Rocket-Fueled TV Feuds

TNT's Dallas buries another character — but you won't miss him

TNT's Dallas buries another character — but you won't miss him

Patrick Duffy on season 3 of TNT's Dallas
Patrick Duffy directed this week's episode of Dallas. Photo by Skip Bolen
Sue Ellen in Southfork fire on TNT's Dallas
Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) was relieved to know she's not the one who started the fire at Southfork. Photo by Skip Bolen
Julie Gonzalo and Josh Henderson on TNT's Dallas season 3
Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) is not happy with the hubs (Josh Henderson). Photo by Skip Bolen
Patrick Duffy on season 3 of TNT's Dallas
Sue Ellen in Southfork fire on TNT's Dallas
Julie Gonzalo and Josh Henderson on TNT's Dallas season 3

The graveyard at Southfork just got another resident. That would be Drew Ramos, the shady, maybe-drug-smuggling-arsonist character played by Kuno Becker. This week’s episode of TNT’s Dallas — the third installment of the second half of this third season of the show’s cable reboot — dug up a lot of bones.

Titled “Hurt,” written by Aaron Allen and directed by series star Patrick Duffy, the hour presumed a lot on behalf of the viewers. Mainly that we’d remember arcane bits of information not only from the first half of this season all the way back to March and April, but also to last year’s plot twists and some from the year before.

If TNT wants to build ratings for this show, taking a four-month break mid-season is a questionable strategy.

 If TNT wants to build ratings for this show, taking a four-month break mid-season is a questionable strategy.

It’s not easy to distinguish Elena (Jordana Brewster) as a different skinny, doe-eyed brunette than Pamela (Julie Gonzalo). They’ve both had sex with John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson, still delivering lines without moving his lips, like an expert ventriloquist) and his cousin Christopher (Jesse Metcalf, scowling as the helpless mooncalf of the Ewing clan). And then there’s Elena’s sort-of-brother-but-maybe-lover Joaquin/Nicholas Trevino (Juan Pablo di Pace), who knew her as a child in Mexico, although she grew up as the daughter of Southfork’s maid.

This is Dallas, not Dr. Who, and there aren’t legions of rabid fans keeping track of this stuff. Hell, the writers hardly bother to keep it straight. The show’s quixotic loyalties and devious doings among all the various characters have them sleeping with and betraying each other with alarming nonchalance. But no one ever seems to move out of the overcrowded Southfork mansion.

Unless there are wings of that house we can’t see, there are at least 10 people living there, all using a kitchen smaller than the ones in some Uptown condos and all a bit callous about pouring bourbon in the presence of known alcoholic Sue Ellen (the still magnificent Linda Gray, her lustrous bangs hanging over her eyes like a shiny squirrel tail). As a millionaires’ homestead, Southfork is as crowded as the old Walton cabin. (That’s the Walton’s Mountain bunch, not the Walmart family.)

Last week’s episode, airing against the Emmys and therefore invisible, revealed that Drew Ramos, not Sue Ellen (or, as my mother calls her, “Swellen”), set fire to Southfork. The arson investigator, played by Dallas actor Joe Nemmers, delivered the report to Bobby et al that Ramos used rocket fuel as the accelerant.

No one seemed shocked by this. Rocket fuel, people. And the fire spread no farther than one bedroom. Seems like they missed an opportunity there to launch ugly old Southfork off its foundation, to be replaced with a nicer mansion with less wood paneling and a much bigger kitchen. And where does one come by rocket fuel in Murphy, Texas, these days?

Sue Ellen, relieved to learn that she hadn’t started the blaze with her hot, boozy breath, celebrated the good news by blinking.

 This is Dallas, not Dr. Who, and there aren’t legions of rabid fans keeping track of this stuff. Hell, the writers hardly bother to keep it straight.

This week, having planted Ramos under the fertile loam of Southfork, the Ewings had to put out a bunch of personal fires too. Drew, who was Elena’s real brother (it’s so hard to know on this show), tried to blow up Southfork out of revenge against J.R. Ewing (remember him?) and his father Jock (nobody remembers him unless you’re over 45) who stole land from the Ramos family back in the Paleozoic Era (before cable) that turned out to have oil under it. Instead, J.R. and Jock stuck the Ramoses with worthless oil-free acreage, keeping the mom, Carmen (Marlene Forte), in permanent indentured servitude as Southfork’s only in-house servant.

Well, at least it doesn’t take long to scrub that tiny kitchen.

Instead of sharing punch and cookies after Drew’s burial, the Ramos ladies proceed to take verbal punches at Bobby Ewing (Duffy, directing himself to speak above his usual whisper) and demand “restitution” for having been cheated out of becoming Plano-adjacent parvenus. And how did they know that J.R. switched the land deeds that kept all the black gold for the Ewings? Carmen saw John Ross reading a letter from his late father. From across the room. In the dark.

How exactly did she know who wrote it and what it said? Perhaps she consulted the Long Island Medium.

Lots of jibber-jabber about the longstanding family feud between the Barnes and Ewing heirs led to another revelation: that Bobby knew that J.R., dying of cancer, was planning to frame Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) for his death so that Barnes would live out his days in a Mexican prison. “Yes, I lied,” whisper-acted Duffy.

Cut to Swellen blinking in shock. “Miss Ellie would be ashamed of you,” she hissed. Show of hands for anyone who can name the late actresses who played the Ewing matriarch. (It was Barbara Bel Geddes first, succeeded after her death by Donna Reed.)

Bobby then said, for possibly the one millionth time on this series, that “family is the only thing that matters.” How very Kardashian of him.

To show how much he was hurt over being hissed at by Sue Ellen, Duffy directed himself in a wordless scene where he stared at J.R.’s photograph for a minute before smashing it in slow motion as Johnny Cash sang “Hurt.” Save that one for next year’s Emmy entry, Patrick.

From the What-Are-They-Talking-About Department, there were passing references this week to the oil rig explosion of 2012 that caused Pamela to miscarry Christopher’s twins. She turned around and married John Ross instead. He turned around and slept with Emma, Bobby’s second wife Annie’s long-lost daughter (oh, don’t ask), and also canoodled with conniving Elena, who used John Ross’ refractory period post-sexy time to find that letter from J.R. and memorize its contents.

Given her requested pay-off of a pile of money from Bobby, Elena drove away at the end of this week’s hour with Joaquin/Nicholas, headed, it looked like, toward Trinity Groves, perhaps for some gourmet hot dogs to celebrate the successful outcome of her dead brother’s attempted murder of the entire Ewing household.

There was a too-brief glimpse of nymphet Emma Brown (Emma Bell) and her dad Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), in which he broke the news that he’d been working for the CIA part-time during the off hours between his shifts running a trucking firm and a Swiss Avenue whorehouse.

Previews for next week’s episode hint at the return of Mama Ryland, played by the freakin’ fantastic Judith Light. About time she exploded back onto this show. She’s the real rocket fuel Dallas needs.

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Catch repeats of episodes of Dallas anytime on TNT online. New episodes air at 8 pm Mondays, with a repeat at 9.