Dallas recap: The Return of J.R.
The penultimate episode of the triumphant comeback season of Dallas moved all the show’s chess pieces to the edge of chaos — and then, in the final two minutes, pushed everything over the edge into freefall. (I’ll be filling in for your usual Ewing wrangler Mandi Bierly, who was last seen trapped in the northwest quadrant of Larry Hagman’s eyebrows. She’ll be back for next week’s finale.) At the beginning of the episode, Christopher and Rebecca went out shopping for an adorable stuffed monkey doll. Rebecca brought the monkey home and set it next to the other stuffed monkey. Everything was going so well. Alas, Tommy was lurking up at the top of the stairway. “You and Papa Bear have a nice day out?” he asked, clearly having rehearsed that line for a few hours while he waited for Rebecca to return. He laid it out simply for her: Get Christopher’s keycard, or he would destroy her happy life.
Speaking of happy people whose lives are destroyed by lurking scumbags: Sue Ellen was hanging out in her campaign headquarters, no doubt getting ready for the ceremonial gubernatorial arm-wrestle with outgoing Governor Rick Perry, when Harris Ryland slimed through her office door. He offered her a sip of wine. She kindly explained that she stopped drinking during the H.W. Bush administration. He told her that he knew about the bribe offer, and demanded that she launder some money for him.
Meanwhile, John Ross and Elena made an intriguing discovery. They realized that they could slant-drill into the Southfork oil supply by bringing the Henderson drill down under the ranch, thus not disturbing beautiful Southfork. Or something. Here, I got a clip of John Ross explaining everything:
Christopher came in at just the wrong time. He felt betrayed: After all he’s done for John Ross, now his cousin is back to drilling Southfork’s oil? Bobby quieted them down. He said “This family is in trouble! We need to work together to get out of it!” And then he suffered a cerebral aneurysm. Curiously, it wasn’t directly related to his cancer — although the doctor indicated that the chemotherapy treatments may have weakened him. John Ross demanded that Bum find J.R., and quick. Meanwhile, Bobby insisted that he return back to Southfork. Ann begged him to say, but Bobby noted: “We can get a nurse, hospital equipment, and an ambulance to stand by.” It’s good to be rich.
The next morning, Rebecca swung by Southfork to give her husband a back massage and share an awkward moment (or five) with Elena. As she was leaving, she noticed that Christopher had left his man-bag in his car. She found his keycard…but she couldn’t take it.
Because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, Rebecca’s decision to be a good person instantly caused J.R. Ewing to appear. Ann wouldn’t let him see Bobby, and she didn’t mince words: “I’ll shoot you,” she said, “and since you have no heart, it’ll be somewhere more vital.” “Damn woman’s out of her mind,” said J.R., fleeing to his sour corner of the mansion.
Christopher tried to talk some sense into John Ross. He reminded his cousin that Bobby essentially raised him, not the mischievous man with icicle eyebrows. “The John Ross that I used to know loved my father,” said Christopher. “If any of that person is still inside of you, you’ll do whatever it takes to get Southfork back for him.” So John Ross went on the offensive with J.R. He said how tired he was about his father talking about his birthright. J.R. kicked him out of the house: “I’m too old to have a roommate.” John Ross finally realized that seeking love from his father was like expecting to make money by throwing hundred-dollar bills into a burning pit of quicksand. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen confronted J.R. and gave him a cathartic slap on the face. “You leave a path of destruction anywhere you go,” she said. “You are done destroying our son’s life.”
NEXT: J.R. and Bobby have a moment
The strongest parts of this episode focused on J.R.: On his machinations, and on how his family members reacted to him. Sue Ellen got in the deepest cuts of all, pointing out that J.R. had spent years as a shell of a man. “The depression that put you into the nursing home happened because all you really cared about was being on top…you realized you had nothing.” As much as the new Dallas has tried to make the lives of the younger generation interesting and dramatic, there’s no question that the series really crackles to life whenever J.R. is around. In the midst of a decent soap opera, Larry Hagman seems to be performing in his own senior-citizen remake of Breaking Bad. When he said “I’m gonna be bigger than ever,” you believed him, and you hated him, and you felt sorry for him, all at once.
(Meanwhile, Sue Ellen told Ann about the blackmail. “I would’ve made a good Governor, don’t you think?” “Yes,” Ann said, “You would’ve been a great Governor.”)
This all led up to the best scene of the episode — indeed, a scene that added a whole new dimension to the entire season. Bobby called J.R. into his room. J.R. acted petulant: “You could’ve told me about the cancer.” Bobby noted that he’d been a little busy trying to fix all the problems J.R. has been causing. “It’s like what the Scorpion said to the frog. ‘It’s just in my nature.'” But Bobby wasn’t chastising J.R, and the conversation took a moving turn:
Bobby: “I love you. No matter what.”
J.R.: “My memory’s not what it used to be. You’re just gonna have to keep telling me.”
Bobby: “Nobody lives forever.”
J.R.: “Well, I’m not gonna stand here and listen to you while you write your obituary.”
The scene had added resonance in light of Hagman’s real-life brush with cancer during the filming of this season. It’s interesting to see how the two characters are approaching their impending mortality. Bobby is hoping to achieve a certain kind immortality by leaving behind a legacy of peace in the Ewing family; J.R. is hoping to achieve immortality by not dying. But Bobby managed to leave an impression on J.R. The elder Ewing brother took a few sips of excellent bourbon and signed Southfork over to his brother, though he noted: “If you die, I’ll get that back.”
Meanwhile, Christopher and John Ross decided that they wanted to change things in their family. If Bobby and J.R. had been allies, they could have been bigger than Exxon. Why not correct that old mistake? So they announced their intention to go into business together — with Elena as a partner, because where’s the fun in starting a company without a bit of sexual tension? “Gas hydrates may be the future, but the infrastructure needed to monetize it takes time!” said Christopher sexily. They would put the family name back on top. “There’s lots of names downtown that would look a lot better with the Ewing name on top of it,” said John Ross.
Everything was going so well. Hooray, happy endings all around! Wait…is that Johnny Cash playing “The Man Comes Around”? That song never bodes well. And indeed, the closing minutes of the episode threw everything into hell. Lou the Lawyer called Bobby and said that they were thisclose to getting evidence against J.R. “Are you prepared to send your brother to jail?” he asked. Bobby was overcome. He loved his brother. He wanted to send his brother to jail. His brain helpfully suffered a massive seizure.
Meanwhile, Rebecca received an angry knock on the door. Tommy’s mad plans had all failed, and he was angry. He told Rebecca that he had been satisfied pulling small cons before he met her. “I moved to China for two years,” he said. “I did everything you asked me to do!” They fought viciously. He tried to strangle her. But she managed to get to the purse…and to the gun she’d rescued from a safety deposit box earlier in the episode. They wrestled over the firearm. Cut to the two stuffed monkey dolls. A shot rang out. Blood sprayed all over them. But who shot who?
Viewers, what did you think of this episode? Excited for the season finale?
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