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Re-watching the Ewingverse ... alphabetically!

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    It's fun to have a rematch between two episodes that previously went head-t0-head in the Versus threads.

    I especially love that there's a different outcome, which means all bets are off.


     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Oh, interesting! Just goes to show, context is all!
     
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  3. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Absolutely. Which is why this thread is so very fascinating and essential.
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    April in Paris (DALLAS, 02 Nov 90) v April Showers (DALLAS, 31 Mar 89)

    It’s an April in Peril double bill! In the first ep, she gets kidnapped. In the second, she gets the crap beaten out of her. In each case, her aggressor is more interesting than she is — whether it's evil pixie Sheila Foley scheming her twisted schemes or sleazy junkie Tommy McKay selling West Star secrets to JR while ogling the centrefold of Boudoir magazine.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Re-watching April in Paris, I was reminded of Hitchcock’s “bomb under the table” principle, wherein an ordinary conversation between two people is transformed if the audience knows — but the characters don’t — that there is a bomb under the table between them which could go off at any moment. Thus, the mundane becomes suspenseful. Similarly, on first viewing, this episode mostly consists of Bobby and April exchanging feeble jokes and simpering about how beautiful Paris is while a tiny woman with big hair gushes about what a romantic couple they make. But once you know in advance what that tiny woman is up to, the whole thing becomes quite gripping.

    Both episodes contain a reference to an Audrey Hepburn film without mentioning it by name. "I love that movie!" trills April in ... in Paris when Bobby “jokes” about expecting Hepburn and Cary Grant to appear around every corner (as they do in Charade). In ... Showers, Cally, on a self-improvement kick, learns to say ‘The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane’ as Hepburn does in “that movie from the TV store” Clayton recommends to her (My Fair Lady). "By George, I think she's got it!" exclaims Clayton, playing Henry Higgins to her Eliza Dolittle.

    And the winner is ... April in Paris

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Bail Out (DALLAS, 25 Jan 85) v Bar-B-Cued (DALLAS, 12 Dec 86)

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    These two episodes take place on either side of the Dream Season and show Bobby making himself so indispensable — bailing Jenna out of jail in early ’85; resolving the Wes Parmalee storyline singlehandedly in late ’86 — that you wonder how they got along without him in-between.

    Both eps see the Ewings united against an outside threat — first, Cliff and Jamie’s claim to two-thirds of Ewing Oil, then Wes’s claim that he is Jock. There’s room for some infighting too, of course — Sue Ellen giving Donna Reed a hard time for supporting JR and Bobby; JR giving Barbara Bel Geddes a hard time for going out with Wes.

    Pam is lovely in both, but I’m not she was ever more appealing than during the latter part of Season 7. As well as being beautiful, she’s remarkably open and emotionally spontaneous in Bail Out — whether it’s her joy at being told Mark might still be alive, her vulnerability when she tells Bobby of her dream that they could still end up together, or her trembling fury when she realises she has been deceived by JR about Mark.

    In Bail Out, Pam shows a glossy photo of Mark Graison to a foreign doctor who confirms that he is alive. In Bar-B-Cued, Bobby shows a glossy photo of Wes Parmalee to a foreign doctor who confirms that he is Jock Ewing. Whereas Pam is delighted, Bobby is dismayed. But in both eps, the doctor’s assertion is seemingly discredited in the final scene when Gerald Kane reveals that JR paid him to pretend he’d seen Mark and Bobby declares Wes’s real name to be Wyatt Haines.

    In both eps, someone gets Pam-slapped: Gerald Kane in Season 7 after he confesses to lying on JR’s behalf, and JR himself in Season 9 after he punches Cliff at the barbecue.

    Bail Out marks the beginning of JR and Mandy’s sexual relationship. “I hate games and I hate you!” she snarls before hurling a glass of champagne in his face. He then grabs her by the neck and kisses-her-until-she-likes-it. By the time of Bar-B-Cued, Mandy has ascended to Hollywood and been replaced by April — this is back when April was naughty and fun instead of wholesome and boring. Here, she schemes with JR, torments Jack, offers to herself to Wes and struts around the Ewing barbecue in a tiny leather minidress and matching boots.

    Bar-B-Cued is also the ep where Donna meets future husband Senator Dowling while lobbying in Washington on behalf of small independent businessmen who are suffering at the hands of OPEC — men like, we will learn in Season 13, Sheila Foley’s suicidal husband John. So you could argue April’s fate was sealed as far back as '86.

    And the winner is … a close-run thing. While Bail Out is the slicker and more exciting of the two, Wes Parmalee’s story gives Bar-B-Cued an irresistible streak of poignancy so … Bar-B-Cued it is.

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Barbecue (DALLAS, 30 Apr 78) v Barbecue Five (DALLAS, 07 Dec 84)

    What leaps out immediately from Barbecue is Bobby and Pam’s youth and optimism. Newlyweds with a baby on the way, they’re certain love can heal all wounds — even the Barnes/Ewing feud. Of course, they’ll know better by the end of the hour. Their young love is mirrored by Miss Ellie and Digger’s stroll down memory lane to when they too were sweethearts.

    Barbecue’s a unique episode in that it’s the only time the action is seen through the eyes of two neutral observers, caterers Tilly and Sam. They’re not especially cynical, but neither are they overly concerned. They’re just not hugely surprised when it all starts to go wrong.

    It’s interesting to see the news of Pam’s pregnancy spread through the party. First to know are some nameless extras, then Tilly and Sam, and then Lucy who delights in breaking the news to Ray and Sue Ellen, neither of whom are pleased, but for different reasons. After putting on a brave face to congratulate Pam (who’ll return the favour when Sue Ellen’s pregnancy is announced in Act of Love), Sue Ellen lets rip at JR and then has her first drunk scene.

    While Tilly and Sam are DALLAS's first black characters, Lucy makes the show’s first gay reference. “You don’t like boys, do you … you know, in that way?” she asks Pam’s cousin Jimmy. Six years later, she brings Eddie Cronin to the barbecue. “As long as he’s not a Barnes, that’s all I care about,” says JR.

    The closing ten minutes of Barbecue is especially great: Sue Ellen drunk on a horse, JR badmouthing Pam, Bobby knocking him to the ground, then JR crawling up behind Pam in the hayloft, slurring his words with a split lip — all set against an open Texas backdrop. It feels cinematic, novelistic, saga-like, in a way the series rarely would once it settled into its televisual groove.

    “I don’t wanna lose another son,” Jock tells Pam after her miscarriage, while outside in the dark, Sue Ellen asks JR if he’s sorry that she lost the baby. He doesn’t reply. “Are you comin’ in?” she asks him hopefully. By this point, the Ewings feel more like a weird collection of screwed-up individuals than they do a family. The mini-series ends on two opposing notes. One is hopeful — after Jock admits “we’ve had things our way so long that maybe it got in the way of us being just people”, there’s the implication that Pam’s continued presence at Southfork might be the thing that will humanise the Ewings. The other note is a lot darker — the suggestion that Sue Ellen wants to use the loss of Pam’s baby to her and JR's dysfunctional advantage. But it’s all left unspoken, hanging in the air.

    By Barbecue Five, Bobby and Pam are almost unrecognisable as those fresh-faced lovers. Now divorced, both seem possessive, even obsessive, of their subsequent love interests. Pam launches a salvage operation and consults a psychic in the hopes of raising her fiancee from the dead, while Bobby stalks his current girlfriend when she goes to meet her ex-husband for dinner.

    Whereas the original Ewing barbecue took up nearly its entire episode, the party in Barbecue Five is allotted twelve minutes of screen time at the end of the ep, with scarcely any reference to it beforehand. At the first barbecue, JR drank a toast with Digger over their shared dismay at Bobby and Pam’s marriage. At this barbecue, he celebrates the fact “this is the first time in years a member of the Barnes family's not here.” Instead of Digger entertaining the extras with a drunken rendition of ‘Yellow Rose of Texas’, there’s Jamie and Marilee Stone having a punch up in the pool. In place of Bobby threatening to take Pam and leave Southfork, there’s JR ordering Jamie to pack her bags and get out. And in lieu of Jock and Digger arguing about who stole what from whom fifty years before, Jamie produces a legal document that appears to prove Jock stole Ewing Oil from Jason and Digger. And rather than the open-ended exchange between JR and Sue Ellen at the end of Barbecue, we get Clayton spelling out exactly what we can expect from the rest of the season: “JR and Bobby may just have a real fight on their hands for control of Ewing Oil!”

    And the winner is ... Barbecue.

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2020
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Barbecue Four (DALLAS, 07 Dec 84) v Barbecue Three (DALLAS, 16 Dec 83)

    Arranging the Ewing barbecue is definitely women’s work. For BBQ3, Miss Ellie, Lucy, Sue Ellen and Pam are shown writing out the invitations by hand while for BBQ4, Sue Ellen takes over the arrangements from Miss Ellie, who is overseas with Clayton. This Sue Ellen is far warmer and more relaxed than the brittle, neurotic one who scolded Pam for blocking in the florist’s truck during the preparations for the original barbecue back in ’78. However, her bid for Miss Ellie’s “serene matriarch” crown is somewhat undermined by her snogging Peter Richards behind the barn.

    Alas, Tilly and Sam have lost their barbecue catering contract by this point and are replaced by the amiable Larry Deltham. The same bit-part actor appears three years in a row as Larry, which is a nice touch.

    While Lucy treats Mickey so coolly in BBQ3 that he describes her as “a small block of ice”, she is much more full-on when it comes to Peter in BBQ4, asking him to the movies and insisting that he attend the barbecue — oblivious that he only does so to be near Sue Ellen.

    “This is gonna be the biggest barbecue we’ve ever had!” predicts Sue Ellen in ’82. “I have never been to a barbecue this big!” marvels Edgar Randolph in ’83.

    Edgar makes his first appearance in Barbecue Four and immediately arouses JR’s interest. A self-described “happily married man” and devoted public servant with the key to information JR wants, he’s already a Walt Driscoll-in-waiting. You can practically see the target painted on his back. JR plies him with food and drink at the barbecue as if fattening him up for the inevitable sacrifice. At the same time, JR has Sly make sure Cliff sees him and Edgar together while filling his head with notions of offshore drilling — what is JR up to? That’s also the question everyone’s asking a year earlier when JR gets an oil variance to pump to capacity in a soft market — what is he up to?

    Initially, the cartel and Rebecca elect to boycott BBQ3 in protest at this variance — but after JR unveils his string of cut-price gas stations, they decide it’s a prime opportunity to talk to him face to face.

    In the very first barbecue episode, Bobby and Pam were the naively optimistic newlyweds, confident all their families’ problems could be easily overcome. In Barbecue Three, Sue Ellen, fresh back from her honeymoon with JR, has inherited that newlywed optimism, certain that JR has changed for the better and that his fight against Bobby for control of Ewing Oil won’t interfere with her and Pam’s friendship.

    That fight and its aftermath loom large over both episodes. “Bobby, you know I’m behind you no matter what, but I’m starting to be frightened of what this is going to turn into,” Pam tells her husband in ’82. “The same thing that affected your health destroyed our marriage,” she tells Miss Ellie a year later.

    By BBQ4, the gathering has become a regular fixture of the series. Sue Ellen describes it as “a family tradition” and Mark Graison as “the famous Ewing barbecue.”

    In Barbecue Four, JR surprises Pam and Cliff by showing up at a Barnes/Graison/Afton brunch with invitations for all. As with the original barbecue, there is talk of mending fences between the Barnes and the Ewings. “Nothing would make Mama happy than to see this feud laid to rest once and for all,” says JR - but by this point, no-one really views this as a credible possibility. That said, there is a nice exchange between Mark and Bobby where they agree to call a truce over Pam.

    As in Barbecue Five, the barbecues themselves each only take up about a dozen minutes of screen time.

    Both eps end with a shock announcement that points the way forward for the rest of the season. In Season 5, Miss Ellie plans to “go to court to break Jock’s will — and then I intend to sell Ewing Oil!” In Season 6, she has “graciously accepted” Clayton’s proposal of marriage. Interestingly, the latter announcement is greeted by the family with almost as much alarm as the former, with Donna and Lucy the only ones who can muster a smile.

    And the winner is ... Barbecue Three

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Barbecue Two (DALLAS, 01 Jan 82) v Baths and Showers (KNOTS, 30 Jan 92)

    Miss Ellie and Rebecca share the same hope in BBQ2 that Bobby and Pam did in the original Barbecue. “We both want to put an end to the Barnes/Ewing feud and this seems like a good time to do it,” says Rebecca, explaining to Cliff why he has been invited to the barbecue. Like his daddy before him, Cliff attends, is insulted at the bar by JR the way Digger was by Jock, and likewise reunited with an old love — this time, it’s Sue Ellen rather than Miss Ellie.

    While Baths and Showers introduces us to naughty Vanessa Hunt, Barbecue Two introduces us to nutty Roger Larsen, as well as granting us our first glimpses of Sue Ellen’s townhouse, Katherine making furtive eyes at Bobby and (I think) Miss Ellie’s homemade chilli. Both episodes also establish the beginnings of a romantic (or at least carnal) quadrangle, between Afton, Cliff, Sue Ellen and JR on DALLAS and Claudia, Alex, Kate and Vanessa on KNOTS.

    Watched in hindsight, Lucy cheerfully interrupting Miss Ellie as she’s chatting away with Clayton and Rebecca (“When Jock gets back, we’ll all go out on the town together”) to tell her she has a phone call is a stomach lurch of a moment — and is immediately followed by the closest DALLAS will ever get to a big musical number as various characters and extras take to the dance floor for a prolonged Texas jig. The camera steers tactfully clear of showing anyone’s actual feet, but Katherine appears to be the most competent jigger.

    The most notable link between these two episodes is Donna and Val each being commissioned by their New York publisher to write a biography about a former senator, Sam Culver and Greg Sumner respectively. “I think everything my wife does is wonderful,” sneers Ray sarcastically upon hearing the news while Greg finds everyone’s concerns about Val probing into his private affairs laughable: “We’re not talking Woodward and Bernstein, we’re talking about a daffy blonde!”

    Just as the phone call Miss Ellie receives at the barbecue changes Everything Forever, so does Val’s book commission — well, sort of.

    Mack, Karen, Gary and Val all go out to dinner to celebrate. “The four of us, just like the old days,” one of them remembers — only those days never existed; it was never was just the four of them — Gary left Val and the cul-de-sac long before Mack married Karen and moved in. This reminds me a little of the Dallas Ewings continually hearkening back to those near-mythical times when the whole family sat down to dinner at 6 o’clock sharp.

    Edgar Randolph shows up on KNOTS as the owner of a tech company obliged to do with business with the Sumner Group. He has the same righteous intensity that he brought to his role on DALLAS, but here it makes him uptight and angry and utterly immune to Greg’s charms, whereas he initially fell for JR’s.

    Watched chronologically, the story of Alex Barth blackmailing Claudia over A Big Secret From Her Past (the circumstances of her mother’s death) arguably follows on a bit too quickly from the last Big Secret From Her Past (the love child she gave up for adoption). But watching this episode in isolation, the scene where she confesses everything to Greg, and he then shocks her by embracing rather than condemning her, is really powerful. I also love the subsequent scene where Greg summons Alex to his office for a job interview and then proceeds to run verbal and mental rings round him. Alex is really fun, kind of like the missing link between Steve Brewer and Chip Roberts.

    And the winner is ... Baths and Showers

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2020
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  9. Taylor Bennett Jr.

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    I always thought Ray doing a little country dancing with a bourbon in one hand and the lovely Maureen in the other in the original Barbecue was pretty damn slick

    [​IMG]
    (they actually show his feet, too! It almost looks like just a cut to the boots of a stunt double, but no, the camera pans up and it's indeed Ray leading the casual little two-step or trot or whatever it's called)
     
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Battle Lines (DALLAS, 05 Oct 84) v Battle Lines (DALLAS, 28 Jan 13)

    Two episodes with the same title, twenty-nine years apart.

    In 1984, Pam urges Cliff to ask Afton to marry him, only to learn that they’ve split up and Afton left the series the previous week. (She was pregnant at the time, but no-one knows that yet.) Three decades later, Pam’s namesake, the newly unveiled Pamela Rebecca Barnes, reveals to Bobby and Christopher that she is Afton and Cliff's daughter.

    In the first Battle Lines, JR is still trying to come to terms with the fact that, thanks to him, Cliff has just struck it rich in the Gulf. By the second, Cliff is even richer. According to New Pamela, he can now buy and sell the Ewings several times over.

    Back in ’84, Cliff takes great satisfaction in rubbing his newfound success in the faces of those who tried to put him out of business — Vaughan Leland, Sly and especially JR, whom he embarrasses at the Oil Baron’s Club in front of Sue Ellen and the cartel. These two storylines dovetail in the episode's terrific final scene: Pam looks on in dismay as Cliff is arrested for shooting Bobby and then sees JR watching from afar, a smug look on his face. Her eyes narrow in anger. It’s all about the Barneses and the Ewings at the end of 2013 Battle Lines as well, but this time JR's son and Cliff's daughter are joining forces to bring down Christopher and Elena. And what an incredibly sexy couple they make.

    In 1984, JR is bemused to find Donna Krebbs sitting behind his brother's desk at Ewing Oil, Bobby having given her his power of attorney while he is in the hospital. “You are the one he needs protection from,” Donna tells JR. In 2013, JR is one making himself at home in John Ross’s office at Ewing Energies. “I tried to get him to leave,” John Ross’s secretary whispers to her irritated boss.

    In 1984, John Ross wants to know if his daddy is going take over Ewing Oil now that Bobby is blind, and JR teaches him that “there are rules” when it comes to family. In 2013, after sleeping with a bride-to-be on her hen night in order to blackmail her father, John Ross brags to JR that the student is about to surpass the master. “Love’s for pussies,” he declares.

    There’s a touching symmetry between JR and Sue Ellen in these two episodes. In ’84, she listens sympathetically as he explains how badly he feels about Cliff’s success. In 2013, the roles are reversed as an aged JR listens sorrowfully to the news of Sue Ellen’s humiliating defeat in the gubernatorial election.

    Ann Ewing spends much of New DALLAS collapsing in tears, as well she might after finding out the daughter who was Adam Carrington’d away from her twenty years earlier is still alive. Ann feels like a real person who has wandered into a soap opera by mistake. Her whole energy is different. After receiving confirmation that Emma is her daughter, she runs to Bobby in the living room to tell him — nobody runs inside Southfork.

    Oh, and John Ross meets his detective in the parking lot of what I’m pretty sure is the same movie theatre Lucy dragged his hero Peter to in Barbecue Four.

    And the winner is ... Battle Lines (1984)

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Bedtime Stories (DALLAS, 20 Nov 87) v Bells Are Ringing (DALLAS, 14 Nov 86)

    Ray’s bombshell about Jenna’s pregnancy at the end of the previous ep means that Bobby and Pam’s long-awaited, never-thought-it-would-happen, happy-ever-after remarriage in Bells Are Ringing is laced with melancholy from the very start. The pregnancy storyline is an unusual one in that there’s nothing Bobby and Pam can do about it — it just hangs over them as a tangible reminder of the time they spent apart. (“It’s one thing you knowing I was with Jenna, it’s another thing knowing there’s a baby on the way.”) The unborn child and the complicated emotions it summons up — jealousy, insecurity, resentment — underline the fact that, however much they might want to be, Bobby and Pam are not the same dewy-eyed, idealistic lovers they were when they wed the first time around. There’s simply been too much water under the bridge. This is neatly illustrated by the black and white flashback to their original wedding (which I’ve always loved). It’s set in ’78 but clearly filmed with two actors who are nine years older than they were then. Not even screen beauties like Duffy and Principal can turn back the clock, just as Bobby and Pam can't be the carefree young parents-to-be they were in Barbecue now that a different woman is carrying his baby.

    “Bobby, you’re not going to lose me,” Pam insists just before the wedding. However, by the time of Bedtime Stories, just a year and a week later, Bobby has lost her. And so have we. In fact, it’s the very first episode of the series where Pam's name is not mentioned. So Bobby has a one-night stand with an old college friend instead — just two lonely thirty-something divorcees attempting to stave off their mutual loneliness.

    In Bells Are Ringing, JR hatches the plan with BD Calhoun that will eventually cause him to lose Ewing Oil to West Star. In Bedtime Stories, he begins the affair with Kimberly Cryder (great fun) that he hopes will help him win Ewing Oil back from West Star.

    Elsewhere in the same ep, Nicholas Pearce’s bouffant looms large. Nick’s an odd mixture. He and April share a scene which mostly consists of them exchanging the same kind of crappy puns that would later become a staple of April’s relationship with Bobby. And he ends a business meeting with Sue Ellen by cheesily proclaiming that “like the man says, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” However, he also has a mano-a-mano confrontation with JR which is really good, and there’s a touching scene where we see him on the phone to his father whom it is clear he has not seen for a long time. “Yes, my hair is still long,” he says, chuckling, and then just a few seconds later, his eyes start to mist up. I have a theory that one-sided phone calls, especially ones with as much subtext as this one, are a real test for an actor — they have to convincingly convey two sides of a conversation — and Jack Scalia does a really good job here.

    Also in Bedtime Stories, there are two contrasting cultural references between Bobby and Christopher. In the first instance, Christopher surprises his daddy by reciting a line from 'The Walrus and the Carpenter', the same poem by Lewis Carroll that Cliff and Sue Ellen playfully quoted nine years earlier in Act of Love. In the second, they return home after seeing 'Spaceman Strikes Back' at the movies. Bobby is as loftily dismissive of it as Peter Richards was of the sci-fi flick he and Lucy went to see in Barbecue Four. Guess someone in the DALLAS office likes Lewis Carroll more than they do space movies.

    And the winner is ... Bells Are Ringing

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    The Best Kept Secret (KNOTS, 02 Dec 82) v The Best Laid Plans (DALLAS, 12 Feb 88)

    When DALLAS and KNOTS introduced love interests to replace Bobby, Gary and Jock in the hearts of Pam, Val and Miss Ellie, it’s notable that they were all knights in shining armour. Mark Graison, Ben Gibson and Clayton were sensitive and kind, patient and understanding. Each was a more idealised version of their predecessor, at least on paper. (Clayton and Ben would later prove to have feet of clay, but only after they’d married the woman of their dreams. Mark would probably have fallen off his pedestal too had Pam not woken up.) But with Mack Mackenzie, KNOTS is obliged to take a different approach. After all, how can you improve on saintly Sid Fairgate? So it is that Mack’s flaws, as well as his virtues, are part of what attracts him to Karen. When she complains that they’re always fighting and Val replies that that means she’s in love with him, she doesn’t disagree. However, there are flaws and then there are flaws — this is before Karen learns that Mack has a f**k buddy living down the hall. “I had the best — Sid Fairgate never would have done this to me!” she yells. “I’m not Sid Fairgate.” “You’re damn right you’re not!”

    In the sixteen episodes that have passed since Best Intentions, not only has Karen acquired a love interest, but Gary and Abby have moved into a beach house and Richard is running a restaurant. Val has gone from being an ordinary housewife finishing a homework assignment to a single woman with an answering service, a stack of fan mail on her desk and an invitation to dinner from an important record producer. The one person who doesn’t seem to have moved on is Laura, still pacing the floor as she tries to decide what to do about her marriage.

    Whereas Best Intentions felt entirely character-driven, the characters in The Best Kept Secret kind of feel like chess pieces being moved around the board. Having done a 180 on her attitude to Mack, Diana finds him with the semi-naked Patrice and turns to Chip for comfort. This requires Chip to stand up Ciji who runs into Gary who has just come from an argument with Abby about their business arrangement with Kenny. Ciji and Gary then spend the afternoon together before everyone shows up at Richard’s restaurant to glare angrily and/or gaze longingly at each other while Ciji sings a sad song in her Star Trek dress. Even though you can feel the characters’ strings being pulled, it doesn’t make this any less satisfying an episode. In fact, it’s part of the enjoyment.

    Whereas Diana is genuinely shocked when she walks in on Mack and Patrice, Sue Ellen feigns outrage when she finds JR and Kimberly Cryder in bed together, before showing up on Nicholas’s doorstep with a fit of the giggles. Miss Ellie, meanwhile, is so stunned to find the once perfect Clayton on the receiving end of a kiss from a beautiful young woman that she pretends it never happened.

    While everyone on KNOTS is mixed up with everyone else, because of Ciji and/or Chip and/or Gary and Abby’s investments, almost everyone on DALLAS is somehow involved in JR’s mission to take over West Star. Most of the fun of this ep comes from watching Sue Ellen putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. She concludes that JR needs her off Southfork so he can be with Kimberly — and thereby gain access to the 14% of West Star owned by her daddy. It looks like JR’s got his wish in the final scene when he walks into his and Sue Ellen’s bedroom to find her packing a suitcase. But it turns out she’s only moving as far as a room down the hall. Well, if it works for Mack and Patrice …

    And the winner is … The Best Kept Secret

    BONUS BEATS

     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    The Best Laid Plans (KNOTS, 15 Nov 90) v The Big Ball (DALLAS, 22 Oct 82)

    To start with, The Best Laid Plans is full of typical KNOTS Season 12 silliness — Val calling off her wedding after Gary sees her in her dress, Anne going to great lengths to pretend she’s being blackmailed — but then out of nowhere comes an absolute gem of a scene in which Mack, when Paige visits his office and admits she’s considering going back to Greg, lets rip with some tough-love advice that pierces her icy exterior.

    Elsewhere, Julie Williams flashing back to Danny’s last minutes on earth before she listened to him drown is enjoyably gruesome. And there's something that’s never occurred to me before: in the same way that Abby originally got to move onto Seaview Circle because no-one else wanted to live in the same cul-de-sac as a suspected rapist, Claudia now gets to move in Abby's old place because no-one else wants to live in a house where someone just drowned in the backyard.

    The Big Ball is a really unusual episode for this era of DALLAS. Most of the action takes place either in Emporia Kansas, where Ray and Donna encounter Aunt Lil and Mickey for the first time, or at the Southern Cross in San Angelo, where Dusty introduces Sue Ellen to his new wife Linda. JR appears comparatively briefly throughout the ep while Bobby and Pam don’t show up at all until the final act when the family convenes for the show's very first Oil Baron’s Ball which, like most of the Ewing barbecues, takes up surprisingly little screen time — just twelve minutes.

    I’ve always found Sue Ellen’s response to Dusty’s marriage fascinating. “I’ve always been a romantic dreamer, sure that some man would come around and sweep me off my feet. For a while, that man was Dusty. No more. It’s time I go back to reality,” she tells Clayton. And by reality, she means her fantasy life at Southfork with JR. “Who else is there?” she shrugs. With every other option (i.e., man) now closed to her, she has given up on trying to make it in the real world and has very discreetly flicked the switch on the self-destruct button. It’s only a matter of time before JR betrays her and she gets to drink herself into oblivion — which is all a part of her really wants.

    And the winner is ... The Big Ball.

    BONUS BEATS:

     
  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    The Big Shut Down (DALLAS, 13 Nov 81) v Billion Dollar Question (DALLAS, 15 Oct 82)

    In The Big Shut Down, JR is stockpiling the Farlows’ oil and starving their refineries to get them to turf Sue Ellen and John Ross off the Southern Cross. While going after his wife and kid as if he were overthrowing a foreign government makes him seem a little unhinged, this fiendish campaign mostly boils down to some dull meetings with anonymous bankers and phone calls to equally nondescript refinery owners. How best to sex this storyline up? By bringing back another character from sexy Season 2, that’s how! We’ve already had Kristin and Dusty, and now it’s the return of Vaughan Leland, who is still nursing a grudge against JR while pretending not to. Adding more glamour to the plot, JR enlists a reluctant Afton as bait to keep Vaughan sweet.

    This episode is chockfull of historical moments: the first meetings between Pam and Katherine (the latter has yet to perfect her evil glare so she mostly just darts her eyes around and hopes for the best), and Bobby and Jeff Faraday, who brings with him the deets on Kristin’s son (“The father’s here in Dallas,” he says with technical accuracy). While Pam anticipates her eventual exit from the series by telling Bobby, “No-one can fix what’s wrong with me — if I went away, you’d find someone else,” Katherine’s attraction to her brother-in-law manifests itself for the first time (“I can understand why Pam fell in love with Bobby”), even though their introductory encounter takes place off-screen. Also off-screen, Jock sets foot on Texas soil for the last time as he changes planes on his way to South America. (JR misses this final opportunity to see his father because he’s off trying to win his approval by getting John Ross back — an irony which sums up the tragedy of their relationship.) Punk accepts a last-minute invitation to join Jock in South America, thereby securing himself a pivotal role in several storylines to come and leaving Ray to go it alone on his first and last land deal. At the Southern Cross, Sue Ellen listens to Clayton recalling how he destroyed the old ranch house following the death of his sick wife. Although he makes no mention of a sister or a fire and says that Dusty was born at home rather than London, this scene lays the foundation for Lady Jessica’s storyline almost three years later. More immediately, this is DALLAS's first attempt to depict Clayton as something more than just Dusty’s father, as well as sowing the seeds of a friendship between him and Sue Ellen that exists independently of his son. All this plus the requisite “When Jock was here, the family sat down together at six” reminiscence from Miss Ellie.

    The Big Shut Down ends with JR signing a loan agreement with Vaughan Leland that endangers the future of Ewing Oil. By Billion Dollar Question, eleven months later, he’s been voted out of the company after using it “to savagely destroy someone.” The only way he can get back in is to have his daddy’s will read, and the only way that can happen is for Miss Ellie to have Jock declared legally dead. And so JR spends most of this episode pressurising both Bobby at the office (by setting the IRS on him) and Miss Ellie at home (“Would Daddy approve of the way this family’s been handled since he died?”), building to a three-way clash between them in the final scene where Mama makes it clear that she won’t be strong-armed into taking action. But JR won't take no for an answer. “One way or another, that will is going to be read,” he vows.

    Meanwhile Pam, no longer the quivering mess she was during The Big Shut Down, acts as Lucy’s rock when she undergoes the Ewingverse’s first and only abortion, and Sue Ellen is back at the Southern Cross, happily oblivious to the fact that Clayton is now in love with her. Not so JR. “Are you confusing Sue Ellen by telling her how much you really care for her?” he asks him. “Haven’t said a word,” Clayton replies. “Good. Dealing with one lovesick Cliff Barnes is about all I can take.”

    And the winner is ... The Big Shut Down

    BONUS BEATS

     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2020
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Birds Do It, Bees Do It, but JR refuses to do it, which leads Sue Ellen to adopt a Black Market Baby

    KNOTS (23 Mar 89) v DALLAS (15 Oct 78)

    Birds Do It, Bees Do It, in which the eye of every character, from billionaire tycoon Greg Sumner to schoolgirl Julie Williams, is drawn to an Ann Landers survey claiming that sex goes downhill after marriage, is a special KNOTS-goes-comedy episode. But fear not: this isn't the cutesy or heavy-handed comedy of Season 12, but the kind of comedy that is airy and witty and playful and, you know, actually funny.

    Granted, humour is hard to quantify. What makes Frank and Pat silently turning their newspapers at the same time in Birds Do It funnier than Val and Karen stirring and then sipping their tea in perfect unison during 'Back to the Cul-de-Sac'? It’s hard to say exactly, but I think it’s to do with a lightness of touch. The emphasis of the scene is less on the Williams’ choreographed actions (the way it is on Karen and Val’s) than it is on Julie feeling excluded by her parents and their antagonistic silence. So the scene remains based in character and truth, and the humour feels like a byproduct of that.

    Likewise at the beginning of Black Market Baby, why is Jock’s nonplussed reaction to JR and Sue Ellen’s anniversary gift of a piece of abstract sculpture (“What the hell is it?” he asks blankly) so much funnier than April and Bobby’s smirky remarks about an expressionist painting in And Away We Go! during Season 11? Again, I think it’s a question of emphasis. We’re not necessarily being asked to share Jock’s opinion of the art (as we are Bobby and April’s) because the humour is really about JR and Sue Ellen’s discomfort at having failed to impress their patriarch. As such, it’s not just a gag for its own sake — it’s a symptom of a much larger, more complex problem.

    As Ewingverse episodes go, Birds Do It and BMB could not be more different, yet both feature one half of a married couple trying to seduce the other, and failing miserably until the end of the episode. On KNOTS, Mack is anxious to prove that he and Karen are not part of the 82% of the populace for whom sex has gone downhill and so makes a series of attempts to woo her. But each time, Karen is so preoccupied with her latest disaster (Abby’s appointment to the coastal commission, Murakame’s plan to drill for oil on Lotus Point) that she doesn’t even notice she’s being wooed. Conversely, Sue Ellen’s blatant attempt to get JR into bed during the first act of Black Market Baby is such a turnoff (“Maybe the Ewin' man I married isn’t all the man he claims to be,” she slurs) that he drives off into the night, leaving Ray Krebbs to take advantage of his drunk and rejected wife. While Mack and Karen’s situation is light and amusing in a screwball comedy sort of way, both of JR and Sue Ellen’s bedroom scenes in BMB feel like a Texas version of 'Scenes from a Marriage' — they just drip with atmosphere. The fact that the Southfork interiors in this ep are filmed in a real house is a big help in that regard. You really get the sense of the couple living inside a pressure cooker, hemmed in by the rest of the family, their attempts at keeping up appearances in front of Mama and Daddy becoming increasingly strained, especially when compared to Bobby and Pam’s effortlessly radiant happiness (when they’re not squabbling over Pam’s decision to go back to work).

    KNOTS ends with Karen and Mack lying in bed, having finally done the deed, in a state of blissed-out catatonia. “‘Dear Ann Landers,’” Karen murmurs, “‘if sex was any better —‘“ “I’d be a dead man,” Mack gasps. DALLAS likewise concludes with JR and Sue Ellen having managed to get it together between the sheets — but only after a confused, angry, passionate, borderline violent struggle (“Is that what you want: somebody who doesn’t want you? I don’t want you! I don’t want you!” Sue Ellen moans eagerly) that leaves her unable to look him in the eye. As the frame freezes on Sue Ellen’s inscrutable expression, it becomes evident that, after only ten instalments, DALLAS is already starting to outgrow its stand-alone episode format.

    Similarly, although Birds Do It is a unique episode of KNOTS, as underlined by the bespoke score that also plays over the end credits, it’s more than just a self-contained diversion. In its light and witty way, it cleverly sets up some key plot points that will take the rest of the season into much darker territory — Abby revealing to Ted Melcher that she is really Murakame and Paige inveigling herself into the pink apartment that belongs to the Sumner Group. (Ah, how do I love Vincent Schiavelli’s two-scene cameo as the dog-carrying property manager? Let me count the ways.)

    And the winner is ... Black Market Baby

    BONUS BEATS

     
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  16. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    I always like that kind of pretence, the teetering, before things spiral out of control.
     
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Black Tide (DALLAS, 10 Nov 89) v Blackmail (DALLAS, 19 Mar 82)

    Before starting to watch DALLAS alphabetically, I hadn’t realised quite how often the Ewings hearken back to a golden age when the family all sat down to dinner together each evening at 6 o’clock sharp. Such recollections are invariably rose-tinted with nary a mention of the arguments or fights these gatherings often descended into (and which made them such fun to watch). One of the few late series examples of such a gathering is already in mid-flow at the start of Black Tide — only instead of Southfork, this family dinner takes place in the middle of the Oil Baron’s Club: a private occasion in a public arena, with everyone turning on everyone else and Cliff and Michelle heckling from the sidelines. As opening scenes on DALLAS go, this must rank as one of the best ever, with dramatic fireworks going off right, left and centre.

    As everyone reels from James’s shock announcement that he’s JR’s bastard son, a humiliated Cally turns on Vanessa, Lucy delivers a zinger of a one-liner to JR reminding him of the years he spent taunting Ray for being a half-breed, and April slaps Cliff after he points out that she too was once in JR’s “stable”. Then Carter McKay storms in, flanked by reporters and TV cameras, and things escalate even further. “My supertanker, completely filled with heavy crude, was rammed dead-on by a Ewing Oil tanker!” he bellows. “Oil is leaking out all over the Gulf!” Bobby refutes this, confidently asserting that the Ewings don’t even own a tanker, but then he sees the expression on JR’s face and the terrible truth dawns on him …

    “After all these years, you must have knocked up half the women in Dallas!” Cliff jeers at JR at one point in this scene. As to prove his point, Blackmail also opens with JR just having learned that he has fathered an illegitimate child. “I won't say a word about Christopher to anyone as long as I know you'll vote your twenty shares of Ewing Oil my way, anytime I want,” he tells Bobby. Eight seasons later, he is less willing to let his newly acquired son go so easily. He ignores Cally’s suggestion that he “just say goodbye to James and exchange Christmas cards” and insists on moving him into Southfork so they can make up for lost time.

    In both episodes, JR provides a moment of gasp out loud coldness. When Bobby tries to call his bluff in Blackmail, he tells him that if John Ross cannot be his son and heir, “Christopher will do just fine” — the implication being that his sons are both replaceable and interchangeable. In Black Tide, he orders his fall guy, Al “the Pal” Halliday, to save the Ewing tanker, “even if it means dumping more oil into the Gulf”, thereby demonstrating a contempt for the environment that might be considered Trumpian.

    In the event, Al the Pal sells out to West Star, providing McKay with information that is seriously damaging to the Ewings’ credibility. Cliff also defects to McKay’s camp during a televised press conference where he announces his plans for an investigation into the collision that looks certain to nail the Ewings. He withdraws his funding from Ewing Oil at the same time, leaving them cash-poor. With customers threatening to boycott their business, the family reputation is at an all-time low — so low, in fact, that “the average man on the street” is angry enough to break into Southfork and vandalise the cardboard patio. I'm not sure things have ever looked quite this bleak for the family — not even during Blackmail where Bobby finds himself faced with not only JR’s coercion but also Jeff Faraday’s murder, Lucy’s disappearance and the reality of Jock’s death finally dawning on Miss Ellie. (Bobby finds her in her bedroom, brooding over pictures of Jock in a family album — possibly the same album he and Pam gave them for their wedding anniversary in Black Market Baby.)

    Elsewhere in Blackmail, JR does his best to persuade Sue Ellen to return to him. “You belong at Southfork,” he insists. By the time of Black Tide, he has changed his tune. “I should have married you and not Sue Ellen,” he tells Vanessa, as he likewise pleads with her to remain in Dallas.

    And the winner is ... Blackmail

    BONUS BEATS:



    Yeah, it's that tension, that atmosphere of denial. You feel it a lot during Jock's era, where everyone's on their best behaviour and doing their best to please him — until they just can't anymore.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2020
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Blame Game (DALLAS, 25 Feb 13) v Blame it on Bogota (DALLAS, 24 Jan 86)

    Blame it on Bogota is one of those strange Dream Season episodes in which the Ewings manage to sit down to dinner together without exchanging a harsh word. Instead, they chit-chat about emerald mines and special needs kids while pretending not to notice Jenna has completely lost her mind. Blame Game is one of those fantastic New DALLAS episodes where the Ewings spend most of the episode tearing each other apart before uniting against a common enemy, only to start tearing each other apart all over again just in time for the closing credits.

    Described in Old DALLAS terms, Blame Game is Winds of Vengeance meets Ray’s Trial. While Ann awaits sentencing after being found guilty of trying to kill her ex (well, she did shoot him in cold blood), the rest of the family are held at gunpoint at Southfork. It’s nail-biting stuff, particularly a thrillingly kinetic fight between Christopher and one of Vicente’s thugs.

    Both eps feature a foreign-sounding baddie. Angelica Nero is so deliciously exotic in 1986 that the Ewings can’t help seeming a little drab in comparison. Vicente Cano is such a blast in 2013 (especially when he realises John Ross and Christopher have exchanged love interests: “You Ewing boys share after all! I love it!”) that it’s kind of a shame when he gets mown down by Drew Ramos, aka the Mexican Mickey Trotter.

    Both Blame episodes have to work around the unforeseen absence of one of their main actors: Larry Hagman in Game, Victoria Principal in Bogota. Each appears for one brief scene. In Game, we see JR being introduced to the apps on his new tablet by a pretty young nurse/assistant/whatever. “I even gave you Angry Birds,” she tells him. “Honey, I don’t need any more angry birds,” he assures her. He subsequently annoys Bobby from off-screen by messaging him a video of a basketball-playing dog. All this “JR discovers the internet” stuff is very charming and funny in and of itself, but unexpectedly becomes a pivotal plot twist later in the episode when, during a bitter confrontation with John Ross, Bobby realises the video JR sent him was really a viral Trojan horse designed to erase crucial evidence on his computer that he was planning to use against his brother and nephew. Bobby storms angrily into his brother’s room — only to discover that he’s flown the coup. Just as he has from the beginning of New DALLAS, JR continues to wrong-foot characters and audience alike right up until the end. Meanwhile, the lack of Pam in Bogota is explained away by a couple of “oh, you just missed her” scenes. She eventually appears at the end of the episode when she and Matt Cantrell arrive at their hotel in Colombia. She’s on-screen for less than a minute, but is a very welcome presence: it feels like the episode’s missed her.

    Sue Ellen substitutes for Pam in a couple of scenes in Bogota and throughout the ep adopts the role of a sympathetic, supportive listener. Sue Ellen is just sympathetic and supportive when we first see her in Blame Game visiting Ann in jail. But in the very next scene, she instantly turns ice cold towards Elena and Christopher. This unpredictability continues throughout the episode. She and Bobby argue, but seem to reach an understanding while being held hostage by Vicente, yet by the end of the ep, she’s sided with John Ross and betrayed him again. Just as it has JR, New DALLAS has turned Sue Ellen into a wild card. You’re never sure which side of the moral divide she’s going to land, and more often than not, it’s the darker, more interesting side. This is the opposite of Pam’s Dream where Sue Ellen became one of its nicest, safest and most predictable characters.

    And the winner is ... Blame Game

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2020
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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Blast from the Past (DALLAS, 16 May 86) v Blind Side (KNOTS, 20 Sep 90)

    Blast from the Past mostly consists of characters smiling and telling each other how happy they are. The few moments of intrigue and pathos stem from an on-the-lam Angelica plotting JR’s demise in a variety of ridiculous outfits, Ben Stivers acting all mysterious in front of Miss Ellie and Mark Graison wondering how much longer his remission will last (about twenty screen minutes as it turns out). His and Pam’s wedding is pleasant enough but nowhere near as enjoyable as Pam and Bobby’s will be in nine episodes time when everyone’s back to giving each other filthy looks. It’s not that I necessarily begrudge the DALLAS gang a bit of happiness, but the happiness we see in this ep (save for Pam and Mark’s) lacks nuance, subtext or wit. It’s the kind of generic TV happiness where everyone says exactly what they’re thinking and feeling, and occasionally someone makes a corny joke. Still, the final few minutes — Angelica being led away by the police (“It’s too late, JR, it’s too late!”), a couple of bombs going off and Pam waking up to Bobby’s morning resurrection — make the whole thing worthwhile.

    Blind Side Paige is kind of Blast from the Past Pam in reverse. Whereas everyone looks on with dewy-eyed affection as Pam marries Mark, Paige's work colleagues bombard her with unwanted commiserations following the wedding that didn't happen. Her deadpan response is just great. (“No wonder he left her at the altar,” mutters Mort under his breath.) Whereas Pam assures Mark serenely that however long he has left, they’ll live each day to the fullest, Paige is taken aback when Greg tells her the rumours are true, that he too is dying. She agrees to join him on a six-month cruise but then abruptly changes her mind when she discovers it was he who sabotaged her and Tom’s wedding: “This is perverse ... Am I supposed to be flattered that you went to so much trouble?”

    While Angelica points a gun at JR in DALLAS, Tom Ryan keeps one trained on Greg in KNOTS. Angelica wants $2,000,000 while Tom is after written confirmation that the trumped-up charges against him have been dropped. “What does that gun weigh? Doesn’t your arm get tired holding it up?” Greg asks him. But it’s Danny Waleska wielding a baseball bat in the Barn of Death that you really wanna watch out for.

    And the winner is ... Blind Side

    BONUS BEATS:

     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
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  20. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    If this had happened in Knots then at the end of the episode they'd all realize that no-one has actually seen her. She's missing.
    Oh yes, old new Sue Ellen was fascinating!
    Oh? It looks like I'm already starting to forget New Dallas details.
    I really like the repeated little drumrolls.
    Somehow that often manipulates me into watching it with a faint smile on my face - and eventually that faint smile starts to hurt.
    That's a very significant versus!
     
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