Re-watching Season 8

Discussion in 'Dallas Season Reviews' started by James from London, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Thanks again, @Toni!

    "The Family Ewing"



    I have vivid memories of seeing this episode for the first time. Taking advantage of the ongoing squabble between the BBC and ITV over broadcast rights to DALLAS in the UK, which meant that screening of Season 8 had been postponed indefinitely, Woolworth's (RIP) released the first two episodes on videotape. I knew nothing about this until Christmas morning when I opened my presents and found the video looking up at me. I almost had a heart attack with the excitement of it all. (This is before the internet, you understand, when it was still possible to be surprised by stuff.) Needless to say, it was the heck with mince pies and watching Noel Edmonds visit sick kiddies in hospital, "The Family Ewing" went straight in the VCR.



    As exciting a present as this was in 1985, it's a strange episode. In some ways, it reminds me of "No More Mr Nice Guy", the opening instalment of Season 3. There's same focus on the immediate family (all but half a dozen scenes in "The Family Ewing" are situated on Southfork). And there's a similarly slow, rudderless quality to the episode as the characters, and by extension, the show itself, attempt to navigate unchartered waters: the possibly fatal shooting of one son; the death of another. The musical score of each episode adds a feeling of incongruity: Season 3's because of the generic score the show was obliged to use because of the musician's union strike, Season 8's because it goes a bit Spanish in places for no discernible reason.



    One big difference between JR's shooting and Bobby's death, however, is that the former leaves the show with two big questions to be resolved: Who did the shooting and will JR survive it? There is no such mystery surrounding Bobby's assailant, or even much interest. "What was Katherine Wentworth doing in Dallas?" Gary asks his mother over the phone. "I don't think it really matters," she shrugs. So, in the absence of a life or death operation or a police investigation, all we are left with is a family in mourning. And how does a fast moving, plot driven series like DALLAS depict a long term, internal process like grief? When Jock died, the show cleverly sidestepped this question. Because there was no body and no funeral, the focus of the story became his widow being unable to grieve, or even accept, his death. Instead of Ellie quietly going through the process of grief, we saw her travelling from denial to acceptance, a far more tangible journey. 

The finality of Season 7's conclusion provides the series with no such escape route (at least, not yet).

    So after a perusal of the new season credits, (bye bye Duffy, Reed and Tilton, welcome back BBG, hello Peter Dunne and a drummier theme tune) we open on an establishing shot of Southfork, Jerrold Immel's mournful score on the soundtrack suddenly turning spaniolă as we move inside the house. Ordinarily, a season premiere features several scenes of family members reacting to the shock news of whatever cliff-hanger was left dangling at the end of the previous season. This time, however, everyone (save Sue Ellen) is already up to speed and so we find Miss Ellie, Clayton, Jenna, Ray and Donna all gathered in the hallway looking and dressed just as they were the last time we saw them in Bobby's hospital room. Well, maybe Donna's hair's a little higher - and oh yes, Miss Ellie has resumed her human form, Barbara Bel Geddes slotting so naturally back into the role one hardly notices she's been away.



    With the episode title suggesting a return to the core of the show, (as would that of Season 9's premiere) it's an appropriate time for BBG to resume her DALLAS duties. Her Ellie immediately takes charge of the family (and the episode) in a way it's impossible to imagine Donna Reed's doing. "Thank-you for coming, Harlan," she says to Dr Danvers before suggesting he minister to Jenna upstairs. She then turns to the Krebbses. "Ray, maybe you should take Donna home," she prompts. Any concern for her own welfare is briskly deflected. "I'm all right, Harlan. Thank-you," she tells the doctor. When Donna offers to help her, she insists that "what I need right now is for you to take care of yourself." Having dismissed the rest of the family, she then turns towards the living room where JR is slumped in a chair, head in hand. "JR, you have to help me," she tells him. "You and I have to be strong." 



    She returns to the idea of "strength" throughout the episode. "I can feel a strength in you that you never had before," she tells Gary in a later scene. "For the next few days, I'm gonna need that strength ... I'm gonna lean on Clayton and on you, because I know you'll be there." (She has evidently given up on JR as a source of strength by this point.) "JR and Sue Ellen, Jenna, little Charlie, they're all in pain and they all need me," she continues. "Don't bury the pain inside," Clayton urges her in another scene. "Just let it out." "I can't," she replies. "My family needs me." At the risk of being too literal, what exactly is it that she believes they need from her? Not to cry? Apparently - for it is only when she is alone that she allows herself to break down. This is very much in keeping with Ellie's past behaviour. Her key emotional scenes in "Bypass", "Mastectomy", "Acceptance", and during her split from Jock in Season 3, all take place out of sight of the rest of the family.



    Sue Ellen arrives home in a ridiculously good mood, ("It's a wonderful evening, isn't it? ... Oh Clayton, I had the best day!") which allows JR to shoot her down in flames with the bad news: "My brother's dead. Bobby's dead." This is an almost carbon copy of the scene at the end of "The Ewing Connection" (just four episodes earlier) in which a jubilant Sue Ellen returns from a shopping spree to be informed by her husband that John Ross has undergone surgery for appendicitis. In both cases, JR harangues her ("You're never around when anybody needs you. John Ross almost died, Bobby did die. All you ever think about is yourself!") to point where she falls off the wagon. And again, there is a parallel with "No More Mr Nice Guy" in that this is another hospital related crisis where Sue Ellen has been conspicuous by her absence. "Your husband might be dyin' and you're out gallivantin' around!" Jock snarled at her in 1980; "You were too busy rolling around in bed with that saddle tramp or maybe it was just gettin' sick and drunk in some motel!" JR accuses her in this episode. "Go back to your cowboy, go back to your bottle. Go anywhere you want. Just get outta my sight!" Sue Ellen whimpers pathetically, then scampers upstairs.



    Over at Antioch Drive, Cliff and Jamie attempt to comfort a distraught Pam. "It's all my fault, it's all my fault," she keeps saying. "He died because of me ... They'll never forgive me." Each of these sentiments were expressed by Cliff after Rebecca's death in Season 5. "You have to get some sleep," Jamie tells Pam. Bearing in mind that Pam is already asleep, her resistance to this suggestion ("I can't sleep. If I do, I'll just keep seeing Bobby") is interesting. Perhaps in the dream state, sleep and wakefulness are reversed so that falling asleep in the dream would mean waking up in the real world, where she would indeed "keep seeing Bobby". 



    It's hard to put my finger on what exactly, but there's something missing from each of the scenes so far. Only an hour or two have passed since the events of "Swan Song", yet it feels more like days, even longer. There's a lack of raw emotion, of anguish and amazement at what has just happened. Sue Ellen doesn't even ask how Bobby died. This is TV movie grief: it doesn't transcend the soap genre the way key moments in "Swan Song" did, the way KNOTS LANDING habitually did when portraying extreme emotions. Pam's hysteria comes closest to cutting through the gloss, but there's still something muted about it. There's nothing wrong with Victoria Principal's performance exactly, but somehow the immediacy of the pain she conveyed in "Swan Song" isn't there. It's hard not to notice, too, given all that Pam has been through that day, that her makeup is too perfect and her outfit too immaculately white. 



    Even a scene between the show's most routinely believable characters, Donna and Ray, doesn't fully work, burdened as it is with both acknowledging the Krebbses' grief ("I never thought about Bobby dying," says Donna, "I never thought about any of us dying") and resolving their seven episode marital estrangement in just a handful of lines. "Ray, I have been so wrong and so have you. Somehow or other, our problems don't seem so big." "Not compared to what Miss Ellie's going through ..." "Maybe there's a way we can work things out for us ... I love you!" "As long as we have that, we've got a chance." It's all too neat, too pat to ring emotionally true.



    The best of the scenes to take place on the night of Bobby's death is between Miss Ellie and Clayton. He finds her sitting at a table in their room, writing. Not only is this the first interaction between the couple since BBG's return, it's also the first scene between Clayton and the "real" Miss Ellie as man and wife. Howard Keel doesn't have much to do other than play the supportive husband, but nonetheless he and Bel Geddes feel more like a genuine partnership than he and Reed ever did. They receive a call from KNOTS LANDING. "I just heard about Bobby," Gary tells his mother. Indeed he has. Viewers who had watched the season premiere of KNOTS the night before would have seen Abby (now Gary's wife) break the news to him: "A call came in from Dallas a little while ago. Your family's been trying to reach you ... It's Bobby. There's been a terrible accident." "It can't be true," he says to Miss Ellie in this scene. "It just can't be!" (How perceptive of him!) She asks him to come back to Dallas for the funeral. "He's gone," Gary sighs, "and I never got a chance to tell him how much I cared about him ... I love you, Mama." There's a simplicity to this conversation which makes it the most touching moment of the episode thus far. While Clayton goes in search of cocoa, Miss Ellie looks tearfully at a picture of Bobby. "Oh Bobby, oh God, oh Bobby," she laments, before lowering her head on the desk. It's one of those BBG moments, very much like the scene at the end of "Barbecue Two" where she gives JR the news of Jock's plane crash, that is technically impressive without feeling totally believable. 



    As well as the bereaved adults, "The Family Ewing" also takes time to focus on each of the children Bobby has left behind: nephew John Ross, son Christopher and occasional daughter Charlie, each of whom gets a scene in which to express their sorrow and/or bewilderment. While an admirably democratic conceit on the part of Uncle Lenny, (who despite vacating the producer's chair, still found time to pen this episode) none of these scenes work dramatically. Omri Katz is undeniably as cute as a button, but the late night visit JR pays to his son's room is ploddingly dull. "Is it true about Uncle Bobby?" "Yes. Bobby's dead." "I loved Uncle Bobby." "Yeah, so did I ... I love you, boy." "I love you too, Daddy." JR is never less interesting than when stating the emotionally obvious. 



    I realise now that what makes JR such a brilliantly intriguing character in the early years of the show isn't just his audacious ruthlessness, but also the way he keeps the other characters, and just as importantly the viewers at home, at an emotional arm's length. It's not that he doesn't suffer, but he keeps his vulnerabilities under wraps, asking for neither our understanding or our sympathy. In the absence of a six year old boy to blub to, or a portrait or coffin to which deliver long maudlin speeches, he remains a fascinating enigma. The viewer is left to wonder: "What makes this man tick? What is he capable of? How far will he go?" The glimpses we get of his deeper feelings (the slap he delivers to Jeb Ames when he suggests getting rid of Bobby in Season 1, for instance: "Don't you dare threaten my brother, or any other Ewing!") are all the more compelling for their rarity.

    

Meanwhile, any poignancy in the scene where Pam breaks the news of Bobby's death to their son is completely overshadowed by the fact that overnight Christopher has aged three years, acquired the ability to speak in full sentences, and looks nothing like his former waterlogged self. Joshua Harris's attempt to recreate Eric Farlow's classic eggs and toast speech ("I'm hungry! ... Eggs and toast!") does nothing to ease the transition. I understand the need for recasts, but to introduce a new face at such a crucial moment? Did they think we'd be so blinded by tears we wouldn't even notice?

    Charlie's scene is also pretty forgettable. "It's not fair! Why is Bobby dead?!" she sing songs while grooming Darius, the horse Bobby bought her in Season 6. Meanwhile, Jenna regrets what she has regretted so many times before: "All those years I could have been married to Bobby." 



    Each of these scenes ends on the same "it's just you 'n' me, kid" note. "You're all I got," JR tells John Ross. "It's just going to be the two of us," says Pam to Christopher. "We have each other," Jenna tells Charlie. When "The Family Ewing" and the following instalment "Rock Bottom" were eventually shown by the BBC, they were re-edited into one feature length episode. The Jenna/Charlie conversation was cut out to make room for exciting footage of Dusty holding a cup of coffee and Sue Ellen walking through a door. It's no great loss. In fact, the JR/John Ross and Pam/Christopher scenes could just as easily have been left on the cutting room floor without diminishing the instalment as a whole.



    Things improve dramatically with a beautifully shot, written and acted scene which finds Ellie in some never before seen part of Southfork marked by a small lake and a tree house. A horse grazing in the background suggests that she rode out there herself. Ellie on horseback? There's a novel idea, but one that makes total sense given her upbringing. She is joined by Clayton. "I stopped by Ray's," he tells her. "He figured you might be out here." "I think Ray knows me very well," she smiles before explaining the significance of the tree house. "Bobby used to play here ... Jock built it for him ... Whenever he wanted time off from his chores, he used to be here ... Of all the places in Southfork where he used to play, this was his favourite. Gary used to come out here. The two of them would spend hours and hours doing I don't know what." A clue is provided in a subsequent episode of KNOTS LANDING which finds Gary preoccupied by memories of an old drill bit he and Bobby found when they were kids.



    It's been a long time since we've heard Ellie talk about the way her sons were raised, but the family dynamic was so well established in Season 1 ("Bobby was given everything that JR had to fight for and Gary didn’t care about") that the retroactive addition of a tree house built for Bobby by Jock slots in perfectly. Ellie's assertion to Clayton, "Bobby was always Jock's favourite; if ever there was a fair-haired son, Bobby was it for Jock," might be the first time Jock's preference has been stated so blatantly, but only confirms what he told Digger in "Barbecue": "I spoiled Bobby rotten. He turned out the best of lot." And in spite of what she told Gary in "No More Nice Guy", ("We love all three of you just the same") we know that Gary was Ellie's favourite child, ("Mama, she always, always liked Gary the best," recalled Bobby in "Bypass") which inevitably left JR. "I think you might have liked him more if you'd known him then," she tells Clayton. "JR always knew that Jock loved Bobby the best and it hurt him. He could never come to grips with the fact that he wasn't Jock's favourite ... I think he would have traded everything if he'd been the one that Jock built this tree house for." 



    The one part of the scene that jars is the sign Clayton sees painted on the door of the tree house in fancy lettering: "Ewing Oil, Bobby Ewing President". The idea of a young Bobby running his very own pretend Ewing Oil is too cutesy, too knowing, i.e. too DYNASTY. Besides, it doesn't jibe with what we know about Bobby's lack of interest in the company prior to his marriage to Pam.

    

"And now Jock is gone, and so is Bobby," concludes Ellie movingly as her trip down memory lane comes to an end. "I want Bobby to be buried here where he can see his lake and his tree house." At her request, Clayton leaves her to weep alone once more. While this is a poignant end to a lovely scene--the first of the episode that gives the characters room to breathe in the same way that "Swan Song" did--it's hard to feel that Miss Ellie's reminiscences, fondly and smilingly expressed, are those of a mother whose son was murdered less than twenty-four hours earlier. I understand that grief takes many forms, but where's the rage, the shock, the sheer disbelief?
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    More Family Ewing:

    Another strong scene follows in the more familiar surroundings of the Southfork driveway. Dusty disembarks from his truck as JR is coming out of the house. "What are you doing here, Farlow?" he barks. This is the first time the two men have come face to face since their blistering showdown at the Cotton Bowl four years earlier, and it's their first scene together as stepbrothers - although Dusty's reminder that "whether you like it or not, my father is married to your mother" is as close as they will ever come to acknowledging each other as such. Dusty explains that "I'm here to pay my respects" to Miss Ellie regarding Bobby's death. "And maybe see my wife?" suggests JR. "Would you really like to help?" "Yeah, of course I would," Dusty replies. "Well then go in the house, throw Sue Ellen over your shoulder, and carry her the hell of Southfork ... Take her, she's yours. You can have her."

    As was the case during their Cotton Bowl confrontation, one gets the feeling that Dusty, for all his cowboying and rodeoing, comes from a more old fashioned, genteel world than JR and would never talk about a woman the way JR does his wife. "You are a disgusting man, Ewing," he told him in Season 4. "You are as disgusting as ever," he tells him in this scene. "That may be," JR shrugs, "but losing my brother made me realise how long I've been married to the wrong woman."

    

Larry Hagman's so much stronger in scenes like this where he's using his grief to keep people at bay than when he's blubbering all over them. With Bobby gone, he disowns the rest of his family save his mother and son. "She was never a Ewing and she sure as hell never will be" he says of Sue Ellen in one scene. "I had one brother and he's dead," he tells Ray and Gary in another. However, his most moving exchange of the episode is with Phyllis, of all people. "These things came for Bobby and I don't know what to do with them," she says, fighting to keep her emotions in check during the only office scene of the instalment. "Phyllis, don't do that," JR remonstrates sternly, his back to her. "Don't get me started ... I want you to lock up Bobby's office. I don't want anybody going in there and touching his things, you understand? Maybe if his door's shut, I can fool myself into thinking he's still there." Watching JR trying to control his emotions is a lot more interesting than seeing him give into them.



    Just as Sue Ellen became the most compelling character in the aftermath of JR's shooting, so the same thing happens here (her unconvincing reaction to the news of Bobby's death notwithstanding). Somehow, the shock of JR's near death and Bobby's actual death each serve to break open the tightly knit structure of the Ewing family leaving Sue Ellen unprotected and dangerously exposed. In the same way that Jock turned on her at the beginning of Season 3, having scarcely spoken to her during the first two years of the show, so Miss Ellie, always so tolerant and supportive of her daughter-in-law, finally runs out of patience with her in this episode.

    

The two women meet in the upstairs hallway. It's the morning after Bobby's death. While Miss Ellie has already ridden out to the lake to choose the spot where her son's body is to be buried, it's all Sue Ellen can do to walk in a straight line. There's a pause as they regard each other. "What can I say?" says Sue Ellen finally. "What would you like to say?" asks Ellie wearily. "That I wish I were here yesterday to be with you when - when it all happened." "That wouldn't have changed anything." "I know." Linda Gray takes long pause here, during which time BBG must just stand and wait for her to get on with the scene. It's a self-indulgent moment on behalf of the actress, but one that gels with the self-indulgence of her character. "It's just that I feel so guilty," she says eventually. "Like I let everyone down." Sue Ellen's "I feel so guilty" shtick might have worked on Donna Reed's Ellie after John Ross was hospitalised, but BBG ain't standing for it. "Sue Ellen, it's about time you stopped this," she snaps. "We have a lot more to worry about than your guilt. Why don't you start facing the reality of what's happening in your life?" "That's what I'm trying to do," Sue Ellen whimpers weakly. "That's where I was yesterday." "With Dusty? Dusty isn't a cure for anything," says Ellie, abruptly dismissing Sue Ellen's last great hope. "You need help, Sue Ellen. We can't do it for you. And JR's wanted you to go to a sanitarium for help." "But I'm really not an alcoholic," she pleads, directly contradicting of what she told Donna Reed two days earlier. "Oh Sue Ellen, yes you are," insists BBG, kindly but firmly. (None of Reed's wishy-washy "we're here for you" from this Ellie Farlow, thank-you very much.) "Every disappointment now sends you right back to the bottle. What I'm saying is this family is gonna have a terrible time facing up to the loss of Bobby. If you can't help us, don't make it worse. Pull yourself together if you can. If not, JR may be right - and I'll help him get you treatment before I'll let you pull him down." So Sue Ellen is now the one dragging JR down? I love it. Again, there are echoes of early Season 3 here: after Jock and Ellie find the gun that shot JR stashed in JR and Sue Ellen's closet, they begin to regard Sue Ellen as the aggressor and JR her victim. Ellie exits the scene, leaving Sue Ellen quivering in her wake. (With her character's rock bottom just around the corner, Linda Gray is finally allowed to resemble what the rest of us look like with a hangover, i.e. red-eyed and sweaty.)



    Gary's return in "No Mr Nice Guy" afforded him the opportunity to reach out to a struggling-to-stay-sober Sue Ellen. Five years later, she's in exactly the same position, but the two characters narrowly miss one another when she drives purposefully out of the ranch just as a taxi carrying Gary pulls in. Although seen in every episode as an establishing shot, the entrance to Southfork is rarely used in actual scenes, (the last occasion being Jamie's arrival at the ranch almost a year earlier) and it's very nice to see it utilised here. Dusty is revealed sitting in his truck across from the entrance to the ranch as Sue Ellen pulls out onto the Braddock Road. Meanwhile, as Gary climbs out of the cab, Ellie comes out of the house with Clayton to greet him, just as she and Jock did in "Reunion" and "No More Mr Nice Guy". This is Gary and Clayton's first and only meeting of the series.



    If one ignores the rubbishness that is "Conundrum", then this is Gary's last appearance on DALLAS. (Of course, if one also discounts the dream, then his last visit has already taken place back in Season 5.) There's a feeling of closure as Ellie finally sets him free: "After the funeral, I want you to go back to California, to your own show," she urges. "You're my son and I love you with all my heart, but we don't need to be together to keep that love." This is in contrast to what she told him during a similar scene in "No More Mr Nice Guy": "D'you ever think about coming back to Dallas? ... Be wonderful if you and Valene could come back again, settle down somewhere nearby." 



    Lucy's absence from the funeral is explained in a drinks-before-dinner scene in the Southfork living room. "She's not gonna be able to get a flight back in time," Gary explains, hanging up the phone after a conversation with his daughter. As with other interior sequences in this episode, gold and blue seem to dominate the colour scheme and this scene, in particular, is suffused with a golden light that's especially flattering to Susan Howard (looking blonder and more glamorous than ever before) and Ted Shackelford. The scene boasts the only exchange of the series between Gary and Donna. "How did she sound?" Donna asks, referring to Lucy. "Broken up, trying to be strong," Gary replies. That's the last we'll hear of Lucy until the conclusion of Jenna's flip out storyline later in the season. 

Given that this is the last scene in which Gary will speak to any of his Dallas relatives, his exchanges with JR and Ray also have an appropriate sense of finality about them. "Lucy's a fine girl. You're gonna be real proud of her," Ray assures him. "Ray, I owe you a lot," he replies. "I know how much you care and time you gave her." Hmm, I don't think Gary knows quite how much care and time Ray gave to Lucy.

    "Gary ... I'm glad you're here," says JR curtly upon entering the room. He explains that he's spent the day at Ewing Oil. "Still be there if it wasn't for the janitor. I lost all track of time. I just sat there trying to think about Ewing Oil and what's gonna happen, and I couldn't even do that." Donna's pregnancy aside, this is the only moment of the episode that looks forward instead of back. "I don't know very much about the oil business," Ray replies, "but we worked real good together on that Cliff Barnes trial." A reaction shot of Donna looking pensive suggests that the events of the previous season have not yet been entirely stripped from her memory. "Just till things smooth out, I'd be glad to go in with you," he continues. There's a pause and then JR turns his head. "How about you, Gary?" he asks smoothly. "You wanna come down to the office and help out too? Well, I don't want your help. I don't want your sympathy. I had one brother and he's dead. Nobody can ever replace him. Least of all you two." With that, he leaves the room. "Jackass," mutters Ray. "No matter what, nothing ever really changes," Gary observes. His last line of the series until "Conundrum", this is as good a description of DALLAS as any.

    

After leaving Southfork, Sue Ellen heads straight for a moody looking saloon where she immediately downs a shot of vodka. Dusty watches as she then orders a double. "You followin' me?" she asks. "I thought by now everyone would've told you that I'm an alcoholic ... I know I'm not worth savin'. So why don't you just go away and let me stay here and get real nice and drunk?" "It's not that simple," he replies. "You're wrong," she insists. "It's real simple. You see, if I stay here and I drink enough, then I don't have to face anybody. Not JR, not Miss Ellie, not my son, not even you." You know what? I really don't care how bored Linda Gray got of playing a drunk: this is the kind of scene at which she excels, not all that generic, well-meaning nice woman crap where she's indistinguishable from any number of TV actresses.



    During the early episodes of Season 8, the story of Sue Ellen's alcoholism runs parallel to that of Bobby's death, and while Sue Ellen never refers to Bobby directly in this scene - she's far too self-involved for that - the emotions she conveys here come the closest of anyone's to expressing genuine grief. Her self-loathing, guilt, fear and despair run deeper and ring truer than the rest of the family's tearily composed "We loved Bobby and Bobby loved us" speeches. 

"Sue Ellen, your family needs you," Dusty tells her. "Bobby's funeral is gonna be real soon and you've gotta start pulling yourself together. Now I'm here to help you, but darling, you've gotta start helping yourself." "This is all the help I need," she insists, brandishing her now empty glass. She tries to order another drink, he stops her (the spoilsport), so she slaps him. "Leave me alone!" she shouts. He retaliates by punching her in the face. The fact that we don't see the actual blow (the camera cutting to the surprised reactions of a barman and waitress at the point of impact) prevents this moment from being as memorable as Donna's "drinks are on Bonnie" smack-down. "Lady, you may have given up on yourself but I sure as hell haven't given up on you," wheezes Dusty as he follows JR's earlier suggestion of throwing Sue Ellen over his shoulder and carrying her the hell, well not off Southfork, but out of that bar. 



    While Sue Ellen dries out in Dusty's hotel room, New Christopher meets Old-New Grandma when Miss Ellie pays a visit to Pam's house. "I can't tell you how many times that I wished Bobby hadn't been here that morning," says Pam. "That morning" makes it sound as if she's talking about something that occurred in the distant past, rather than only the day before yesterday. Again, there's something lacking in this scene that Ellie's denial of emotion ("I'm all right, I guess. I have to be. So do you") isn't enough to explain away. Given their close relationship and their shared love for Bobby, surely some primal recognition of each other's loss should pass between these two women? As well as inviting Pam and Christopher to the funeral, Ellie wants Cliff and Jamie there as well. "I think it's time to heal the wounds between our two families ... If nothing else, at least that come out of Bobby's death," she says, exhibiting the same endearing hope-over-experience that's been in evidence ever since Pam invited Digger to the first Ewing barbecue. (Well, no one gets pushed into Bobby's open grave so I guess that's progress of a sort.) "Miss Ellie, do you really think that's possible?" asks Pam dubiously. "It was Katherine that killed Bobby." Finally, Miss Ellie shows some interest in the woman who killed her son. "Why did she hate Bobby so much?" she asks. No satisfactory answer is forthcoming. She then asks what Bobby was doing at Pam's house when he was run over. "He stopped by on his way to work just to see Christopher," lies Pam in that crap way that people only ever do on television. The scene ends with Pam holding Christopher, and then dissolves into a handsome close up of Ellie at Bobby's funeral. 



    "We are blessed to have known this splendid young man, this Bobby Ewing," the minister is saying before launching into the 23rd Psalm. As in Bobby's deathbed scene, it's interesting to observe how the family are arranged at the graveside. Having been shunted to the back of the hospital room in "Swan Song", Miss Ellie and JR, accompanied by John Ross, now take pride of place on one side of the coffin while Pam, in a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, and Christopher are seated on the other, flanked by Cliff and Jamie. Lesser family members - Mr and Mrs Half Breed, the black sheep brother with his own series, the drunken sister-in-law in a big hat ("My cup runneth over" indeed), the long lost cousin (Jack's first appearance of the season), the step-father and step-brother, the on/off fiancee and her whiny daughter - hover behind Ellie and JR. Bringing up the rear are a handful of extras in cowboy hats, a horse and Harve Smithfield. Harve is the only recognisable non-family member in attendance. (Guess Phyllis's boss wouldn't give her the afternoon off work.)

    The service at an end, the mourners disperse leaving JR alone with his brother's coffin. 

"Bobby," begins JR's graveside monologue, "I never told you how much you meant to me." Well, that's not entirely true. After Bobby was shot by Katherine at the end of Season 6 (as a kind of dress rehearsal for what she did to him a year later), JR spent at least half a dozen episodes following his baby brother around, grovelling apologies and telling him exactly what he thought of him: "Bob, I'd never hurt you. You're my brother ..." etc. "All the fights, all the times butting heads with one another," he continues, "I'm sorry we were never closer." Had Bobby's death come earlier in the series (perhaps during the fire at Southfork) or if, as I've previously suggested, there had been some falling out between the brothers towards the end of Season 7, (Bobby discovering that JR had secretly been selling company assets to his own dummy corporation would have been ideal) then JR's words here might carry more emotional resonance. As it is, they had never been closer than during the previous season, living and working together with an occasional reprimand from Bobby the only conflict between them. "I love you," JR concludes. "And tell Daddy I love him too." This echoes something Ray said at his mother's grave in Season 5: "I'd sure like to think that you and Jock are friends." Oddly, Ray's graveside speech to his mother - a character we never even met - is more poignant than JR's is to Bobby. Sure, there's something majestic and sweeping about this scene, particularly the closing shot of JR standing by his brother's coffin (only available on the re-edited "Family Ewing"/"Rock Bottom" episode), but that has more to do with the musical score and the camera work than the writing or acting.



    As well as being brothers, JR, Bobby and Gary share the unusual distinction of each having had a funeral without actually being dead. Gary's occurs in "Finishing Touches", a Season 5 episode of KNOTS LANDING written, ironically enough, by Peter Dunne, while JR's takes place in JR RETURNS. In each instance, the audience has a different level of awareness of how faux the funeral is. In the case of JR, we know he is faking his own death, and as such, his is the most fun. The KNOTS LANDING audience suspect that Gary's alive, but with his death being played 100% for real throughout the episode leading up to the funeral, can't be sure until he is revealed to be in hiding at the very end of the instalment. His is the most emotionally moving of the three. Bobby is the one brother that the (original) viewer is completely certain is dead, yet his ceremony is the least memorable. Why? Well, such was the finality of Bobby's deathbed scene that, from a purely dramatic standpoint, his funeral is redundant. Everyone said their good-byes at the end of "Swan Song"; there's nothing left to add. 



    Well, almost everyone. It's probably no coincidence that the two most poignant characters in this storyline are the ones who didn't get to say good-bye: Sue Ellen, whose guilt over being absent from the hospital is at least partially responsible for her continuing alcoholic decline, and Gary, who simply by virtue of being geographically estranged from his family, has "unfinished business" with them. This manifests itself most clearly at the end of the KNOTS LANDING instalment "While the Cat's Away" (which originally aired two weeks after this DALLAS episode) where Gary, having driven from Dallas to California, "the route Daddy took us when we were kids", quietly falls apart during a game of cards with Abby and step-daughter Olivia. It's a more naked display of emotion than anything we see in this episode.

    Here are a couple of more recent observations I made about this episode the last time I re-re-re-watched it:

    Viewed through the prism of New DALLAS, particularly those instalments pertaining to JR’s death, a lot of this week’s DALLAS feels freshly significant and poignant. The minor fact that Bobby is dead here but will be alive in the future is no impediment to this. In fact, after watching Bobby mourn JR in 2013, JR’s grief for Bobby in 1985 feels somehow more real and moving than it ever did before. Likewise, the scene at John Ross’s bedside where JR turns to his young son for solace ("You're all I got”) acquires a deeper significance when one connects Omri Katz’s John Ross to Josh Henderson’s.

    Not only does Bobby’s death prompt Gary’s first visit to DALLAS for three years, it also triggers the return of Miss Ellie to her former self. While it’s kind of sad to see the back of Donna Reed’s quietly unassuming incarnation of the character, it feels an appropriate time for Barbara Bel Geddes to wrench back control of both the character and the Ewing family itself.
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Rock Bottom" 



    This of course is Sue Ellen's episode. While the rest of the Ewings remain close to home, interacting only with each other and with Harve, she steps out of her comfort zone and takes a walk on the wild side, encountering all manner of beings alien to DALLAS as we know it: jive-talking ethnic minorities, a fat man, a bag lady offering free booze, a couple of hookers who mistake her for Nancy Reagan, even an old drinking buddy of Digger Barnes. 



    The episode starts shortly after Bobby's funeral and opens with Dusty and Sue Ellen driving through another part of Southfork we've never seen before. She orders him to stop the car. "It was a mistake," she says. "I have to go back to the house." Once again, she has let the family down by deserting them at a time of crisis: just as her non-appearance in Bobby's deathbed scene in "Swan Song" mirrors her absence from the hospital after JR was shot, her slightly shocking admission here that "I never even said one word to Miss Ellie after the funeral" echoes the scene in "The Search" (Season 4) where the family are waiting for news of Jock after his helicopter crash in South America, and she decides to leave the ranch. "You won't say goodbye to Miss Ellie?" Pam asks her, and she won't. As if to make up for these past failures ("I took the easy way out, I always do"), she decides the time has come to face the music. "I am still a member of this family and I have an obligation to be with them," she tells Dusty. "You're upset," he replies. "When you're upset, you do things to hurt yourself and I don't wanna see that happen." This is a valid point: it isn't just Sue Ellen's innate selfishness that motivates her to abandon the Ewings at times of crisis; it's also her survival instinct. ("Pam, don't you understand that I'm afraid to stay here?" she explains in Season 4.) "You're right," she acknowledges. "I want a drink right now. I want one real bad. But I have no intention of sneaking around to try to find a bottle. Believe it or not, my family's more important." Dusty apologises. "It's not that you didn't have good reason," she tells him ruefully. There's a gutsy quality to Sue Ellen's honesty here that I like. It's not the same as the high pitched, wimpy sharing she did with Donna Reed or at the Institute for Advanced Awareness at the end of last season. 



    At the house, Harve broaches the subject of Bobby's will. "Well, you don't waste any time at all, do you?" exclaims JR. "Isn't it enough my mother just buried her youngest son? Do you have to add to her grief with all this talk?" His response is in keeping with his initial reluctance when Harve and Bobby wanted to open Jock's will in Season 4, and in stark contrast to the lengths he went to persuade Ellie to do the same in Season 5. This time around, however, Mama's firmly in favour of a speedy reading. "The sooner we get this behind us the better off we'll all be," she declares. "Tomorrow'll be fine, Harve."

    

Over at Pam's, an even more delicate subject is raised by Cliff: "Coroner's released Katherine's body ... Pam, you and I have to come to some kind of a decision." Jamie offers to take care of the matter and that's the last we ever hear of it. Shame, Katherine's sparsely attended funeral could have made for interesting viewing, but maybe that's more a KNOTS LANDING scene than a DALLAS one. 



    However courageous Sue Ellen feels about facing the family, she's no match for JR whom she finds standing guard on the patio (albeit sitting down). Specifically, she's no match for the wonderfully cruel dialogue created for him in the first of ten episodes either written or co-written by Joel J. Feigenbaum this season: "You're a terrible embarrassment, Sue Ellen. Nobody around here wants to see you ... You're sinking, honey, and you're dragging me down with you. I can't allow that to go on, not for my sake or my son's." "He's my son too," she protests weakly. "He doesn't have a mother. I don't have a wife. You don't exist. You're just a bad memory doesn't know when to go away." It doesn't get any meaner than that, and without Bobby around to be the ally he was in the first couple of seasons, it's no surprise that when we next see Sue Ellen she's boozed up in a bar and demanding another drink. "I shouldn't even let you get behind the wheel," the good looking chick behind the counter tells her with more than a hint of contempt. "What do you have to do to get a drink around here?" she wonders aloud as a deceptively dweeby looking guy approaches her. He has no difficulty persuading her to let him walk her to her car, ("I'd hate to see a nice lady like you hurt herself") or to part with her keys and purse in the parking lot. "Where are you going? That's my car," exclaims a sozzled Sue Ellen, not unamusingly, as he drives off.

    

There is a parallel between what happens to Sue Ellen in this instalment and in the episodes that followed her divorce from JR in Season 4. In both instances, as soon as she steps outside of the Ewing/Farlow cocoon, she finds herself accosted by the drunken, predatory men of Dallas. Back then, it was Tom Flintoff nearly raping her and her friend's husband groping her; now it's the guy stealing her car and the drunk who later takes her to a motel room where he swipes her jewellery as she sleeps.



    Back at Southfork, Ray and Donna have the second of two discussions that deal with their reconciliation. Just as the first took place in the immediate aftermath of Bobby's death, so this one occurs in the shadow of his funeral. In each case, there's a sense of the scene being squeezed in as an afterthought to a more important event. Indeed, this one wasn't deemed significant enough to make the original BBC showing of "Family Ewing"/"Rock Bottom". "This isn't easy, is it? You and I bein' together again." says Ray. "No, it isn't. It really isn't," Donna agrees. (I like how Susan Howard pronounces "isn't" the same way Jock used to say "business", i.e. with a "d" instead of an "s": "it really idn't.")

    Knowing how the Krebbs' storyline will pan out over the course of the season, it's hard for me to view this scene objectively in isolation. Although Ray adopts a remorseful stance, ("I messed things up pretty bad ... I let some mixed up notion about who's the breadwinner around here get in the way of what's really important ... I'm just gonna try my damnedest to make our marriage work") he won't actually be called upon to deal with his wife's unapologetically independent "I like being successful" side, as her ambition will instead magically disappear in a puff of maternal smoke.

    

The jury's still out on Jack. Since his excitingly dangerous entrance to the series and then his disappointingly abrupt reconciliation with his sister just after Bobby went splat, he's kept a low profile - a mute attendance at Bobby's funeral being his only Season 8 appearance thus far. In this episode, he again shows up at the ranch, having presumably taken Donna Reed up on her offer to "give us a chance to know you", and helps himself to one of the horses. He runs into, of all people, Charlie - another honorary Ewing. And so Southfork, after seven years as a forbiddingly isolated Camelot, begins its open house policy, whereby anyone vaguely connected to the Ewings is free to come and go as they please. "That's Banjo ... She's Bobby's horse," Charlie remonstrates before riding off in a cloud of petulance. "Of all the horses here, I had to pick you," sighs Jack. But of course he did - otherwise how else to establish that Bobby even had his own horse prior to the will reading later in the episode where he will bequest it to brother Gary?

    

Bobby's been dead less than a week and Jenna's already at a narrative loose end. Looking for a reason to exist, she pours orange juice for anyone who's passing, volunteers to report Sue Ellen's disappearance to the police, and gloms onto Donna for dear life, reacting to the news of her pregnancy and reconciliation with Ray with unbridled joy: "Donna, that's wonderful! ... You're gonna make it work! I'm so happy for you! I know we've got nothing whatsoever in common and DALLAS is ordinarily quite specific about its female relationships, but please be my best friend anyway!"

    

Meanwhile, Ellie has developed a sixth sense about Sue Ellen's fate, which helps imbue Sue Ellen's storyline with a feeling of urgency. After all, we've seen her jump on and off the wagon so many times before that we need something to indicate she is headed towards some kind of definitive climax. "Every time she drinks, her chances get worse," Ellie prognosticates. "We don't know that she's been drinking," replies Clayton. "Don't we?" she asks, refusing to turn a blind eye any longer. JR refuses to indulge his mother's anxiety. "She'll be all right," he shrugs. "The good Lord has ways of looking after drunks like her." This echoes Lucy's observation following Mickey and Sue Ellen's car crash in Season 5: "God really does protect drunks and little children." "It's different this time, Clayton," Ellie insists. "She's in trouble. I just feel it!" 



    Sure enough, the next morning finds a dishevelled, bewildered Sue Ellen waking up in an alley. As a fulfilment of JR's Season 4 prediction that she would one day end up "in the streets with nothin' more to your name than the clothes on your back and a little tin cup in your hand", this is very satisfying. However, gritty realism it ain't. There's nothing "real" about the sweet-looking bag lady who approaches Sue Ellen, offering her a swig from her bottle of whatever: "You look like you could use this more than me." What self-respecting wino gives their booze away? Heck, if that really did happen, I'd hang out on Skid Row more often myself. 

The bag lady makes most sense if regarded symbolically. I love the juxtaposition between her dirty face and the gleaming Dallas skyscraper looming in the background of her close up. JR has already informed Sue Ellen that she no longer exists, that's she nothing more than "a bad memory", and here we find her in no man's land, caught between her past (the sleek, monied world represented by the skyscraper) and her future (desolation, represented by the bag lady). "Can you please tell me where I am?" she asks. "The bottom of the bottle, sweetie," slurs the old dear, pushing the bottle under her nose. "Just like me." When Sue Ellen runs away from the bag lady, she is running away from a vision of her future self.



    No longer in the tightly scripted DALLAS world she knows, Sue Ellen/Linda Gray now enters Ad Lib Alley where she must run a gauntlet of improvisers. First up are Lou Diamond Phillips (a couple of years before his brief stint as a movie star) and Sami Chester, both terrific as a kind of junkie Abbott and Costello. "I was in Vietnam, man. I know I was in Vietnam," Sami is saying as Sue Ellen totters in their direction. "Where were you at in Vietnam?" Lou Diamond asks dubiously. "I was in moo goo gai pan, man." "Ha! You don't know what moo goo gai pan is!" "Man, I used to work in the CIA." It's at this point that their attention is caught by Miss Texas 1967. Clearly they've never seen a soap diva wearing so little makeup before, and they start squabbling over who should come to her aid. "Don't pay this fool no attention, baby," advises Sami. "Shut up, this girl ain't your type, homey," argues Lou. Sue Ellen cowers, shoulder-pads up around her ears. "She looks like a Dallas Cowboy!" exclaims Moo Goo vet Sami, giving one of her pads a prod. How great is that? Finally somebody saying what we've all been thinking. Horrified by this lapse in soap opera protocol, (no one in the DALLAS world ever directly references the shoulder-pads) Sue Ellen bats his hand away. "Don't throw your hand at me like that, baby," chides Sami before offering one last bit of belated advice: "Don't leave home without it, all right?" 

Next into Sue Ellen's point of view shot enter some black people and a couple of hookers: "What are you starin' at, honey? My slip showin'? Oh check it out. Oh she is too sweet for words." Thanks to the DVD subtitles, I catch one of the hookers' lines for the first time: "I think it's Nancy Reagan," she observes as Sue Ellen stumbles past. "I think it's Nancy goddamn Reagan!" Priceless. And how interesting that Sue Ellen should be compared to Nancy R the day after Pam dresses up as Jackie Kennedy for Bobby's funeral. And remember, this is all happening inside Victoria Principal's head. 



    In her debut appearance of the season, Mandy makes her first visit to Ewing Oil where she acts as a convenient sounding board for JR: "Maybe if I wish hard enough, Bobby'll walk back through that door and tell me it was all a joke, just a bad, bad joke." Substitute the word "dream" for "joke", and his wish will be more or less granted. "They're reading his will today," he continues. "Bobby's share of the company will go to Christopher and I'll have to manage it for the boy. And so I win control of Ewing Oil by default and that's no victory, no victory at all. It doesn't mean a damn without Bobby." One was left with a different impression at the end of "Jock's Will" in Season 5. After hearing that "in the unfortunate event that ... one son predeceases the other, the remaining son will automatically inherit his shares and will take over the company," JR made an ironic toast to his brother: "To your good health and very long life." Shame there isn't room for some of the same ambivalence here. Wouldn't the ruthless JR of old be just the tiniest bit pleased to have gained control of the entire company, no matter what the cost?



    Certainly Cliff seems to think so. "JR is probably doing handstands right now," he declares in his office . "With Bobby gone, there's no one to stop him." With the rest of the main cast either in mourning or drunk, Cliff's sense of irreverence is refreshing. We've already seen him sniffing around Pam, wondering about the topic of her brief conversation with Harve after the funeral. Now he attempts to galvanise the cartel into marshalling their forces against an attack from JR. "We're his strength," argues Jordan, "the last of the independents ... Together we've always been able to keep the major companies at bay. None of us would stand a chance alone."

    The concept of the independent oil company as an endangered species was introduced last year, with Jeremy Wendell's attempt to take over Barnes Wentworth. "Sooner or later the Seven Sisters and West Star will control the oil business," he assured Pam. However, the idea here suggested by Jordan, that Ewing Oil and the cartel are somehow interdependent, is a new one. At this point, the Ewings haven't done any business with the cartel for three years, and they've all been managing just fine. 

Although the cartel's support was depicted as crucial to JR and Jock in the first few years of the series, these days it's hard to keep track of whose side they're on at any given point. In Mark Graison's absence, Jordan has been positioned as the closest thing Cliff has to a best buddy, while Marilee has gone from gunning for JR at the beginning of Season 7 to throwing herself at him at the barbecue after being snubbed by Cliff at her pool-side, before patching things up with Cliff in time for his courtroom defeat at the end of the season. Now she's ready to jump ship yet again. "What have we got to gain by siding with you?" she asks Cliff bluntly. "When it comes to JR, you're always on the losing end." "JR Ewing having control of Ewing Oil can only mean trouble," he replies. "And one of these days, you're gonna see that I'm right." Ken Kercheval does a strange comedy thing with that last line, but it doesn't prevent the cartel from rolling their eyes collectively at him; they've heard it all before.
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    More Rock Bottom

    

For the reading of Bobby's will, the Ewing/Farlow/Krebbs/Wade clan decamp en masse to Harve's office (with the exception of Gary, already wending his way back to KNOTS, and Sue Ellen, AWOL from yet another important family event). Jock's will may have been read at Southfork, (and Rebecca's at Cliff's condo) but the family, having been cooped up at the ranch for an episode and a half, evidently feel it's time for a change of scenery. In keeping with the overall brighter look of Season 8, Harve's office has been given a lick of paint or two since last we saw it in Season 5. Another reason for the venue is that it's a neutral location where Pam and the rest of the Ewings can meet. (How interesting that in the wake of Bobby's death, both of the original Ewing daughters-in-law, Pam and Sue Ellen, should become such family outsiders.) Nonetheless, JR seems unprepared for her arrival. "I find this totally unacceptable!" he exclaims when she shows up with Jamie. "We wouldn't be here in the first place if it wasn't for her deranged sister!" Miss Ellie tells him to shut his face and the reading commences.



    Harve reads from "a cover letter that [Bobby] wrote some time ago." Not that long ago, obviously: from its contents, it's clear that he has already bought Jenna the boutique and is very open about his love for Pam ("Whatever possessions I have seem inadequate to express my feelings for you"). In fact, it could not be more current had he written it in the back of the ambulance carrying him from Antioch Drive to Dallas Memorial four days earlier. 

Given that the letter is not written in the voice of Bobby we are familiar with, (it's hard to imagine Patrick Duffy delivering a speech beginning, "Ellie, my beautiful mama, I can't begin to count the gifts you filled my life with"; as with Jock's posthumous communiqués, he proves surprisingly articulate in death) and that he bequeaths to his loved ones a bunch of precious heirlooms, animals, properties etc. that we've never heard of before this episode, one might expect this scene to be one of hollow sentiment. Yet it's surprisingly touching. There's far stronger sense of emotion here than at Bobby's funeral: see the tears coursing down Miss Ellie's face compared to her dry-eyed response to the 23rd Psalm. Much of the credit goes George O. Petrie as Harve for the warmth of his delivery as he reads Bobby's letter. To convey heartfelt sentiments by proxy can't be an easy task, and Petrie does it as well, if not better, than P Duffy himself would have. 



    The letter gets Jenna's inheritance out of the way first. She gets the boutique. "Do with it as you wish," Bobby tells her. "I think I wanted it for you more than you ever did." There's something a little wistful about that remark; mainly because it's true. With the exception of his shares in Ewing Oil, the boutique is the only item in Bobby's will that we're already familiar with. But the unfamiliarity of the remainder of the bequests is compensated for by a similar sense of wistfulness as Bobby's letter leaves specific messages for each of the family members in turn. 

"To Ray ... I leave the thing you love best, the land." This conjures an image of Ray as the perennial lonesome cowboy. "I place all my real estate holdings ... in his steady hands. It gives me particular joy that Cedar Ridge, the 7,000 acre range adjacent to Southfork, is among these properties." Ah ha! Even though the name Cedar Ridge won't be mentioned again after this season, the idea of Ray having land next door to Southfork will live beyond Pam's dream. The ranch he buys and moves into at the beginning of Season 9 will eventually be revealed (after it has been purchased by Carter Mackay in Season 11) as being "adjacent to Southfork." "I bought the land on your recommendation," adds Bobby. Who knew? 

Ditto the "gold pocket watch" he returns to Miss Ellie "which was your father's and his father's before. I treasured it always." Again the writing is persuasive enough to overcome the fact that we've never seen or heard of this precious watch before: "It made me feel connected to a past I only knew through your stories," the letter continues. "What proud stories they were. Don't forget them, Mama. Don't let them die." A sense of Southfork/Southworth history is nicely evoked here, even if I'm hard pressed to recall a story Ellie ever told Bobby about her family, other than her recollections in "Reunion" about the first time she was taken to a cattle auction as a little girl.

    

"Gary, my brother," Harve/Bobby continues, "you've made your own fortune in California." (Well, second wife Abby made most of it for him, with a little help from Howard Duff, but let's not quibble.) "I'm proud of what you've accomplished there, seeing off HILL STREET BLUES in the ratings and all. When we were kids, you and I found a mare running wild. Daddy promised she'd be mine if I could break her. He never knew you did it for me. You almost broke your back in the process." This is a sweet anecdote, and Ellie's reaction, as we see her recalling it, adds another layer of poignancy. It also echoes a story Gary told Cathy Geary the previous year in KNOTS LANDING: "I used to watch those cowboys on those broncs and, man, I wanted to do that. We had this horse on the ranch that was really mean so I’d practice on him. I’d get up on him and he’d throw me ... but I was determined to get good enough to enter the rodeo. So when I was fifteen, I figured I was ready. My daddy figured otherwise. So all my friends and I, we snuck into the rodeo at night, and I found me the meanest horse they had. And I got on him just to prove to my friends that I could do it. I stayed on for almost eight seconds. The only problem is I had to get drunk in order to do it so when he threw me, I broke my back. Afterwards, my daddy came to see me and it was like, I don’t know, like he was proud of me for having the guts to do it." "I want you to have Banjo," Bobby's letter tells Gary. "He's a lot like that old mare you broke: spirited, full of life, just like you." 



    Next stop, JR. "We've had our good times, we've had our fights," says Bobby. "Through it all, I never stopped loving you, blah, blah, blah." So far, so generic. "What can I leave you that you don't already have? My hunting rifle, my over and under shotgun are all that come to mind, and with them, the memories of the hunting trips we took together. I think we were the closest then before things changed, and circumstances, more times than not, put us on opposite sides of Ewing Oil." Here again, the scene becomes surprisingly touching. I'll even buy Bobby's claim that his brother "taught me how to use these guns when we were boys. I never thanked you for that. There were lots of things throughout my life I never thanked you for, I do now." 



    Bobby's wish for "Pamela Barnes Ewing, ... that you be happy and the certain belief that you will be," chimes with the sentiment of the suicide note left for her by Mark in Season 6. "You'll find happiness again," he wrote. "Maybe it'll be with Bobby." In effect, each man leaves her his blessing to build a new life with the other. "Remember the good times," Bobby concludes. "I know there are many, many more to come."

    He leaves everything else to his newly-freckled son, including his 30% interest in Ewing Oil. No surprise there. "There's one more thing," Harve then adds, now speaking as himself. "It was Bobby's wish that until Christopher reaches the age of consent, his share of Ewing Oil is to be administered by his mother, Pamela Barnes Ewing." It's hard to say who looks more alarmed at this news: Pam or JR.



    While the rest of the family scuttle back to Southfork, JR remains behind making empty threats. "I'm gonna take it to court, Harve!" he yells. In spite of Harve's insistence that "there are no legal grounds to contest here," he isn't satisfied. "JR, what are you gonna do?" Harve asks. "Whatever it takes," he replies. We only realise in retrospect that "whatever it takes" means concocting possibly the worst DALLAS storyline of them all. Emeralds, anyone?

    

Ironically, Bobby's bombshell appears to have a re-energising effect on JR. He shows up at Mandy's door that evening, ready to hit the town and boogie his blues away. Happily, we're spared the sight of Larry Hagman casting off the shackles of grief through the medium of contemporary dance, and instead rejoin JR and Mandy the following morning. "You can't dance forever, JR," she tells him solemnly, with the profound wisdom for which she is so justly known. "Oh Mandy, you're not only beautiful, you're real smart," he replies, a tad ridiculously. "I love you, Mandy. You deserve the best ..." "I hate to sound like a broken record," she protests, "but -" "Sue Ellen," he pre-empts. Mandy sounds so much like a broken record at this point that even her line about sounding like a broken record sounds like a broken record. Has any character expressed before or since so consistent a concern for Sue Ellen? "I have a very strong feeling that the Sue Ellen problem is going to take care of itself," JR assures her, making it sound as if he's hoping his wife will soon be found dead in a ditch.



    Pam, meanwhile, is clearly overwhelmed by recent events. There's an excitingly shot and scored scene of her, having left Harve's office, driving her car at high speed down a deserted highway and almost crashing into a tractor. It somehow creates a kind of psychic link between Katherine's mowing down of Bobby and Pam's own collision with a tanker at the end of Season 9. 



    "Are you kiddin'? No, you're not kiddin'!" shouts Cliff gleefully after hearing from Jamie that his sister now controls a major share of Ewing Oil. This is Jamie's first scene proper since the end of the Jock/Jason/Digger story-line. "Don't you care how Pam feels?" she asks in surprise. We can hear the echoes of Afton and Mandy posing the exact same question, while wearing the exact same shocked expression. "Pam is no match for JR," he murmurs, all but licking his lips. "I might just have to step in and help her protect her interests!" With all the strangeness of the season so far, there's something very welcome about Cliff's reactions in this episode. They serve to reassure us that the DALLAS we know and love has not completely disappeared. Not yet anyway.



    "You can walk the streets before I give you a dime," JR told Sue Ellen in Season 2, and so it has come to pass. We next see her with her nose pressed against the window of a run down liquor store. Inside a guy with a paunch and receding hairline (cos in the DALLAS world, only rich people are allowed to be beautiful) is buying a fifth of vodka. (All these nameless parts--the man who steals Sue Ellen's car, the girl behind the bar who refuses to serve her, the down and outs, the moo goo gai pan boys, the motel cleaning woman, even the genial liquor salesman in this scene--are unusually well cast. As their scenes were filmed on location in Texas, these are presumably local actors, which might account for why they seem so much more authentic and distinctive than their generic Hollywood counterparts.) Evidently, Paunch Guy has had a win on the horses. "Must be your lucky day," observes the storekeeper as he takes his money. Paunchy then spots a drooling Sue Ellen outside. "Hi, could I buy you a drink?" he asks her. He takes her dazed and confused look as a yes.

    

At Southfork the following morning, Clayton is playing bedroom monitor. "Sue Ellen is not in her room ... JR didn't make it home either," he reports. "I guess we have no choice," replies Ellie gravely. As Jenna places a missing persons report with the police, we cut back to Paunchy telling an interesting tale in a motel room: "But this guy guaranteed results or double your money back. So I figure what have I got to lose, you know? So I sent away for his book, studied it. I went to the track and do you know what happened?" Alas we'll never find out, because it's at this point that he notices Sue Ellen passed out on the bed, hugging an empty vodka bottle like it was a teddy bear. "Boy, you can put it away," he sighs with grudging admiration. Then he notices her 10-carat diamond wedding ring. "Well, I'd hate for the evening to become a complete waste," he murmurs, slipping it off her finger.



    My favourite part of the episode is the interaction between Sue Ellen and the maid who then comes to clean the room. "You had yourself quite a party, didn't you?" the maid observes coldly. "What time is it?" asks a dazed Sue Ellen, slumped on the bed surrounded by empty bottles. "Check out time," snaps the maid. "I got a room to clean ... Guests here don't check out when they please. When the maid comes, you go. Your boyfriend left a long time ago." "Boyfriend?" "Whatever you wanna call him," she shrugs. Plain and fat with a sour disposition, what saves the maid from being merely a crude caricature of the kind favoured by DYNASTY, whereby almost anyone who has the audacity not to born rich and/or a Carrington is portrayed as some kind of grotesque freak, is that Sue Ellen is depicted no more sympathetically. Seemingly unaware of either her sweaty appearance (although I have to say the baby oil hairdo and crumpled blouse look quite suits her) or seedy surroundings, she wanders around the room issuing orders as in a penthouse suite at the Quorum Hotel. "What kind of place do you think this? ... We don't have room service!" the maid snorts as Sue Ellen requests a Bloody Mary be sent up. She regards Sue Ellen with the same disdain that Hatton the sanatarium orderly did at the end of Season 1 ("Can't you keep this place clean? You're a slob, you know that?"). "What are you lookin' at?" Sue Ellen snarls at her on her way to the bathroom. Happily, we're light years away from the insipidly nice Sue Ellen who apologised for getting in the way of a picture-taking tourist in Hong Kong just nine episodes ago. 



    I'm less keen on Sue Ellen's climactic outburst that comes when the maid leaves her alone for a few minutes. After realising her wedding ring is missing, ("Oh my God!" she gasps, more convincingly shocked than when she heard Bobby was dead) she catches sight of her own reflection in a mirror. "JR's right! They're all right! You are disgusting! I hate you! I hate you!" she cries. This moment of self-realisation/self-loathing is too on-the-nose, too conveniently neat for my taste (and it doesn't help that Linda Gray's delivery of "I hate you! I hate you!" sounds like she's sneezing). Certainly it pales next to Joan van Ark's similar but superior motel mirror meltdown in the KNOTS episode "Distant Locations" the previous year. "How could anybody love you?" Valene sneers at her own reflection. "How could anybody want you? Look at you - you look like a man, flat as a board. No, you look like an old lady, arms skinny and scrawny, long sad face, and those eyes! You always try to be so sweet and so good, 'Sweet Valene' ... Why don't you stop being so stupid?!"

    Given that this episode's producer and writer have both just come from serving time on KNOTS, it's safe to assume that similarity between the two scenes isn't mere coincidence. 

Off Sue Ellen staggers, back through Ad Lib Alley and Call Girl Cul-de-sac, past the graffiti and the bail bond buildings, back to her own future self, whom she finds hanging out with a couple of fellow down and outs including Digger's old barroom buddy from the very first episode. A shot of the trio from Sue Ellen's point of view increases the sense that what she is seeing could well be happening inside her own head (as well as Pam's of course). "I knew you'd come around, sweetie," the future Sue Ellen tells her younger self. "You two know each other?" asks Digger Redux. "We all know each other," she replies. "Help yourself," she says, holding a bottle of cheap wine under Sue Ellen's nose. Sue Ellen winces and whimpers. "Drink it!" urges Digger II as if this were an alcoholic version of Alice In Wonderland. And as she glugs back the wine, Sue Ellen passes through the looking glass.
     
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  5. Presea

    Presea Soap Chat Addict

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    I have divided feelings about this season. On one hand, I enjoyed all of the crazy stuff (emerald mines, masquerade parties, etc.) that was going on here, but another part of felt like it all didn't really matter since it was just a dream. It was also the one glorious season where Bobby doesn't get to steal attention with his goody two shoes act. Because he was dead! It was a refreshing change, but it did sort of feel weird not having him around after I was so used to it. No more classic rivalry with JR or "Angry Bobby" scenes. Even though I hate him, he was a character that was all his own, and no one could have replaced him.

    The way Katherine's death was handled seemed inconsistent with the writing to me. But hey, it was a dream at least. The fact that no one would want to make funeral arrangements seems ridiculous when you consider the fact that she had a whole room of friends who came to the party she threw during the trip she and Pam took to Houston back in season 7 (dvd). Also, there were probably family members on her father's side of the family or at least friends of her father and mother since I imagine that the Wentworths had quite a few friends in their social circles back in Houston. Another problem was that the diary that Cliff found stated that Katherine hated Pam and Cliff as soon as she came to Dallas. While I do believe this was true of Cliff, nothing was shown to prove that Katherine hated Pam in season 5 (dvd). Especially since her character was not written to have a Bobby obsession at that time since they hadn't yet planned for Morgan Brittany to sign a contract and appear for longer than those few episodes she was shown in during her first season. In fact, one could even go so far as to say that Katherine never really hated Pam after that, either. Sure, she was jealous of her and didn't care if she got hurt, but it wasn't like they showed Katherine going around thinking vile thoughts like this about Pam: "I hate that perfect little b****, and I'm gonna make her pay!" I honestly believe that in this season, the writers went out of their way to try to make Katherine appear as a one-dimensional evil character who supposedly had no friends, and that hardly any of the characters were even curious as to what pushed her over the edge to do the things she did or wonder what went wrong with her, and to make the viewers believe that she only deserved to be hated. While it is very understandable why Pam and Cliff couldn't care, Pam's line about not wanting to see anymore hate is a little TOO cheesy and goody two shoes here.
     
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  6. Victoriafan3

    Victoriafan3 Soap Chat Fan

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    Absolutely agree with you James about the family Ewing. It is totally devoid of real emotion that was so powerful and palpable in swan song. Definitely BBGs rightful reign and reinstatement. This was her episode to return normality to the show. But yeah, didn't pack the heart wrenching punch of the previous episode. Never mind it picks up from here. For the first third of this new season I love it. for the only time in the shows history, the women rule and shine (except Jenna lol).
     
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  7. markymark

    markymark Soap Chat Active Member

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    Totally agree with this. I may be in a minority (of one) but I enjoyed Donna Reed. I found her a more sympathetic and for me relatable character, her vulnerability a fresh and welcome interpretation after BBGs more hard-edged Ellie. I also think she was a good actress and I really felt for Reed and the difficulty of stepping into that role. I found her believable as a different Ellie.
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Those Eyes"

    As the Ewings emerge from the immediate aftermath of Bobby's death, DALLAS enters a strange phase. Without Leonard Katzman keeping a tight rein, the look and atmosphere of the show change, going off in several directions at once. 

It would be interesting to know how much of DALLAS Peter Dunne reviewed in preparation for taking over the helm of the series. My guess is he focused on the show's early days, as echoes of Season 1 can be heard throughout the first part of Season 8. For example, Ellie's tree house speech about Bobby being Jock's favourite son in the opening episode could easily have been a reminiscence from one of the early stand-alone instalments. And Harve's reference to "Pamela Barnes" (as opposed to "Pam Ewing") in this episode's first scene reminds us of the independent, tough-minded woman we met in the mini-series. 

"I checked out Pamela Barnes' participation in Wentworth Industries' operations as you asked me to," he tells JR. "She wasn't always involved on a day to day basis, but ... people she did business with ... admired her ... What she lacks in experience she more than makes up for in common sense and tenacity ... Her business record has competent written all over it."

    I like very much Harve's qualified praise here. Better that than trying to persuade us that Pam is some sort of business genius. While it's absurd to imagine that she really could run Ewing Oil, (she's been in the oil industry less than two years at this point, and spent approximately half of that time looking for her dead fiancee) Harve's down to earth assessment of her business skills gives them a veneer of credibility. It's the difference between Alexis Carrington's overnight transformation from dilettante portrait painter to international business mogul on DYNASTY, which never seemed quite real, and Abby Cunningham's ascent from part time bookkeeper to US Trade Representative to Japan over the course of nine years on KNOTS LANDING, which no one ever questioned.



    The episode feels most like the DALLAS of old when it focuses on the relationship between the original mini-series adversaries, JR and Pam. Given what we know of the original DALLAS plan to kill off Bobby leaving these two to slug it out, one might have expected their first post-Bobby confrontation to be a non-stop barrage of threats and accusations. Instead, we, like Pam, are wrong-footed, maybe even a little disarmed, to discover JR in her backyard making Christopher Mk II all kinds of promises about "goin' horseback ridin' on Saturday" (even if it'll be another five years before we see JR atop anything quite so four-legged). JR's motivation is clear to all: he is after his nephew's 30% of Ewing Oil. Nevertheless, he and Pam now share a loss, and in a strange way it bonds them ("Look, I know how you feel," he tells her. "Things are pretty confusing right about now.") While making his play for Bobby's piece of the company, JR acknowledges to Pam for the first time how much she meant to his brother: "I know Bobby meant well when he named you administrator, but frankly I think that choice was a little more romantic than it was smart. Sooner or later you're gonna have to make decisions that Bobby used to make. I don't think he really wanted you to have to do that ... I think he wanted you to benefit from his 30%, not have it be a burden to you." He also knows her well enough to tap into her fractious history with the company: "I know you always hated Ewing Oil, hated it for what it did to Bobby and your family. Why carry that on into another generation? Why inflict that on Christopher?" " ... Selling would make me feel like I was abandoning something, abandoning Bobby," Pam frets. "The only thing you'd be abandoning is misery," he assures her. "Put the source of all this pain behind you ... I'll make you the best offer possible." It's a persuasive argument, and JR caps it with a reminder that he is now Christopher's closest connection to Bobby: "I meant what I said about taking Christopher horseback riding on Saturday. I'll call you later in the week. See if it's all right. Mama would sure like to see him." 



    How different would JR's attitude to Pam have been had he been privy to the contents of The Secret Diary of Katherine Wentworth? We may have missed her funeral, but the character is laid to rest (until Season 10, anyway) by the police's convenient discovery of her journal in her motel room. Ironically, it falls to Cliff, a character with no direct connection to the storyline, to wrap up the long, long saga of Jenna's kidnap and murder trial. He tells Pam that after shooting Bobby, Katherine "jumped bail and went to Italy where she offered Naldo a fortune to remarry Jenna ... Naldo figured the only way he could force Jenna to marry him was to kidnap Charlie and then threaten Jenna that she'd never see her daughter again ... [Katherine] worried that Naldo would someday tell the truth so she hired an assassin to kill him and pin it on Jenna, and that was the same assassin who murdered Jenna's only witness on the airplane ... That was her way of getting Jenna out of Bobby's life and then she tried to do the same thing to you ... She was trying to kill you ... not Bobby!" Pam's reaction to these revelations sums up the opinion of many viewers to the entire storyline: "That's awful! ... It's all so crazy!" "... I don't think we should tell anybody about this," Cliff cautions, "especially JR, because that would only make a bad situation worse." Excuse me, but wouldn't that be for the police to decide? And more importantly, wouldn't making "a bad situation worse" result in better, meatier drama than the love-fest Season 8 will soon turn into? ("More hate, and more hurting," as Pam puts it. Bring it on!)

    It would unfair to hold Peter Dunne's team entirely responsible for not mining all the dramatic possibilities here, however. Ever since the mystery of Kristin's death was so hastily resolved at the beginning of Season 4, the DALLAS writers have been at pains to draw a line under a previous season's cliff-hanger as soon as possible. Hence Jenna's total lack of curiosity about who it was that framed her for murder. 



    Also hearkening back to the early days is a scene in which Jenna admires Miss Ellie's horticultural skills. "My garden's given me a lot more than flowers over the years," Ellie replies. "It's given me a lot of time to think, and a great deal of peace." If memory serves, this is the first reference to Ellie's garden since JR took Pam on a short tour of the ranch in "Digger's Daughter": "This is Mother's garden. It doesn't look like much now but I tell ya, in the spring it just bursts with beauty."



    But there the connection with the earlier, grittier days of the show seem to end. The Southfork of Season 8 is no longer Jock's Southfork -- a working cattle ranch plagued by ringworm, rustlers and rattlesnakes -- but somewhere much more sanitised and feminine. With its newly acquired picturesque vistas (Jack accurately describes the piece of land where Ray plans to build his new house as "pretty") and Jenna cooing over Miss Ellie's "beautiful flowers", the ranch itself appears to have undergone a Donna Reed-like transformation. Parcels of land that in Jock's day would have been unromantically identified as "Section 40" now have water-colour friendly names like "Peppers Meadow". 



    The garden scene between Miss Ellie and Jenna is the first one-to-one scene of the series between the two women. "I wanna remember Southfork just like this," Jenna declares, by way of announcing her and Charlie's departure from the ranch. "To try to forget us? ... Why leave us behind?" demands Ellie needily, and Jenna's resolve to stand on her own two feet instantly evaporates. Ellie's sudden co-dependence seems at odds with the tough matriarch we have been presented with so far this season, a woman strong enough to prevail in the face of one son's murder and to set another son (Gary) free. Why would she now cling to Bobby's fiancee and her child? One way this would have made sense is if it were established that Ellie, following Bobby's outburst at Jenna's trial the previous season, now believes Charlie to be her own granddaughter. Jenna does not have the heart to disillusion her, and the burden of living a lie becomes a contributing factor in her breakdown later in the season. As it is, Jenna and Charlie remaining on Southfork is a contrivance that has more in common with DYNASTY keeping Jeff Colby and his new bride under the same roof as his ex-wife and in-laws than with the DALLAS tradition of all the immediate Ewing family living at Southfork.



    When I first read Patrick Duffy's complaint that "they thought anybody could play Bobby ... [that] we were like computer parts. I would leave and Dack Rambo would be put in my place", I was reminded of the scene in this episode where Jack happens across Ray on the ranch. (So far this season, Jack seems to spend all his scenes wandering Southfork running into people. Maybe he's looking the way out but doesn't like to ask.) The two men strike up a conversation and instantly become best friends, the animosity and tension that existed between them last season now forgotten. "You're not interested in the oil business, huh?" asks Ray. "It's just somethin' that came between me and my family once too often," Jack replies. "Sounds familiar," Ray agrees happily. Needless to say, Jack loves horses and working the ranch: those are the computer parts with which he's been installed. Any remaining spark of the amoral character who swaggered his way into town only six episodes ago is extinguished as Jack steps into Bobby's cowboy boots and finds them a perfect fit. 

There's a sole hint of intrigue in the scene, but even that arrives stillborn. "You thinkin' of puttin' some roots down, Jack, or you be headin' back to where you came from? Where was that anyway?" Ray asks. "Nowhere," breathes Jack, doing his damnedest to appear mysterious by squinting and frowning at the same time. "You ever marry?" persists Ray in a later scene. "Almost," he replies. "Didn't work out." All of which implies Jack is A Man With A Past. Except he isn't. Not unless you count ex-wife April, but she exists in a universe parallel to this one. 



    The influence of DYNASTY on DALLAS, already detectable over the past couple of seasons even when the show was under the watchful eye of Uncle Lenny, becomes more pronounced during this season. In addition, Peter Dunne brings to the show a sensibility lifted directly from KNOTS LANDING where he has spent the three previous years as a producer. If the vacuous glamour of DYNASTY and the social awareness and comparatively down to earth domesticity of KNOTS sounds like an odd combination, it is. 

KNOTS' influence can be seen most obviously in the depiction of Sue Ellen's drinking. Gritty drying out scenes, the occasional primal scream? KNOTS has been there, done that with the story of Gary's alcoholism.

    Sue Ellen was last seen boozing with the down and outs at the end of the last week's episode, but where is she now? "She could be anywhere in this city, sippin' her blues away," Sheriff Baldwin, Braddock County's newest principle peacekeeper, informs Miss Ellie sagely. (His predecessor, Sheriff Fenton Washburn, was last seen at the end of Season 6, when Ellie herself disappeared in the trunk of Lady Jessica's car.) "Time's one thing an alcoholic runs out of fast," he continues. That isn't necessarily true. Most drunks go on for years - look at Digger Barnes and Larry Hagman. But for the purposes of the show, it's important to imbue Sue Ellen's situation with a sense of urgency (even though personally speaking, I think the storyline might have been more effective had Sue Ellen's disappearance lasted another four or five episodes, maybe even longer). To that same end, Ellie continues in the same psychic vein as last week's episode: "Sue Ellen's had lost weekends before and she's always come home, but this time I'm afraid it's different."

    

Even JR is showing signs of anxiety about his wife. He betrays himself at the end of a scene with his banker, Franklin Horner. Fresh from blowing his brains out on KNOTS LANDING, this is Horner's first DALLAS appearance since he testified to Jock's senility in "The Reckoning" seventy-five episodes earlier. If JR harbours any ill will towards him, he doesn't show it. Instead, he enlists his aid in securing a loan to buy back Christopher's share of Ewing Oil from Pam. "I can't imagine anyone turning down an offer that size of the one you're making," Horner tells him. "She'll be one of the wealthiest people in the state, in the country." JR suggests sealing the deal with a shot of bourbon, but Horner declines: "I'm afraid my drinking days are over." "You tryin' to tell me you're gettin' old?" JR asks. "I'm tryin' to tell you I wanna get old," he replies. JR is left looking at a conspicuously placed publicity photo of Linda Gray circa last year's Oil Baron's Ball in which her face has been all but airbrushed into oblivion - all the better to contrast with Sue Ellen's current dishevelled condition. "Damn, where's that woman?" he mutters to himself.



    She's in jail, that's where. Slumped on the floor, huddled against the bars, with a bad case of the shakes. We later learn this is the drunk tank, yet half the women surrounding her resemble the kind of stereotypical gum-chewing hookers that populate any self-respecting fictional women's prison, while the other half are crazy mad women straight out of THE SNAKE PIT. One such unfortunate crawls in front of Sue Ellen, prompting her to jump in fear then scamper along the floor, whereupon another crazy chick, with bulging Marty Feldman-esque eyes, suddenly looms into view, like an escapee from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. She screams in Sue Ellen's face. Sue Ellen screams back, then grabs the cell bars. "(I'm a celebrity) GET ME OUT OF HERE!!" she shrieks, violently shaking her head from side to side in a manner reminiscent of the Roadrunner after he's been thwacked across the face with a cartoon frying pan. Then she writhes around on the floor for a bit and promptly passes out.

    It's safe to say there's never been a scene quite like this on DALLAS before, and first time around the sheer novelty of it is enough to shock and impress. On repeated viewing, it doesn't hold up as well. Like Sue Ellen's screaming fit in the detox ward later in the episode or BBG's kitchen breakdown scene at the end of Season 4, it feels like a self-consciously Serious Acting Moment. One almost expects to the words "For your Emmy consideration" flash across the bottom of the screen. It lacks the raw emotion of Pam's anguished howl in "Swan Song" or Donna's outburst six episodes from now. The moment's too staged, its shock value too calculated. We're being told how we should feel about Sue Ellen's situation rather than being allowed to find out for ourselves.

    Much more powerful are the moments when we experience Sue Ellen's plight through the eyes of a third party: Miss Ellie's gasp of horror when she sees her in a hospital bed; the tremble in JR's voice when he describes her appearance to Mandy. 

Having traced Sue Ellen to jail ("The police found her passed out in an alleyway and threw her in the drunk tank") and then to the county hospital, Sheriff Baldwin escorts Miss Ellie and Clayton to the women's detox ward. "It's not the place where people like you belong," he warns them. "If Sue Ellen's there, that's where we belong," Ellie replies firmly. Once in the ward, they are brought to a bed where a figure cowers under the sheets, her back to them. Having been brought to the hospital anonymously, ("Lady didn't have any ID on her") the patient's notes identify her only as Jane Doe. Having based her life round her husband, ("Everything is because I am Mrs JR Ewing," she said in Season 1; "I really need to be Mrs JR Ewing," she admitted in Season 6) it seems cruelly appropriate that Sue Ellen should be stripped of her Ewing identity at this, her lowest point. Her notes are read aloud: "Female, Caucasian, weight approximately 110, height approximately 5'10", eyes green, hair brown, all her teeth." (Sue Ellen would appear to have grown three inches since the 1967 Miss Texas beauty pageant when her height was given as 5'7''.) The question of age is tactfully avoided, but by my reckoning Sue Ellen would be 38 at this point. This doesn't prevent her from looking about 87 when the bed covers are lifted and her wild-eyed, blankly staring face is revealed. Ellie puts her hand over her mouth in shock.



    There follows the best scene of the episode, which focuses on Sue Ellen, but doesn't include her. It's a heated discussion between her doctor (played by an actor whose name I can't find, but he's really good) and Miss Ellie. Having ascertained that Sue Ellen's not under arrest, (overacting not being a crime in the State of Texas) Ellie struggles to understand why the doctor refuses to release her from the hospital: "I wanna get her out of here and take her home and get her medical attention ... the best medical attention money can buy!" she argues. "There isn't enough money in the world to buy her what she needs," the doctor insists. "I won't let her rot in this place!" shouts Ellie. "She was rotting out there in the streets, in your home," he replies. The same point was made by another doctor, Anita Krane when she broached the subject of Sue Ellen's drinking with JR at the end of Season 1. "The Ewings take care of their own," he assured her. "So far the Ewings haven't been doing a very good job of it," she replied.



    "She was rotting out there in the streets, in your home ..." If that isn't the line of the week, I don't know what is. The idea of Sue Ellen slowly rotting in the Southfork sunshine is a deliciously potent one. The show touched on this concept once before at the beginning of Season 2: After giving birth, (prematurely, thanks to her drinking) a brittle but sober Sue Ellen returns to Southfork where a screwworm epidemic has broken out amongst the cattle. In storyline terms the outbreak is unimportant, but it provides a strong metaphor for Sue Ellen's homecoming. The ranch may look like a beautiful place but is actually riddled with disease. Similarly, the family--especially JR--attempt to put a happy spin on Sue Ellen's return, but there are all sorts of undercurrents behind the facade--lies, deceit, denial, as well as the disease of alcoholism itself. 



    "Sue Ellen is an alcoholic," continues the doctor. "For her, alcohol is lethal. It's one of the strongest drugs man uses, and she overdosed. If she'd been left out there in the street unsupervised, her withdrawal could have been fatal. Now Sue Ellen beat the odds this time, but unless God gave you a talent he hasn't given anyone else, you're not gonna keep her from takin' that next drink, and that's all it'll take. If I let you sign that release form now, I'd be watchin' you sign her death certificate." In Ellie's reaction to the doctor's speech, we see the protected, insulated world of the Ewings come slap up against the harsh facts of life that not even they are immune from. This is one of the few examples of the "grittier" turn that DALLAS takes this season actually working in its favour. 



    Yet there's an emptiness, a "Jock-lessness" that pervades both this storyline and the season as a whole. Without his daddy, or his daddy's ghost, lurking in the background, JR (and therefore DALLAS itself) is less interesting and never is Jock's presence felt less than in Season 8. 

This becomes apparent when one compares the scene where Miss Ellie urges JR to commit Sue Ellen to a sanitarium with a similar Ellie/JR confrontation at the end of Season 1. On both occasions, JR arrives home to be greeted by his mother in the living room with news of his wife's whereabouts. "She's upstairs in bed - drunk," she tells him in "John Ewing, Part I". "She's in the detox ward of the county hospital ... barely alive," she informs him in this episode. She then points out that however rocky his relationship with Sue Ellen has been, there is still a bond between them. "She loves you, JR, she always has. You just never gave her half a chance," she tells him in 1979. "I don't care what shape your marriage is in," she tells him in 1985. "She's a woman that we have loved and a woman that has loved us ... She is a Ewing." She impresses upon him the seriousness of his wife's condition, ("Sue Ellen's in trouble and your child's life is in danger," she says in Season 1; "She'll kill herself if you let her!" she tells JR now) and urges him to face up to his obligation towards her: "You must do something!"; "You're going to have to face this problem once and for all." 



    For all their similarities, the earlier scene is by far the more powerful of the two. Crucially, it's not just about Sue Ellen, but about JR's relationship with his mother. One gets the sense of Ellie saying things she has never expressed before ("You were a small child, JR, when I stopped interfering in your life ... I don't know that you have any redeeming qualities, JR. Is there anyone you love?"). When she pleads with JR to help his wife, ("You must do something!") she is as shocked as us at the callousness of his response: "It's too late," he shrugs. He then exits the scene, leaving her to face her own guilt. "I gave you up too soon, JR," she laments. "I should have held onto you a little longer."



    In the Season 8 scene, the reinvigorated, super-strong Ellie has no time for self-recrimination. "You have to commit Sue Ellen to a sanitarium," she orders. "She has no choice and neither do you. I'll back you up, but you have to lead the way. Tomorrow!" Ellie is now JR's father and mother, and JR obeys her as meekly as he would have done Jock.
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    More "Those Eyes"

    

I'm always disappointed when JR's softer side emerges with regard to Sue Ellen, especially when he has just spent several episodes being so delightfully cruel to her. There's a feeling of anti-climax as we realise once again that his bark is worse than his bite. That said, Larry Hagman finds more interesting variations than usual in his portrayal of "Softer JR" in this episode. His scene with Omri Katz, for example, is probably the best between father and son since the days when JR would grit his teeth while John Ross raved about new best friend Peedurr. Having JR show John Ross how to tie his tie while gently breaking the news of Sue Ellen's impending hospitalisation ("When she's all better, she'll be comin' home and you can show her how you tie your tie") makes for an effective juxtaposition between the ordinary, or domestic, and the dramatic. It's a device Peter Dunne would have been familiar with from his years on KNOTS LANDING, where classic examples include the Val/Lilimae home perm scene and the sweater-stretching scene between Val and Karen. While most of his attempts to replicate such moments on DALLAS would fall flat, (the Ellie/Donna furniture moving excursion springs most readily to mind) here it works, and much of that is thanks to Hagman's performance. "Uncle Bobby didn't come back," John Ross points out. "No," concedes JR, his voice faltering, "but this is not like that. I promise."

    

We see another side of JR when he visits the county hospital to see Sue Ellen. Dusty gets there first, just as a dead patient is being wheeled out of the detox ward (tres gritty!). Sue Ellen quivers and hides her face from him - how the shoulder-padded have fallen. "I wanna drink," she gasps. "Oh God no, darling," he replies. "A drink would kill you." "Kill me," she repeats. It's intriguingly unclear whether this is a question on her part, ("Kill me?") or an instruction ("Kill me!"). Then JR arrives and sees them together from across the ward. "FARLOW!" he bellows, yanking off his Stetson and sending it spinning across the room in anger. "What the hell are you doin' here? Let go of my wife, y'hear? ... You bastard, I oughta tear your head off!" The two men struggle. Dusty sends JR crashing into one of those IV drip thingies. Bedpans clatter and indigent patients shriek. "Is this the way you're helping her, huh?" taunts JR, punching Dusty in the stomach. Slapping Jeb Ames in Season 1 aside, this is the first time we've seen JR being physically violent towards another man, save in self-defence. "You get out of here or I'll kill you, I swear it!" he shouts, in stark contrast to the invitation he gave Dusty only two episodes ago to "throw Sue Ellen over your shoulder and carry her the hell off Southfork." What has prompted this sudden change in behaviour? Has Sue Ellen's current predicament rekindled JR's feelings for her, or is the grappling between JR and Dusty simply a contrivance to enable Linda Gray to spring up between them and do some more melodramatic howling and hair rending? Whichever, Hagman rises to the challenge and makes the change an interesting one.

    

There's a weird scene later where Mandy drops by JR's office to console him about Sue Ellen. The scene has a DYNASTY style minimalism about it, whereby the logic and reality of a situation--in this case, two people in a room having a conversation--are jettisoned in favour of a kind of visual shorthand: all that really matters is glamour and plot. For no apparent reason, Mandy is dressed to the nines in a silky purple gown, while JR spends most of the scene with his back to her, delivering a speech about Sue Ellen's eyes. As such, he is unaware of Mandy suddenly (and uncharacteristically) crumpling into tears and then running out of the room. The scene is staged so that actors perform to the camera rather than to each other. Their key emotions are heightened so that if one were to watch the scene without sound, it would still be clear what is happening. 

Running counter to this kabuki style drama is the content of JR's speech and Larry Hagman's performance of it, both of which are quite lovely. The way Hagman delivers his lines, particularly the tremor in his voice as he describes Sue Ellen's appearance in the detox ward, ("God, it was like it wasn't her there. It was like it was somebody else in her body") suggest that JR has been truly shaken by what he has seen. He recalls the first time he saw Sue Ellen: "She had the most beautiful eyes in Texas. She was in a beauty contest and I was one of the judges. I was young and wild. I'd never seen so many gorgeous women in one place in my whole life ... There were thirty-two women up there on that stage and I couldn't see any of 'em but her. I knew she'd win. From the minute I laid eyes on her, I knew she'd win. Miss Texas 1967." This very nice speech repays the compliment Sue Ellen made about JR's eyes when they first reminisced about the pageant back in "New Beginnings" (Season 3). "It was your eyes," she told him then. "It’s the first thing that attracted me to you. They always seemed to be hiding secrets, things you knew about the world that no one else knew." 



    In spite of Sue Ellen's plight making the six o'clock news, ("You are a famous man, that makes her a famous wife," Mandy tells JR, thus confirming the uncomfortably DYNASTY-esque paradox whereby the Ewings have now become bona fide celebrities within their own TV series) it makes little impact on the characters not directly involved in the story-line. The Krebbses and Pam remain unaffected; only Jamie seems particularly concerned. "I'd feel better if I offer my help," she tells Cliff over dinner at the Oil Baron's Club. "You can do that by phoning," he replies flatly. "You don't have to go to Southfork." This is reminiscent of the exchange between Pam and Mark following Ray's arrest for murder at the beginning of Season 6: “I talked to Donna on the phone ... but I didn’t go to be with them.” Jamie's response to Cliff is significant: "I'm talking about our friend, Sue Ellen." This introduces yet another DYNASTY style development, and one of the worst aspects of this season, whereby almost all the characters suddenly know and like each other equally well.

    

A more welcome addition to Cliff and Jamie's dinner scene is Jeremy Wendell. This is Wendell's first appearance since witnessing Jamie's outburst at the Ewing barbecue twenty-one episodes earlier. While he may have been absent from our screens, we're clearly meant to infer that he has been a continuing Dallas presence off-screen as he and Jamie now appear to be reasonably well acquainted. He also seems to on better terms with Cliff than he was during their last scene together ("Cliff, go away," he told him then. "You're giving me indigestion"). Here, he congratulates Cliff on "your family inheritance ... ... I'm really happy for you. You've been waiting for this a long time." "I just hope we get a chance to enjoy it before Pam decides to sell it back to JR," Cliff replies wryly. "I don't like him," declares Jamie once Jeremy is safely out of earshot. Poor Jeremy.



    He shows up again later with a business proposition for Cliff: "Your sister now controls 30% of Ewing Oil ... Convince her to sell her son's stock to me. If I can persuade any other Ewing to sell 10%, and I think I can, West Star will control more of Ewing Oil than JR ... I will make the new company a wholly owned subsidiary of West Star and appoint you its Chief Executive Officer ... You'll be JR's boss." This is a variation on what is fast becoming a yearly tradition on a par with the Southfork barbecue: the annual fight for control of Ewing Oil -- the difference being this is the first time an outsider has attempted to divide and conquer the Ewings. For that little novelty alone, it's worth staying tuned. 



    In addition to the "social awareness" aspect of Sue Ellen's storyline, there are attempts to KNOTS-ify the characters in other ways - to make them more accessible, more like you and me. Hence a couple of scenes, one featuring the Wades and the other the Krebbses, that aim for a kind of wholesome domesticity, but instead give off a kind of Stepford eeriness. Well-known characters seem suddenly unfamiliar as if they have been spirited away in the night and replaced by pod people. 

The first of these takes place in Charlie's never-before-seen bedroom. Jenna is tucking her up for the night. "Brush your teeth?" Jenna asks perkily. "Yes, ma'am," replies Charlie in kind. "You said your prayers?" "Yes, ma'am." "Did you have fun today? " "Yes, ma'am!" By my reckoning, it's all of eight days since Bobby died, yet mother and daughter have never seemed happier. They discuss staying on at Southfork. "I love it here," sighs Charlie contentedly, sounding more like a lottery winner than a recently bereaved step-daughter-to-be. "If we stayed, it might not be easy at first," Jenna lectures, apparently forgetting that Charlie has been living at the ranch for the past seventeen episodes. "You just can't move in on a family," she continues. "You have to try and be part of it. Not just chores, but all the things that go along with the territory." "Like being a good daughter," sings songs Charlie, "or a sister, or a cousin, or a niece ... family stuff ... Mama, I promise I'll be good at that." "You'll be great at it, honey!" Jenna trills.

    Prayers? Chores? Family stuff?? Whatever family they're referring to it sure as hell isn't the one we've been watching for the past seven seasons. There's a severe disconnection with Ewing history here: the Wades talk about life at Southfork as if it were Walton Mountain with shoulder-pads. Since when have the Ewings given a crap how good a cousin or niece someone is? All they, and we, require from the kiddie characters is to occasionally show their face at the breakfast table and then get the hell out of the scene as soon as possible.



    Still, if Jenna and Charlie seem a touch lobotomized, so be it; there's nothing new there. More troubling for me is Donna and Ray's scene. Consistently the show's most relatable characters, they're suddenly just a little too happy, their smiles a little too bright. We find them relaxing at home. Ray is sitting in front of the TV when he absent-mindedly gives away the football score to Donna. It's supposed to be one of those identifiable "couple moments" that Karen and Mack have on KNOTS all the time.

    However, as this season will prove repeatedly, what works on KNOTS doesn't necessarily fit on DALLAS. 

David Jacobs has defined the difference between the two series thusly: "DALLAS was bigger than life. KNOTS LANDING was a very middle-class programme ... DALLAS was about 'them' and KNOTS LANDING was about 'us'." Although Donna and Ray are the most "Knotsian" of all the Southfork inhabitants, their scenes have never been about the minutiae of everyday life. Up until now, all of their storylines--and probably 95% of their dialogue--have been somehow tied to the bigger Ewing picture, i.e., to Jock (his legacy, his influence over his sons, their need to prove themselves to him even after his death). Abruptly shifting the focus, as this scene does, to the house Ray is planning to build on some pretty part of the new-look Southfork, ("a ridge near Peppers Meadow") or to Donna's joy at feeling her unborn baby kick -- well, it's a jolt. I don't feel like I'm watching a sprawling GIANT-like saga here, but a Lifetime Movie of the Week. 



    Another small but telling addition to this scene: an unusual floor-level camera shot looking up at Ray and Donna as they survey a plan of the new house laid out on the carpet. Previously, whenever the camera work on DALLAS has deviated from its Katzman-sanctioned look of, to quote David Paulsen, "wide shot, medium and close up, brightly lit", it has done so to underline the drama of what is happening on screen (the unusual look of "Swan Song" being the most obvious example). In this instance, however, Donna and Ray are simply looking at floor plans, there is nothing more interesting going on. So the tricksy camerawork is an attempt to compensate for the lack of drama: it's simply a gimmicky gesture to enliven the scene. 



    The end of the episode sees JR making arrangements for Sue Ellen's transfer to the sanitarium the following day. He signs a few papers in front of an administrator, (played by one of Bobby's pious church goin' folk from the Season 1 episode "Double Wedding") but makes it clear he doesn't want to know the details of the arrangements. 

We follow him outside where the clinic exterior has a kind of Spanish villa facade - a soothing contrast to the imposingly gothic pillars of the sanatarium Sue Ellen was banished to at the end of Season 1. The names of the two hospitals are very different too. Season 1's had the no-frills title of Fletcher's Sanatarium. This one is called Meadowlark, another pastel-pretty name like the Krebbses' Peppers Meadow. And instead of JR being alternately screamed at and pleaded with by Sue Ellen as she is dragged away by the men in white coats, he is greeted by a comforting Miss Ellie. "It's all right, JR," she coos. "You've done the right thing. Someday Sue Ellen will thank you for it."

    

JR has been making periodic threats to send Sue Ellen back to the sanatarium since Season 2. Now that he is finally making good on that threat, it's hard not feel a sense of anti-climax. When JR put Sue Ellen away six years earlier, it was partly to appease his parents, and partly to protect himself. "I can't trust you to keep your mouth shut when you've been drinkin'," he explained to her at the time. "We both have too many secrets for anybody to find out about." These days, JR and Sue Ellen have no secrets to keep, and with his father long dead and his estate settled, JR's standing within the family remains unaffected whether Sue Ellen gets sober or chokes on her own vomit. Therefore, the story of her alcoholism, much like that of Donna's pregnancy, has no ramifications beyond itself. Whatever happens within these two plot-lines, the rest of the show will continue unaffected. DALLAS is no longer the dramatic house of cards it once was.



    The freeze frame is of JR receiving a hug from his mama. (As out-takes have revealed, BBG is standing on a box to reach Hagman.)

    Here's a more recent observation I made the last time I re-re-re-re-watched this episode:

    The new DALLAS season might only be three episodes old, but Sue Ellen's identity has already been redefined several times. “She was never a Ewing,” JR declared in the season opener, lashing out at her in the aftermath of Bobby’s death. Following Bobby’s funeral, he downgraded her yet further: “You don’t exist — you’re just a bad memory that doesn’t know when to go away.” By the time she makes it to the detox ward this week, any vestige of her individuality has been lost (“lady had no ID on her”) and in the eyes of the medical staff, she is reduced to her most basic human credentials: "Jane Doe, female, Caucasian, weight approximately 110, height approximately 5'10", eyes green, hair brown, all her teeth.” Following her scene with the doctor, it falls to Miss Ellie to restore Sue Ellen's former identity: "She's a woman that we have loved and a woman that has loved us. She’s the mother of your son who still needs her. She’s a member of this family, JR. She is a Ewing.” His mama’s words hit home — as much he might want to, JR can no longer dismiss Sue Ellen as nonexistent. Later in the episode, he delivers a touching monologue in which he reverently recalls the first time he ever laid eyes on her and concludes it by conferring upon her her original title of “Miss Texas, 1967.” (This tribute also makes a fitting counterpart to the one Sue Ellen delivers at JR’s graveside nearly thirty years later.)
     
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  10. Ms Southworth

    Ms Southworth Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    You hit the nail on its head, James! :clap: By season 8, Jock's Southfork was long gone! The dynamics of Dallas changed dramatically ... and not for the better, I'm afraid! :cry:

    I love your comparison of two scenes with JR and Miss Ellie (1979 and 1985)! :yep:
    Your comments about the strange cheerful bedtime talk taking place between Jenna and Charlie only days after Bobby's passing are excellent!
    I couldn't agree more! :cooler:
    The redefinition of Sue Ellen's identity ... ... excellent summation, James! :spinning:
     
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Resurrection" 



    This is one fine looking episode. It opens with Pam, looking sad and uncertain, but above all beautiful, driving into the Campbell Centre parking lot. As she climbs out of her car and walks into Barnes-Wentworth, the camera pans all the way up the gold exterior of the building. It looks great. Kudos to director Michael Preece, and to producer Peter Dunne, I guess, for sanctioning such a fancy shot.

    Upstairs, Pam is welcomed by Jackie before going into her office where she is greeted by a framed photo of Bobby on her desk. Hang on, since when has Pam kept a picture of Bobby on such public display? This is evidently her first day back at work since his death and lest we forget, they were only reconciled hours before that unhappy event. The last time we saw her collection of Bobby pics, (after Season 7's Oil Baron's Ball) they were hidden in the bottom of her bedroom closet. In any case, she briskly picks up the photograph (the same one Miss Ellie cried over in "Family Ewing") and shuts it away in her desk. Moments later, she takes it out again and looking at it longingly. This tells us all we need to know about Pam's current state of mind. Her reverie is immediately interrupted by Cliff. "What a nice surprise!" he tells her. "Glad to see you back at work again." This feels like a rerun of the moment thirty-three episodes earlier when he welcomed her back to work after Mark's death (shortly before he was arrested for shooting Bobby). This is the first of several instances of déjà vu in this episode, mostly involving Pam. 



    When the pressures of a working day prove too much for her, (she falls behind with annual report, hangs the phone up on callers, fails to read urgent contracts) Pam abandons the office. "I've gotta get out of here," she snaps at Cliff. "Nothing's the same as before!" Returning to the parking lot in tears, she is unaware of being closely observed, private eye style, from another car. "She's leaving now. I'll stay on her," reports the detective to his unseen client, whom we'll eventually learn is Mark Graison. Ironically, this same parking lot is where the storyline of Mark's possible resurrection kicked off almost a year earlier, when Pam first spotted his car. And in a case of déjà vu-in-reverse - let's call it pré-jà vu - Mark's detective is played by the same actor (Woody Watson) who'll play Karl Huckstead, the private detective employed by Sue Ellen to follow Mandy and JR at the beginning of next season. (He'll also show up as a mercenary during the range war story of Season 11, but let's not confuse matters.)



    Yet more déjà vu: In preparing for his dramatic return, Mark would appear to have consulted the same Formerly Dead Boyfriend Etiquette Handbook as Dusty in Season 3. Each man enlists a guardian angel-like PI to keep a watchful eye on his beloved (Sue Ellen then, Pam now). This backfires when both women become aware of a shadowy male figure following them and assume he has been hired by JR for nefarious reasons. 

(The audience are also encouraged to assume JR is the one keeping tabs on Pam as we cut from the scene in the parking lot to one of JR at Ewing Oil. "You just keep doin' what you're doin'," he is telling someone over the phone.) 



    Pam becomes aware of her apparent stalker while picnicking with New Christopher in what looks very much like the same Park of Desire Sue Ellen strolled through in "The Oil Baron's Ball" (Season 6), prior to bursting into JR's bedroom and raping him. Everywhere both women look, pretty young couples are leaning against trees licking each other to death in lustful slow motion.

    

Meanwhile, in another handsomely staged sequence, Miss Ellie is watering flowers on the Southfork patio (this seems to have replaced stationary bike-riding as BBG's patio activity of choice) while Clayton sits reading in the background. She receives a call from Jeremy Wendell, whom we see being driven through downtown Dallas. Familiar city landmarks are visible through the windows of Jeremy's moving car. It all looks decidedly cinematic. 

Having not shared any screen time before, it's interesting to find Miss Ellie and Jeremy on first name terms, and she accepts his invitation to lunch at Les Saison. They make an intriguing combination when we see them together. Polar opposites they might be, but they seem to regard one another with mutual respect. He pays her the courtesy of not beating around the bush regarding the reason for their meeting: "I'll lay it right on the line, Miss Ellie ... West Star wants to buy Ewing Oil ... Since Jock died, you have held the Ewings and Ewing Oil together ... It's common knowledge that you haven't always had an easy time of it." This would appear to be a reference to Ellie's attempt to break Jock's will in Season 5. "Every family has its problems," she concedes. "We just haven't always managed to keep ours as private as we might have liked to." "Well, I'm prepared to make you a substantial offer for your 10% right now," he continues, "and I intend to extend a similar offer to the rest of your family ... I think Ewing Oil has become a burden to you, to all of you ... Think what you would be putting behind you once and for all. Will you consider it?"

    

Although we are clearly on familiar ground here--"We're not strangers to fights for control of the company," as Ellie says--there's nonetheless something quite exciting about this story. I think a lot of that has to do with the total absence of emotion on Wendell's part. As far as he's concerned, this has nothing to with feuds or revenge (topics which have been done to death on DALLAS); it is strictly business. This allows the plot to proceed at refreshingly brisk pace, especially compared with the half-a-season it took for the story of Jamie and Cliff's claim to a share of the company to sputter into life.

    

Accordingly, Miss Ellie wastes no time in summoning JR to a part of the new chocolate box Southfork known as Yearling Barn to tell him about the proposal: "Jeremy's argument made more sense to me than I thought it would ... It's a fair offer and I think we should consider it." He is predictably alarmed by the idea. "Mama, are you crazy??" he asks incredulously. "What I am is tired," she sighs, "tired of all the fighting and the pain. It seems to me that all the company has meant to all of us these past years is pain. When I look down that road, I see the same torment for my grandsons as I saw for my sons. God knows I didn't want that for you and I don't want that for them." 

The pain of the past, the torment of the future - this is a very bleak picture of Ewing life Ellie is painting. There's guilt in there, too. We know from her confession at the end of Season 1 that she stood passively by while Jock raised JR in his own image ("You were a small child when I stopped interfering in your life"). The new take-charge Ellie is determined to rectify that mistake: "This could be the way out of it all ... ... We can put it all behind us. You can start fresh. We all can." 



    There's an appreciated, if not wholly satisfying, gesture towards series continuity when JR summons Harve Smithfield to his office to ask whether it is "legal for a Ewing to sell a piece of Ewing Oil to someone who's not a member of the family ... In Daddy's will, it stipulated that the company must remain in Ewing hands ..." "Jock's will merely expresses the wish that the company remain Ewing," clarifies Harve. "Since it's merely a request and not a stipulation, selling outside the family would be perfectly legal." Uh uh. In actual fact, (or fiction) Jock's will stated that "the company I created ... must never be owned by anyone other than a Ewing." It seems a little odd that the show should go to the trouble of dragging up Jock's request-cum-stipulation only to fudge the facts.

    

We glean from JR and Harve's conversation that, as well as Miss Ellie, Jeremy has approached Pam, Ray and "even Gary", with a view to buying their shares of Ewing Oil. That we aren't privy to any of these conversations on screen is understandable, if somewhat regrettable. I'd have been interested to hear Wendell delivering his sales pitch to Ray, especially with Donna in attendance--the suspicious, super-savvy Donna of old, that is; not her replicant replacement, who is too busy wafting around Bliss Central (aka the Krebbs' house) in her silky, shoulder-padded dressing gown and matching pyjamas, sipping hot chocolate and oohing at blueprints for the new baby's room. "I had no idea being pregnant could make you this tired!" she yawns.



    For the second week in a row, Pam receives a visit from JR at her house. Part cordial, part antagonistic, their conversation covers a lot of ground: their shared grief over Bobby ("I just can't seem to keep my mind on anything," she admits. "I know, I know," he empathises); Sue Ellen's incarceration ("I feel just awful about it," she says. "I'm under quite a bit of strain myself," he admits) and Pam's return to Barnes-Wentworth ("I heard you went in yesterday," JR tells her, thereby strengthening the audience's suspicion that he is the one having her watched). When he brings up the subject of Wendell's offer, Pam displays the same kind of fatigue as Miss Ellie did earlier. "I have heard enough about Ewing Oil to last me a lifetime," she tells him says wearily. 



    The writers keep the pressure on Pam throughout the episode, and it's interesting to see how she reacts to each situation: fleeing the office in tears, knocking over a coffee cup in her scene with JR, accosting an apparently innocent stranger in the park with Christopher ("Hey you! Are you following me? Did JR send you?"). I particularly like the table-banging tantrum she throws during a restaurant dinner with Cliff and Jamie. "Maybe Pam doesn't wanna talk about this right now," suggests Jamie when Cliff badgers his sister about selling her shares to Jeremy rather than JR. "She has to talk about it sooner or later," he replies. "Would you not talk as if I weren't sitting right here?" Pam snaps. (It's a tiny moment, but I really like that Pam includes Jamie in this admonishment--she's too angry to play fair, and is all the more interesting for it.) "Selling to Wendell is gonna net you the highest profit and it's gonna get you out of Ewing Oil once and for all," Cliff continues. At this, Pam's eyes cloud over: "Has it occurred to you for one moment that the reason I'm still involved with Ewing Oil is because of Bobby? Because he left his share to his son? Because Bobby is dead?" "It's only because I care about you," he insists. "You care. JR cares. Everybody cares. NOBODY cares! And I've HAD it up to here!" Victoria Principal conveys Pam's fragile toughness really well. And again with the déjà vu: a very similar scene occurs a year earlier (it might even have been filmed in the same restaurant), with Mandy occupying the same peace-keeping role as Jamie, where Cliff browbeats Pam about her search for Mark until she snaps, and shouts in anger: "I'm gonna do what I have to do and I don't want advice from you or anybody else!"

    

"She is very high strung." So says Mark's detective when a limousine pulls up beside him in the Park of Desire. A window is lowered and he delivers his verdict to the car's unseen passenger: "I'd say she's at the end of her rope."

So far, so intriguing. Say - maybe this new look, new season DALLAS isn't so bad after all!

    Oh no wait, here comes a dull scene between Jack and Jamie. There might be some intentional book-ending going on here, as this scene, the siblings' first alone together, centres around Jack's purchase of the same car that will explode with Jamie inside it in the season finale, but it's hard to care. Ditto Jack's habit of contradicting himself in successive scenes. Last week, he told Ray about his zero interest in the oil business. Here he tells Jamie that "if I'm gonna be in the oil business, I should look like it." Later in the episode, when JR and Cliff individually ask him to take opposing sides of Jeremy Wendell's take over attempt, he tells each of them what they want to want to hear. "You can count on me, JR," he assures his cousin in one scene. "Then I can count on you?" Cliff asks him in another. "You got it!" he replies, followed by some annoying chuckles and eyebrow raising. It might be interesting if all this inconsistency were to add up to some cunning agenda on Jack's part, but there's not so much as a thought going on inside his scruffy head.



    There's also a horse riding scene between Jack and Charlie where he teases her about some boy in her class before repeating his horribly smug laugh ("Ha ha ha!"), then Jenna shows up, he laughs some more, ("Ha ha ha!") and they all gallop off. Lord knows, the first seven years of DALLAS had their share of flaws, but never was there a scene as empty and pointless as this. Who are these bland and terrible people? What is this puddle of nothingness I'm suddenly watching? 



    More insidious, and perhaps even more damaging to the show as a whole, is this season's depiction of JR. One would expect the prospect of finally gaining complete control of Ewing Oil to elicit at least a frisson of wicked delight from him, but when Franklin Horner observes that buying Christopher's shares from Pam "puts you in a mighty powerful position", JR's reaction is positively pious. "Yes it does," he concedes, "but even more than that, it keeps Ewing Oil in the family. As far as I'm concerned, that's a hell of a lot more important." Hmm, since when? Remember Season 3, when he would sooner have destroyed Ewing Oil than let Bobby continue running it, or was willing to sell the company to West Star on the condition that he remain president? Prior to the Jock/Jason/Digger story of Season 7, JR's battles and schemes to gain control of Ewing Oil were entirely self-serving. Following last season's court victory, however, there has been a kind of moral shift. Not only did JR's side win, but they were entirely vindicated; instead of being founded on a bed of corruption, Jock and Ewing Oil were proven beyond doubt to be on the side of the angels. Some of that aura of moral certainty has now spilled over onto JR himself, and his unbridled lust for power has been transformed into a kind of po-faced sanctimony. 

And as the burden of living inside a soap opera for seven years takes its toll on both Miss Ellie ("What I am is tired, tired of all the fighting and the pain") and Pamela, ("I have heard enough about Ewing Oil to last me a lifetime ... I've had it up to here") JR is ironically left in the position of trying to preserve the status quo. "With Bobby gone, it's up to me to keep this family together to the best of my ability," he tells Pam solemnly. "And part of that is keeping Ewing Oil together for the family, for Christopher's family." "A Ewing is a Ewing," he lectures Jack. "No matter what happens, no matter who may come in and try to divide us, we stick together, that's what this family's all about." Superficially, this little speech echoes Miss Ellie's infamous line from Season 4--"We may be right, we may be wrong, but we're Ewings, we stick together and that's what makes us unbeatable!"--but where her concession that "we may be wrong" all but acknowledges that the Ewings' strength is founded on its dysfunctionality, JR's kind of pride is more along the lines of Blake Carrington's: a sincere, capitalist belief in his family's superiority.

    

After receiving Jack's assurance that he won't sell his shares to West Star, JR turns his attentions to Ray, with whom he needs to mend some fences. He locates him at work on the ranch ... mending a fence. (Gee, it's almost like a metaphor or somethin'.) JR's tone is conciliatory, ("Hey Ray, looks like you're doing a pretty good job") but the wary reception he receives from his brother ("Is that what you came out here for? To inspect the fence?") makes it clear that their Season 7 buddy-buddy days are now over. Ray admits he is "strongly considering" Wendell's offer. "Dammit Ray, are you gonna stand there and tell me you'd consider selling your part of the company to an outsider?" JR asks indignantly. "Ewing Oil was built by our daddy. He meant for it to stay in the family and there's nothin' in the whole wide world that'd make me feel me sell my piece and Jack feels the same way ... If you just hold onto your 10%, that means we have 50% right there." "... Who is this 'we' you're talking about?" Ray asks. "I can remember not too long ago you as much as told me I wasn't a Ewing ... You said, 'I had one brother, now he's dead.' ... I'm inclined to wait and see what Miss Ellie has to say on the subject. She's the only Ewing whose opinion I care about."

    

Conveniently for plot purposes, Ray has always been something of a floating voter when it comes to Ewing Oil: In Season 4, after some initial resistance, he signed over his voting shares in the company to JR; in Season 5, he initially backed Miss Ellie in her attempt to break Jock's will and sell the company, then offered Bobby his share of their father's inheritance to help him beat JR; in Season 7, he was initially in favour of Ewing Oil being split between Jock, Jason and Digger's descendants, before doing a complete about-turn and joining JR and Bobby in opposing Cliff and Jamie's claim to part of the company. 

"

    I can't imagine Miss Ellie even considering an offer like that for a minute!" declares Domestic Donna while doing the dishes. It would appear that pregnancy and soap suds have dulled her previously acute (to the point of psychic) perception. As Ray kisses his big-haired little wifey good-bye for the day and heads off for "a date with prettiest little foal you ever did see", one might conclude that life for the Krebbses could not get any more idyllic. That, however, would be to reckon without good neighbour Perky Jenna peering over the garden fence with "a batch of blueberry muffins" she's just taken out of the oven. "They just happen to be Ray's favourite!" Domestic Donna exclaims, smiling her hugest smile. (I swear to God, if this scene gets any nicer I may just have to pop a vein. One almost expects Perky Jenna to slowly recite her blueberry muffin recipe so all the housewives watching in 1962 can make a note of it.) Domestic Donna then invites Perky Jenna to accompany her to a doctor's appointment followed by a spot of lunch. Perky Jenna, who's never had an actual friend before, could not be more thrilled. "We'll make a day of it! Maybe go shopping and take a look at some maternity clothes!" Domestic Donna immediately begins fantasising about strollers, cribs and "some of those little stuffed toys." "I think we should forget lunch and head straight for the baby department," giggles Perky Jenna perkily. "Yeah!" Domestic Donna agrees, looking like she's about to cry with happiness.



    Cruelly, we don't get to follow the ladies on their shopping trip. Later, we find Charlie in the Southfork kitchen listening to Pee Wee Herman's Greatest Hits on a pair of clunky-even-for-1985 headphones, while doing her Spanish homework. (Homework, at her non-specific age? Shouldn't she be off diddling some ranch hand by now? "Call me her name. Do it. Call me her name." "Ban. Banj. Banjo ...") She is interrupted by Perky Jenna, high on amniocentesis fumes. "Most women Donna's age have it, specially if it's their first," Perky Jenna explains, uttering her first ever sentence related neither to Bobby nor blueberry muffins. To celebrate this momentous event, she makes Charlie a present of a snowy pink sweater. "It's perfect!" squeals Charlie. "It's what all the six year olds wearing ...!" "Adios!" Jenna chuckles, extracting an enormous bunch of grapes from the fridge and sauntering off, followed by some jaunty music. Less than a fortnight since Bobby's funeral, we've never seen her so upbeat. Clearly, the love of her life should be senselessly slaughtered more often. 



    "Business doesn't come to a stand still because this family's in mourning," says JR. The same might well be said of soap operas. The duties of a TV matriarch, for example, mean that Miss Ellie does not have the luxury of simply closing the Southfork curtains and grieving her youngest son. There are more pressing problems to deal with: last week, it was Sue Ellen's alcoholism and now it's Jeremy Wendell's business proposal. Direct references to Bobby's passing must be squeezed in along the way. On the phone to Wendell, for instance, she thanks him for his flowers. "We all share your loss," he assures her. While she is later granted a visit to Bobby's grave, her primary objective is not to mourn, but to mull over West Star's offer.

"Bobby, oh Bobby," she sighs in short sleeved shirt and jeans. (Once again, the implication is that Ellie has found her way to the site on horseback.) "This seems to be the only place where I can find peace ... If this was the best of all worlds, I wouldn't think of selling Ewing Oil, but it's not the best of all worlds or the best of all times. With you gone and Sue Ellen where she is, [begging your pardon, Miss Ellie, but what does Sue Ellen's never ending booze problem have to do with selling Ewing Oil?] the family's in trouble. I wanna do what's right, Bobby, for your little Christopher and for little John Ross. I don't want them to inherit unhappiness. I couldn't bear that. Your daddy always said that the only thing that really means anything is family. You knew that. Those were the last words that you tried to say to us, and now I have to do my part and keep us together." It's a nicely acted, nicely photographed scene--in a 'New DALLAS' sort of way--but seems somehow separated off from the rest of the episode. Much like the geography of Bobby's grave site, it's hard to get a sense of where exactly it fits into the bigger picture. And again, it feels like Bobby's been dead a lot longer than he has at this point--about two weeks.



    Over at the Meadowlark Sanatarium, Sue Ellen has had the baby oil washed out of her hair and the Valentino blouse surgically removed from her back, and replaced by a snuggly bath robe, a thin layer of make up and a doctor played by the FBI agent who didn't go over the cliff with Sid Fairgate at the end of KNOTS LANDING's second season. She has also regained the ability to speak in full sentences. "Commit me?? Do you mean to tell me JR committed me to this place and I can't leave unless he says I can??" she wheezes, sounding as overwrought as ever. That said, I like very much Linda Gray's bitter reading of the line: "So, I'm in jail--and he has the key."



    Clayton spends most of the episode--heck, most of the season--hovering in the background of Miss Ellie's scenes. (Now BBG is back, he has essentially assumed the Donna Reed position.) However, he is allowed out on his own for a car journey with Dusty. Weirdly, most of their conversation is shot from the back seat, placing us in the position of passengers staring at the backs of the Farlows' heads for a substantial part of the scene. This foreshadows the kind of innovative camera work we'd see on HOMICIDE LIFE ON THE STREET by almost eight years--cool! Alas, the style of the scene is more interesting than its substance. Dialogue wise, Clayton merely echoes what he told Dusty in "Swan Song", to keep away from Sue Ellen: "She doesn't need you ... All you can offer her is false hope."



    That this advice falls on deaf ears is evidenced by the scene in which Dusty visits Meadowlark and bribes an orderly, played by the secret love child of Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren, to smuggle him into Sue Ellen's room. Once there, the couple's frantic emoting is completely overshadowed by some weird camera work, which makes it look as if Sue Ellen suddenly has six arms: we see her cradling Dusty's face in her hands, touching her own lips with her fingers, and tugging urgently at his collar, all at the same time. The clumsy editing only serves to underline the inherent can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it phoniness of the scene. In spite of Linda Gray and Jared Martin giving it their all, (lots of heartfelt Help mes!! and I love you, darlings!!) it feels boringly pastel and insipid, much like the set dressing. Oh for the forbidding darkness and realness of Fletcher's, the clinic Sue Ellen was stashed in at the end of Season 1.



    Speaking of which, the episode's one glaring instance of déjà vu not to include Pam echoes a scene from "John Ewing III" six years earlier. "You're a rich woman," observed Hatton, Sue Ellen's orderly during her first sanatarium visit, before fingering her necklace and offering to making a trade: "I'm talking about what you need - booze." "You're a real rich lady," says Dolph Jr, Hatton's mid-eighties equivalent, in this episode, waving a bottle of vodka under Sue Ellen's nose. Alas, Dopey Dolph is no match in the sinister stakes for Wicked Witch Hatton, but the real disappointment in the present day scene is Sue Ellen herself. Compare her multi-layered behaviour in Season 1 ("Will you please get out of here?" she tells Hatton with regal superiority, even as she craves her next fix) with her response in this scene: after momentarily blinking and twitching in the direction of Dolph's vodka bottle, she raises the alarm, which sends Dolph running for the nearest exit. Left alone, she yelps into thin air: "I can do it, I can do it! I know I can do it! I just need help! Help me! Help me!" It's all terribly earnest, and as we know, Sue Ellen and earnestness just do not mix. I defy anyone to tell me this is a more interesting side to the character than the one we saw sprawled out on a bed at Fletcher's Sanatarium complaining that her contraband booze smelled of mouthwash. 



    The final scene finds Pam attempting to conduct business from beside her pool, (well it worked for Holly Harwood) but having no more success than she did at Barnes-Wentworth at the beginning of the episode. Having screwed up a third piece of paper, she puts her head in her hands, only to be interrupted by the phone. It's Norman from Wentworth Industries. "Yes, I understand that," she says, "and I know that Katherine's death makes me responsible for those investment decisions but ..." Before we can debate the whys and wherefores of Katherine's estate, (didn't she sell all her Wentworth shares in order to finance the Naldo Marchetta/Andre Schuman escapades of Season 7?) we cut to the front of Pam's house and a nice low angle shot of the limo previously seen in the Park of Desire pulling up in the driveway. Then we're straight back to Pam on the phone. "Well, I don't have an answer yet," she's saying, her voice starting to tremble. The distinctive camera work, the shifting back and forth between scenes, the ratcheting up of emotion: all are signals of something momentous about to happen. It's like the climax of "Swan Song" all over again. Here we are, back at Pam's house, and there she is, dressed all in white just as she was when Bobby was struck. "Because you're going to have to give me more time," she pleads angrily into the phone, fighting a losing battle to keep her feelings in check. "I have other things on my mind and I haven't decided yet. Norman, I don't care that you're the President of Wentworth Industries. I wouldn't care if you were the President of the United States. In fact I don't care!" She hangs up and starts pacing back and forth, tearfully muttering the same words she said before walking out of her office at the beginning of the episode: "I have to get out of here." She turns abruptly, and walks straight into ... oh my, it's Mark Graison. He looks down at her tenderly. She gazes up at him, mouths his name, reaches out her hand to touch his face. He smiles. She faints. He catches her in his arms. Resting his head gently on hers, he closes his eyes, as if he has come home.
    It's hard to pinpoint, within an ostensibly ongoing saga, exactly where one story-line ends and another begins, but it's been 29 episodes since Pam first saw Mark's car in the Campbell Centre parking lot. By my reckoning, that makes "Pam's search for Mark" DALLAS's second longest running story, only topped by the original JR/Sue Ellen/Cliff love triangle which, from "Act of Love" to "Paternity Suit", spans 31 episodes. As dramatic pay offs go, Pam and Mark's reunion is both emotionally satisfying and totally unexpected. Best scene of the season? Quite possibly.
     
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  12. Ms Southworth

    Ms Southworth Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    James ... I remember watching this episode back in 1985. I was just as surprised as you, because Pam all of a sudden had Bobby's photo on her office desk! :eek:

    I love your comments about pointless scenes and too cheerful behavior just following Bobby's passing. And inconsistent storylines just adds to the mess! :(

    Great summation about the damaging depiction of JR! :(

    Even though I had just turned 17 back in 1985, I remember feeling the akwardness of Jenna's cheerful and upbeat demeanor just days after Bobby's passing! Your description of "Perky Jenna" is priceless!

    Your comments about Miss Ellie's visit to Bobby's grave were great! Even though it had only been days since Bobby's passing, it all of a sudden felt like a lot longer when watching this scene! I didn't like how quickly they seemed to rush the storylines at the beginning of season 8. Certainly not when it came to dealing with Bobby's death!

    I just love when you give us statistics about Dallas! :yep:
     
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Saving Grace"

    The strange thing about the early part of Season 8 is its almost schizophrenic nature. Some parts feel excitingly fresh and new, like the return of Mark Graison in this episode which seems set to take the show in a fresh new direction while still remaining true to the storylines of the past (the writers go to great care to fill in all the gaps in last season's 'Search for Mark' plot). Other parts feel reassuringly traditional--like DALLAS of old just with a bigger budget. And there parts that just feel wrong: clangingly, unequivocally wrong.



    So Pam wakes up and finds herself looking at a man she's just spent the previous season thinking was dead. "Tell me I'm not dreaming," she says. No really, she does. However, John Beck's agent doesn't have the negotiating power of Patrick Duffy's so he isn't in a position to rudely awaken her. "I don't know what to do or think anymore," she continues. No change there then. "That's why I'm here," Mark tells her soothingly. A maid appears and, without batting an eyelid at the formerly dead man standing before her, tells Pam she has an urgent phone call from JR. "Pam won't be taking any more calls," replies Mark. "In fact, she'll be out for the rest of the day."



    "Well, that's what I wanted to hear!" JR responds unexpectedly when Sly relays the message (minus any mention of Mark). "I don't wanna talk to that woman, just wanna keep her busy ... By the time I've finished with her, that woman will beg me to buy her out!" "Isn't that a little risky? Pam doesn't have to sell to you," Sly points out. "If I can make her miserable enough fast enough, I'll get the jump on Wendell.," JR assures her. "So why don't you messenger these equipment contracts over to her office right away? Take her about a week to get through that, but say I'm need them back within twenty-four hours with her signature on them or I'll just have to assume she agrees with my decision on these matters." There's something amusing about Sly's wholesome amorality here: rather than display any compunction about colluding with her boss's plans to mess with the mind of poor, pitiful Pam, she simply smiles and happily exits to comply with his instructions. JR laughs some more and props his feet up on the desk. After his laborious soul searching during the past few weeks, it's fun to see him savouring his own duplicity once more.



    Meanwhile, Mark has ditched the Dead Man's Limo from last week's episode in favour of the good ol' pimpmobile, last seen on screen twenty-nine episodes ago when Pam learned that the day before he 'died', Mark had instructed his lawyers that "in the event of his death or the report of his death, everything he owns ... be maintained exactly as if he were here for a period of two years". More pieces of the jigsaw are filled in as they drive down Exposition Avenue (and very scenic it is too, flanked by gorgeous trees and lakes: was non-dream DALLAS ever this idyllic?). "I watched my father waste away from a debilitating disease," Mark reveals. "I was helpless to do anything but suffer along with him ... I couldn't put you through that." "So you staged your own death??" asks Pam. Try as she might, Victoria Principal can't quite escape the ridiculousness of this line. In contrast, John Beck somehow manages to make his far-fetched explanation sound perfectly credible: "It was all very carefully planned. Mark Graison bailed out of the plane and before he hit the ground he became Mitchell Swanson. It's not as hard as you may believe to assume a new identity. With my resources there was no problem at all." Of course there wasn't! "There was a boat waiting for me and I began my search for a cure ... Secretly, I had my attorney put out feelers into the medical community. He let it be known that there was a substantial reward for any lead that might prove promising. Was that a mistake! It seemed like every quack, every faith healer, every mystic in the world had an answer, but I was desperate. I tried more than a few. I went to Africa, India, Malaysia. After a while I lost track." "... You must have found a cure somewhere," prompts Pam. "There is no cure," he replies gravely. "You have to understand that." I clearly remember my mother's response to this line back in 1986: "Then why did he come back?" she sighed at the TV screen where Pam was looking equally crushed. "I'm in remission," he explains.

    

A scene which falls into the 'reassuringly traditional' category is a walk-and-talk that takes place at one of those impressive Dallas locations that have grown familiar to viewers over the years. In this case, it's the square outside of City Hall--the same place where Donna first meets Cliff in Season 3, where she is reunited with Paul Morgan in Season 6, and where the Texas Energy Commission and the anti-OPEC oil lobby convene in Seasons 5 and 9 respectively. An assortment of American and Texan flags, a fountain and a handful of passers-by set the scene, the ubiquitous skyscrapers and tall buildings of Dallas acting as a backdrop. As is customary, we hear the characters - in this case Wendell and Cliff - before seeing them slowly emerge out of their surroundings. Even after they have come into view, the camera keeps them at a leisurely distance for a while, observing them as part of a bigger picture. This creates a feeling of context; the characters don't exist in a vacuum, they are part of wider setting.

    

"I just thought we should touch base. I don't want any surprises when I make my move on Ewing Oil," explains Jeremy, managing to sound upbeat and deadly serious at the same time. When he offers him an ice cream cone, Cliff nervously declines. "You sure?" Jeremy persists. "They always say never trust a man who doesn't like ice cream." "Huh? Really? OK, I'll take two!" Cliff replies, laughing nervously before hastily shaking his head at the vendor: "No." (This is the second time Cliff has displayed an ambivalent attitude to such an item of wholesomely synthetic goodness. "I don't like pistachio anymore," he tells Afton forlornly in Season 5 after the top of his cone falls off.) 

Other than Jeremy ordering Cliff to keep an eye on his new brother-in-law, ("You stick close to Jack. You might be able to find out something my people can't") their conversation does little to advance the plot. However, the combination of setting, photography and the way the two actors spark off each other--the cooler Smithers is, the more jittery Kercheval becomes--makes for a quality scene. True, it wouldn't make many viewers' Top 10 - or even 100 - Most Memorable Moments, but it's good, solid DALLAS: smart, funny and confidently executed. 

The scene ends with the two men exiting left of frame ("Smile, Cliff, smile. If everything goes right, in two weeks, JR'll be working for you!").

    Cut to Pam and Mark walking in the same direction. Still tying up the remaining Season 7 plot threads, they're just getting to the bit where Pam and Linda Gray went on location to Hong Kong. "Dr Matsuda's clinic was my last hope," says Mark. "The treatments were just beginning to work. We had no guarantee the improvements would be anything more than temporary. You already grieved for me once. I didn't wanna run the risk of having you go through that a second time ..." "Then Edward Chan wasn't leading me on," Pam realises. "No, he was trying to help you," Mark confirms. "He had no idea I was using him to buy time ... Once and for all I was going to force you to accept my death. I paid a man in a clinic. I can't remember his name." "Mr Wong," she reminds him. Ah yes, the sinister Asian stereotype who got his own freeze frame. "I paid him to find another Westerner to take my place," Mark continues. "I knew if you saw Swanson was another man, you'd be finally give up, you'd finally be free ... You were right across the hall. I could see you. I wanted to reach out and touch you. It was the most painful moment of my life. I wished right then I was dead." Oh Lordy, it's all so romantically sad. "I promised myself if I did get better, if this remission was anymore than a short reprieve, I'd come back to you, and when I learned about Bobby's death, I started laying the ground work." "That man in the park the other day that I thought was following me," remembers Pam, bringing the story almost up to date. "He was your guardian angel," Mark explains. "I hired him a couple of weeks ago to look after you. He's been reporting back to me ever since ... I had to be absolutely sure that my coming back into your life, even if it was for a short period of time, would do more good than harm."



    While Mark is explaining all to Pam, the rest of Dallas is still digging for dirt on each other. JR has Pete Adams, who seems to have replaced Harry McSween as his private eye du jour, looking into both Jack's and Jeremy Wendell's pasts, while Jeremy has "put some of my people on" Jack. And Jack is equally curious about him. "What do you know about Jeremy Wendell?" he asks Ray--but Cliff proves more of an authority on the subject. "You don't double cross a man like Wendell. He plays for keeps!" he tells Jack. Jack is also warned to be wary of JR. "Don't trust JR," Ray tells him. "He doesn't trust you ... And watch out if you've somethin' to hide, because you're just liable to be readin' about it in the morning paper." Cut to a close-up of Jack frowning like he's got something to hide. 

This is one of several not-so-subtle hints being dropped by the writers that there is More To Jack Than Meets The Eye. "He's a mystery to me," broods Jeremy. "The more time I spend with the guy, the less I think I know him," admits Ray. "You don't think he's in any kind of trouble, do you?" asks Donna. And obviously we're meant to think he is.



    JR's past relationship with Jeremy Wendell is sneakily readjusted. "I asked you to find something on him before ... a year ago," he 'reminds' Pete Adams - even though this time last season, the two men were getting along famously. (So well, in fact, that Cliff presumed JR was behind West Star's offer to buy Barnes Wentworth.) All of a sudden, however, JR and Jeremy are engaged in a long-standing feud. Maybe that's why their face to face confrontation in this episode is a bit of anti-climax. "Let's cut through it, shall we?" sighs Jeremy after being shown into JR's office. "You're gonna tell me that I can't possibly win and I'm gonna tell you that I already have." And that's exactly what happens. It's not a bad scene exactly--William Smithers is rarely less than compelling--but it is a somewhat empty one. In the absence of a concrete back story in which to root their mutual antagonism, the only option left to both JR and Jeremy is to try and out-intimidate the other. The result is a dramatic stale mate, with a hint of DYNASTY-style bombast. "When push comes to shove, my family will side with me," insists JR. "You've lost. It's over," replies Jeremy with equal confidence. The Wendell/Ewing feud will continue after the dream season is over, but in a more dramatically satisfying way--perhaps because Jeremy's enmity will be focused not just on JR, but the whole Ewing family. 



    Meanwhile at the Meadowlark Sanatarium, Sue Ellen's journey to sobriety is being hyped as her most dramatic story-line yet. "It's gonna be the hardest thing you've ever done in your entire life!" Doctor Tough-Love tells her. Harder than the fall-out from her affair with Cliff Barnes in Season 1? More upsetting than learning of Dusty's plane crash? More difficult than being framed for attempted murder by her sister, or her custody battle with JR? No, it won't be any of these things. Rehab will prove about as dramatic for Sue Ellen as giving cousin Jamie a makeover.



    Pam's reaction to Mark's reappearance at the end of last week's instalment made for one of most dramatic scenes of the season. This episode boasts some smaller, but no less beguiling responses. The first takes place at Ewing Oil. "All the contracts you sent Pam have been returned," Sly informs JR over the intercom, her voice stiff with disbelief. "The, uh, messenger is standing right here. He insists on handing them to you himself." "Well who the hell does he think he is?" barks JR. By way of reply, into his office bursts Mark. "Signed, sealed, delivered," he snaps, dropping the contracts on JR's desk. "Well I'll be damned," murmurs JR. "You probably will," Mark replies, leaning over his desk and looking him right in the eye. The timing between the two actors here is lovely. Aside from a restaurant scene in Season 5, this is the first time they've come to face, and Mark instantly becomes as strong an opponent for JR as Bobby in his prime, or Clayton when he and JR first locked horns. "Um well siddown, Mark," JR chuckles, "I can't wait to hear how you're gonna explain this!" "Some other time," he responds briskly. "From now on, you'll do Pam's business through me." "Well I'm glad to hear that," JR responds, swiftly switching to ingratiating mode. I think I can deal with a man like you." "... Just until Pam can decide what to do with Christopher's share of the company," Mark adds. "Maybe we can sit down and discuss it one of these days," ventures JR. "Maybe we can," he replies, giving nothing away before exiting the scene as impressively as he arrived. Deborah Rennard has a lovely comedic moment where Sly appears in the doorway, waits for Mark to disappear out of earshot and then whispers to JR: "I thought he was dead!" "Yeah," he replies, smiling no longer. "I hope I don't end up wishing he was."



    Even better than that--in fact, the highlight of the episode--is Cliff's reaction to seeing Mark again. He is in the kitchen at home, cooking Italian and semi-bickering with Jamie. The doorbell rings and Jamie opens the door to find Pam standing there with Mark. She looks suitably agog even though she and Mark have never met before. "Shh shh shh, where's Cliff?" he whispers, before creeping into the kitchen where Cliff is sampling the spaghetti sauce. "How's it taste?" he asks. "Good," Cliff replies absently, glancing in his direction. Cliff then does a classic double take, before gasping then panting with disbelief and holding his hands up in amazement. "Hello, Cliff," Mark smiles. "Pam wanted it to be a surprise." "Oh boy, oh boy, she got her wish!" he exclaims, as an unsteady handshake turns into a clumsy back slap. "Where you been?" "I'll tell you all about it over dinner," Mark replies. Cliff looks him up and down. "Great, yeah, boy - my sister's had her share of shocks!" he laughs shakily. "Yes, she has," Mark agrees. "I came back to help her, Cliff." At this, Cliff reacts the same way JR did in his scene with Mark, putting aside his shock long enough to focus on the goal at hand, i.e. Pam's share of Ewing Oil. "I'm glad to hear you say that," he says, "yeah, because, you know, she's gotta lot of responsibility." Then he laughs again and prods Mark with his finger, just to make sure he's real. This makes Mark laugh. (You just know these little bits of business aren't scripted; it's simply the two actors working off each other.) "Oh boy," Cliff says again and Mark squeezes his arm.

    I love this scene: it's just so funny and touching and sweet and true. Come to think of it, Cliff and Mark are one the few examples of non-familial male friendship on DALLAS, along with Mark and Jerry Kenderson (while Mark and Jerry's relationship is fairly dull this season, the scene between them after Mark finds out he's dying in Season 6 is a stand out) and the whole Bobby/Guzzler thing in Season 1.

    

Hold onto your cowboy hats, it's Clayton and Ellie's first bed scene. BBG's on the right, on the phone to KNOTS LANDING (where it's the day after Gary and Val's twins' christening, only Gary doesn't yet realise he's the father). Howard Keel lies beside her reading (possibly his contract, to check he gets paid the same amount per episode even when he hardly has any dialogue). "Yes, it's a very big decision, Gary," Ellie is saying. "If I do accept Wendell's offer and you and Ray go along with me, it will destroy JR, and if I don't sell and JR holds on to the company, I'm afraid that Ewing Oil may eventually destroy him ... I'm going to have to make a decision soon. Thanks for calling. I love you too. Tell David Paulsen I said hi." She hangs up and turns to her mute husband. "Oh Clayton," she sighs wearily, "when will it ever stop? When will it ever stop?" It kinda sounds like she's talking about the series.



    At 19 minutes 52 seconds into the episode comes one of those scenes that are Just Plain Wrong: Look, it's Donna and Jenna out on one of their oh so characteristic all-gals-together retail therapy binges. "No one will ever accuse of us not knowing how to shop!" trills Susan Howard, sounding more SEX AND THE CITY than Donna Culver Krebbs, as they sit down to rest their weary shoulder-pads. The Jenna-bot stares blankly into space, apparently in need of an oil change. "You're thinkin' about Bobby, aren't you?" hazards Donna. Well if she is, it's about bleedin' time. "I never knew someone could miss someone so much," Jenna states simply. "I ache for him." It's quite a touching line. "Look, you're not still thinking about leavin' Southfork, are ya?" Donna asks, as though to move out of her dead fiancee's family home isn't be the sanest, healthiest thing Jenna could do. "For what it's worth, Ah sure wish you'd stay." "It's worth a lot!" beams Jenna, grief-stricken no longer. Such is the profound healing power of female friendship! Seems Peter Dunne might be attempting to recreate the kind of close bond that existed between Karen and Val in KNOTS LANDING, but those two women took a two or three seasons to become best friends; Donna and Jenna have had about three scenes. Plus, they have nothing in common, save for a functioning uterus. The scene's saccharine reading goes off the chart as Jenna presents Donna with a gift "for you, Ray and you know who." Donna opens it and gasps. "They are precious! Thank-you!!" she whispers, with an almost religious intensity. It's a pair of duck-shaped baby shoes.



    The masculine equivalent of this scene features Jack and Ray fixing fence posts (macho!) while talking about their feelings (not so macho!). "Would you like to have a kid?" Ray asks. "Charlie's sure taken a liking to ya." The conversation then take a strange detour as Ray starts reminiscing about Edgar Randolph, which only serves to remind one how much better deployed the Krebbses were two years earlier.

The Krebbs' bedroom set has been rebuilt (hmm, anyone seen the Southfork gym lately?) for a cutesy scene in which Ray presses his ear to Donna's pregnant tum tum through another pair of those ickily silk pyjamas of hers. "This feels right, doesn't it?" she sighs blissfully as Ray fits the duck shoes on two of his fingers. Not to me it doesn't. Ray wants to "mess around a little bit", but not before a pre-coital chat about Cousin Jack, International Man of Mystery. "I like Jack," says Donna. Of course she does. It's Season 8. Everybody likes everybody.

    

This is followed by a shot of Jack asleep in bed and, oh dear, look how the bedclothes have inadvertently fallen off him to expose his semi-nude body! (Not since the days of Speedo Peedur has DALLAS lingered so lovingly over the male form.) An unidentified someone steals into his apartment (the same set that will double for ex-wife April's condo next season) armed with a torch and an insatiable curiosity to see if what everyone on the forums is saying about Dack Rambo having the Taj Mahal of crotches is true. Having copped an eyeful, he then does a fairly rubbish search of the apartment--looks behind a painting, opens a couple of drawers, flicks through a passport--in a futile attempt to find anything that will in some way justify all the Mystery Man hype Jack is getting from the rest of the characters. He makes an inevitable noise that wakes Jack from his slumbers, and beats a hasty retreat. Having used his Ambiguous Frown as a reaction shot in an earlier scene, Jack responds to the intrusion with his patented All-Purpose Chuckle.

     
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    More "Saving Grace"

    Knowing from previous viewings how badly this season deteriorates, I have to remind myself that the first time around, the initial changes in Season 8 were felt gradually and weren't always unwelcome. While the new Shiny, Happy Donna might have been disturbing from the get go, it made a refreshing change to see, for instance, Miss Ellie kick ass on a weekly basis. In this episode, it's Dusty is on the receiving end. And the sense of novelty doesn't end there: Not only is this first and only conversation of the series between step-mother and step-son, it's also the first scene to take place outside the front entrance of the ranch house since 1978. 

As if to underline what a robustly hands-on character Ellie has suddenly become, she spends the scene planting a tree (how earthy, how real, how absolutely not Donna Reed) while Dusty stands awkwardly to one side, dressed formally, hands clasped, as if he has stopped by on his way to church. Like in his confrontations with JR, Dusty is positioned to seem slightly more genteel than those rough and tumble, shoot-from-the-hip Ewings.

    

"This isn't gonna be easy for me to say," says Miss Ellie in her best no-nonsense tone. "I know you and Clayton have had more than a few words over Sue Ellen. Obviously, you haven't listened. I'm hoping you'll listen to me." "I only want what's best for Sue Ellen," Dusty replies politely. "Even if it means staying away from her?" "I don't think that it does." "I do. And I'm asking you to respect my wishes." The scene continues in this vein: every objection that Dusty timidly raises receives a swift smack down from step-mommy dearest: 



    "It's not that simple."

    "Let me simplify it for you. Sue Ellen has entered the rehabilitation programme ... She won't be needing your help anymore." 

    "Well she's not gonna be in that programme forever." 

    "She will as long she feels she has you to fall back on."
    
"Miss Ellie, I'm not a crutch for Sue Ellen." 
"
    That's exactly what you are. And the sooner you realise that, the better off Sue Ellen will be ... She knows this is her last chance. Don't take that it away from her."
    
"That's not my intention."
    
"It's the result."



    Ellie's argument--that by refusing to relinquish his traditional role of knight in shining armour, Dusty is jeopardising Sue Ellen's recovery--is an interesting one. In fact, it's more interesting to hear them discuss Sue Ellen in rehab than it is to see her there (just as the scenes between Ellie and the detox doctor in "Rock Bottom" were more powerful than the sight of Sue Ellen writhing about on the floor of her jail cell). 

But while it's undoubtedly satisfying to see BBG with the bit between her teeth, especially after a year of Donna Reed's toothless portrayal, is this really the same Southfork matriarch of the first six seasons? What happened to Ellie's policy of non-interference in her children's personal lives? Her tendency to look the other way whenever possible? One could argue that the trauma of Bobby's death has forced her to take her head out of the sand. Hmm, OK. Or is this new behaviour the result of an actress saying "It's OK, Larry, you really don't need to invite me round for Naked Jacuzzi Time, I'll come back to the show - on the condition that I get some meatier scenes to do"? That said, I do like the beat at the end of the scene after Dusty has walked away and Ellie is left alone, looking suddenly weary and tearful, as if the effort it took to assert herself has exhausted her. "She's still grieving over Bobby," as Clayton reminds us in a later scene.



    From a close up of New Ellie, we cut straight to a shot of Sue Ellen. She too is looking and behaving as we've never seen before. Dressed in a baggy flannel shirt and jeans, her hair brushed flat, casually seated with one leg tucked under the other, she giggles about the unhappy state of her marriage with Dr Tough-Love, a man she barely knows. I'm reminded of a radio interview Linda Gray gave circa Season 4 where she said that asked by a director or a writer to behave in a way she felt was out of character for Sue Ellen, she would politely refuse. The two illustrations she gave were: sitting on a desk in her attorney's office to make a phone call, and using the word "sure" to indicate assent (as in "Can I get you a club soda?" "Sure"). Both are examples of an easygoing disposition which Gray felt her character did not possess. Yet four years later, here she is - affecting a demeanour of non-affectation. (And where did she get these clothes from? Is there a boutique in the sanatarium lobby that specialises in 'recovery chic'?). Yeah, I know: people change and grow and evolve, and sure, one could argue that Sue Ellen has been conveniently "transformed" by recent traumatic events just as Miss Ellie has. But again, aren't we really talking about an actress who has grown bored of the limitations of her character and has instead decided to play her as a variation of her own self?

    "I was just picturing what JR must have looked like when you told him he was expected to attend these sessions," she laughs, sounding more like Linda Gray on a talk show than the brittle Sue Ellen of old. (Certainly she bears little resemblance to the character who, on her first sanatarium visit seven years earlier, kept up a wide-eyed insistence that her marriage was in great shape.) 

From Dr Tough Love's dialogue ("Normally what we'd do is take some time and educate your husband in the disease of alcoholism ... but it seems we're not going to have that opportunity ... I've found the alcoholic's spouse can be their greatest ally in recovery.") it's clear that the writers have done some research, however perfunctorily, into the alcoholic recovery process in an apparent effort to cover the issue seriously and realistically. However, they haven't quite cracked the problem of how to incorporate 'seriously and realistically' into the larger than life world of DALLAS. As a result, the story-line is compelling in neither its melodrama nor its realism. And so we're left in a kind of halfway house (no pun intended) between the two, with Sue Ellen delivering bland TV movie rhetoric such as: "I intend to lick this habit not because of my husband, but in spite of him!"

    

JR and Clayton have their first man to man conversation for nineteen episodes (after JR banished Jamie from Southfork in "Winds Of War"). JR has arrived at one of those Dallas restaurants-in-the-sky for a lunch date with Miss Ellie where he plans to tell her of Cliff's involvement with Wendell's proposed take over. Instead, he is met by his step-father. "I'm taking her place," Clayton informs him. "She's resting ... She's exhausted." (Either that or Howard Keel has resorted to locking BBG in the trunk of his car so he can have a scene where he does more than carry her handbag.) This situation echoes the beginning of Season 6 when Clayton informed JR and Bobby that any communication with their mother, then ailing off screen, must be done through him. 

JR's attitude to Clayton in this scene is notably courteous ("Clayton, with all due respect, what I need to talk to Mama about is really none of your concern"), especially when compared to how he spoke to him in "Winds of War" ("You're not a Ewing. What goes on between Ewings is none of your damn business"). It becomes apparent by the end of the scene that as Miss Ellie's representative, Clayton has the upper hand. "Don't push it," he warns JR, "or I will personally to see to it that Ewing Oil does end up with Barnes."

    

Woa, woa, wait a second. Can I get a rewind? There seem to be some gaps in the narrative: From JR's conversation with Clayton about Miss Ellie, ("I guess I've been pushin' her too much" ... "She needs you to lay off") it would appear that mother and son have had several heated discussions regarding Wendell's offer to buy Ewing Oil, yet they have only spoken about it once on screen, when Ellie first told JR she was considering the deal. JR also tells Clayton that "Barnes had thrown in with Wendell." So JR knows about Cliff and Jeremy's deal, but again we don't how he knows.



    Pam and Mark have one more scene together, against yet another pretty backdrop of flowers and lakes. Having heard all about Mark's overseas adventures, it's Pam's turn to reveal what happened after she returned from Hong Kong. "Things began changing," she remembers. "Bobby and I started getting closer again ... The night before he was killed, we decided to marry again. He was on his way to tell Jenna when Katherine--" This is the first time she has told anyone the real reason Bobby was at her house on the morning of his death. "It wouldn't be fair to you if you didn't know," she continues. "I love you, but not the way that I loved Bobby." "I've always lived with that," Mark replies bravely. "You say you don't how much time you have," she replies. "Could be a year, could be fifty." "I want to be with you no matter what happens, but if anything I've said changes that --" "Pam, there are all kinds of love. If it never went beyond how we feel right now about each other I'd still consider myself a very lucky man."

    Ahhh ... there's something terribly romantic yet bittersweet about this exchange which explains why I find Pam's relationship with Mark more believable, and therefore more affecting, than her love story with Bobby. Bobby and Pam are somehow eternally young lovers (i.e. Romeo & Juliet) whose conflicts stem from external sources, whereas Mark and Pam feel more like grown ups, with all the disappointment and compromise that come with adulthood. The relationship also fits in with one of the recurring themes of the show, whereby a character, usually a woman, having been proven to be incompatible with her first (and most passionate) love, makes a pragmatic choice to settle for someone less ideal (e.g. Ellie and Jock, Jenna and Ray, arguably Donna and Senator Dowling).

    And in the sweet declaration Mark makes in this scene ("If it never went beyond how we feel right now about each other, I'd still consider myself a very lucky man") which he will later struggle to live up to, there is a parallel with the situation unfolding concurrently on KNOTS LANDING where Ben Gibson marries Val and claims her children as his own, knowing all the while that they are the secret offspring of Val and her first love Gary. Both men start out determined to vanquish the ghosts of Ewing husbands past, only to discover they might have bitten off more than they can chew. (Needless to say, the KNOTS story-line is the richer of the two, if only because it doesn't involve South American emerald mines.) 



    After all this exposition-in-pleasant surroundings, one might be forgiven for thinking Mark is fully up to speed on Pam's activities since they parted company thirty-six episodes ago, but there is still one piece of information that has been withheld ... until it is revealed to Mark, predictably enough, by Cliff. Less predictable is that he doesn't do so with malicious intent. Fixated on persuading Pam to sell Christopher's shares to Wendell, he asks Mark to use his influence with her. Mark flatly refuses: "I am sympathetic to JR's position, but I will in no way influence Pam's decision." "See I don't know how you can be sympathetic for JR after what he did to her," Cliff exclaims in frustration. "I'm talkin' about Jamaica. Pam didn't tell you about that? .. It was terrible what she went through ... I mean, the pain that that man put her through over you!" Mark looks at him in confusion. "I guess I better tell you about Jamaica," he realises.

    

It's an dangerously silent Mark who shows up at Ewing Oil in the final scene of the episode. "I don't guess it's a secret that I wanna buy Pam out," JR admits to him, all smiles as he leads Mark into his office. "It's all down here in black and white." He tries to hand Mark a file. Mark just stares at him. "I'm prepared to double Wendell's offer," JR continues. "I wanna be absolutely certain that Pam's little boy gets the best deal possible." Without warning, Mark sends him sprawling to the floor with one punch. "Well, you sure pack a punch for a sick man," JR observes, after taking a moment to regain his composure. Mark looms towards him, gearing up for Round 2. JR puts out a hand to ward him off. "Wait a minute, Mark! It's a damn good offer!" "I've already made up my mind," Mark snarls. "You blew it, JR. You blew it a long time ago. You're gonna regret the day you sent Pam looking for me because she found me and I'm gonna make sure you suffer as much as she suffered. You take one last look around here, JR, because this place is gonna be nothing but memories before I'm through!" He storms out, leaving JR still nursing his jaw, an anxious look on his face. 

And there you have it: Mark might have only been back from the dead for one episode, but already he has a solid motivation to go up against JR, as well as the means to do it. Unlike his "Also Starring ..." contemporaries, smirking Jack and dithering Dusty, Mark is a man of both action and authority, and the only real contender for Bobby's heroic crown.
     
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  15. Victoriafan3

    Victoriafan3 Soap Chat Fan

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    Love those last two episodes. Pam and Mark rock. VP looks so beautiful, they both play their parts so naturally here. Romantic. Sad. The lot. at the time had no idea John was returning this season so it was a lovely surprise. Donna and Ray and Pam and Mark (and the welcome return of BBG) are really the only 'saving graces' of this season. Pun intended
     
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  16. Angela Channing

    Angela Channing Soap Chat Warrior

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    I also like Donna Reed as Miss Ellie and liked how she chose to reinterpret the character instead of trying to copy the Ellie that Barbara Bel Geddes had created. If only the producers and viewers gave her the time to grow into the role I think more people would appreciate what she was doing rather than always comparing her with BBG's performance.
     
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  17. Ray&Donna

    Ray&Donna Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    It's interesting that you use the term "watercolor" to describe this season, as the episodes (at least in TV reruns and on DVD) have a somewhat-fuzzy, paint-like image quality. Or perhaps it's just the pink lipstick. :lol: As much as I love parts of this season, I do have a few issues with some of what happened:

    -Jenna and Charlie living at up at Southfork despite the former's repeated threats to leave. With Bobby dead, she clearly needed to find her own place.

    -Angelica Nero appeared in far too many episodes. If we had to have her character--a very big IF--she needed to disappear after the dreadful "Masquerade" and not reappear until season's end.

    -I'm sure money was an issue, as always, but if any season ever cried out for more Texas filming, it was this one. I do, however, appreciate the effort to film Pam and Mark's wedding in some place other than a driveway!
     
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  18. Ray&Donna

    Ray&Donna Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    In hindsight, this may be the defining line of the season. Unintentionally. :p

    Either that, or someone had good taste in Jermaine Jackson songs. :giddy:
     
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  19. Presea

    Presea Soap Chat Addict

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    Saving Grace is my favorite episode of this season! Mark totally made me swoon when he came back, and I love how he stood up to JR! I think that Mark is way more charming than Bobby! And he wasn't constantly being pulled to another woman like Bobby was to Jenna for a long time! I always said this when I saw Dallas: "If Pam doesn't want Mark, then I do!"

    The part with Jack in his underwear was also quite nice!
     
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  20. Laurie Marr

    Laurie Marr Soap Chat Member

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    What an undiluted pleasure it is to be reacquainted with these wonderfully witty, incisive and keenly observed posts. They make me want to get out the DVDs again. Great writing. Also nice to see the post-scripts that sometimes revise the original posts. Not sure I agree with the revisionist kinder take on Reed, but good to get the added insights. The original lampooning of Reed's performance is devilishly funny. Also love the 'versus' threads. Thank you for my daily fix. Bravo!
     
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