A BRIEF DALLAS INTERLUDE: PART 2 OF 12
Episode Title: Reunion: Part Two
Season 02, Episode 02
Written by David Jacobs
Directed by Irving J. Moore
Original Airdate: Saturday, September 30th, 1978
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.com): J.R. saddles Gary with a failing business venture, hoping he'll buckle under the stress. Digger has harsh words for Pamela.
Welcome back to Knots Blogging. Despite the title, we are still in Dallas right now, and we have a total of three Dallas episodes left to discuss before we officially spin off into KL.
This episode begins with one of those hilariously long “Previously On” segments that were standard in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. But instead of a simple “Previously on Dallas” and then thirty or sixty seconds of recap clips, this has a narrator telling us, “Here are some scenes from the first part of tonight’s story,” followed by, oh I dunno, three minutes of clips from the last episode. Hell, it might even be four minutes. Lord, we had so much more time in the olden days, didn’t we? If I’m not mistaken, these early Dallas and KL episodes clock in at around 48 minutes once you remove the commercials. Compare that to network fare nowadays, where, I think, episodes barely come to 42 minutes after all those pesky commercials are removed. Anyway, after the extremely long recap, we get the narrator announcing, “In a moment, this story will continue.” Oh, I’m so excited!
After that, we have the classic Dallas opening sequence (not as good as the myriad of KL openings, but we’ll discuss that when we discuss that), and then we open on Pam visiting her drunken father in a hospital. But let’s not discuss that, okay? That’s strictly part of the Dallas storyline and does not relate to KL at all. The reason we’re even discussing this episode is because it is the second of a total of twelve episodes, spread out all the way from 1978 to 1991, to feature Gary and/or Val in guest spots, functioning as a part of the plot. As with last week’s episode, this is another pivotal one for understanding the characters of Gary and Val.
If you’ll recall the last episode, we ended on a bit of a cliffhanger with J.R. putting an evil plan into motion, as is his wont. This evil plan involved saddling Gary with a loser company that he has no hopes of saving, in order to make him live up to his “loser” reputation and continue being the black sheep of the family. Well, as we begin Reunion: Part Two, J.R. comes up to Gary while Gary is also speaking with Lucy and Valene. In classic J.R. style, he grins and spins a web of lies so intricate you really want to believe him, claiming that this company is a real winner and that Gary gets to be the head of it; oh how exciting! Now, I’m not sure I completely go with the scene, and here’s why: Lucy is very excited by the news, but I can buy that, as she’s sorta dumb (particularly at this juncture of the series). Valene is extremely suspicious and distrustful of J.R., and that I can buy very easily. My problem is that Gary doesn’t immediately see right through J.R.’s deceit. Instead, he only expresses a little nervousness about being saddled with a big company, like, “Oh jeez, I hope I can do this job well!”
Um, Gary, are you a moron? You’ve known J.R. for years, he’s your brother, and you should be very familiar with his little bag of tricks. Yes, we are told that Gary hasn’t seen his brother or any of his family since 1962 or thereabouts, so I guess that excuses some of this, but with the history they have, Gary really ought to know better. Why would J.R. suddenly have this change of heart and become his brother’s best friend and hand him an amazing company that’s soaring to success? Well, he wouldn’t, and I personally expect Gary to know this, but he doesn’t.
However, I gotta say that I almost see David Ackroyd’s Gary as a different character from Ted Shackelford’s Gary, so it’s hard for me to lay the same expectations on this Gary, whom we barely get to know, versus Shack’s Gary, whom we will see in over 300 episodes of television. Because of that, I guess I can sorta buy that Gary would be fooled by his brother’s deceit, kinda. There are other aspects of the Ackroyd Gary that differ from the Shack Gary (such as his gambling addiction; is this ever mentioned again on either series?), and this is just another one. When I think of the Shack Gary, I think of a sharp, smart man who quickly ceased taking any crap from J.R. (but who also makes a ton of mistakes and can’t keep his damn pants on, but then he’s only human). However, he’s not here yet, so we’ll just have to wait awhile to experience his glory (just for the record, we will be seeing Shack as Gary for the first time in our fourth Brief Dallas Interlude, Return Engagements).
One aspect of this scene that I appreciate a lot and find quite significant is Valene’s immediate ability to see right through J.R. She makes a classic “Suspicious Valene Face” and then waits for J.R. to drive away. As soon as he does, she pleads with Gary to pack his bags and to leave with her. “J.R. is going to do it again!” she says, and she’s right. She says how they can leave tonight, how they can maybe go to California (oooh, foreshadowing?) and try to work out their relationship over there, and then maybe later they can return for Lucy.
Obviously there are other Dallas related stories at work here, but let’s just skip over them, shall we? J.R. keeps Gary hard at work in the study, going over files and papers and generally numbing his brain. Gary attempts to express his discomfort with the situation to Miss Ellie, but of course she’s like, “Oh, what happened before won’t happen again.” Obviously she is wrong and totally oblivious, and obviously she’s going to try and trap Gary here at Southfork forever and ever, like the evil twins in The Shining. Anyone who’s watched Dallas knows that Miss Ellie does not like people to leave Southfork; it’s like a Bermuda Triangle that people get lost in. Honestly, I don’t think Gary really needs J.R. to sabotage him and frighten him away from Texas; all it will take is Miss Ellie’s annoying, creepy nagging (can you tell I’m not an Ellie fan?).
The big culminating scene in the episode occurs in the wee hours of the night, as Gary sits in the study and tries to wrap his mind around all these documents. Enter Pam, Miss Ellie, and Lucy, hoping to give him a word of encouragement and a nice glass of milk. But then Gary spills the milk; OH NO! This scene is way over-the-top and, honestly, I would be annoyed if I was Gary, too, because oh boy do those three women overreact, acting like he spilled volcanic acid rather than milk. Pam’s eyes get all big and wide and she looks directly at the camera and says, “Do you think J.R. made a copy? Did he make a COPY?!” Everyone acts like the world’s about to blow up, even though it’s really nothing so serious, merely a spilled glass of milk, and then Gary snaps and says, “It’s just a damn glass of milk; leave me alone!” An overreaction? Maybe, but then the three women were way overreacting to the milk, so I understand his feelings.
We’re about to go to a commercial break, but the writers have devised a great hook to keep us watching, because Gary walks quickly into the Ewing living room, where one of their many, many fully stocked bars awaits him (I have a theory that the Ewings had a full bar in every room of the house, including the bathrooms, the broom closets, the attic, anywhere you can think of). Gary pours himself a nice big glass of, I think, bourbon (if I remember correctly, that is his drink of choice whenever he goes on an epic bender in KL). The glass is filled, the drink is there, it’s staring at him, he’s staring at the drink, he’s all revved up and ready to go, let’s pour this drink down my throat and officially go on a bender and ruin my life some more, shall we? In the background, we can see Val observing this with a mix of horror and resignation. Same old Gary, right? As soon as some conflict enters his life, he runs straight for the alcohol. We black out and go to a (probably very short) 1978 commercial break.
When we return from commercial, Gary has his bags packed and is quietly sneaking out of Southfork, heading for God only knows where. Val comes running out to try and stop him from going. She tells him that she thought of coming to him last night, that they could have had some sexy sex and renewed their epic love affair from way back in 1962. She pleads that this doesn’t have to be the end for them, that just because J.R. has made it impossible for them to live at Southfork doesn’t mean they can’t find their own happiness somewhere else. Even so, Gary gives Val a kiss and walks off into the sunset, bound for a plastic surgery center that will change him from an olive skinned Italian looking man with dark hair to a blonde haired Nazi poster boy with a much slimmer physique.
Val’s all upset and crying, when who comes walking out to enjoy the morning sunshine? Why, it’s J.R., who has now completed fifty percent of his evil mission. All that’s left is to get rid of Val and, somehow, make it look like she’s the evil one, not him. So he says he will cut her a check for $5,000.00 if she blows town and never comes back. This is a great Val/J.R. confrontation scene (and we’ll be seeing a few of them on both Dallas and the J.R. crossovers to KL), as we see that Val might seem dumb and blonde and country and what-have-you, but she’s also pretty sharp in her own way. She can see right through J.R. and she refuses to be bought. She also has a significant line here, as she calls him out on his bullshit and says, “There was no reason to do this.” Indeed, there wasn’t. Gary would not have interfered with the family business; Gary doesn’t even care about the family business. He would have been happy working on the ranches with the horses and the cattle, unconcerned with business, with money, or with politics. But J.R. is a paranoiac who believes the entire world is against him, and so Gary had to go.
Our final scene is a classic Ewing family confrontation during the cocktail hour (although, of course, in the Ewing household, the cocktail hour lasts from roughly 12:00AM to 11:59PM, before refreshing again at 12:00AM). J.R. appears to have gone through the trouble of cutting a fake $5,000.00 check to make it appear that Val took the money and ran. He shows this to Lucy as explanation for her mothers’ abandoning her yet again. Bobby confronts J.R. and says that Gary would have “Brought nothing but himself, his old, good self.” One can tell that Bobby yearns to have Gary around, to have a brother who won’t hatch evil plots every day and try to ruin his life constantly.
J.R. does manage to fool Lucy into believing that her mother took the money and disappeared, although when he lets his tongue get a bit loose and insults Gary one too many times, Lucy comes at him with a (very fake) stage slap. J.R. has a good final line, something like, “Well, they used to shoot the messenger; I guess I got off lucky,” then we get shots of everyone in the room glaring at him, and then we roll credits, marking the end of Gary/Val episodes for, oh, about a year. They will be back for two episodes of season three (well, Val will be back for two; Gary only shows up for one) that effectively launch them off into their own show. But before we get on to those….
This double episode is not only an excellent season two premiere of Dallas, but pretty much essential viewing for anyone who wants to watch KL. Yeah, I know plenty of spinoffs have been enjoyed by people who never bothered to watch the parent series (for instance, I watched the entirety of Melrose Place without watching so much as a single episode of Beverly Hills, 90210), but these early Dallas episodes set up so much about Gary and Val and the fourteen years we are going to spend with them that I feel a new viewer would really be doing themselves a disservice if they simply picked up season one of KL and started watching. Yes, KL begins with a tremendous Pilot and we learn a lot about Gary and Val in that Pilot, but the experience is so much richer if you watch these Dallas episodes first to learn about their history. Think of everything revealed in these two hours of television: We learn about how Gary and Val met, how they fell in love, how they conceived Lucy, how the relationship fell apart, how J.R. stole baby Lucy away from Val, and how their relationship was effectively dead for sixteen long years until they reunited here. Then we get to witness J.R. destroy their plans again with all the ease of a trip down to the market for a carton of milk. Seeing how the deck is stacked against this couple right from the get-go only makes diving into KL that much richer.
I do have one random query I’d like to address. It’s a question I have that, at this moment, I really have no way to answer. I know it’s early in my blog to start talking about stuff like this, but pretty much my ultimate dream for this blog, in addition to gathering some much needed attention and love for the brilliance of KL, is to one day interview some people involved with the show, and quite honestly I would just love to interview David Jacobs, as the man created both Dallas and KL and I have a lot of respect for him and his storytelling abilities. If I ever do interview him, I plan to ask him if these two episodes of Dallas were done with him playing the long game, if he knew that when the time was right, he would spin Gary and Val off into the show his heart truly belonged to, the show he pitched to CBS in 1977 originally, KL. Or, was he simply writing two episodes of Dallas and introducing another Ewing character to the mix? I want to think that, in his mind, he had a grand plot and knew that he would use Gary and Val very soon as his gateway to another series, but at the same time, these are only the sixth and seventh episodes of Dallas altogether and the show was not yet the ratings sensation it would quickly become during the 1979-1980 season, so it would make sense that, at this juncture in time, he was only concerned with getting Dallas off the ground and wasn’t thinking about KL yet. Who can say? I certainly don’t know, but in any case, I still think these episodes are very rich and should be seen as something of a pilot before the official Pilot for KL.
Oh yeah, and one last thing I think I’d like to cover before I end this post. Now, at first I didn’t know if I was gonna do this when discussing these particular Dallas eps from 1978, but what the hell, why not? See, KL runs a mammoth fourteen seasons all the way from 1979 to 1993, and whenever we cross a year while discussing KL, I’d also like to have a quick discussion of some of the important cultural events that occurred throughout that year. Now, KL wasn’t on TV in 1978, so at first I was just gonna jump to 1979 and discuss some 1979 touchstones after the KL Pilot, but let’s go on and discuss a few things that happened in 1978 that were significant, shall we?
Well, I love Stephen King and he has published at least one book per year since his first published book, Carrie, in 1974 (the only two years since 1974 to not feature at least one new King book are 1976 and 1988). So, in 1978 Mr. King published two books, his collection of short stories called Night Shift (published in February of 1978) as well as my all-time favorite King work, The Stand (published September of 1978). Brian De Palma released the incredibly silly but still very enjoyable and stylish film The Fury. Also, the serial killer David Berkowitz was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on June 12th. Roman Polanski fled to France in February of that year because he did, um, some questionable things in a hot tub. During June of 1978, the very first Garfield comic strip appeared, created by Jim Davis (not Jock Ewing, by the way; a different Jim Davis). Some of the top grossing films of that year were Grease, Saturday Night Fever (which, by the way, is pretty cool since that movie actually came out in 1977), Jaws 2, and The Deer Hunter. On the horror landscape, John Carpenter’s landmark movie Halloween also came out that year, as well as George Romero's brilliant Dawn of the Dead. Finally, and bringing us back to the subject of television, the top ten shows of the 1977-1978 schedule were (going from #10 to #1) One Day at a Time, MASH, Alice, Little House on the Prairie, Charlie’s Angels, All in the Family, 60 Minutes, Three’s Company, Happy Days, and Laverne and Shirley.
And that’s gonna do it for 1978. But before we move on to California with the KL Pilot, we still have two sunny Texas episodes left to watch. We’re going to jump forward almost one full year to our next “Brief Dallas Interlude,” this one from the third season episode entitled simply Secrets. Talk to you then!