss Ellie's unifying presence is the vital component missing in this scene. As the official head of the family, it would be her role to welcome Jamie to Southfork and overrule any dissension in the ranks. The rest of the family would then be free to react more individually to Jamie. How much more fun it would have been to see Sue Ellen making catty asides about the new bumpkin cousin than to it is watch her compensating for Miss Ellie's absence by forming a toothsome welcoming committee with Donna. As she says elsewhere in the episode, "I never did have much in common with Donna," and so any time you've got characters as diverse as these two singing from the same hymn sheet, (their dialogue in their kitchen scene with Jamie is interchangeable) you know you're on a hiding to blandness. 



    The bottom line is that the writers require Jamie's presence on Southfork for the next ten episodes, and so the behaviour of the existing characters must be adapted to accommodate that. Sue Ellen and JR are the most compromised as a result. One might have expected JR to assume the position of Southfork patriarch in his mother's absence, but instead it is Sue Ellen who seems to be calling the shots. This perhaps sounds more interesting than it is. In order to fulfill her role of Ellie-by-proxy, Sue Ellen is obliged to combine the least interesting aspects of two of her previous personae, the airhead hostess of the mini-series and Nice Woman Linda Gray from Season 6. (The un-ironic, jingoistic welcome she delivers to Jamie, "You're a Ewing, and this is where you belong!" always makes me cringe slightly.) JR's powerlessness is once again exposed when his objections to Jamie are simply ignored by the rest of the Ewings. "I wouldn't worry too much about old JR," Donna assures her.



    Jamie sits down to eat with the rest of the Ewings. "Now that you're a member of the family," JR tells her, "we have certain traditions we'd like you to adhere to. One of them is dressing for dinner." "I'd sure like to," she replies, "but this as good as it gets." "... You don't own a dress?" he asks. "Just the one I go to church in and it's not near fancy enough for this." You better believe it isn't--just to ram home the contrast between the Ewing haves and have nots, neither Sue Ellen nor Jenna have ever looked so expensively dressed while seated at the Southfork table as they do in this scene. In addition, both appear to have slotted in a quick trip to Mr David's hair salon since lounging by the pool earlier that day. Jamie, meanwhile, is dressed plainly in a be-it-ever-so-humble work shirt. There's something horribly smug about the knowing wink Jenna gives Sue Ellen across the table as they offer to buy her a new wardrobe, thereby making her over in their own image. "I've been fixin' to get a job and pay my own way," Jamie protests. "This is Texas and one thing I do know about is the oil business." This leads to some dull cross-examination from JR as he tries to catch her out on her knowledge of core bits and test wells in obscure parts of Canada. In keeping with the newly politically correct atmosphere of DALLAS, Jamie is able to turn the tables and outwit him with ease. The rest of the family smirk as the harmless ol' curmudgeon is put in his place. "To the winner," toast Bobby and Sue Ellen, smugly raising their glasses to Jamie. 



    Later that night, she ventures downstairs in her 1950s nightgown (not only does Jamie come from a much poorer background than the Ewings, but like Cally, she also seems to come from an earlier time) for a wholesome glass of milk. JR is waiting at the bottom of the stairs with an offer similar to the ones he made Pam and Val in Season 1 and will later extend to Wes Parmalee. "How much would it take for you to drop this act and get out of here?" he asks her. "Lookit," she tells him. "I don't want anything from you or any other Ewing. My daddy wouldn't touch your stupid money and neither will I." "That's very noble. How about 50,000?" Bobby comes to Jamie's rescue, just as he did Pam's in "Digger's Daughter". "How about you, Bobby?" Jamie asks him. "Do you want me to go or do you believe me?" "I'd like to believe you," he replies lamely. "The Ewing boys are all alike, aren't they?" she huffs. "It's just what Daddy used to say about Jock ... That power and money mean more to you than friends or relatives or anything else. It's one hell of a family!" Wrong. Just as JR has misjudged Jamie, so she has misjudged the family. She isn't as devious and they aren't as ruthless as they accuse each other of being--more's the pity.

    

In other news, there's an interesting tetchiness developing between Donna and Ray ("You sound just like JR," she tells him), while at the Hot Biscuit, there are the beginnings of a romantic triangle as a dishy stranger (Eddie Cronin, played by the excellent Frederic Lehne) comes to Lucy's rescue when she gets in over her head with some of the customers--the exact same circumstances under which her mama and daddy met. Later, Lucy is speaking of Eddie admiringly ("kinda cute, a little grouchy maybe") when fellow waitress Lovely Betty informs her that he is spoken for: "I give him all he can handle, so don't bother." "Y'all engaged or anything?" asks Lucy. "Not quite," Betty replies. "Is that the same as no?" asks Lucy naughtily. It's a hoot to see the return of Lucy's early season minxiness, and in a quiet week, it's probably the episode's funnest moment.

    

Jenna, meanwhile, is becoming an increasingly permanent fixture at Southfork. "I like waking up here. I like looking out and seeing the ranch, Charlie down there playing with John Ross and Christopher," she says to Bobby as he stands around looking awkward in his speedos. Maybe it's Patrick Duffy's posture or perhaps it's his helmet hair, but Bobby looks all wrong walking around in a posing pouch. It looks like his head has been stuck onto someone else's musclebound body.



    The other major plot development in this episode involves the return to the series after three years of Jeremy Wendell and West Star sidekick Dave Stratton. In the intervening time, West Star has remained an off screen presence, referred to during the Wellington land deal story-line of Season 4 and throughout the offshore oil saga of Season 6. (No mention of the company during Season 5, however; a surprising omission given that that season focused on the Dallas oil community more than any other.) Back in Season 3, Wendell was interested in attaining Ewing Oil from JR; now he makes a similar move towards Cliff: "West Star wants to acquire Barnes Wentworth, lock stock and Gold Canyon 340 ... We're prepared to offer you a substantial amount of West Star stock, and of course you would join our board of directors ... You would be one of the few directors of one of the largest oil companies in the world ... I'm offering you a position of invincibility, Cliff." 



    This is another story-line that dwindles away without ever building to a climax. Instead, Katzman seems to be using it to set up a number of themes that he will pick up and develop on the other side of the dream season. "Large companies acquiring small ones because they want their oil reserves" is the way the oil business is headed, Wendell explains. "The way things are going, there won't be many independents left," laments Pam. "Sooner or later the Seven Sisters and West Star will control the oil business," he predicts. This idea that the era of the independent oil man is slowly drawing to a close is something that will permeate the final years of the series from Season 9 onwards. By the end of Season 11, almost every independent oil company featured in the series--Barnes-Wentworth, Jordan Lee's and Andy Bradley's companies, even Ewing Oil for a season--will have been acquired by West Star.

    At the end of a scene between Pam and Jeremy that helps establish Pam as a straight talking ("I was sceptical about your offer and I told Cliff so"), shrewd ("You want Cliff to sit on your board because he's such a brilliant oil man?" she asks knowingly) and clued up ("I did some research on West Star, you've never done this before") business presence, Wendell delivers a veiled threat that he will make good on at the end of Season 9: "West Star can be a wonderful friend, but we can also be a terrible enemy."

    

Jeremy's asexual credentials are established during a scene in which he finds himself alone with a pre-Valentine lingerie clad Mandy Winger and succeeds in keeping his mind on business. "I'm Chairman of the Board of the largest oil company in Texas, one of the largest in the world," he tells her. "I have spent most of my working life with West Star and it's the single most important entity in my life." Mandy's facility for subterfuge is also introduced as she not-so-innocently quizzes him about his connections with JR Ewing. "JR couldn't touch me," he tells her. "He would rather work with me than against me." "You were great!" an eavesdropping Cliff later tells Mandy. "I can see you're gonna be a big help to me." 



    In the penultimate scene of the episode, there's a really good, Season 6-worthy shot of Sly leaving the Ewing building and crossing the road for a sneaky meeting with Cliff. "I need to know if JR and Wendell are in league to try and get me out of the oil business," Cliff tells her.



    From the outside of Ewing Oil to the exterior of Barnes Wentworth for the final scene. Pam pulls into her parking space, then gets out of her car to see the old Graison pimp mobile across the parking lot (I always liked that car). She goes to take a closer look and then turns towards the building as Jackie comes out. "Did anyone from Graisco come to see me today?" she asks her. "Mark's car is parked here ... Right over there!" As she turns back and points, the car pulls out and drives away. "Oh my God," she murmurs. "Mark?" This might not be quite as dramatic as Sue Ellen's equivalent I-think-I've-just-seen-my-dead-lover-in-that-car moment from Season 3, ("Dear God, it can't be!") but no matter: Pam looks beautiful when she's confused.
     
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  8. markymark

    markymark Soap Chat Active Member

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    Lol did someone really say that? Personally im enjoying reading these again, and thanks for re-posting them.
     
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  9. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I've always raised an eyebrow at those who go out of there way to insult someone's pleasure. I'm thoroughly enjoying these critiques since I'm reading them for the first time...keep it up.

    And as my father taught me. "Never argue with a drunk or an idiot."
     
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Shadow of a Doubt"

    Written by Leonard Katzman.



    "You saw that," says Pam turning to Jackie. "That was Mark's car!" Jackie is too busy being her usual stoned self to get excited. "All right," she shrugs, "but there must be some explanation. Why would somebody be driving Mark's car?" "I don't know, but I'm going to find out!" 

It's interesting that the episode prior to this one depicts Pam at her most smart and savvy, able to hold her own during business meetings with the icily intimidating Jeremy Wendell. Perhaps this was a conscious attempt on Katzman's part (as writer of both episodes) to make the point that the Pam who sees Mark's car in the parking lot outside Barnes Wentworth isn't the same wimp-perpetually-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown she was Seasons 2 to 4, but a tougher, more independent character who has started to move forward with her life, (even managing to date Keanu Reeves' granddad and flirt with Dave Stratton without the sky falling in) when a ghostly pimp mobile reaches out of the past to try and drag her back. 

"Pam, calm down," says Jackie. "I am calm," she insists. "I just want to know why that car was parked here."

    And off she zooms to Mark's house (which, confusingly, looks kind of the same as her own house, Rebecca's house and Dusty's house in Season 3). Who should answer the door but lovely Irma P Hall, aka The Domestic Formerly Known As Tilly, now answering to the name of Rosa. Pam is surprised to see her: "I thought the house would have been sold by now." "Mr Brooks Oliver, Mr Graison's attorney, said that everything is to stay as it was," Rosa explains. "The whole staff's still here." Pam finds the pimp mobile parked in Mark's garage. The hood's still warm, which at least proves she isn't going crazy. "Must be the dealer," says Rosa. "They pick it up to service it." There's a touching moment where Rosa puts her hand on Pam's shoulder and says, "I know how much Mr Graison loved you. I'm very sorry." "Thank you, Rosa," replies Pam, putting her own hand over Rosa's. It's hard to imagine Ellie and Teresa being so touchy-feely. 



    Pam's next stop is the dealership that looks after Mark's car. She is introduced to nervous mechanic Tommy Hart (another very nice day player performance) who confirms that he collected the car and serviced it. "Did you stop at the Campbell Centre?" she asks, referring to the location of the Barnes-Wentworth offices, (and there was me thinking Cliff owned that whole gold building--duh) but he denies it. Pam asks why Mark's car is still being serviced. "Mr Oliver contacted me and told me to continue doing it," replies the dealer.



    She then pays a visit to the Graison stables (I tell ya, this episode is all about the Pamster). "I've got strict orders to take care of these ponies," a kindly black man tells her. "[Mr Oliver] told me to keep them fit and to keep them ready. You know, the way he talked, it was almost like Mr Graison is gonna be riding these ponies again!" Cue dramatic music and a big open mouthed close up on Pam.



    One mystery is solved when nice Tommy Hart stops by Pam's house the following morning and admits, "My bank is in Campbell Centre and I did stop there." Pam is very sweet and understanding. "I appreciate you coming by to tell me," she replies, "but there still are some questions I need answered." (I wonder how VP herself would have reacted in such a situation; one of her neurotic assistants would probably have had Tommy fed to the man-eating sharks in her swimming pool. Can you tell I've just watched THUNDERBALL?).

    She goes to Mark's attorney's office, but instead of finding twinkly-eyed Brooks Oliver, ("He's going to be travelling for some time" is the official explanation, which probably means Donald Moffat was off filming LICENCE TO KILL or MURDER SHE WROTE or some such) she is greeted by his associate, the solicitous yet vaguely sinister Mr Carson. She recounts what she has witnessed--the fully staffed house and the still attended to car and polo ponies--and asks for an explanation: "Frankly, Mr Carson, I don't understand what's going on." "... None of what you've seen is that unusual," he replies smoothly. "Mark's estate, including Graisco Industries, is quite vast. It's going to take quite a while to settle ... During that time, none of what Mark owned can be disposed of. It all has to be maintained in top condition."

    

Following her meeting with Cliff, Sly reports back to JR: "I think he's afraid that you're behind West Star's offer." "You know the wonderful thing about bein' me, Sly?" laughs JR. "With my reputation, everybody thinks I'm behind half the deals in Dallas anyway!" This a little too self-aware a remark for my tastes, but at least JR appears to have awoken from his lumbering depression. "I don't want him to get mixed up with West Star because Wendell doesn't care for me any more than Barnes does," he continues, reminding us of the enmity that existed between Jeremy and JR at the end of Season 3. "Somehow I think Mr Barnes secretly wants to find out you're behind it," theorises Sly. "That way he can keep Barnes Wentworth and blame you for not taking the offer." This is an interesting idea--Cliff is being offered untold wealth and power, "a position of invincibility" as Jeremy described it in last week's episode, yet something in him is afraid to accept it. This makes sense in a way that JR balking at taking over Ewing Oil after Bobby's shooting doesn't. There is something self-defeating at the core of Cliff's character, just as there is at the heart of Ray's, Sue Ellen's and Gary's. 



    Last time Bobby stopped by Pam's to pick up Christopher, he pushed Keanu Reeves' granddad in the pool. (No man eating sharks, however.) This week, it's Cliff on the receiving end of his temper. "I'd hate for my boy to see me unscrew your head so why don't you just be quiet?" he suggests. Mandy isn't put off by Bobby's aggressive side. "So that was Bobby Ewing," she says to Pam. "He sure is good lookin'. Seems real nice too ... Must be awful tough to walk out on someone like that." "It was," replies Pam curtly and walks away. It appears that Pam has yet to forgive Mandy for not being Afton. 



    Cliff, Mandy and Pam attend a tennis party at Jeremy Wendell's house. While Pam bonds with Dave Stratton, Cliff calls Sly to get the answer he's been waiting for: "I overheard JR talking to Mr Wendell last night ... JR kept asking if you'd given Mr Wendell an answer yet. He said he couldn't wait until he sprung the trap on you." Cliff then responds to West Star's offer with a bridge burning outburst: "I don't need you!" he tells Jeremy. "I don't need West Star, I don't need anybody! I'm sittin' on top of one of the biggest strikes in the Gulf, and Pam and I are gonna make Barnes-Wentworth into one of the biggest independents in the state, and so you can just take your offer and put it where the sun don't shine." "The man is a fool to behave that way with me," says Jeremy coldly as Cliff's party make their exit. "Maybe we can go in through the back door," suggests Dave. "The sister?" "I think she's vulnerable." That this plot point isn't followed through smells to me of "abandoned story-line".



    How Not to Treat Your Fantasy Woman: First, force feed her Chinese food. Then, nag at her about housework. "You're supposed to make the coffee and you're supposed to keep this place cleaned up!" kvetches Cliff. Mandy's approach to domesticity is very similar to Lucy's in Season 3: wait till your man leaves for work and then call a daily maid service. While Lucy adopted this approach out of ditzy necessity, Mandy seems (one can never be sure with Mandy) to do it simply for the fun of putting one over on Cliff.

    

During the year of KNOTS LANDING running parallel with this season of DALLAS, Val suffers a breakdown and skips off to Shula, Tennessee to become a waitress. Her adventures there form a sort of soap-within-a-soap. Her daughter's hash slinging experiences at the Hot Biscuit, meanwhile, make up more of a sitcom-within-a-soap. And a funny one at that. "Don't get any ideas about that midget," Lovely Betty warns Eddie. "Haven't seen Eddie around lately," says Lucy later in the episode. "So?" replies Betty. "So is he sick or did you just scare him off?" Lucy continues to taunt her rival until the two women are hurling water in each other's faces. As Betty makes a grab for Lucy's hair, the proprietor steps in to separate them. "What you ever hire that little runt for anyway??" yells Betty. The two girls start to dry their faces and end up throwing towels at each other. Lucy hasn't been this much fun in years!



    Once again, the closer the action moves to Southfork, the weaker the episode becomes. "It's like a morgue in here," complains JR to Sue Ellen as he fixes himself a pre-dinner drink. "It'll never be like it was in the old days when everybody at the table was a Ewing. We got Farlows and Krebbses and even Lucy's a Cooper still, I guess, isn't she? ... There's just you and me and Bobby left, that's all." (WAR OF THE EWINGS, here we come.) "We have a little surprise for you," Sue Ellen tells him, referring to herself and Jamie. "Is she going back to Alaska?" he replies amusingly. Jamie descends the staircase in a new party dress. "Isn't she beautiful, JR?" smiles Sue Ellen. "It's amazing what a few thousand dollars can do, isn't it?" JR replies. "What's next--are we gonna cap her teeth?" Jamie runs off to her room in tears. "I thought you had changed," Sue Ellen snaps at her hubby. "But I still see a lot of the old JR. The one I hated!" What on earth did she expect? For JR to be genuinely pleased that she's bought his cousin a dress? This is lame stuff; a contrived conflict to give Sue Ellen and Jamie some screen time. They're just treading water here. 



    Meanwhile, Donna, Ray, Bobby and Jenna pay a visit to Donna's oil well for one of those badly dubbed scenes where everyone sounds high pitched and insipid. Sometime DALLAS director Bill Duke gets a sly nod when Bobby says of the well: "I remember when Bill Duke owned it and ran it." Bobby then talks about wildcatting and how he sometimes dreams of starting over in the oil business. Later, over a beer with Ray at the Dallas Palace, he expands on this theme: "It would be kinda interesting to start from scratch and see if I can build something like Daddy did." The idea of recapturing the spirit of an earlier time seems to appeal to Katzman. It's something he indulges more fully on the other side of the dream season. Haleyville, Dandy Dandridge, drilling for oil in Pride, even the range war--all stories that somehow belong more to the 1950s than the late 1980s. "I can't do it," says Bobby of his fantasy. "I can't leave Ewing Oil ... It's a trust that Daddy left me, I can't walk away from that." "I understand that," Ray replies. "Even Donna has a hard time wondering why we live in that little old house I built out there when we can afford to live anywhere. It's just real hard to explain how special that section of land is that Jock gimme. Hell, I didn't even know he was my daddy when he give it to me." "... Ewing Oil, Southfork, the land--it all helps keep Daddy's memory alive," agrees Bobby. Yet, on other side of the dream, they both do walk away--Ray from his section of land, Bobby from Ewing Oil. Perhaps that's what the later years are about. The march of progress towards globalisation (most clearly symbolised by West Star) versus a harkening back to a more traditional past (or a cornpone representation thereof).



    The water-treading continues, in a more literal sense, on the Ewings' day out to the water park. The banter between JR and Sue Ellen when she catches him ogling Jamie's nips ("She's a very attractive young lady who also happens to be your cousin." "Sue Ellen, that's disgusting! ... I think it's very interesting that you of all people should bring up the subject of young lovers") is not unamusing, but JR voluntarily socialising with a group of people that at other times in the series he would do everything he could to destroy ultimately feels a bit too cosy. (And what's with the big belt Sue Ellen has buckled tightly across her swimsuit? Not a good look.) The scene is most notable for Bobby re-proposing to Jenna while they're going down a water chute. "It's time. We should be gettin' married," he tells her and everybody cheers.



    Pam, Pam and more Pam: She is leaving for work when she receives a delivery of flowers. "They're from Mark Graison!" exclaims her new Valley Girl-sounding maid. A quick trip to the florist reveals a plausible explanation (a standing order placed by Mark himself a week before the crash) unrelated to the other events of the episode, but it's enough to send Pam scuttling back to Mr Carson's office: "You've had some very pat answers for the things that have been happening," she tells him. "I think there's something going on that I don't know about ... Mr Carson, you have got to tell me. I can't go on pretending that all the strange things that have been happening are just a string of coincidences. I will find out, with or without your help ..." "The day before he died," replies Mr C, "Mark came to see Brooks Oliver and me. We changed his will ... In the event of his death or the report of his death, everything he owns--his house, Graisco, the horses--was to be maintained exactly as if he were here for a period of two years." "Mr Carson, you're frightening me ... You're making it sound as though Mark weren't dead, as though he were planning to come back!" Spooooky!

    They sure did, bless 'em!
     
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  11. Ms Southworth

    Ms Southworth Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    "Shadow of a doubt" was a strange episode in so many ways!
    Certainly not one to remember, IMO, :think::confuse::re:
     
  12. markymark

    markymark Soap Chat Active Member

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    Ah well. On a positive note they provided the material for a funny introduction to this thread.
     
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "The Homecoming" Written by Arthur Bernard Lewis. Also starring Deborah Shelton, Jenilee Harrison and ... Donna Reed as Ellie Ewing Farlow??? 



    The Ewing boys are outside their building. JR is still fretting about Cliff, who has been poaching some of Ewing Oil's prized employees including "one of the best geologists in Dallas ... He's turnin' into a monster, Bob!" Bobby, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly pompous and self-righteous. "I don't have to tell you, do I, that you helped create that monster?" he reminds his brother, before going on to describe JR as "unscrupulous, unsavoury, underhand" with "a wonderfully crude way of puttin' things". Worst of all, JR just stands there and takes it.

    

This is followed by another sibling scene, between Cliff and Pam, who once again prove more interesting than their Ewing counterparts. Cliff introduces his sister to Barry Finnegan, the geologist he has swiped from Ewing Oil. "He's the guy that's responsible for pinpointing that big strike that JR had in the Panhandle a few years ago," Cliff explains, referring back to a gusher Ewing Oil and the cartel boys hit during late Season One. A preoccupied Pam then catches Cliff up on the events of last week's episode: "It's almost as though Mark were expecting to return." Cliff refuses to consider such a possibility. "Jerry Kenderson said there was no hope for Mark," he reminds her. "You can't do this to yourself."

    Pam receives equally doubtful responses from both Jerry Kenderson, ("Do you really believe this plane crash and suicide note are all just a device to let Mark run off and seek some kind of cure?" he asks sceptically. "I think it would be healthier if you just accepted Mark's death as a reality") and Steve Jackson, a deep water salvage expert whom she hires to locate Mark's plane. "Mrs Ewing," he tells her, "the chances of us finding anything are very remote. The plane exploded in the air. That means the wreckage could have been scattered for miles before it hit the water ... The currents could have scattered the wreckage even more." The more opposition Pam receives, however, the more impressively determined she becomes. "I have to know if Mr Graison was actually on that plane when it went down," she insists. "The odds of us coming up with something like that are practically zero," protests Mr Jackson. "I am willing to pay whatever it costs for a full-scale search," she replies. This is a steelier, more decisive Pam than we're used to seeing. (Her credibility is somewhat undermined, however, when the Curse of the High Pitched Dubbing strikes during her poolside scene with Jerry. "I can't do that, Jerry. Not until I know for sure!" she squeaks, sounding about ten years old.)



    Sue Ellen and Jamie are lunching at a strange, Travilla-themed restaurant where models, Mandy Winger included, glide around talking about the expensive dresses they're wearing (The Store gets a nostalgic name check during their sales patter). Sue Ellen has clearly been playing "makeovers" with Jamie who looks like she has been dragged through a hedge (albeit a glamorous hedge) backwards--emphasis on "drag". "I'd be lyin' to say I'm not impressed by all of it," she manages to coo through layers of lip gloss. "The restaurant, the food, the clothes, everything. You know, I'm beginnin' to like the way the Dallas Ewings live." Their conversation catches Mandy's ear. "JR is more worried about Cliff than he'd ever admit to anyone," blabs Sue Ellen. "The two men have always hated each other, but this is first time that Cliff's ever had the upper hand." (Sue Ellen, Mandy, Jamie--it's just too mind-boggling to think about how these three all have, or are about to, have relationships with each other's men.) Mandy passes Sue Ellen's words on to Cliff who rewards her with "your new key to the condo." (A few weeks ago, Cliff's place was described as a townhouse; now it's a condo again.)



    The Ewings receive a telegram. "It's from Mama and Clayton," announces Bobby. "They're gonna be comin' home, day after tomorrow." "Oh that's wonderful!" Sue Ellen gushes. "Family all be together again." JR is less excited: "I can't believe a Farlow's gonna be living here at Southfork. Gonna take some gettin' used to." (A Farlow? That ain't nothin'--how 'bout a Donna Reed?) 

The night before their return, a contemplative Bobby is joined in the kitchen by a restless JR, "paddin' around the house in his jammies", and an interesting scene ensues. "Things are gonna be a lot different here at Southfork now," reflects Bobby. "You and I have been runnin' things ever since Daddy died. Now that's all gonna change." Hmm, have Bobby and JR really been "runnin' things" ever since Jock died? At Ewing Oil certainly, but Miss Ellie has had the last say when it comes to family matters, and of course Ray has province over the ranch itself. Clayton's presence at Southfork won't change any of that. Like Jamie, he doesn't want anything from the Ewings. He doesn't pose a threat to the dramatic status quo in the same way Pam did at the beginning of the series. And JR's sincere pledge to not to interfere in his mother's marriage ("I'm not gonna cause Mama anymore grief") reduces the potential for conflict still further. Nevertheless, as Bobby says, "we're gonna have to make some adjustments and compromises. You and I are gonna have to learn how to deal with a new man here." But the question becomes how to dramatise those adjustments and compromises? By focusing on the painting of Jock that hangs in the living room, that's how. "What the hell are you doin'?" asks JR following Bobby out of the kitchen. "JR, it's gonna time for this picture to come down," Bobby tells him. "It's gonna be hard enough for Clayton to feel comfortable around here without this portrait to remind him that this was Daddy's house and Daddy's family."

    

This is the very first time the painting has been referred to directly. After being glimpsed in Jock's office during Season 4, it suddenly appeared at Southfork at the beginning of Season 5 and has presided over the living room ever since. As JR says, "You can just feel Daddy's presence all over this place," and the picture has been the physical representation of that presence. However, while eyes and the occasional glass have been raised in its direction--Miss Ellie once even addressing it directly ("Jock, you're putting through Hell," she sighed during Season 5)--no one has actually spoken of the portrait's existence until now. While I don't dislike this storyline, turning a previously unspoken-of symbol into a literal plot point feels slightly strange. (It vaguely reminds me of FALCON CREST, after five seasons, suddenly placing Angela Channing's near mute Chinese manservant in the opening credits and giving him storylines.) JR makes an impassioned argument that the painting should remain where it is ("You have no right to take down that picture just cos Clayton Farlow may be a little sensitive ... I'm not ready to pretend Daddy never existed ... Hell, he built this house, he built Ewing Oil, he's the reason the two of us are here ... I'm not gonna bury his memory") and Bobby agrees to a compromise: "We'll let Mama decide." Oh yeah ... Mama.



    The next afternoon, while the older members of the family troop off to the airport for one of the most bizarre scenes in DALLAS history, Jamie elects to remain at the ranch and tease the audience with an old black and white photograph of four men in work clothes, helpfully identified as Jock and Jason Ewing, Digger Barnes and Sam Culver. Meanwhile, Lucy makes her way home from the Hot Biscuit, unaware that Eddie Cronin has spied her EWING 5 licence plate. 



    The Ewings are at the airport where it seems that rumours of a re-cast have been circulating amongst the cast. Apparently, however, there is some confusion over exactly who is being recast. "Is that Clayton?" asks Donna, referring to a small black nun coming through customs. "No that's someone else," Ray replies helpfully. "Wait a minute, there's Clayton," he points out. "Where's Mama?" asks JR. "I don't see her yet," says Sue Ellen. "She's gotta be there with Clayton," insists Donna. Meanwhile, the camera is doing this weird thing where Donna Reed is being deliberately obscured behind another passenger, her bouffant effectively playing peekaboo with the audience at home. The message the programme seems to be sending is: "This is just to let you know that we know that you know, but let's all pretend we don't know." Meanwhile, the characters are gamely trying to convince themselves/each other/us/anyone that a woman they've never seen before is their own flesh and blood. "There she is!" says Ray as Donna Reed's head finally pops into view. JR and Bobby each throw in a "Welcome home, Mama." "I'm so glad to see you," Donna Reed replies graciously, as if she were the Queen of England being greeted by an overseas reception committee. "Thank you for coming to see me," she continues before dreamily reciting all the names of the characters: "Oh JR, JR ... Jenna dear. Thank-you, thank-you ... Bobby, oh Bobby. Are you sure you're all right? Is your eyesight back to normal? ... When I finally heard the news, Clayton had to restrain me from getting on a plane!"

    While it may not have been logistically possible, I can't help feeling that at least some of the weirdness of the Ellie transition could have been alleviated by Miss Ellie returned from honeymoon with Clayton at the beginning of the season. Had she been pitched straight into the action, we would have been spared the sight of everyone standing around awkwardly on the Southfork patio smiling politely and trying not to notice the bouffanted elephant in the corner of the room. "There's nothing in the whole world as sweet as Southfork air," Ellie declares as if she were preparing to launch a ship. "Do you know that Athens has smog?" Jenilee Harrison then appears in one of her nipple-hugging dresses. "Jamie, you're so young!" observes Ellie. "I would have thought Jason's daughter would have been someone closer to Bobby's or JR's age." "Miss Ellie, you're so ethereal!" observe the audience. "We would have thought someone born and raised on a working Texas ranch would have been a little more down to earth." 



    As the family gathers for dinner in the Southfork living room, it's almost as though we are watching the beginning of an "Alterna-DALLAS": here we have the faux Ellie, Clayton as Jock-lite and the introduction of revised Ewing backstory. "Daddy, Jock and Digger Barnes were pretty close," Jamie informs us. "I understand they brought in a field in East Texas ... they hit a gusher on the 89th day." Yet, even as "Tumbleweed" Ewing is incorporated into the backstory, care is taken that the roots of the Ewing saga--the importance of land, oil and family--are disrupted as little as possible. In a way, the topic of Jason, and the way the family subconsciously bands together during their reminiscences to exclude Clayton, (who stands silently in front of Jock's painting throughout the scene) serve to reinforce those roots. "You know, I was with him once when he brought in a gusher," says JR of his father. "I never heard a man yell so loud. I can still hear the joy in his voice." Ironically, he finds an unexpected ally in Jamie during the scene. "JR said the Ewings always dine at seven," she says. "That's right," he replies, while shooting a glance at Clayton. "Tradition has always played a big part in the Ewing family." 



    This scene is followed by a sequence in which we see each of the couples in turn--Bobby and Jenna, Donna and Ray, JR and Sue Ellen, Miss Ellie and Clayton--discussing the events of the evening. Even though none of these conversations are particularly riveting in themselves, the sequence serves to underline the importance of the family gathering. Both Bobby and Donna are conscious of Clayton's discomfort. "Honey, that picture is a symbol of the place Daddy had, still has, at Southfork," Bobby tells Jenna. "I do believe Miss Ellie is not meeting Clayton halfway at settling their differences," echoes Donna. "I'm afraid Miss Ellie will have to settle between Southfork and Clayton Farlow." This prediction (albeit unintentionally) introduces Miss Ellie's arc for the rest of the series. Ultimately, of course, she will choose Clayton.

The last couple we visit are the newlyweds in their bedroom. "I think this room could do with a little brightening up," says Clayton. Donna Reed's line reading suggests Miss Ellie is unaware of any deeper meaning behind his words. "Oh!" she says in perky surprise. "Well, I've never thought of it as particularly dark. It's very cheerful in the morning!" (Reed here reminds me of no one so much as prim-yet-giddy Erica Davidson, the unintentionally absurd governess played by Patsy King in mental Australian soap PRISONER CELL BLOCK H.) "Don't wait up for me," sighs Clayton, excusing himself to go downstairs for a brandy where, inevitably, Jock's painting catches his eye. "Still live here, Jock," he murmurs. "Still your house." Ah, if only it were still BBG's house as well.

    This is what I had to say the last time I re-re-re-watched this episode:

    I was always a little resistant to the scene where Bobby and JR discuss Jock's portrait before. To see the Ewing boys arguing over a painting — even one as significant as Jock's — felt somehow un-DALLAS to me. Viewed from post-New DALLAS perspective, however, it’s another scene that has grown in significance. When one thinks of JR's own posthumous portrait hanging at Ewing Global, to see him back when he was fighting to keep his father’s memory alive becomes very poignant. After all these years, I feel as if I've finally grasped what this scene is really about.

    Ellie Ewing — a character whose appearance was so unchanging it resulted in an unintentional gag in her final episode when her “beautiful” wedding dress proved indistinguishable from almost every outfit she’d worn previously — is completely unrecognisable as Ellie Farlow. This is far by Soap Land’s most conspicuous recast to date. The nearest equivalent is Steven Carrington's on DYNASTY and that transformation was an incorporated into the narrative. When the Carringtons lined up to welcome Steven home, viewers and characters were on the same page. When the Ewings do the same for Mama, we’re not.

    Miss Ellie’s new look aside, this is a strangely minor key instalment of DALLAS. The fireworks and dramatic confrontations that led up to Miss Ellie and Clayton's wedding have been replaced by a melancholic resignation at the prospect of their homecoming. “I can’t believe a Farlow’s going to be living here at Southfork,” sighs JR more in sadness than in anger. It’s an intriguing, even brave, tone to adopt for an ep that supposedly heralds the start of a new era for the show — the one where Mr and Mrs Clayton Farlow take their places as the new heads of Southfork. Instead of looking forward, the episode winds up looking back to Jock’s glory days as a wildcatter, and by the end of the hour, it’s turned into a roundabout tribute to his enduring strength as a character. “You still live here, Jock. It’s still your house,” Clayton quietly acknowledges. Even the ever gracious, all-new Miss Ellie is not immune to the pervasive sense of anti-climax. Tear your eyes away from that eye-catching bouffant in her final scene and there’s a sad looking woman underneath it, silently disappointed that the big homecoming hasn’t worked out as she’d hoped.
     
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  14. Victoriafan3

    Victoriafan3 Soap Chat Fan

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    I loved this episode. All about the Pamster! Stunning determined believable acting. Loved it :)
     
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  15. Ms Southworth

    Ms Southworth Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yet another episode that there really isn't anything good to say about. :( Thanks for reminding me, James! ;) I hated Pam's continued search into the whereabouts of Mark. :( I disliked the transformation of Jamie! :( And most of all, I hated the "new" Miss Ellie! :mo: I'm sure that Donna Reed is an excellent actress, but she couldn't (and will never be able to) walk in the same shoes as Barbara Bel Geddes! Probably the world's worst recast ever! :a2:
    Let's move on to the next episode, please! I really enjoy reading your threads, James :best:
     
  16. Matthew Blaisdel

    Matthew Blaisdel Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    :crazy:
     
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  17. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Two things occur which changed my relationship with Dallas. First up was Jenilee Harrison. I loved the concept of another Ewing at Southfork since we knew so little about Jock's family. By this stage Dallas, actually Southfork, needed fattening up with more blood Ewing's than those Farlow's and Krebbes. Just a pity they employed the services of Jenilee. The second fatal flaw was Donna Reed. In numerous posts I've never had fault with Donna, it was the "fools rush in" approach from the producers. What was their thinking behind this audacious move? Daytime soaps can get away with a character recast but not the No.1 rating show in America and one of the most popular shows around the world. It would be like re-casting Alexis on Dynasty mid-series.
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "The Oil Baron's Ball III"

    

The episode begins with Miss Ellie finding Clayton asleep on the porch, then taking his brandy glass inside the house and looking up at Jock's portrait. One of Barbara Bel Geddes' strengths in this kind of scene was her ability to convey a great deal to the viewer while appearing to do almost nothing. She understood the importance of stillness, of letting the camera read one's thoughts. Not so Donna Reed. I find it curious that an actress with as much film experience as Reed should look as ill at ease as she does here. During her close-ups, her head jiggles about as if she were operated by strings. This jerkiness, combined with her immovable hair, gives her the appearance of a Thunderbirds puppet. 



    Reed has trouble pitching her performance in other scenes. During a heart to heart conversation with the other Donna (Krebbs), her delivery is formal and stilted. Later, in a restaurant scene with Bobby and Jenna, she is ridiculously sugary. "Jenna, if you and Bobby are getting married, it's going to be at Southfork with friends and relatives and all the trimmings, just as you deserve!" she coos, sounding (and looking, in her floaty dress) like the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. All that's missing is a magic wand for her to wave over Jenna's head. Even in scenes with her new husband, Miss Ellie seems dazed and distant. "Oh I love you, Clayton, and I want our marriage to work," she says at one point, with the same kind of faux earnestness adopted by Margaret Thatcher during her premiership in a (failed) bid to sound warmer and more sincere. 



    Some of the writing is also out of character for the Miss Ellie we know and love. When Bobby explains that he would rather not announce his engagement to Jenna at the Oil Baron's Ball in order to spare Pam's feelings, Ellie is surprised. "Is it possible that you're not over Pam?" she asks. The old Ellie would have been too discreet to ask such a question and already aware of the answer. And it's hard to imagine the same woman who was so terrified at the prospect of letting her groom-to-be see her mastectomy scar, luring him to an empty hotel suite with gay abandon only a few months later. ("We're going to a party," trills Donna Reed to Clayton. "Some wonderful people have come in from out of town." JR does something very similar to Mandy Winger later in the season.)



    Much of the story-telling at this stage of the season feels as flimsy as Donna Reed's purple dress (especially when compared to the strong structure of the two preceding seasons). New bedroom furniture for Ellie and Clayton's bedroom--is this really a plot point? (Even if it does provide JR with his first jibe in the role of step-son: "I gotta hand it to you. Not here a week and changing things around already," he tells Clayton). Similarly, Sly's urgent plea for a sabbatical ("JR, I really need a break ... a few months at least") comes out of nowhere and is simply a contrivance to put Jamie behind the Ewing Oil reception desk for half a dozen episodes. ("Jamie doesn't strike me as the type of person who likes to sit around painting her nails," observes JR elsewhere in the episode.)

    Sly's lunchtime request, which takes place at the Travilla-themed restaurant, does provide one major dramatic turning point, however: JR's first glimpse of who he will later describe as "the most beautiful woman I've ever seen". He returns to the same restaurant the following day, (on the pretext of one of his periodic "mending fences with the cartel" conversations with Jordan Lee) hoping to see her again, but to no avail. 



    Curiously, there are three occasions in this episode where a character compares a current storyline to something that happened in Season 4, only for the person they are talking to reject the comparison. During her conversation with Miss Ellie, Donna likens Clayton's present discomfort to that experienced by Ray during the first year of the Krebbs' marriage, ("Sam's shadow wasn't any easier for Ray to shake off than Jock's is gonna be for Clayton, but he did") but Ellie stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the similarity. Then Bobby draws a comparison between Pam's search for Mark's plane and Miss Ellie's behaviour in Season 4: "I understand how you feel. It's something like the way Mama felt when Daddy died ... She loved him so much she couldn't accept the fact that he was gone." "That's ridiculous," Pam insists. "It's nothing like that at all." Later on, Mandy is dubious when Cliff suggests his sister might be unbalanced: "Pam looks like a pretty strong woman to me." "You don't know her very well," replies Cliff. "A couple of years ago, she had an emotional breakdown." 



    The restaurant scene between Pam, Cliff and Mandy is the highlight of the episode. Cliff treats Pam to some extremely tough love: "Mark's dead, leave it alone ... Suppose you find that plane and bring it up, what do you think you're gonna find? ... What do you think's gonna be down there 'cept a lot of rusty metal? The fish will have gotten everything else down there, believe me". A bond starts to develop between Pam ("I can't believe that salvage man called Bobby ... How dare he?") and Mandy ("Unfortunately, male chauvinism is still alive and well in Texas"). At this point, it's difficult to tell if Pam is losing her grip on reality, but her angry refusal to apologise for her actions is exciting to watch (and a million miles from the zombie behaviour of her previous breakdown): "You may be my brother, but you can really be hateful," she tells Cliff. "I'm gonna do what I have to do and I don't want advice from you or anybody else!" 



    Early in the episode, the idea is introduced that the worst thing that could possibly happen to Pam right now is for Bobby and Jenna to set their wedding date. "As much as I hate the idea," Cliff tells Mandy, "I think she's still in love with the guy, and the state she's in right now, Lord, I don't know how she'd react if he married Jenna Wade." 



    Compared to the two previous Oil Baron's Balls, this year's event is barely given any build up at all. This is the first Ball outfitted by Travilla and, with the exception of Jamie (who scrubs up surprisingly well), the Southfork women look either matronly (Ellie, Donna) or tacky (Jenna) or both (Sue Ellen). Mandy and Pam (especially Pam) fare somewhat better. 

"Just liable to have a big brawl like last year," suggests Ray at the party. Fat chance. This ball rivals Season 10's shindig as the dreariest of the series. The fireworks are thin on the ground, the camera work is uninspired and the ballroom itself half empty. Looks like Lucy made the right choice by staying home. "I'm not part of that kind of life anymore," she solemnly explains to John Ross. "Things that are important to your mommy and daddy aren't really important to me." (Like adult conversation?)

    

JR spies his mysterious woman--Mandy--across a crowded ballroom, but she remains tantalisingly out of reach. While Jeremy Wendell is named Oil Baron of the Year for no particular reason, JR follows Mandy in the direction of the powder room, and overhears her conversation with Pam. "Does Bobby have any idea how you feel about him?" she asks. "Have you ever told him?" "Not in so many words," Pam admits. "Then how would he know? How do you know he doesn't still love you? Maybe he's marrying Jenna because he doesn't know you still care about him. Pam, you owe it to yourselves to talk ... They haven't announced their wedding yet. There could be a reason." "Maybe you're right," concedes Pam. 

JR realises he must head Pam off at the pass. No sooner has Jeremy finished his acceptance speech than he climbs on stage and commandeers the microphone: "This is the happiest night of my life and I want to share this with you," he tells the crowd. "A long time ago, my brother Bobby was going to announce his engagement right here at the Oil Baron's Ball. Unfortunately, that announcement never occurred. Tonight is a different story. I'm delighted to tell you that one month from today, my brother Bobby is going to marry his childhood sweetheart, the one girl that he has loved all his life, Miss Jenna Wade!" Smiles and applause as Bobby and Jenna stand up. Then Bobby turns his head to see Pam staring at him, open-mouthed. Freeze frame!

    Further observations made when re-re-re-re-watching this episode:

    The short scene between Lucy and John Ross, distinctively filmed from overhead as the Ewing cousins walk up the Southfork staircase, is their only significant conversation of the original DALLAS series, and it makes a nice companion piece to their fascinating restaurant scene in New DALLAS. Meanwhile, Ray and Donna’s roles as wry observers at the Oil Baron’s Ball ("Just liable to have a big brawl like last year,” says Ray of the Barnes and the Ewings; “Bite your tongue, Ray Krebbs,” mock-chides Donna) anticipates Ray and Lucy’s similar function at New DALLAS’s family gatherings.
     
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  19. Ms Southworth

    Ms Southworth Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Your description of the weird behavior of the "new" Miss Ellie" is excellent! :) I'd like to believe that Barbara Bel Geddes would have questioned (and asked for a rewrite of) the lines that Donna Reed were given in this episode in particular, simply because Barbara "knew" Miss Ellie so well and thus would have known when Miss Ellie's behavior was "off".

    IMHO, Donna Reed doesn't hold all the responsibility for the weird words coming out of the matriarch's mouth and the questionable behavior in this season. The writers, producers, and directors are responsible as well! Part of me feel sorry for Donna Reed for not being "rescued" from all of this!
     
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  20. Victoriafan3

    Victoriafan3 Soap Chat Fan

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    Loved Pam (beautiful!) and bobby at the ball here. And love that Victoria gets more freeze frame this scene than any other :)
     
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