Fists flew and the double dealing doubled down on a frenetic episode of Dallas this week. The TNT cable series has its half-season finale next Monday night, April 14, so the show spent its penultimate hour, titled "Like a Bad Penny," setting up John Ross Ewing (J.R.'s son, played by Josh Henderson) for a fall.
There was a bit too much rehashing this week of plot points from last season. Picture the writers for this show taking old script pages and shuffling them together like Ricky Jay with a deck of bicycle cards. But they have a lot of storyline to wind up before the show takes its spring hiatus.
Here's what went down, character by character:
Sue Ellen Ewing
Last week, John Ross had his mama, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), locked up in a psych ward. She'd been tippling again, but the real reason he wanted her out of the way was to keep her from interfering with his extra-marital canoodling with Emma Brown (Emma Bell), who lives at Southfork along with everybody else. That includes, as of this week, Sue Ellen again (but when did she ever not live there?).
To get shaky-but-perfectly-coiffed Sue Ellen sprung from the snakepit, Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and wife Annie (Brenda Strong) took custody of her over the strong protests of a doctor (played by great veteran Dallas actress and acting teacher Gail Cronauer). They promised the doc they'd get her sober, then they informed Sue Ellen they'd be doing that by moving her back to the ranch.
Talk about triggers for addiction. That's like ordering Lindsay Lohan to check back into the Chateau Marmont.
Bobby's stubble-sporting son is the show's do-gooder this season. He marches from one disaster to another, trying to make people feel better. His main mission in life, like his daddy's, is to keep Southfork fracking-free, which makes him the sworn enemy of his cousin, John Ross.
This week Christopher performed two good deeds. One was not beating Drew Ramos (Kuno Becker) to death when Drew jumped him in a dark parking garage and started pounding him like a scene from Fight Club. (Good tweet from actress Emma Bell during that bit: "Everyone knows the first rule of Fight Club, but quickly tell me the second one." @EmmaBell17)
Drew, ya see, was responsible for blowing up the oil platform last season. That explosion caused Pamela Rebecca Barnes (Julie Gonzalo) to miscarry Christopher's twins. (She has subsequently married John Ross. Small world, that Southfork bunch.)
Christopher now has a new squeeze: Heather (AnnaLynne McCord), one of Southfork's comeliest ranch hands. He dropped by her place after the fisticuffs with Drew and was set upon by Heather's drunken ex, Bo (Donny Boaz). But instead of pounding Bo into hamburger, Christopher drove him back to his hovel and even returned the next morning to hand him his truck keys and give him a temperance lecture.
As this Dallas series' Lucy manqué, Emma is so complicated a character that she really belongs on Days of Our Lives. Her birth-mom is Annie Ewing, who dumped her at the State Fair and ran off about 20 years ago. Her birth-father is Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), the gun-running, CIA-informing, brothel-owning sexy baldy who had his mother, played by Judith Light, locked up in rehab last year.
Emma's banging John Ross, but she also has the same sneaky streak as her old man. This week, after she Nancy Drewed the reasons why John Ross' secretary Candace Shaw (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) was on him like a duck on a june bug — come-ons he rebuffed because for once he thought about it with his bigger brain, saying "I'm cute but I'm not that cute" — she decided to double-cross the double-crossers.
She wants John Ross to leave wife Pammy for her, but she'd also like a bunch of that Ewing Global stock when it goes IPO. Looks like she may set up her own blackmail plot to get what she wants.
Actor Mitch Pileggi gets lots of great/bad lines of dialogue on this show, but his character rarely interacts with the other stars. He's always sitting in the dark, staring at a laptop. As proprietor of Swiss Avenue's finest house of prostitution, Harris is behind the planting of slutty Candace at a desk at Ewing Global. (That's a job interview we'd like to eavesdrop on.)
When she fails to get John Ross' DNA on a lacy dress, Harris fires her and tells her to move out of the tart-condo he's provided. "Maybe you've been pretending to be a secretary for so long, you've forgotten how to be a whore," he barks at Candace.
On her way to pack up her push-up bras, she runs into Emma and spills the whole Lewinsky-esque plot. Harris, too, wants to buy a controlling interest in Ewing Global when the IPO happens. Everybody wants a chunk of Ewing Global.
She's a mess. And she's also a quisling, working at Ewing Global with a secret plan to buy up enough of those IPO shares to turn the whole shebang over to Cliff Barnes. (He's still in a Mexican jail.) Actress Jordana Brewster plays Elena with a perma-scowl as she scrolls through her iPhone for the hundredth time. Her ally is ...
Bad guy with good looks, he's still a bit of a puzzle. Mysterious and evil, he, too, somehow landed a plum job at Ewing Global (hey, Bobby, your HR department is way lax on the background checks) and he, too, is scheming to get a controlling interesting in the company.
But not for himself. No, he wants to turn it all over to a gang of Mexican drug lords who need a way to launder billions as they overthrow the Mexican government. Actor Juan Pablo di Pace still looked hot during a scene this week that appeared to have been shot this winter on one of Dallas' coldest, rainiest nights. Toward the end of the episode, it finally dawned on Bobby Ewing that Nicolas is some kind of "corporate raider."
Maybe now his swipe-card won't work in the Museum Tower elevator. (That's where Ewing Global looks to be located.)
Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing
Looking very Angelina Jolie this week in a black and white Stella McCartney figure-hugger, actress Julie Gonzalo knows how to work a frock. But the writers have made her character so clue-free that she's the only person in Dallas County who doesn't know her husband John Ross is plowing the back 40 of housemate Emma Brown.
She'll know next week. Nicolas emailed video surveillance footage to her of John Ross and Emma doing some near-naked couch-surfing.
"This old dog still knows a few tricks," tweeted the character as @TheBobbyEwing during this episode. This week, Bobby started outsmarting his ambitious nephew, John Ross.
To foil both Nicolas and John Ross' plans to gain a super-majority of Ewing Global shares, Bobby called on an old friend from Goldman Sachs. They started talking about things that sounded like too much math, so we flipped over to Dancing with the Stars for a few minutes.
John Ross Ewing
Actor Josh Henderson is starting to loosen up a little in this role. He had one or two good scenes this week. Trying to secure enough money to buy a controlling batch of shares in that aforementioned Ewing Global IPO, he reached out to an oil sheik who'd been doing the Arctic lease deal with now-dead J.R. Ewing.
John Ross and Pamela flew to Vegas, where they knew the sheik would be playing in a high-stakes poker game. But the sheik's son, Prince Nasir (Pej Vahdat), chastised John Ross for "disrespecting" his father.
John Ross smoothed it over by joining the card game and throwing in a good hand to let the young sheik win. He even used J.R.'s watch for betting collateral. (Pamela schmoozed the sheik's wife by giving her a pair of earrings she claimed once belonged to Catherine the Great. Looked more like a pair from Sam Moon the Great Bargain to us.)
Sure enough, the sheik was impressed and agreed to back John Ross' takeover plan. "Sometimes the only way to win is to show the other person you're not afraid to lose," Henderson whisper-acted during John Ross' moment of triumph.
Maybe John Ross will finally raise his voice when he gets home and discovers Sue Ellen detoxing back at Southfork and his wife's iPhone buzzing with that X-rated video footage.
Next week's mid-season finale, April 14, looks to be steamy and fiery. Catch all episodes in rerun at TNT online. New episodes of Dallas air at 8 pm CST every Monday, with a rerun on the cable channel right after.