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

DallasJRJohnRoss

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

Dallas_cast2011

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 8

“Turns out we’re not so different after all. We’re both just trying to make our fathers proud” – Christopher Ewing

DallasJohnRossMugshot

Previously, on Dallas: With John Ross banned from drilling on Southfork thanks to a handy document separating the mineral rights from the land rights, things got a little fraught.

  • Vicente from Venezuela, restive at the non-appearance of the oil he was promised, threatened to exercise his right to take Southfork in lieu of payment
  • Christopher learned not only that Rebecca was pregnant and that he was the father, but that she’s actually having twins
  • Dastardly Harris Ryland gave Bobby an envelope detailing Ann’s Dark Past, which he summarily burned without looking at it
  • Marta/Veronica took her stalking of John Ross to new levels by pretending to have kidnapped Elena
  • John Ross had the bright idea of setting Vicente on her, which led to the unfortunate result of her being thrown out of a very high window
  • And the cops turned up at the ranch to arrest John Ross for her murder.

This week, there was more toing and froing about the land/drilling rights to Southfork, and Rebecca moved closer to a reconciliation with Christopher, while Christopher returned to “the lab” to work on his methane drilling thingy. But the most pressing thing on everyone’s minds (including the good guys) was how to get John Ross out of jail. After all, he’s a Ewing – he may be an asshole, but he’s their asshole, and for this family that’s the most important thing.

John Ross has indeed made an unholy mess out of the situation JR left him to deal with – there’s no oil flowing, he’s about to lose Southfork to the Venezuelans and he’s in stir for a murder he didn’t commit. Just when things couldn’t seem to get any worse, Vicente popped in for one of his ‘little chats’.

With JR still taking a back seat this week, Harris Ryland nowhere to be seen and Marta/Veronica dead, it was up to Vicente to be main bad guy this week, and Carlos Bernard seized the opportunity with relish. “Disloyalty is dangerous,” he purred menacingly at the incarcerated John Ross, adding, “pointing fingers in the wrong direction could be hazardous – to you, and to your family.” And, presumably, to your fingers.

John Ross was probably relived at being spared yet another anecdote about what it’s like “in my country”, but any relief was short lived, because Vicente had a couple of thugs beat the crap out of him in a corridor, promising to kill him the next time if the oil wasn’t forthcoming. Like JR, he still has shreds of decency – he could probably get out if he told the truth about his affair with Marta/Veronica, but he doesn’t want to hurt Elena’s feelings. Very thoughtful, but not much use when you’re being repeatedly kicked in the crotch.

With the stakes clearly outlined by John Ross’ wounds, the Ewing clan closed ranks to find ways to help him. Bobby too was menaced by Vicente, but the “nice Ewing” has a core of steel and isn’t intimidated that easily. Nevertheless, he was prepared (after a chat with his mother’s gravestone) to sacrifice his principles and start drilling if it would save John Ross’ life.

Sue Ellen, once more forced to choose between political integrity and her son, made the wrong choice yet again. “The only way I can see to help John Ross is if I cross a line. A big one,” she agonised to Ann. “And if I do that, what does that make me?” “A mother,” said the sympathetic Ann, having stooped to a few dirty tricks herself. But then, Ann’s not standing for Governor of Texas, a competition in which Sue Ellen seems to be taking victory for granted.

After having previously tried to bribe Harris Ryland with an offer of high office (unnecessarily since he’d already done what she wanted), she was at it again, using a mixture of bribery and blackmail to try and force the coroner to rule Marta/Veronica’s death a suicide. This is obviously going to come back to bite her, especially given the platform she’s running on:

SueEllenLeaflet

And yet again, she’s ruining her reputation all for naught. It was Christopher who had the answer – placate Vicente with a large ice cube. Yes, the process of “using carbon dioxide to extract methane from hydrates” was valuable enough that Exxon were sniffing around it, so Chris figured Vicente would take it as a replacement for his cherished oil – after a quick demo in the living room that seemed a bit dangerous to me:

DallasMethane

Vicente was impressed enough by a man burning an ice cube on his table to favour him with a “where I come from” anecdote; an actually relevant one this time, as he revealed his bigger plan to seize control of Venezuela’s energy industry from President Chavez. Topical! Also probably bollocks…

Never mind, Vicente was impressed enough with the methane to leave Southfork alone and let the police find the secret camera footage showing that Marta/Veronica was alive when John  Ross left her. Of course, Vicente removed the footage of his own men chucking her out of a window – in his country, that sort of incriminating evidence can get you dancing the joropo in a Chavez prison.

Family matters

The Southfork cemetery gave us the chance to remember Miss Ellie’s second husband, after Jock’s death:

DallasMissEllie

Clayton Farlow (portrayed by 1950s king of the musicals Howard Keel) was another oilman who was perhaps ill-prepared for the sheer madness incurred when marrying into the Ewings, and for ten years he endured the wrath of JR. Eventually fed up with the dastardly Ewing’s inability to accept a “replacement” for his father, Clayton took Miss Ellie off on a big trip and then returned without her, giving a less than convincing explanation that she was fed up of dealing with all the Ewing conflict. This is the first time we’ve found out when she actually died.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

In yet another all too brief appearance, JR was shown to still be carrying on his arcane schemes to screw over Cliff Barnes by using his henchman Frank to betray him. Even JR seems to realise that this isn’t really going anywhere, as he hotfooted it back to his Dallas to lurk, crestfallen, over his stricken son’s bedside. Now that would be a scary vision to wake up to.

Elsewhere in the family, Rebecca might be mending fences with Christopher, but her stubbly, shifty brother Tommy was having none of it. He’d heard about Exxon’s interest in Christopher’s methane drilling whatsit, and with billions at stake, he’s not about to let Rebecca’s conscience and pregnancy get in the way of his hirsute evil.

This week’s big cliffhanger

And just to hammer the point home, Tommy grabbed an unwilling Rebecca and gave her a big sloppy kiss. But any worries about Luke/Leia incest shenanigans were quickly put to rest when he sneeringly revealed that (gasp!) he’s not her brother after all!

Another satisfyingly bonkers episode, with Vicente stepping up well as main bad guy – it’s just a shame that he’s presumably now satisfied with the methane doobry, as he’s unlikely to take much more part in the proceedings. But with only two more episodes to go, surely it’s time for JR to return from his extended vacation taunting Cliff Barnes and take back the crown as king of the Dallas baddies….

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 7

“I really hoped you kids would climb out of the hole this family dug. But JR’s just dragging you down with him.” – Bobby Ewing

DallasJohnRoss

Previously, on Dallas: With JR now sole owner of Southfork, and having buggered off leaving John Ross in charge, the first battles were joined in stopping the dastardly plans to drill on the family’s beloved ranch.

  • Harris Ryland, slimeball and trucking magnate, threatened to expose the saintly Ann’s Dark Past by means of sending her a mysterious necklace with the power to make her dissolve into tears
  • Bobby found this a bit annoying and went round to Ryland’s office to punch him
  • Vicente from Venezuela got all threatening with John Ross about the non-appearance of the oil he’d been promised
  • Marta, whose actual name is Veronica, took her John Ross-stalking to a new level by threatening Elena with a knife through her photo
  • Bobby and Christopher won the first battle over the drilling when Rebecca pointed them to an old document showing that JR’s ownership of the ranch doesn’t include mineral exploitation rights
  • And, in tried and tested soap fashion, we ended on the big cliffhanger that Rebecca is (gasp) pregnant.

This week, the focus was mainly on Rebecca’s pregnancy and John Ross’ increasingly frantic attempts to get round the legal obstacle to his drilling before being subjected to Venezuelan vengeance. With JR barely appearing (again), you’d think the show might be losing steam in the absence of its villain. Not a bit of it; John Ross might not be cutting it as a junior JR (yet), but there’s baddies oozing out of the Texan woodwork all over the place. Harris Ryland, Marta/Veronica and Vicente from Venezuela make for a good trio of antagonists while JR takes a break to play double dealing poker with Cliff Barnes.

John Ross had another bad week; JR has really dropped him in it. Has he got what it takes to be his father’s son and come up smelling of roses while screwing over everyone else? On current evidence, no. He may have his oil trucks running again (thanks to Bobby’s Ryland-punching antics), but he can’t drill any oil to put in them. This is a problem, as Vicente from Venzuela, a man with the demeanour of a minor league Bond villain, is not a patient man.

Peremptorily summoned to the black-clad bad guy’s lair, John Ross was all out of excuses. This gave Vicente the chance to deliver his usual style of veiled threats disguised as anecdotes about his home country. This week, it was about dancing. “You know, we have a dance in Venezuela called the joropo…” This was then described in more detail than was perhaps necessary before Vicente reached the point. “I can spot a good dancer when I see one Mr Ewing, and you are not a good dancer.”

Rightly terrified of a man whose idea of a threat is dance instructions, John Ross was getting pretty desperate, so he took Lucy out to lunch. Lucy’s appearances thus far have been fairly pointless cameos, so when John Ross started asking her to help sway her father Gary into allowing the drilling, it looked like she might actually have a plotline for the first time this series. Alas, any such hopes held by avowed fans of Charlene Tilton were quickly dashed as she went straight round to Bobby to blow the whistle on John Ross’ connivances.

Which left John Ross with only the unpalatable option of literally begging his uncle to allow the drilling before Vicente could send some heavies round to teach him to dance. Bobby’s refusal was predictable, but it looked like he at least enjoyed seeing John Ross grovel.

So, like every spoiled little boy in a jam, he went crying to his mom, the only levelheaded one in the family (for now – let’s hope no one pours her a drink). Sue Ellen had the sensible idea of asking for Elena’s help; what with her money funding Elena’s oil venture at “the old Henderson place”, Elena could hardly refuse the loan of a few barrels to keep Vicente in dancing shoes.

But John Ross had more to worry about than just Vicente, as bunny-boiling Marta/Veronica had taken to following Elena about and giving her evil glares. After last week’s knife/photo intersection, this is clearly a worrying development. But John Ross has enough of his dad in him to use one enemy against another; so he told Vicente a quick fib that she’d been creaming money off the deal, and asked the footloose Venezuelan to “put a scare into her”.

Unfortunately Vicente is not a man who does things by half measures. Having found Marta himself at a nearby hotel, John Ross had a bit of a row which involved him calling her a “crazy messed-up bitch” while she uttered things that people only say in soap operas such as “I’ve earned my way out of the slums of Caracas!” Then, just as John Ross finished this delightful exchange and left, Vicente’s heavies turned up and threw her out of the fifth storey window. Evidently her joropo had not been up to scratch.

Ann and Bobby weren’t having a great time either. The problem of Ann’s Dark Past keeps making her burst into tears at inopportune moments, such as Rebecca’s pregnancy scan (it’s twins), and lie to Bobby about shopping while she’s really hanging out at a children’s playground staring wistfully at young mothers.

The logical conclusion to draw is that Ann’s Dark Past involves her having had (and presumably given up) a child when she was younger. Fortunately for Bobby, Harris Ryland had an envelope containing everything about the Dark Past, which for some reason he was happy to give to Bobby (after having threatened him with assault charges). His motives seem inexplicable – maybe he’s just doing it for devilment.

If he was hoping to gum up the works of their marriage though, he hadn’t taken Bobby’s unfeasible decency into account. Showing Ann the mystery envelope, he then threw it onto the fire saying that when she was ready, she could tell him anything. Fortunately for Ann, he didn’t glance into the fire to see the photos of a younger her holding a child; fortunately for us, the camera did. Though why this would be such a cause of shame in this day and age seems perplexing.

Family matters

With Lucy almost having a plot this week, viewers may need reminding who her father, the much-mentioned Gary, is. Gary Ewing was the middle, boring Ewing brother between JR and Bobby when the show first began in 1978. As a third wheel in the nice guy/ nasty guy dynamic of Bobby and JR, he served little function dramatically, so the writers gave him an alcohol problem, forgetting that the show already had one alcoholic in Sue Ellen. That having failed to pique anyone’s interest, Gary was summarily shunted out of Dallas in season 3 and sent to launch lower rent spinoff show Knots Landing, which actually outlived its parent show by two years.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Given one scene in this week’s episode (shot in the same limo he was in a couple of weeks ago), JR is still scheming to bring down Cliff Barnes, who never did make an appearance in Vegas. His henchman/PI, the bizarrely named Bum, has discovered that Cliff’s henchman was adopted as a child by Cliff and given a wonderful lifestyle, but no inheritance, which might make him feel a bit aggrieved. As JR comments, “a cheated man is a dangerous man”.

Given that we’ve barely seen Cliff this series, and he seems to have no part in any of the plotlines, JR’s obsession with him looks a trifle odd. But at least it gave him a scene in the episode, however perfunctory; he’s still the best thing about Dallas, and his continuing absence from the main action seems a shame.

This week’s big cliffhanger

Having delved deep into the Big Box of Soap Cliches for last week’s “I’m pregnant” shocker, another old favourite was wheeled out this week as the police turned up at Southfork hot on the heels of John Ross. It seems they want to have a word with him about the murder of a woman he’d been witnessed having a furious argument with. Actually, these were the same cops who’d turned up at the ranch earlier to charge Bobby with Ryland’s assault; either Dallas has something of a police shortage, or these two comprise the special Ewing Unit needed to deal with the family’s frequent brushes with the law.

Three episodes to go, and the show’s still entertainingly implausible and mad, though the absence of JR is definitely felt. One or two plotlines – like Ann’s Dark Past – seem fairly pointless and redundant, but this is a show that can never have too much going on. And at least we finally discovered that Bum’s actual name is Steve Jones, which makes it even more bizarre that he’d voluntarily call himself Bum. Perhaps people kept mistaking him for the Welsh TV presenter…

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 6

“Life always seems more complicated than you imagine it to be – especially in this family.” – John Ross Ewing

DallasAngryBobby

Previously, on Dallas: Last week, everything came out in the wash, as all the double dealing so far was exposed.

  • JR revealed himself to be the new owner of Southfork
  • Rebecca came clean to Christopher that her brother had split up his earlier engagement, earning them both a one way ticket off the ranch
  • John Ross found out that his father had cut him out of the Southfork deed
  • ‘Marta’ revealed herself to be even more nuts than we thought she was as she seethed with jealousy over John Ross’ dalliances with Elena
  • Saintly Ann revealed her dark past as she went crawling back to her slimy ex, the owner of Dallas’ only trucking firm, for a favour – to stop the trucks carrying out JR’s oil
  • And Christopher discovered Marta’s ‘sex tape’ of her and John Ross, in which John Ross called her by her real name, and threatened to go to the cops unless John Ross proved his father’s involvement in the fraudulent sale of Southfork.

So, with Ewing battle lines drawn, the conflict was back out in the open for another week of twisty turny plotting, which soon laid the groundwork for yet more hidden wheels within wheels. Various parties competed for the favours of Ann’s ex Harris Ryland and his bounteous gift of oil trucks, marking him out as a major player in this second half of the series. Mitch Pileggi, formerly that nice Walter Skinner off The X Files, plays Ryland as a really nasty, creepy piece of work, so it’s good to see that he’s got a major role in the upcoming treachery.

Bobby, who bears the heavy burden of being the show’s only ethical character, predictably was not too happy when he discovered what his wife and son had been up to. Working out in a split second why the trucks belonging to his wife’s ex had ceased to turn up, he took Ann aside to spout homilies at her. Warning that Ryland was unlikely to offer favours for nothing, he counselled, “I just hope this doesn’t come back and bite us in the ass.” Ryland is so creepy, and Ann so repulsed by him, I wouldn’t put it past him to do just that – literally.

In fact, when Ann received an unexpected bunch of flowers from him accompanied by a mysterious small box, I half expected it to contain a human finger – or something equally unsavoury. But the seemingly innocuous little necklace inside was enough to cause Ann to crumple into floods of tears. Clearly it has some significance in her Dark Past. Still, it annoyed Bobby enough for him to hotfoot it over to Ryland’s office and give him an unannounced slap, which I have to say he took well. Probably enjoys that sort of thing.

Sue Ellen too was courting the unwholesome trucking magnate, on behalf of her desperate son, who needs that oil moving. Proving she’s got what it takes to make it in US politics, she offered Ryland a job in her cabinet should she win as Texas Governor. Ryland demurred; after being clouted by Bobby, he was going to send the trucks back in anyway. But he made sure to give Sue Ellen a big donation, now that he knows what her political honour is worth: “people like me, we need to make sure that people like you get into office.” The formerly honourable Sue Ellen looked dismayed – well, as dismayed as you can when your face is that immobile.

Christopher’s approach to screwing over JR and John Ross met with no more approval from Bobby than Ann’s did. ”A lifetime of dealing with JR has put me on both sides of blackmail,” Bobby averred, accurately. “It never pays off in the end. An eye for an eye just makes both people blind.” Fortunately for Christopher, the chance to hear more from the show’s ethical Yoda was averted by another possibility, as his conscience-stricken wife turned up bearing a gift filched from her shifty brother – an old document showing that the mineral rights to Southfork are not included with the land rights.

So JR and John Ross can’t drill for oil even if they own the place. One snag – Bobby and Christopher needed the original version of the document, which was harder to find than Arthur Dent’s compulsory purchase order in Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They had to rummage through Bobby’s grandfather’s old storage unit, wherein they discovered a desk, which contained a shoe, which contained a key to a safety deposit box at the National Bank of Texas, which hadn’t been opened “since before Mr Southworth’s death”. This took most of the episode, and failed to address how, if the document was so hard to find, Tommy happened to have a copy of it in the first place.

Still, they’ve got it now, much to John Ross’ frustration. John Ross did not have a good week. Dumped “in the briar patch” by JR to sink or swim (as it were), he found himself menaced by mad Marta, who took to impaling photos of Elena, and terrorised by Vicente from Venezuela, annoyed at not receiving his oil. Stalking around dressed in black with his menacing sneer and scary Latino accent, Carlos Bernard was clearly having a whale of a time delivering lines like, “in my country, when the sons fail to make good on the commitments of the father, there is a price to be paid.” Comprende, muchacho?

Said father, that Machiavelli of the petroleum industry JR Ewing, was comfortably ensconced with a trio of young manicurists in a Las Vegas penthouse, from where he was trying to get into a high stakes poker game run by Cliff Barnes, for some reason. He thinks Cliff’s up to something. Well, of course he is, this is Dallas. Everyone’s up to something.

Family matters

A bit of history to cover the mysterious document seen herein – Southfork was originally built by the Southworth family, of whom Miss Ellie, JR and Bobby’s mother, was the sole heir. When she married oil magnate Jock Ewing, the ranch passed into another name for the first time since the 19th century; JR and Bobby, despite both bearing the Ewing name, represent the opposing interests of each family. One’s mad keen on oil and wealth, the other likes integrity and sticking his arm up cattle.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Well, with the ammunition being freely offered from all sides, it looks like Harris Ryland’s gearing up to double cross absolutely everybody. I’d like to see him try and take on JR though.

JR has tasked his henchman, the curiously named Bum, with investigating Cliff Barnes’ henchman, the scarily bald Frank Ashkani. Bum is also trying to find ‘Marta’ for John Ross, while concealing that he knows perfectly well where JR is and how to get in touch with him. As a piece of treachery this seems fairly pointless, but I’m sure JR has his reasons.

This week’s big cliffhanger:

While trying to regain her place in Christopher’s affections (this is not going to happen quickly), Rebecca discovered that she felt a bit funny and had a nosebleed. Being a soap opera, there can only be one of two reasons for this – she’s terminally ill, or she’s pregnant. Since we’ve already had a terminal illness plotline this season, it proved to be the latter of the two options, as she confessed to nasty old Tommy while trying unsuccessfully to shove him out of the door and her life. This cliffhanger is so effective it’s one of the very oldest soap opera can offer – the final two words of the episode being, “I’m pregnant.” You almost expected to hear the EastEnders theme thundering in. Or Neighbours. Or Corrie. Etc, etc…

After last week’s barnstorming apocalypse of revelations, this was another great slice of treachery and betrayal, as the forces of Light, represented by Bobby and Christopher, commenced their battle against the forces of Dark – JR and John Ross. Expect to see the Eye of Sauron over Southfork very soon…

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 5

“I’m gonna make this right. And I’m taking you down – brother.” – Bobby Ewing

DallasCowboys

Previously, on Dallas: Last week, the double dealing reached fever pitch as final moves were made in the game to get Southfork.

  • The deal to sell the ranch to the ‘Del Sol Conservancy’ went through, and Bobby had a farewell barbecue
  • Bobby’s treacherous lawyer Lobell was prevented from blowing the deal with a nifty bit of blackmail, as ‘Marta’ entrapped his beloved son into some druggy looking photos
  • JR succeeded in shafting his own son, by using Marta and Lobell to remove John Ross’ name from the newly minted Southfork deeds, leaving him as sole owner
  • John Ross spent his week blackmailing Rebecca with his knowledge that the fateful email which averted Christopher’s marriage to Elena came from her IP address
  • Calling his bluff, Rebecca took Christopher aside at the barbecue to tell him everything…

This week opened with a splurge of revelations that pretty much blew open every double-dealing plotline in the show so far. Rebecca did indeed reveal that the email had been sent from her computer, and that it had been sent by her shifty, stubbly brother Tommy, who’s now wormed his way into the Ewings’ affections, as the opening move in a scheme to set her up as Christopher’s wife, gaining… something. Chris and Bobby think it’s money, but we know it’s actually the frozen methane plans (whatever they might be).

Afflicted with a conscience that must be a severe hindrance to her chosen occupation as con artist, Rebecca thinks that confessing all to Christopher because she loves him will get her off the hook. Fat chance – Christopher may be nice, but he’s still a hot-blooded Ewing man. Pausing only to slug Tommy in the face in front of the whole party, he got on with packing Rebecca’s things and telling her to “make sure I never see you again”.

A bit of a blow, to be sure, but a mere trifle compared with the next scene’s revelation to Bobby (handily delivered by the US mail in a sealed envelope) that the new owner of Southfork is none other than JR Ewing, and not some nice Conservancy after all. Bobby hit the roof (as much as a nice guy can), and Patrick Duffy got an electric confrontation scene with a smirking Larry Hagman. Inventing some guff that he had to buy Southfork to keep it out of Cliff Barnes’ hands, he told Bobby, “I’m taking back what should have been mine in the first place”.

Understandably not convinced, Bobby vowed to undo the deed. With everything now in the open, battle lines have again been drawn between the feuding Ewing brothers, just as they always were in the original series.

Lobell, knowing his plotline’s over at this point, had the good grace to clear out his office and bugger off, so Bobby found a more trustworthy-looking lawyer to explain (at some length) the rules of the plot to come. It seems that JR’s ownership is legitimate even if the original sale was fraudulent, as the subsequent sale to him wasn’t – unless he knew about the initial fraud himself. All clear?

So Bobby and the ‘nice’ Ewings must now find a way to prove that JR was in on it from the start. Shouldn’t be too difficult; I predict it taking another five episodes or so. Christopher and Ann have made a start by promising to undertake the kind of dodgy dealing that Bobby would never stoop to. She was straight off to see her ex, conveniently the owner of the trucking firm JR’s employed to move the oil, and ask him to stop the trucks; while Christopher went straight to the breaking and entering of John Ross’ office.

John Ross, meanwhile, also found out that he’d been done over by his own father, and wasn’t very happy about it. Not only had he had his name removed from the Southfork deeds, his father has also screwed up his sex life by telling the increasingly loopy ‘Marta’ about his dalliances with Elena. Cue Marta looking psychotically annoyed as the camera jump cut to ever closer shots of her deranged stare.

But it looks like JR’s doing it for John Ross’ own good, like a sort of malign Obi Wan Kenobi. “You wanted to learn about the oil business,” he sneered at his son while watching the Dallas Cowboys. He then announced that, his plans accomplished, he was heading off to… somewhere. And leaving John Ross in charge, to get that oil drilled. Before he went though, there was a symbolic passing of the Stetson from father to son – or old baddie to new baddie. But JR’s still the best thing about this show, so wherever he’s gone, let’s hope he’s back soon.

Family matters

Nothing new on the Ewing front, but we discovered that Bobby’s saintly wife Ann may have a bit of a dark past. She hinted as much to Rebecca, this being the reason why she’s prepared to give Miss ConArtist 2012 another chance. I’m guessing Ann’s dark past has something to do with her slimy ex-husband Harris Ryland, who owns what seems to be the only trucking firm in Dallas. She seemed creepily willing to accede to his every demand in a 50 Shades of Grey-like submissive style, so who knows what they used to get up to behind closed doors?

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Actually, at this point, pretty much nobody. Everyone’s cards are on the table now, and they all know where they stand. That can’t last though, or it wouldn’t be Dallas. Expect a new round of double-dealing to commence next week.

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

A few guest stars this week might have rung bells. Bobby’s earnest, exposition-spewing new lawyer is played by Glenn Morshower, a prolific player of solid, dependable authority figures. You might remember him from such TV shows as every season of 24, where he played Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce, one of the only characters in that show who never betrayed anyone to anyone else:

DallasMorshower

Ann’s unspeakably creepy ex-husband Harris Ryland is played by well-known follically challenged genre stalwart Mitch Pileggi. Pileggi’s played quite a few baddies in the past, but for most of us he’ll forever be stern-but-fair FBI boss Walter Skinner from The X Files:

DallasPileggi

And not strictly an actor (as his performance here amply demonstrated), but a well-known sports figure popped up to hobnob with JR – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:

DallasJones

This week’s big cliffhanger:

Only one this week, a change from recent episodes. Having obtained Marta’s sex tape from John Ross’ office, in which John Ross calls her by her real name, Christopher now has proof that JR’s son at least was in on the fraud. But that’s not enough to take Southfork back from JR – they have to prove that the slimy old reprobate knew about it himself. So Christopher confronted John Ross with the evidence (which must have been sort of creepy, knowing your cousin’s been watching you have sex with a psycho), and gave him an ultimatum – either testify to his father’s involvement in the fraud, or go to jail for it himself. Where I’m guessing he’d be quite popular, with his pretty face and hot body…

After last week’s fairly sedate episode, it was good to see the show back on rip-roaring form in a packed episode as all the secrets came out and finally everyone can be as nasty as they want to be. Now that Bobby, Christopher and Ann are on the defensive, it looks like the battle for Southfork will be truly joined as of next week. But I’m guessing JR has more than a few cards up his sleeve still…

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

JRLimo

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:

JasonLondonDallasjason-london-and-dazed-and-confused-gallery

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.

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

DallasChrisRebecca

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

DallasCliff

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:

DallasVicente (2)

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:

DallasFrank

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?