Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 4

“Now that John Ross has got Bobby to sign over the ranch to the Del Sol Conservancy, I think it’s time for me to claim my birthright.” – JR

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Previously, on Dallas: As the massively complex Ewing world of double dealing continued, last week we learned that:

  • JR joined John Ross in the double crossing deal to buy Southfork and drill for oil on it
  • He also met the real buyers pretending to be the Del Sol Conservancy – the sinister ‘Venezuelans’ and their sneering, black-clad leader Vicente
  • JR’s old nemesis Cliff Barnes has turned up looking mummified, and is also after Southfork
  • Troublesome lawyer Lobell has a shiftless son who JR and John Ross can use as leverage
  • Christopher still has feelings for Elena, which doesn’t seem to bother his treacherous con artist wife Rebecca
  • Rebecca’s conscience won’t let her steal Christopher’s ‘frozen methane’ process
  • Bobby agreed to sell Southfork to the ‘Del Sol Conservancy’ rather than see Miss Ellie’s guilty secrets come up in court
  • And John Ross discovered that the email which split up Christopher and Elena had been sent by none other than his wife Rebecca.

This week, we saw more intrigue and subterfuge, in a curiously muted episode where not a whole lot seemed to happen. John Ross spent most of his time trying to set up Lobell’s son with incriminating pictures, while JR plotted and schemed (as ever) to get the upper hand on his own son. Christopher and Bobby had a heart to heart chat while Bobby had his hand up a cow; and Rebecca and Elena were having trouble deciding where their loyalties lay.

With Southfork now sold, Bobby should have been packing and arranging for the final barbecue (Southfork has always thrived on barbecues and parties, where all the surreptitious sex and blackmail tends to happen). But Ann is left to do the packing, as Bobby needs to spend most of the episode engaging in some massively unsubtle visual metaphors while he and Christopher have some father/son quality time.

After being seen quite literally mending fences together (imaginative), the two ‘nice’ Ewings then spent most of the episode dealing with a troublesome calf birth. It was at this point that Christopher chose to confide in his father that, after finding out about the email (which he still thinks was sent by John Ross), he still has feelings for his former fiancee Elena. “The choice is yours,” Bobby tells him earnestly, “but you gotta make one”. It’s hard to deliver heartfelt dialogue with your arm up a cow, but all credit to Patrick Duffy for pulling that off.

The cow metaphor became clear eventually, as only the calf could be saved, and had to be hived off to a “new mother”. Leading to a discussion about Christopher’s adopted status, just in case you hadn’t got the sledgehammer obviousness of what that represented.

Family matters

The fate of Bobby’s first wife (and Cliff’s sister) Pam remains mysterious. “”When Ann and I got married,” Bobby remarks, “she was pretty insecure about your mother.” Why? Just what did happen to Pam? I suspect the door is being left open here for Victoria Principal to return to the show, but she hasn’t agreed to it yet. In the meantime, she’s Schrodinger’s Ewing, neither alive nor dead until contracts are signed.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Having let Rebecca know that he knows that sent the marriage-ending email, John Ross has a go at getting her to set up the son of Bobby’s treacherous lawyer, Lobell. Lobell’s son Rick, who he’d apparently do anything for, is an ex-druggie with two criminal convictions – and the state of Texas is pretty firm on the “three strikes and you’re out” rule introduced by good ol’ country boy Bill Clinton.

So Rebecca is duly dispatched to set up the now recovering addict in a drug sting. Unfortunately for her, Rick now runs a rehab group and is a nice guy, so that troublesome conscience of hers won’t let her go through with it. She must be a really rubbish con artist.

Fortunately ‘Marta Del Sol’ (who we now know is called Veronica) doesn’t mind at all, and stitches Rick up good and proper, with pictures of him naked and snorting coke. As an aside, I have to say that, initially, I had trouble telling the younger women of the show apart – each is tall, glamorous and brunette. I thought it was just me, but a friend of mine told me last weekend that she had exactly the same problem. I guess that’s the problem with casting similar types of artificially perfect actors in a show. At least John Ross has that scratty beard to distinguish him from Christopher…

Be that as it may, JR has unearthed quite a bit about ‘Marta’, using his own private investigator, the curiously named ‘Bum’. Bum has discovered that Marta/Veronica is actually a bit of a loony in a Fatal Attraction-stylee, which could be bad news for John Ross, to whom she’s developed an unhealthy attachment. “I thought we had a date,” she purrs menacingly to him, before dragging him down for some late night shopping at Neiman Marcus.

JR and Sue Ellen are maintaining an uneasy peace, which isn’t helped by another appearance from the duplicitous and calcified Cliff. Apparently he wants to fund her bid for Texas governor. Knowing how US politicians are bought and paid for by corporate interests, this can’t be a good thing, and yet only JR seems to see this. You’d think Sue Ellen would have learned something about corruption in all those years of being married to him.

Elena, meanwhile is torn not just between Christopher and John Ross, but also between their energy systems. It’s not many women who can say they’re cheating on methane with oil.

Faces from the past

RayLucy

Another brief visit this week from Lucy and Ray Krebbs, played as ever by Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly. Better preserved than Cliff, they seem to have no function in the show other than to show up occasionally to remind you that they used to be in it.

Hey look, it’s that guy from that thing:

Only one notable guest star this week (well, semi-notable). Rick Lobell is played by Jason London, formerly a teen heart throb in movies like Richard Linklater’s indie classic Dazed and Confused:

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Jason London, now and in 1993

This week’s big cliffhanger:

Cliffhangers seem to travel in pairs in the new Dallas, and this week was no exception. Firstly, JR confronted Lobell with his son-based blackmail photos, demanding not only that the lawyer stop asking for more money, but also that the Southfork deeds, formerly split 50/50 between John Ross and himself, be signed over to JR alone. As expected, he’s already doing the dirty on his own son. Well, the boy’s gotta learn somehow…

Unaware that his own dad is shafting him, John Ross has gone to the Southfork farewell barbecue, ostensibly to reveal Rebecca’s treachery as payback for her failing to go through with setting up Lobell Jr. Unable to pacify that troublesome conscience of hers, Rebecca drags Christopher aside. “I’ve got something to tell you,” she gasps as the screen fades to black. Is she about to confess to everything? Since the plotline looks to have a way to go yet, I rather doubt that…

That may sound like a lot of plot to pack in to on episode, but by Dallas standards this week felt positively sedate. What with Bobby spending half his time with his arm up a cow, and the endless attempts to persuade Rick Lobell to do drugs on camera, it was a pretty slow episode. But then, there’s still six to go, and I doubt it’ll meander for too long.