Dallas: The Price You Pay

Posted on June 21, 2012

We originally read the title of this episode as “The Prince You Pay,” which actually works better. Send all your Dallas scripts to us, TNT, and we’ll come up with witty titles for you, free of charge.

Now, there’s something we need to admit right upfront: We already can’t keep track of what’s going on. But we honestly don’t think that’s a failure of the scripting. It’s just that it’s been so long since we’ve been immersed in ’80s-style nighttime soaps that we may need a minute to catch our breath and try to catch up to all the plotting, wheeling, dealing, and backstabbing going on at a stunning pace. The people of South Fork make the Hamptons crew of Revenge seem like a nice bunch of amateurs. For these recaps, we’ll probably wind up doing what we always do with shows like these, where the plotting is so twisty and turny and the motivations of characters rather difficult to suss out: treat them like Shakespeare.

No, really.

Remember in high school, when you were forced to read the Bard, found the language almost incomprehensible and simply went along with it until you got to the end, where things started making sense, in the hopes you could pull it all together for a 1500-word book report? Dallas is kinda like that. We’ll eventually figure out what the hell everybody’s all het up about, but for now, it’s enough for us to see J.R. slap family members, hold razors up to the throats of family members, and tell family members that “Bullets don’t seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin’.” Classic. The only thing missing from last night’s episode was Sue Ellen arching one eyebrow over a vodka and whispering “J.R….” with enough vinegar to curdle Cool Whip.

Not that we can complain about the show not referencing its past. On the contrary, it’s doing a masterful job of referencing the show’s long history without bogging down the current story with a lot of confusing continuity. The ghosts of Jock and Miss Ellie loom large over South Fork, as well they should, and all the current story action is coming out of decisions and actions those two people took decades before. In that sense, it’s very much like the early seasons of Dallas, when the then-younger generation had to deal with things like the Barnes/Ewing feud or the fallout from Jock’s or Ellie’s various romantic exploits from decades earlier. The story of Dallas has always been an epic generational one and it’s to the current show creators’ credit that they understand that so well.

And speaking of the Barnes/Ewing feud, it’s still going strong in the 21st Century. “Time has not been kind to that face.” Another classic! In his crotchety old age, J.R. can sling the bitchslaps like a drunk 26-year-old drag queen in a parking lot at 3 a.m. “I’ll be there when they put you in the ground, Barnes! Listen close! I’ll be the one dancing on the dirt overhead!” You don’t even have to know the ridiculous twists and turns of the decades-long Cliff vs. J.R war. It’s enough to watch Larry Hagman work those insane eyebrows and tear up the scenery with some truly funny lines.

But here’s something: Is it us, or did Pam get a lot of foreshadow-y mentions last night? If this show manages to get Victoria Principal to show up without anyone knowing ahead of time, it will have pulled off quite the coup in an age where spoilers are revealed months before a show even starts. The cast and creators claim that V.P. turned them down, but that could just be some sleight of hand on their parts. With the way her name keeps coming up and the various ties she has to pretty much the entire existing cast, it seems almost impossible for Pam not to show her face (whatever that face is at the moment). They could easily recast the part if they wanted to, but that would seem odd considering the show seems to have been structured around those actors from the original cast who wanted to return. There are no jarringly recast parts. If an original Dallas character appears on this show, then the original cast member is playing them. Another wise choice on the part of the creators.

We don’t want to sound like we’re championing the return of Pam, who spent countless seasons cycling through ’80s hairstyles like she was looking for something in one of them and barely emoting at all until someone got hit by a car or something. It’s just that the weakest part of the story right now is Christopher and his sleep-inducing methane. The only time we perk up is when he hauls out the Ewing tits for a scene, just like his daddy did 25 years ago. We don’t even care that he kissed Elena like a week after his marriage. That’s just a fine Ewing tradition. Nor do we care about his new bride and her creepy-but-cute brother pulling some sort of long con on the increasingly dim Christopher. Throw some Uncle Cliff and Mommy Pam in to the mix, we say. Although we’re a bit surprised that while everyone keeps mentioning that Christopher”s not a true Ewing, no one seems to remember that he’s Sue-Ellen’s biological nephew. Then again, the family trees among the South Fork set are virtually impossible to keep track of. His parentage was dealt with thirty years ago (Sue Ellen’s sister Kristen, who shot J.R., only to be found face-down in the South Fork swimming pool a year later, is Christopher’s mother), but we wonder if the show is going to pull a slight retcon and reveal that J.R. is Christopher’s bio father, making him John Ross’ true brother.

Look at us! Making Dallas predictions! Hello, 1983! It’s been a while!

Final thoughts:

  • J.R.’s a complicated character, so we believe him when he expresses regrets about how he’s lived his life, but we also know that those regrets won’t stop him from continuing to be a son of a bitch. Now he’s got an interesting reason to do so: to secure his son’s future and ensure he won’t pay for his daddy’s sins. That’s pretty epic.
  • Not-Pam really does ONLY ride horses, haul out shotguns, and sip coffee, doesn’t she? When she’s not flirting with her step-son’s brother-in-law, that is.
  • Not-Pam and Bobby’s bedroom was hilariously spartan. Of course he’d live in that giant house and insist on living like a monk. Bobby, you always were such a sap.

 

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