Bust-ups and Betrayals at Southfork

Sue Ellen's off the wagon and John Ross is ridin' high in TNT's Dallas season 3 premiere

Sue Ellen's off the wagon and John Ross is ridin' high on TNT's Dallas

John Ross and Sue Ellen on Dallas season 3 episode 1
Josh Henderson and Linda Gray in Dallas. Photo courtesy of TNT
TNT Dallas season 3 group shot
The youngsters in the cast are taking over the main plotlines in season three of Dallas. Photo courtesy of TNT
John Ross and Sue Ellen on Dallas season 3 episode 1
TNT Dallas season 3 group shot

Deep in the piney woods of Southfork Ranch — you know, that "forest" up there in Parker, Texas, where the Ewing ranch lies — Bobby Ewing, as always played by Patrick Duffy, is whispering sweet somethings to his parents' headstones in the Ewing graveyard.

It's the first episode of season three of the rebooted Dallas on TNT, and it starts right where season two left off in an hour written by executive producer Cynthia Cidre and Robert Rovner.

 Wake-ups and shake-ups, bust-ups and betrayals, and freak outs over fracking on Ewing land were all over this season-opening hour.

"I'm the only one left," Bobby says to brother J.R.'s bones, which he had exhumed and reburied last year. And with a wry smile and a nod of his good-guy cowboy hat, Bobby mounts his trusty steed and rides off into the sunset — or sunrise, because it's not really clear. This show jumps between daylight and darkness — often several times on the same day — like a sloppily edited 1950s B-movie.

Meanwhile in downtown Dallas, it's sun-up in a room at the Omni hotel. J.R. and Sue Ellen's black-hearted son John Ross (Josh Henderson) is mounting his stepcousin and filly-on-the-side, Emma Brown (Emma Bell).

"Giddyup, sweetheart," he says as they tumble in their undies to the floor. When she rears up, what's stuck on her pert little flanks? A power of attorney document that will give John Ross control over some more stuff in the oil bidness. He starts talking acquisition of ice-breaking cargo ships from her daddy's company, thus chilling the mood considerably.

Later in the episode, John Ross re-proposes to wife Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), with whom he eloped last season. (She was previously married to John Ross' cousin Christopher, played by Jesse Metcalfe.) Handing Pamela a diamond the size of a Chiclet, John Ross promises to give her "the ride of her life."

Don't think that means in the four-by-four. Watch next week's episode for the splashy wedding.

Wake-ups and shake-ups, bust-ups and betrayals, and freak outs over fracking on Ewing land were all over this season-opening hour. (For a review of who's who on Dallas now, check out TNT's handy family tree.) Let's hit the highlights:

Clearly the youngsters in the cast — Henderson, Bell, Metcalfe — are taking over the main plotlines. But executive producer Cidre promises there'll be plenty of callbacks to the yesteryear shenanigans of Dallas.

Sue Ellen (the gloriously 73-year-old Linda Gray) will fall off the wagon and be forced into rehab by John Ross, just like J.R. dealt with her drinking back in the 1980s. And there'll be some romps in the hayloft, as Christopher starts making hay with a beautiful, sassy Southfork ranchhand named Heather (AnnaLynne McCord, seen most recently on the short-lived revamp of 90210).

Bouncing between scenes in the lavish boardroom at Ewing Global and the tiny, shabbily furnished bedrooms of Southfork is classic Dallas, and that's what this season will offer, producer Cidre told TV Guide: "I think this is a sexier, more fun season than we've had before. There are lots of references to the old show in a really fun way."

Speaking of redecorating, John Ross aims to do some updating of the Ewing mansion. "About time we started livin' like the rich folk we are," John Ross says to daddy Bobby, spreading blueprints out on the kitchen counter.

John Ross wants a three-story atrium, a billiard room "the size of a saloon," an elevator and other upgrades. After all, John Ross is a newlywed. He wants personal space. Bobby objects. "You want privacy, move out," says Bobby, sounding like Krys Jenner yelling at Kim for hogging the bathroom of Casa Kardashian.

But John Ross owns half of Southfork, thanks to a bequest from Granny Miss Ellie, so he's staying put. He'll have a lot of company. Now under one roof are Bobby and his wife Annie (Brenda Strong, unseen in this episode), Christopher, Sue Ellen (moving back in so the family can help her with her drankin' problem), and John Ross' wife Pamela and his girlfriend Emma in a bedroom right across the hall.

Conflicts this week included John Ross' other ambitious plan to allow fracking on Southfork land. There was a convoluted argument about who owns what percentage of mineral rights, and Bobby blew a gasket at the mention of fracking. (I'm hoping they write in some minor earthquakes, which would necessitate renovating the rundown manse.)

Wrapping up the messy plots from last season won't be easy. Emma helped the Ewings get her father, Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), jailed for involvement in a Mexican drug cartel. Old twitchy-eyed Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), framed and imprisoned for J.R.'s murder last season (J.R. actually had himself killed because he was dying of cancer ... oh, it's all too complicated), now is in cahoots with the lovely Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster).

Last season she was involved Christopher, then she wasn't. Now she's a double agent, reemployed by the new conglomerate of Ewing Oil and Barnes Global and determined to bring down the company from the inside. She's also related to the mysterious Mexican telecommunications-pharmaceutical-oil tycoon Nicholas Trevino, played by newcomer Juan Pablo Di Pace. He looks like trouble. The best kind.

Every time Bobby started talking about off-loaded Ewing Global's agri-business this week, it all became a dull hum. "We really are gonna be bigger than Exxon and BP combined," bragged John Ross, not caring about oil-spill-soaked dolphins one damn bit.

Something's weird about Jesse Metcalfe's facial hair. In one scene (for which I want a GIF that will play in a loop for sad days), Jesse/Christopher chops wood like a lumberjack, his square jaws dusted with sexy black stubble. In another scene later, obviously shot before he grew the beard or after he shaved it, he had what appeared to be bits of Spanish moss glued on his cheeks.

Come on, makeup people, we have high-def TV's over here.

If you like what they're wearing on Dallas this season, you can buy their fashion looks on HSN. But judging from the wardrobe of this episode, you can get all the Ewings' clothes at JCPenney too. No glam. Not even on Linda Gray. (Shame on them!)

To emphasize his evolution into J.R. II, John Ross was presented with his daddy's gold belt buckle. "You've earned this," said J.R.'s old buddy Bo (Donny Boaz), who also happened to be J.R.'s assassin-by-request. It's one of those flashy rodeo-style buckles, the kind bull-riders get for staying on for more than eight seconds.

We'll just assume from that scene at the Omni that John Ross is a champion in the saddle.


Catch reruns of full episodes of Dallas on TNT online. New episodes air at 8 pm CST time every Monday.