A BRIEF DALLAS INTERLUDE: PART 6 OF 12
Episode Title: No More Mister Nice Guy: Part Two
Season 04, Episode 02
Written by Arthur Bernard Lewis
Directed by Leonard Katzman
Original Airdate: Sunday, November 9th, 1980
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.com): Bobby takes over running Ewing Oil as a now-paralyzed J.R. undergoes further surgery. Sue Ellen suspects she may be the shooter. Yet more suspects are added to the police's list.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the one glorious scene we got between Gary and Val in our previous Brief Dallas Interlude, I also was sad that all we got was, you know, that one scene. Fortunately, the Dallas episode up for discussion right now gives us way more KL related material to talk about thanks to the glorious crossover appearance of Ted Shackelford as Gary Ewing, rushing to Texas to visit his, um, beloved (?) brother in the hospital.
First off, let me just say that I must have remembered the details of this episode a bit incorrectly, because in my memory, both Gary and Val flew to Texas to see J.R. This is actually not the case, and Val doesn’t even appear in this episode. However, we get quite a bit of my much cherished Gary, and we also maintain that fantastic continuity between the storylines going on during both shows. Let’s dive in and I can explain some of that.
Okay, first off, we actually start this episode with one of those fabulous recaps that begins with the dramatic narrator announcing, “Here are some scenes from the first part of tonight’s story.” Then we get about seventeen minutes of recap and then proceed with the episode in question. I note with some interest that, at least according to TV.com, both of these episodes up for discussion were meant to air as a big two-hour block of television. Apparently this was changed when CBS decided to instead re-air the final episode from season three, followed immediately by the premiere of season four. Thus, the second part of this episode aired not one week later, but just two short days later. In fact, this episode aired on a Sunday, which was unusual for Dallas (for almost its entire run, it aired on Friday nights). Anyway, enough about that; let’s move on.
For a quick recap of the Dallas storylines, J.R. is currently still lying in a hospital bed, bullets in his belly, and one of the central storylines in this episode involves him having some sort of risky and invasive surgery to get those bullets removed, lest he face a lifelong paralysis. Anyway, naturally the list of suspects is still huge, with the police believing that Cliff Barnes is the prime suspect. After all, he is J.R. Ewing’s sworn enemy and pretty much stays that way until the conclusion of the series (and I believe he is still J.R. Ewing’s sworn enemy in that God-awful TNT reboot series). Obviously the list of suspects is endless and also includes, say, Marilee Stone (whose husband killed himself because of J.R.’s dirty tricks) and of course Sue Ellen (who was pulling a Gary and going on a drunken bender at the conclusion of the third season).
Now, I don’t mean to spoil things from almost forty years ago, but the culprit turns out to be Sue Ellen’s devious little sister, Kristin, played with memorably sexy venom by Mary Crosby. The reason I mention this is because, even though we don’t see a whole lot of Kristen in this episode (mostly just her hanging out in the hospital with everybody else), nor do we find out she shot J.R. until two episodes later, she’s still a pretty important character and she will also be crossing over into a KL episode (season two, episode five, in the episode entitled, um, Kristin). Thus, I just want to mention that she is here hanging around, and we will be seeing her again in a KL episode, so get ready!
Anyway, we get to see Gary pretty much right away in this episode, driving up to Southfork with Lucy. Can I just say how completely adorable Lucy is whenever her daddy is onscreen with her? I guess after they truly mended fences in the KL episode Home Is For Healing, now things are totally cool with both of them, because Lucy is positively beaming as she comes driving in with her daddy. I found it interesting that as Gary arrives, he says how he’d like to go up and see little John Ross Ewing III, and he mentions, “I’ve got a nephew I’ve never seen before.” Why, this is true, and it’s something I never really thought about until he said it right there. This little line speaks volumes about how isolated Gary really is from his wealthy Texas family.
I got a pretty magnificent KL boner during the very next scene, which involves a candid talk between Sue Ellen and Gary. See, the two are hanging out in the nursery, admiring the baby, and Gary decides to break the ice by talking about, you guessed it, alcoholism. He’s like, “Say Sue Ellen, remember when you were pregnant and got really drunk and crashed that car and almost killed your baby in your womb?” Okay, he doesn’t say it quite like that, but that’s the subject he brings up for discussion, and not without good reason. Sue Ellen is still, at this point in the Dallas series, struggling very heavily with her alcoholism, and she won’t finally conquer it for good until around 1986. Gary is trying to be a friend to her, to explain that they have a mutual problem and he understands her. Once again, we have a glorious callback to Bottom of the Bottle. I just love the fact that the writers are maintaining this continuity between parent series and spinoff series, and I’ll bet lots of other series wouldn’t even make the effort. Here, you are getting the true sense that the two series are existing in the same universe with the same characters living in them. Gary gives Sue Ellen some details about his big drunken bender, how he was ruining his life and the lives of others, and only after he accepted the fact that he was an alcoholic was he able to get better. Of course, Sue Ellen is not ready to admit that about herself just yet, so she gets angry and is like, “Maybe you are an alcoholic, Gary, but I’m not!” Yeah, sure, whatever, Sue Ellen.
We immediately get another great Gary scene, this time between he and Bobby, the brother he truly loves and gets along with. See, the two brothers drive out until they’re just outside of those epic Southfork gates, and then they stop the car and get out and take a nice long look at the ranch from a distance. Gary explains how, when he looks at the ranch, he just thinks of good things, not the bad things, not the horrible family dramas. Bobby gets introspective for a moment and talks about how J.R.’s shooting is what’s linking the family back together right now, and he concludes with some sort of comment to the effect that J.R. has a power over their lives, whether they like it or not. It’s a nice moment of bonding between two brothers.
From here, we get a few more sequences that are strictly related to Dallas (Cliff Barnes being taken away by the police as a suspect in the shooting of J.R., for instance), but then we get a fabulous scene between Miss Ellie and Gary, and I had a real SHOCKER moment here, so get ready for it. Okay, in all honesty, it’s not that big of a deal, but in my memory, I thought that my beloved Karen Fairgate was the only KL character to ever get a verbal mention over on Dallas (note: Even though Gary and Val are obviously super important KL characters, they were technically introduced originally on Dallas and, because of that, are considered to be Dallas characters). Anyway, I was mistaken, because we begin this scene with Gary talking about his epic bender, and he says, “Sid and Karen Fairgate were really helpful.” So there you go, both Karen and Sid are mentioned here in a Dallas episode!
Aside from the mention of two characters whom I obviously love dearly, I also enjoyed this scene because it worked to further the continuity between series. Gary is speaking very candidly to his mother about his big bender and all the damage he caused, admitting, “I really hit rock bottom.” I’m sorry, but isn’t this just glorious? I just love that the concluding two episodes of season one of KL are being discussed so openly over here on Dallas, providing that wonderful linkage between the series that will, sadly, be completely ruined around 1985. This also shows growth of the Gary character, that he’s not embarrassed to speak so frankly to his mother about his problems. See, he’s not blaming anybody but himself for his problems, and that’s the real important thing; he is taking responsibility for his own mistakes and his own weaknesses.
I think we only get one more scene with Gary, but it’s a doozy. This scene takes place with him finally visiting J.R. in his hospital room, and we get something that I both love but also completely recognize for what it truly is: Tacky promotion. Follow along here. You see, J.R. is all drugged up and tired and what-have-you, but then he sees that his brother Gary has come to visit him and he’s all like, “Oh hey, hi Gary, how are you doing?” There’s an exchange of dialogue and then J.R. mentions how Gary is probably eager to get back to California, saying, get this, “I would rush home if I lived next to a pretty little bundle like Karen Fairgate.”
LOL, what a fantastic line, and of course delivered impeccably by the inimitable Larry Hagman. Okay, so on the one hand, I love the cross-referencing of series, and, not to be a broken record, but that flow of continuity from series to series. See, obviously J.R. is referring to the events of episode two of KL, Community Spirit, when he came to visit and cause shenanigans. If you’ll recall, Karen managed to get the best of J.R. by pretending that she was performing a seduction on him, when in reality she was distracting him long enough for Gary to steal some information from his offices. Now, I think J.R. actually truly likes it and admires it when a woman manages to get the best of him (which is probably why he gets along so well with Abby, as we shall discuss very shortly), so that’s why he remembers Karen and mentions her specifically. From a storytelling point of view, from the idea that the two series are existing in the same worlds and featuring the same characters, this is a perfectly natural and wonderful little reference.
However, to get into the more business side of the argument, it’s also easy to see what the writers and producers and directors are doing here. On the one hand, you have Dallas, which is the #1 show on television at this point (and is about to break records with the Who Done It? episode, bringing in more viewers for a television episode then, well, anything beforehand, and only beaten twice since its airing), and then you have KL, which will finish the 1980-1981 season at #28 in the ratings. Obviously the creators want to take the loyal Dallas viewers and transplant them over to the spinoff series, as well, so what better way to do it than this? After all, pretty much everyone in the world is watching Dallas to find out who shot J.R., so why not have the character in question, lying in his hospital bed, essentially hold up a sign saying, “Watch Knots Landing, Thursday nights at 10 on CBS!” So I’m doing the same thing I do so often when discussing KL; I am recognizing that this is a tacky little advertisement for the spinoff series, but I am forgiving it because I get a boner for the linkages between the two series. Make sense?
Anyway, after this scene, Gary pretty much flies back to California and, therefore, I don’t have much else to say about the episode. The last twenty minutes or so of the episode didn’t really relate to my KL blogging, as Gary goes home and we don’t see him again. As I said, we will be seeing both Gary and Val again when they cross over for daughter Lucy’s wedding a bit later this season, but for now, we’re going to move away from Dallas and back into KL proper for awhile. Coming up next, Seaview Circle is blessed with a very special new neighbor, a certain Abby Fairgate Cunningham, played with wonderful sexiness by the fabulous Donna Mills, who goes a long way towards injecting some new energy into KL and helping it to usurp its parent series in overall quality. That’s right, folks, next up is the premiere of season two of KL, entitled Hitchhike: Part One. Talk to you then!