The TV gods heard our prayers: Judith Light is back on Dallas. Playing Judith Ryland, matriarch of a rival family to the Ewings of Southfork, Light was abruptly written off last season to accommodate her being cast in a Broadway play.
To get rid of her, Dallas exec producer and head plot-deviser Cynthia Cidre had Judith's evil son Harris (Mitch Pileggi) push her down a flight of stairs and then ship her off to a rehab hospital. But she wanted to return to the show this year, Cidre told Entertainment Weekly. So they found the money to hire her again and gave the series back its deliciously evil queen.
Light's voice as this character sounds like she's gargled with battery acid.
On this week's episode (written by Bruce Rasmussen), Judith's entrance was preceded by the menacing step-clunk, step-clunk noise of her hobbling with a heavy cane into son Harris' office at home in Murky Mansion. Surprised by the "intruder," Harris grabbed a gun from a drawer and pointed it at the door just as Judith appeared.
"Let's not shoot Mommy on her first day home," she growled. Light's voice as this character sounds like she's gargled with battery acid.
Judith let Harris know she was taking over the family's trucking business again. She isn't averse to doing deals with drug smugglers hauling party powder across the Mexican border into Texas.
When Harris meekly suggested this could bring trouble, she reared back like an angry adder: "Money and morality are like two cars on a one-lane road. When they meet, morality's gonna end up in a ditch."
Just to review: Harris is fresh out of prison, sent there for a brief stay in a set-up by his nymphet daughter Emma (Emma Bell, the Charlene Tilton of the new Dallas). He got sprung by paying off a crooked judge.
Emma is now living at Southfork and boinking John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson) regularly. He's newly married but game for some games on the side. Emma's bedroom is directly across the hall from John Ross' marital boo-dwah. Convenient.
The last thing Harris needs is a violation of his parole, but his mother has other ideas. "I made my bones dealing with psychopaths and criminals while you were still playing with your Easy Bake Oven," she said this week.
Watch how Judith Light squints on the really good lines. When she blinks, only her right eyelashes move up and down, as if she's keeping one open to see if Pileggi is stealing focus. (He looks appropriately terrified in their scenes.)
Back at Southfork, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and John Ross were still arguing about fracking this week. Yawn city. But Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), bless her, was honing in on the bedroom antics of her baby boy. She set a tail on John Ross.
"I spent 40 years being cheated on. I'm pretty good at picking up the signals," she said. Then she pulled a flask out of her handbag and took a healthy swig of firewater. Sue Ellen's back on the sauce! Let's all drink to that!
There were some dandy nuggets of dialogue in this episode. Bobby's wife Annie (Brenda Strong), trying to get him to come to bed, said, "I can't watch Duck Dynasty without you. I get all the beards confused."
And this one, after Judith Ryland took a hefty snort of cocaine offered by one of the cartel members she's doing a deal with. "Mama like," said Judith, then she sniffed another line as long as a garden snake and rubbed the excess into her gums.
The end of this week's installment offered a humdinger of a cliffhanger. Harris Ryland, it turns out, has become a quisling. He wired up to tape his mother's nefarious goings-on with the coke smugglers, and he's working with the CIA to bust the cartel.
To let Bobby Ewing in on the secret, he arranged a Deep Throat-like (the Watergate one, not the dirty movie one) meeting in an underground lair. Annie came along to the meeting but managed not to burst into tears, as is her wont.
Now this is the kind of hot nighttime soap writing we can get addicted to fast. Mama like.
Catch full episodes of Dallas on TNT online. New episodes air at 8 pm CST every Monday, with a rerun at 10.