Dallas: Season 2, Episodes 17 – 24
Posted by therebelprince on July 19, 2009
Welcome back to the Dallas retrospective reviews. This time around, all the pieces are placed on the board as Cliff Barnes gets a career, Lucy gets a fiancee, and Sue Ellen gets drunk. Dallas jumped a good 40 places up the ratings ladder here, so let’s dig right in:
First the story:
Cliff Barnes takes a job with the DA’s office and rises through the ranks. J.R. can’t stand to see this, and frames him for the murder of Julie Grey… which he actually has done. Disgusted by the Ewing antics, Pam leaves Southfork and goes to stay in Dallas. To win her back, Bobby assists Cliff in the investigation and frees him. It is JR, ironically, who causes the reunion when his plot to disgrace Pamela results in Pam and Bobby reuniting against him.
Kristin comes to stay at the Southfork ranch when Sue Ellen makes her triumphant return. For both sisters, it is a bit of surprise: Kristin wants to seduce Bobby (and is encouraged by JR) but it is JR who has an interest in her. Sue Ellen, meanwhile, turns to alcohol once she realises that her only use to JR these days is as his wife, and that Cliff won’t have her unless she leaves her husband.
Lucy, meanwhile, meets Kit Mainwaring (Mark Wheeler) a young oil heir whose relationship with her means a lot to both the Wheeler and Ewing dynasties. Jock pushes the relationship along until it becomes an engagement. But Kit ultimately back out when he reeals that he is gay. The fallout leads to Lucy’s drug addiction, which she handles in a very upper class style.
And Ray falls for Donna Culver (Susan Howard, below with Steve Kanaly), the wife of one of Dallas’ most prominent politicans, Sam. Sam’s relationship with the Ewings is as old as the hills, but he is sick and dying. JR works to stop the relationship, but Ray knows that he is still in love with Donna.
In the season finale, “John Ewing III” Sue Ellen faces a battle when J.R. and Bobby have her confined to a sanitarium. Bobby is the only one she trusts and so he visits her regularly; while JR is spiteful toward her and the rest of his family. Sue Ellen escapes after bribing a guard for alcohol, and crashes her car. She is rushed into the emergency room as she gives birth. Outside, JR and Cliff – who now believes himself to the be the father of her child – wait with baited breath.
Behind-the-scenes at Southfork:
Dallas was a growing hit by the end of its second season, having jumped from 59th in the ratings to finishing the season at number 11. By the time it returned after summer, Dallas – a regular visitor to the Top 10 – would initiate several season-long plot arcs that would only pay off for long term viewers.
Here, we get the basis of several more of the show’s running stories: Lucy’s attempts to find a decent husband fall short for the first time of many. Charlene Tilton was never the strongest member of the cast, but she’s cute and lovable as Lucy and handles her breakup from Kit very well.
Sue Ellen and Bobby’s friendship begins here. It was great to see on a show like this, a relationship between a man and a woman which had no grounding in sex. Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray reportedly loved the idea of the friendship so much that they frequently pushed the idea.
We meet Donna Culver, effortlessly played by the wonderful Susan Howard. Howard, who would always steal the show even during a lot of her time when Donna was utterly wasted, was a great addition to the cast in this – the third role she was offered. Although we won’t see her full-time for a while yet, the producers had her in mind for a long-term role.
It’s strange to think that already, Ray has slept with Lucy, Donna, Pam AND Sue Ellen! (That’s the entire female cast bar Barbara Bel Geddes)
The show tackles homosexuality and drug abuse in very sincere and realistic ways. It’s a far cry from what its imitators would set out to do when Dynasty, Flamingo Road and the like debuted in a couple of years’ time.
The standout performers are again the usual: Patrick Duffy brings such a likeable feel that we begin to forget how one-dimensional Bobby is. Linda Gray is, of course, outstanding as Sue Ellen. And Jim Davis is at his prime here, but we’ll have to wait for next season to see Jock gets more screentime.
Colleen Camp (above) is forgettable – aside from her looks – as Kristin. While there is no official story on why she was replaced in season 3 with Mary Crosby, I suspect it was for the best.
It’s interesting to see just how well developed these characters were, even at this early stage. Aside from giving Sue Ellen a personality, and bringing J.R. to the fore, the characters remain true to their origins. I suspect this is a) part of the reason why the original cast remained around for so long, and b) why it feels so egregious in the show’s later seasons when people start doing whatever the hell is good for the ratings, rather than what is good for their character.
* We meet JR’s dirty cop Harry McSween (James L Brown), oilmen Wade Luce (Robert Ackerman) and Andy Bradley (Paul Sorenson); Karlene Crockett as Lucy’s best friend Muriel; Ellen Geer as Sue Ellen’s Dr. Krane; and Sherril Lynn Rettino, daughter of Leonard Katzman, who plays The Store worker Jackie Dugan.
Next time: Season 3, Episodes 1 – 8. There’s a new Ewing born, and quickly stolen; Alan Beam and the real Kristin Shepard make their debuts; JR sets up shop in South East Asia; Pam falls pregnant again; and Sue Ellen falls for a cowboy named Dusty…