It’s appropriate that this week’s episode of “Dallas” aired on the fourth of July. There is no character who better exemplifies American values than J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman). He is the poster-child for unfettered capitalism, social Darwinism, and, yes, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The man played a key behind-the-scenes role in the fight for independence, supplying the horse that Paul Revere used on his famous ride and suggesting the second amendment to the founding fathers. Fine. He’s not that old. But, little known fact, his eyebrows are. They have been passed down from generation to generation of Ewing men, beginning with Josiah Ryan Ewing, Alexander Hamilton’s little-known buggy whip supplier. J.R. spent his independence day hosting a giant barbecue celebrating his takeover of Southfork. There were burgers and fist fights and an epic fireworks display that illuminated all the new oil wells. On camera, he delivered a primer on the all-American pastimes of hostile takeovers and passing the buck. Learn from him and you, too, can be a credit to your country.
“I always felt a little funny about that Marta Del Sol girl ever since I saw her at the Cattle Baron’s ball. Daddy always said beautiful women were the most dangerous… Well, a couple of weeks ago I heard she was planning on selling Southfork to to Cliff Barnes. I was surprised she could put it right back on the market after buying it from you but hell I figured that was just the deal you and Lobell made with her…. When I heard that vulture Barnes was trying to steal Southfork get his hands on the ranch and all the oil my boy found under it, I got a group of investors together and swooped in and bought it from Del Sol. I don’t think Cliff Barnes knew what hit him. And I guess, maybe, neither did you. Now that she’s mine, I’m going too start sinking more wells as soon as I can. Ewing oil is back in business, Bobby.”
J.R. knows that the best way to avoid getting caught is to A) have your lies prepared well in advance, B) Make sure your lies have a few elements of the truth, and C) Be utterly shameless. Cliff Barnes never had any designs on Southfork. The entire scheme to steal it from Bobby was orchestrated by J.R. and John Ross. However, Cliff has been sniffing around the Ewings. He has deep pockets and would, given the opportunity, buy Southfork out of pure spite. J.R. knew that Bobby (Patrick Duffy) would not believe a word of his tall tale, but, without proof, would be powerless to stop J.R. from taking over the ranch.
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“You want to carry on Mama’s legacy. Well, I want to carry on Daddy’s. I’m taking back what should have been mine in the first place.”
After establishing his cover story, J.R. went on the offensive, arguing that he was entitled to Southfork. He argued that Bobby’s promise to Miss Ellie that nobody would drill on Southfork was is no way binding. Jock’s motto, after all was “Drill baby, drill” long before it became a political rallying cry. Note how J.R. subtly calls Bobby a Mama’s Boy, implying that his desire to stop the intra-family feud and preserve the ranch’s beauty is unmanly. Real men like to ram giant phallic symbols deep into the earth. Also, even though America is not a feudal nation, tradition dictates that the older brother should get the land. USA! USA!
“The deed is real. And this place is mine. But you can stay here as long as you like Bobby. We’re family.”
This was J.R.’s final twist of the knife he plunged into Bobby’s back. While J.R. had to bribe a grumpy old man to impersonate a doctor and tell Bobby that J.R. needed to move back into the ranch to recover from his depression, J.R. is magnanimous enough to offer Bobby a room out of the goodness of her heart. The great thing about this storyline is that, honestly, J.R. and John Ross were right. Bobby’s plan to sell the ranch and move into a condo because apparently Texas only has ranches and efficiency studios, not actual houses with backyards, was far more destructive to the family legacy than J.R. and John Ross’s plan to make the family a fortune. Though his actions were ethical, Bobby’s behavior was as selfish as J.R’s, and the giant eyebrows had every right to call him out on it.
“Well, Annie you’re just gonna have to work on your imagination.”
To J.R., self-righteousness is the greatest sin. He has so little tolerance for pearl clutching that he forcibly removed his mother’s pearls from Southfork and gave them to Sue Ellen. So when Anne told J.R. that, even after years of hearing all of J.R.’s dastardly deeds she is shocked– shocked — that J.R. turned out to be exactly as described. Did she think Bobby was exaggerating? Anne described J.R.’s behavior as “beyond her imagination.” J.R.’s withering comeback was not only hilarious. it was accurate. All J.R. did was use subterfuge to buy property he has been open about wanting. It’s not like J.R. unleashed a bunch of genetically engineered mutants to eat all of Bobby’s cattle. That would have been something nobody would have expected. In the irony department, this episode introduced Anne’s ex-husband who seemed to be a wealthy. manipulative Alpha male just like J.R. Anne’s plan of persuading him not to lease his trucks — conveniently the only trucks in Texas that can cart away the precious Southfork oil was, in fact, pretty imaginative. This is why everyone should always take J.R.’s advice. It works.
“The deed to Southfork is still yours for the having John Ross. It’s just a matter of time. The deal was to teach you the oil business. And I am… I’m throwing you into the deep end just like my daddy did to me. I’m gonna see if you can swim. Or sink… By the time I’m back Bobby will have gotten used to oil being pumped on Southfork and the damage will be done. Just don’t screw it up.”
This was J.R.’s ultimate power play. He knows that Bobby is fighting to have the sale of Southfork voided. So he decides to leave town and leave John Ross to do all his dirty work, convincing him that it’s a great opportunity. It’s like Tom Sawyer conning his friends into painting the fence for him. Given John Ross’s track record, it seems like a gamble. Actually,it’s foolproof. If John Ross succeeds, J.R. gets to reap the benefits. If he messes up, J.R. will be out of the jurisdiction and he will be able to hold John Ross’s failure over his head forever. J.R. assumes that there’s no evidence linking John Ross to the Great Southfork Quadruplecross since his name is not on any of the legal documents and he ended up with nothing. He has no idea about the John Ross-Faux Marta sex tape complete with extra loud moaning. Oops. J.R. should have taken his own advice and had his P.I. search Faux Marta’s room.