Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 10

“I’m gonna tell you something I’ve never told you before. I love you Bobby. And I don’t know who I’d be without you.” – JR

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Previously, on Dallas: Last week saw most of the show’s ongoing plots wrapped up, then suddenly dropped a triple whammy cliffhanger to set up one more week of Ewing double-dealing for this year.

  • Christopher and John Ross buried the hatchet to create a new joint venture, Ewing Energies
  • Bobby was so pleased to hear this he immediately keeled over with a brain aneurysm
  • JR revealed that he had a conscience after all by signing the Southfork deed back over to him, rendering everything he’s done this season somewhat pointless
  • Having compromised her political integrity every which way, Sue Ellen decided to drop out of the race for Texas Governor rather than give in to slimy Harris Ryland’s demands to launder dirty money
  • Lou the lawyer found Marta/Veronica’s Cloud drive, which just might contain evidence to incriminate everyone involved in the scam to get Southfork – particularly JR
  • The recovering Bobby, probably flabbergasted at a nice gesture from JR, had another aneurysm and was carted off to hospital
  • And Rebecca, still being plagued by shifty Tommy, took matters into her own hands in a struggle during which a shot was heard…

This week’s season finale had a lot to do in resolving these and other loose ends, while also setting up the plot for next year’s second season (it starts in the US in January). So we quickly established, in an arty slo-mo shot, that the gunshot victim was actually Tommy, who’d outlived his plot purpose at this point. But it was something of a surprise that Rebecca could so easily summon a shadowy Tarantino-esque figure to help her clean up and dispose of the body.

Well, she did have a former career as a con artist, I suppose. Unfortunately for her, having disposed of the body, she was obliged to spend much of the episode trying to find it again, as Tommy had kept her engagement and wedding rings, which Christopher wanted her to put back on.

Christopher and the rest of the Ewing clan were gathered at the hospital, anxiously awaiting Bobby’s prognosis. Larry Hagman gave us an impassioned speech by the bedside, as the newly contrite JR recognised that the show depended on his and Bobby’s rivalry, like an American archetype: “Wake up and get better. Keep fightin’. Keep fightin’ me.”

Actually it turned out (again) that Bobby’s health scare was no real problem, just a cheap dramatic device; he was on his feet again within ten minutes. But you can be sure those brain problems are tucked away in showrunner Cynthia Cidre’s file for potential later use.

Having last week given Christopher and John Ross the glimmer of a happy ending, the script this week was obliged to summarily tear them apart again to reset the dramatic tension for next year. So John Ross in particular had a pretty bad week which saw him lurching away from his newfound path of righteousness back into JR-inspired darkness.

It all started nicely enough for him; having leased the old Ewing Oil offices to set up their new corporate HQ, he also found time to propose to Elena by giving her an engagement ring that reminded him of dirty oil. What a romantic. But you could tell trouble was a-coming by the dismayed look on Christopher’s face when he found out about the engagement.

John Ross may have missed that, but he could hardly miss what came next as he was told of the video evidence from Marta’s Cloud drive, which incriminated him while, astonishingly, exonerating JR. Everyone was pretty angry about this, which seemed odd until you reminded yourself that the characters in the show didn’t actually have the details of all the dirty tricks John Ross has been up to. Listening at the door, Elena too was disgusted, and the engagement was off – even by soap opera standards, that was pretty quick.

Luckily for Christopher and Bobby, the evidence also gave them the drop on Vicente from Venezuela, unexpectedly back this week. Not only did it prove that the homily-spouting Venezuelan had fraudulently acquired the ranch, it also handily showed his men tipping ‘Marta’ out of a ninth floor window. So Vicente was off to jail, having lost both the ranch and the methane technology. You could tell this made him unhappy from Carlos Bernard’s trademark angry sneer – what’s the betting he’ll be back next year?

Next up for defeat was Mitch Pileggi’s unspeakably slimy Harris Ryland. When Ann learned of Sue Ellen’s plight, she immediately took steps to ensure that her sister-in-law could stay in the gubernatorial race.These steps involved her confronting Ryland in his office, where as usual he was straight in with the creepily licentious suggestions: “…since you’re here, and in the mood… how about it?”

Unfortunately for him, when the seemingly submissive Ann unbuttoned her blouse, it was to reveal a microphone that had recorded their every word, money laundering, blackmail and all. She left with a threat involving shotguns and a more effective clout to Ryland’s smug face than her husband had previously managed, then gave the tape to Sue Ellen. So Sue Ellen’s back in the gubernatorial race; which is nice for her, but may not be so nice for the people of Texas, given that she’s spent the whole season proving how eminently unsuited she is to the role. Still, this is Texas; last night they elected a dead guy to the State Senate, so they’ll probably cope with a soap opera drama queen.

Rebecca, meanwhile, was hunting high and low for those rings, while the slow-on-the-uptake Christopher was beginning to piece together what had been going on. Clocking her bruises, he enquired “did someone hurt you?” before belatedly launching a search for her miscreant ‘brother’; a hard task, given that he was already dead. Nevertheless, turning over Tommy’s hotel room with the ever-helpful Bum, Christopher was somewhat surprised when the room’s phone rang with a call from the real Rebecca – a rather less glamorous young lady in Des Moines.

So now Christopher had proof that Rebecca wasn’t who she said she was. Given that she’s already revealed herself to be a con artist who connived to split up his previous engagement, it was hard to see why this should be such a shock, but Christopher hit the roof. “So who the hell are you?” he angrily enquired. Ah well, that’s the real question, isn’t it? But ‘Rebecca’ had other points she could score: “I never had a chance, because you’re still in love with Elena!”

Of course he was. And handily for him, John Ross had just pissed Elena off enough for her to be single again. So together they got, in a steamy sex scene intercut with the mournful John Ross being handed back his oily engagement ring by Elena’s disapproving mother.

So, to the tune of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” (they love Cash on this show), John Ross made the inevitable decision to turn back to evil. As his father handed him a glass of whisky and the two surveyed the Dallas night skyline, John Ross entreated JR to teach him “every dirty trick you know”, so that when he took the company from Christopher and Elena, they’d both be partners. “But if you cross me, I will send you straight back to that home.”

JR simply smiled benevolently; “that’s my son. From top to tail.” And so he is; all demons have tails.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Cliff, Cliff, Cliff! So JR’s machinations weren’t in vain, as his near-mummified rival turned out to be behind, basically, everything. His right hand man Frank had been thwarted in purchasing Southfork and the methane thing from Vicente by the inconvenient arrival of the FBI. Now we discovered that it was Frank who’d cleaned up Rebecca’s murderous mess. And that Rebecca had always been working for Cliff. Because we now know who she really is – his daughter! “Like your Aunt Pamela, I can’t trust you around the Ewings.”

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This might have come as more of a surprise if the opening guest cast list hadn’t conspicuously said, “and Ken Kercheval”, although to be fair, you might easily have forgotten that amidst the usual cornucopia of intrigue. The revelation also seemed at odds with much of what we already knew – but then the schemes in this show are so mind-bogglingly overcomplicated, it can be hard to keep track. Nonetheless, we can now safely say that the real villain this entire year has turned out to be Cliff, pulling the strings all unseen like Ernst Stavro Blofeld. If he’s not back next year, I’ll be very surprised.

Season Finale

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This has been an unqualified success in reviving a much-loved classic series and giving it a modern spin while remaining true to its original spirit. The new Dallas plainly costs a lot more than the old, with impressive Texas location shoots where the original made do with second unit stuff and a lot of Burbank studios. It looks great, and has a classy cast, even if the youngsters seem chosen more for photogenic reasons than acting talent.

Indeed, nice to look at though Jesse Metcalfe, Josh Henderson, Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo undoubtedly are, the heart of the show, and its charisma, still lie with those original characters, and they’re still the best thing in it. JR, Bobby, Sue Ellen and Cliff might be noticeably older (very noticeably in Cliff’s case), but the actors have stepped back into those roles like they were never away.

With its labyrinthine double-dealing, Texan excess and often hilariously over-dramatic dialogue, the new Dallas is every bit the equal of the old, and its shorter season has allowed so much to be packed into ten episodes that it often felt like an overstuffed melee. That’s exactly as it should be. This has been so much fun, and I’m eagerly awaiting next year’s run.

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 3

“I spent most of your childhood chasing women I didn’t love and making deals that didn’t matter. I will get Southfork back – so you don’t have to pay for my sins.” – JR to John Ross

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Previously, on Dallas: Having laid out the complex stall of setups in the first week, last week we learned that:

  • JR isn’t ‘depressed’ at all, but embroiled in yet another fiendish plan to obtain Southfork
  • Christopher’s wife Rebecca is engaged in some two year long con trick that involves marrying him, but is ‘going native’
  • Bobby’s lawyer is covering up for JR’s plan to buy Southfork via the Del Sol Conservancy, but also covering up from JR the fact of John Ross’ triple cross to sell it to somebody else
  • Elena is mighty pissed that her impending marriage to Christopher two years ago was aborted by a mysterious email she thinks John Ross sent, so she’s dumped him
  • John Ross’ partner in crime ‘Marta Del Sol’ (for it is not she) likes to film him having sex with her, for reasons as yet unknown
  • John Ross, not too happy at being blamed for the marriage-killing email, hired a private detective to find out who really sent it
  • JR, having flown to Mexico to see ‘Marta’s father, learned that she wasn’t Marta at all, and that his son’s sale of Southfork wasn’t to Del Sol at all either

All clear on that? Cool. This week, the subterfuge, backstabbing and OTT dialogue intensified as JR weaselled his way back in to the family home, plans were made by some characters to shaft other characters, and an old face put in a surprise appearance.

As predicted, JR was really not happy learning that his own son was double crossing him, and chose to warn him about the lack of wisdom in this course by giving him a shave. With a deadly sharp straight razor, naturally, held at John Ross’ throat when he least suspected it. This being JR, you half expected him to be fine with slitting his own son’s throat; but that’s not the JR style. Besides, it looks like he’s halfway proud of his son for being a chip off the old block. He had a warning for him though, based on his own experience of father-son relationships: “I loved my daddy, and I respected my daddy. But most of all, I feared my daddy.”

Thus chastised, John Ross entered into an unwilling alliance with his snake of a father. Somehow I can’t see either of them being loyal to the other though – it’s the Ewing way. Nevertheless, John Ross is now taking “daddy” into his confidence – some of the way at least. So he introduces JR to the real Southfork buyers – the sinister and stereotypically Latino ‘Venezuelans’. Ostensibly oil profiteers, they behave more like a drug cartel from an action movie, with their sneering, black-clad leader Vicente Cano equipped with the requisite facial hair that indicates a Dallas character is a wrong ‘un.

Vicente tries making threats to JR, but that ain’t gonna fly – JR’s been doing this for a whole hell of a lot longer. “If the oil were to stop flowing,” Vicente purred menacingly, “that would be… unacceptable.” At which point he and JR had a “menacing stare” contest, which JR plainly won, saying “my friends are in the state house. My enemies are harder to find”.

This week’s face from the past

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Actually, he’s wrong about that. Having bribed his doctor to persuade Bobby that the ‘unwell’ JR needs to move back into Southfork for the benefit of his health, the old devil was somewhat surprised to find his oldest enemy waiting right there for him, having a leisurely chat with Bobby. Yep, Cliff Barnes is back, played as ever by the redoubtable Ken Kercheval!

“Time has not been kind to that face,” smirked JR (accurately, as it happens) “But I do recall the smell of brimstone and crazy.” Yes, if anything, the return of Cliff means that the already cheesy level of dialogue can be turned up to 11.

Family matters

The new show establishes Cliff as JR’s old archenemy with admirable economy, but in case you’re confused, this is their relationship:

Cliff’s family were archenemies of the Ewings in the oil business – until his sister Pam married Bobby Ewing. Cliff himself had at least two flings with JR’s wife Sue Ellen (she may have been drunk at the time), and has at various times wanted/managed to obtain Southfork and/or Ewing Oil. Looks like he’s up to his old tricks, as he’s popped up to buy the ranch from Bobby – but Bobby won’t sell.

More family background is provided in other meetings, including tantalising hints as to the fate of Pam Ewing (nee Barnes). Discussing Christopher’s past with Rebecca, Elena revealed that “Pam just… disappeared”. Perhaps she’ll wake up in a shower at some point. Or perhaps not – summoning his adoptive nephew Christopher for a chat, Cliff urged him, “don’t let them destroy you like they did Pam.” Perhaps she’s now chained up in Southfork’s attic.

On the subject of family, it’s worth mentioning that, while Christopher gained the Ewing name via adoption, he really is family. In the classic series (if you can call it that), his mother was Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard, who later went on to shoot JR (the first time, anyway), then died. So biologically at least, he and John Ross really are cousins. Confused? Try not to worry about it.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Bobby’s shifty lawyer Lobell, with his surprisingly tiny office, can no longer blackmail John Ross to keep his secret from JR, since that’s out now. But he can still threaten to reveal to Bobby that the ‘Del Sol Conservancy’ aren’t buying Southfork at all, and have both JR and John Ross in court on fraud charges. So now he wants $5 million, up from last week’s $2 million. It’s hard not to picture him ultimately turning into Dr Evil, finger to his mouth as he demands, “one billion dollars!”

Clearly Iago and son (JR and John Ross, obviously) need to get shot of him, and JR knows how. Lobell has a shiftless son that he dotes on, who several years ago got off a hit and run charge because the only witness couldn’t be found. So once again John Ross turns to his philosophically-minded private investigator to track said witness down.

Back at the ranch, Tommy is getting impatient for Rebecca to steal Christopher’s methane hydrate secrets (for what that’s worth, since the whole thing seems to be scientific bunkum). So he gives her one of those magic USB sticks from 24 and Spooks that can download the entire contents of a laptop within the amount of seconds guaranteed to generate maximum onscreen tension.

Trouble is, she’s obviously having second thoughts, moved by her love for the virile Christopher – even when presented with a picture of him kissing his ex Elena in the stressful moment of learning about Bobby’s cancer. All it takes is one apology from Christopher, and Rebecca’s back in his arms, while the USB stick’s in the bin. Either he’s one hell of a lover, or she’s one hell of a pushover…

Hey, it’s that guy from that thing!

Aside from the return of Ken Kercheval, this week saw a bit of a 24 reunion. Vicente, lip-curling leader of ‘the Venezuelans’ is none other than Carlos Bernard, previously best known as CTU’s Tony Almeida:

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While Cliff Barnes, ever the good judge of character, has hired one of that show’s bad guys from 2005 (Faran Tahir) to be his PA, Frank Ashkani:

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I’m guessing he does more than just take the minutes for Cliff’s meetings.

This week’s big cliffhanger

JR has given Miss Ellie’s diary to John Ross (while pretending to be outraged that he has it), giving John Ross the ammunition to discredit her will; seems she went a bit loopy when Jock died,and spent a while in an institution. Bobby, appalled at the thought of this being heard in court, caved like wet paper for the first time this year. So now he’s selling after all – and the deal with ‘the Venezuelans’ is back on…

But that’s not all – John Ross’ PI may have turned up sweet FA on the witness to Lobell’s son’s hit and run, but he has found out who sent the email that wrecked Christopher’s nuptials. John Ross is more than a little surprised to discover that it was none other than Rebecca!

Just another week with the Ewings then – backstabbing, betrayal, dodgy deals and people standing around looking statuesque. Less action than previously, but the return of Cliff Barnes more than makes up for it – just what the heck is he up to?