"Previously on Dallas..." a lot of shit happened. Bobby may be dying, Christopher may be hooking up with ex-girlfriend Elena, newlywed Rebecca and her brother are conning her new husband, and J.R. has emerged from a long period of catatonia to reassert himself as the biggest sonofabitch west of the Mississippi.
The second (well, third) episode of TNT's continuation of the classic series continued to bring the melodrama, providing a number of great lines (all courtesy of J.R., natch) and one "shocking" revelation that would've been more effective had we not already known certain things.
But I'm not complaining. Against my better judgment, I'm digging the new Dallas a lot. Part of it is nostalgia, but mostly it's appreciation for a show that isn't simply another parade of pseudo-celebrity grotesques or tired dance/karaoke/weight loss "competitions." TV used to be *fun*, dammit. And Dallas is bringing that goofy prime time soap atmosphere back with a vengeance.
The show opens with what is easily the best scene of the series so far, as J.R. (Larry Hagman) reminisces with John Ross (Josh Henderson) about his father Jock at the barber. While holding a straight razor to his son's neck, he mentions that he knows "Marta Del Sol" isn't really Marta Del Sol. You know, Hagman has remarkably steady hands for an 80 year-old.
But then the carrot, he tells John Ross he wants to teach him all he knows about the oil biz. John Ross also tells him he wants to go after Bobby's attorney Lobell for extorting them. J.R., ever the tactician, advises him to go after Lobell's son, whose drunk driving murder of a pedestrian was swept under the rug by daddy.
Ann (Brenda Strong) bonds with new daughter-in-law Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) over rifle practice, but has to run off to make Bobby's post-op doctor's visit. Brother Tommy (Callard Harris) shows up and gives her a flash drive with a remote access program for Christopher's laptop. Rebecca is hesitant, making her a weak link. I admit, I thought she was as gonzo to take down the Ewings as big bro, but right now you have to consider her the weak link.
J.R. meets the money guys John Ross is negotiating with for the purchase of Southfork. Turns out they're Venezuelan oilmen who talk a tough game, but this is J.R. fucking Ewing, man. They'll get their oil, on his terms (14% of profits). This is also where the "friends in the statehouse" line shows up, and Hagman delivers it perfectly. "Marta" (Leonor Valera) expresses her displeasure, and J.R. reminds her who's in charge, prompting the poor lady to pop a pill. I probably wouldn't have done that where J.R. could see.
Bobby (Patrick Duffy) gets some good news: the tumor was completely removed, but to prevent remission he needs to take drugs that include heart failure as a pesky side effect. My Spidey sense is detecting a season one cliffhanger.
Lobell (Richard Dillard), incensed that John Ross is lowballing him, tells the younger Ewing that a Clean Bill of Health Bobby is no longer planning to sell the ranch. This prompts a call from J.R.'s "primary care physician," who calls Bobby to tell him he thinks it would be good for J.R.'s recovery to allow him to spend some time at Southfork. Of course the "doctor" is one of J.R.'s fellow nursing home patients (the price: a steak and a blonde hooker). Waxing nostalgic for a moment, J.R. vows to get Southfork back.
Jesus, this is such early 80s subterfuge. Bobby accepts the advice from a doctor he's never heard of? Sight unseen? I love it.
Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and Elena (Jordana Brewster) are working on his methane extraction problem. Christopher hits on the solution: synthesizing excited bromide in an argon matrix - or something - and the two share a hug. This may be significant.
J.R. returns to Southfork, and finds...Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval)! The old Ewing family nemesis has popped into town to try and buy Southfork, and the two enjoy some old timey, uh, banter. If we're going by TNT's series continuity (i.e. ignoring the 1990s TV movies), Barnes should still be running Ewing Oil, right?
Elena and Rebecca have lunch. Rebecca wants to be friends, Elena sympathizes, mentioning mother Pam's "disappearance." Ha! I knew it: we never saw her die on the TV show, after all. TNT obviously would love to have Victoria Principal come back (though I'm not sure if they'd address that season 12 plastic surgery thing), even though Duffy has already said Principal has no interest in returning. Come on, Victoria, think about how enraged J.R. would be by Pam's return.
Oh, and Rebecca and Elena also talk about how Christopher always thought he had to prove his Ewing-ness because he was adopted and all. Blah blah blah.
Cliff invites Christopher and Rebecca to dinner in his hotel room, where "Uncle Cliff" tells Christopher he wants to invest in his methane project. Christopher balks as Cliff asks him not to let them destroy him "like they did Pam."
Ann hears noises from the barn and goes to investigate, as only she can (hot damn, if Brenda Strong is gonna pump a shotgun every episode, I believe I may get the vapors). Of course it's just J.R. ("Bullets don't seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin'"), going through some old documents. He tries to get Ann to suggest to Bobby that he should sell, but she's not biting. On to Plan B, or as J.R. tells John Ross: "real power is something you take."
The plan involves John Ross acting like he's going to use Miss Ellie's journal to overturn the will, while J.R. acts like the voice of reason, complete with a decent punch. It's all so...cheesy. But like any good queso, you just can't stop eating it.
Christoper and Elena's new plan works. He goes to tell Bobby, who just signed the sale forms and gave them to Lobell. Bobby chooses this time to tell Christopher about his cancer, who's a little peeved about not being kept in the loop. See, this all plays into his "not measuring up" complex. He seeks oral comfort (kissing, you guys...jeez) and Tommy snaps a quick pic -- what is it with these people and making out in public? Tommy sends it to Rebecca, she pulls out the flash drive, but hesitates once again.
Meanwhile Lobell is pushing back at John Ross, pointing out that until the Venezuelans' sell the ranch back to him and J.R., the deal's up in the air. Now he wants $5 million (up from $2 million, which is up from the original $500K). I think the attorney is going to fall into that "hard to find" category soon.
Christopher confesses his dalliance to Rebecca, because you knew he would. They decide to move back into Southfork until the sale's complete, and she trashes the flash drive. Because you knew she would.
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Ann and Bobby discuss J.R. and John Ross' little masquerade, and Bobby reflects on the J.R.'s unchanging nature, like he's some version of Moorcock's Eternal Champion, or something.
John Ross meets with his PI, who informs him the witness in the Lobell kid's manslaughter has been ten years in the ground. Oh, and that Rebecca sent the email that broke up Elena and Christopher. Dun dun DAAAAH.
As I've said, Dallas is the television equivalent of a beach read. There's no subtext to any of this, as the enjoyment comes solely from watching the principals try to out-screw each other, and except for the elements included to make the story contemporary (cell phones, Venezuelans, tsunamis), this could've been written in 1979. And I have no problem with that.
Next week: It doesn't look like the Rebecca/Tommy con is getting off the ground anytime soon.