Bobby Ewing Goes Off the Rails

Kidnappers cook up a dramatic stew for the Ewings on TNT's Dallas

Kidnappers cook up a dramatic stew for the Ewings on TNT's Dallas

Emma Bell and Brenda Strong in season 3 of TNT's Dallas
Annie (Brenda Strong) and long-lost daughter Emma (Emma Bell) have been kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. Photo by Skip Bolen
Julie Gonzalo and Josh Henderson on TNT's Dallas season 3
Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) and her "idiot husband" John Ross (Josh Henderson). Photo by Skip Bolen
Emma Bell and Brenda Strong in season 3 of TNT's Dallas
Julie Gonzalo and Josh Henderson on TNT's Dallas season 3

It’s a family with money and power. The public has long been fascinated by their charisma and how they became a beloved American dynasty. They are, of course, the Roosevelts, and while another episode of TNT’s Dallas was clunking along on cable, PBS was airing Ken Burns’ latest masterpiece of documentary filmmaking.

Cue the theme music for Dallas. It’s season 3.1, and things are getting more bonkers than ever out at Southfork.

What we learn this week: Villainous Medea-like figure Judith Ryland (played by the always fascinating Judith Light) lets her hairdo go to hell during an emergency, and Bobby Ewing (the hardly ever fascinating Patrick Duffy) has Windows 8 on his laptop.

 It’s season 3.1, and things are getting more bonkers than ever out at Southfork.

This week’s episode, titled “Boxed In,” written by Gail Gilchriest and directed by Rodney Charters, finds Bobby’s wife, Annie (the ever-sobbing Brenda Strong), being held hostage by the “Mendez-Ochoa cartel” that’s hauling cocaine across Texas. This group of baddies also wants to topple the Mexican government, and for some reason they think that bedeviling the Ewings of Far North Dallas will help them accomplish this.

Early in the hour, there was some back story about the mysteriously double-named secondary villain Joaquin Reyes/Nicolas Trevino (Juan Pablo di Pace) and how he went from sweet Catholic schoolboy back in old Mexico to being lured into a gang of drug dealers who sent him to Europe for education (as they do) and then pulled him into a life of murder and political intrigue.

Having lost half a billion of the cartel’s dollars — one assumes that degree from the London School of Economics didn’t prepare him to handle such sums responsibly — Joaquin/Nicolas has to pay them back by stealing shares of Ewing Global and arranging the above-mentioned kidnapping. He tells all this to his childhood friend and current paramour, the dumb-as-dirt Elena (Jordana Brewster), who has a hard time catching all the details.

“What are you telling me, Joaquin?” she asks, blinking slowly.

Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing and Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi, who gets this week’s allocation of the single usage of “bullshit” per episode) sit in Bobby’s paneled den and talk to a CIA agent about how to get Annie and her long-lost daughter, Emma Ryland (Emma Bell), back from the druggies.

They let J.R. and Sue Ellen’s son John Ross (mono-expressioned Josh Henderson) in on the action. Big mistake. John Ross is an eff-up, as we saw last week when he let the entire Ewing Global Corporation get bought out from under him by — wait for it — Joaquin/Nicolas.

 It’s the Mexican Sweeney Todd! Oh, Annie, don’t ask what’s in the sopaipillas.

(Don’t you wonder what all the employees of that fictional international conglom would be doing if this happened in real-life bidness? Sitting at their desks playing Flappy Birds? Writing their own pilot scripts for TV dramas better than this one?)

Cut to Judith Ryland, hair frazzled into a honey-blond cloud, growling into the phone to the kidnappers.

Cut to Annie and Emma, nestled next to each other on a chintz-covered sofa in the druggies’ quaintly decorated hideout. Annie asks to go to the bathroom and for a moment tries to become MacGyver, figuring out how to escape her captors. She doesn’t do it, however, and returns to the sofa, behind which is a cute white birdcage. Symbol. Get it?

Cut to John Ross discovering that his soon-to-be-ex, Pamela Barnes (Julie Gonzalo), is back at Southfork. “My father’s feud with the Ewings is over, but mine is just beginning,” she says, calling John Ross her “idiot husband.” He asks Pamela for her help with the kidnapping prob. She ices him cold but later does some helpful stuff.

John Ross’ cousin, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), has a better idea. He goes to Mexico to see Joaquin/Nicolas’ wife to beg for her help in getting the kidnapped Annie and Emma back. She refuses. Metcalfe flares his nostrils to show Christopher’s disappointment.

Now Bobby tries a new tack. He calls a senator named Joe, who refuses to intervene in the kidnapping dilemma, so Bobby teleports himself to the Texas capitol (which looks suspiciously like the Hall of State at Fair Park on the inside) to rile up the Railroad Commission about some nonsense. Seems he’s cooking up a secret scheme to hijack some trains so that the cartel can load them with cocaine and get them into Texas.

Sue Ellen (Linda Gray, getting next to nothing to do in this episode) warns Bobby that he’s risking a life sentence in a federal penitentiary if he goes through with this. He says it’s worth it to get Annie and Emma back.

Cut to Bobby at Love Field with Harris and frazzled mama Judith. Harris, you won’t recall, has been working with the CIA to nail the cartel in the drug-running. But Judith is willing to turn over all their company trucks to loads of Bolivian marching powder if it will get her granddaughter back.

“Emma is all I have,” she says, with her only son standing right next to her. “That’s how I feel about Ann,” says Bobby, forgetting that he has a son named Christopher.

This week’s stomach-churner was the little scene between the kidnapper who looks like Benicio del Toro (Gino Anthony Pesi) and Annie. He invites her to sit down to a dinner he’s made in the heavily paneled kitchen in the cartel’s lair. It’s posole, a Mexican stew. She slurps a few bites. He tells her the cartel boss is called “El Posolero” because he used to chop up his victims and put them in the stew.

It’s the Mexican Sweeney Todd! Oh, Annie, don’t ask what’s in the sopaipillas.

Bobby shows up at the kidnappers’ hideout, which makes you wonder why he isn’t accompanied by some law enforcement. Also, let’s hope he got full coverage on that rental car. He tells Mr. Kidnapper that he’s arranged to shut down the whole Texas rail system so that the cartel can ship tons and tons of coke by train across Texas.

Hey, Gov. Perry, where’s the National Guard now?

Next week, says the preview of the season’s two-hour finale, “one Ewing will die.”

Of embarrassment?

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