At first glance, it seemed as though Dallas was looking to have it both ways. That is to say: the series seemed to be simultaneously washing its hands of the greed and empire-building that served it so well during the similarly-themed decade of the ’80s, while still embracing the inherent sleaziness of all those J.R.-types and actual J.R.s running around the show. Now, with ‘The Price You Pay,’ it appears Dallas is just interested in attending the J.R. Ewing School of Business – whose motto is: “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.”

It’s the easy way out, to be sure, but it’s also the most convincing aspect of a show that’s still trying to figure out how to move forward when everything interesting about the series is still being dug up in its rear-view. Besides, we all understand greed, deception and betrayal; it’s what we signed up for with Dallas. What’s really hard to accept, is the idea that Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe) can figure out an alternative energy problem, vexing scientists across the globe, from a laptop in a place furnished by IKEA.

In what is the most wonderfully preposterous segment of Dallas so far, Christopher (the boy no one wanted) is close to solving the riddle of extracting methane gas from the ocean floor without causing a Tsunami. Even though the implications of his research have a real-world spin to them, the idea of this show earnestly discussing and allowing its characters to not only work on, but apparently resolve the issue is as hilarious as most of J.R.’s nuggets of wisdom.

Seeing Eva Longoria’s lawn boy declare (with a straight face, mind you) this complex problem only needs a dose of “liquid carbon dioxide,” turns Dallas into a real gem of summer television. It’s truly amazing stuff; not unlike Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough. As if that weren’t sufficient, though, the show also piles on scenes where Christopher conducts experiments with a piece of frozen methane that when lit, becomes the first plot device capable rendering more emotion than the actor utilizing it. 

Given that soaps generally incorporate ludicrous elements into their storylines by distracting everyone with a constant bombardment of melodrama, it didn’t take long for Dallas to boost its characters from behind-the-scene schemers to something more aggressive, like issuing threats of the not-so-subtle variety. In fact, during the course of ‘The Price You Pay,’ J.R. (Larry Hagman) manages to threaten his son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), some Venezuelan businessmen and fake Marta Del Sol (Leonor Varela). So it’s safe to say that at this point, Dallas officially belongs to Larry Hagman.

J.R. is so intent on making his con with the phony Del Sol Conservancy go through that he and John Ross enlist what looks to be Terry Bradshaw to convince Bobby (Patrick Duffy) that his older, eviler brother should move back to Southfork. You know, because it’ll help with J.R.’s depression and all. This leads to another example of Ann (Brenda Strong) being quick to dispense a little Texas justice, by pulling a gun on what she believes to be an intruder – which just turns out to be J.R. pilfering some old documents. Of course that leads to a brilliant line from J.R. stating: “Bullets don’t seem to have much of an effect on me.”

Still, for all the obvious underhandedness of J.R. and John Ross, there’s still the undiscovered threat of Tommy (Callard Harris), who apparently carries a six-shooter with him while fixing holes in the fences of Soutfork. The con he and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) are attempting to pull of appears to be coming apart at the seams already – possibly due to some real feelings Rebecca has for her duped husband. She’s so enamored with Christopher that she seems willing to throw away her duties to the incredibly elaborate and involved swindle, even though her husband is about two episodes away from jumping in the sack with his ex-fiancée.

Thankfully, before the young ones can unconvincingly battle for Southfork, screw each other over and start sleeping around (more than they already have), the senior citizens still have some tricks to show them; like how to have a distinguished argument. To help make this example, Dallas has brought back Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), to stare down J.R. and listen to him say, “time has not been kind to your face.” The back-and-forth between the two men (which from the looks of it, has gone on since the dawn of time) is by far the most enjoyable segment of the episode. It also offers further proof that continuing the Ewing/Barnes/Southfork saga from where it left off forces all of the audience’s attention back onto the original cast members, leaving Christopher and John Ross to bring up the rear without any real panache.

Whatever Cliff’s plans are for John Ross, the fact that they appear to hinge around a metal briefcase stuffed full of cash, presented by Iron Man‘s Faran Tahir, can’t be good. Still, more Cliff means more insult-slinging J.R. – and for the time being, that’s what is driving this series.

With Christopher’s methane problem nearly resolved, he’ll be able to join the fight for Southfork, as it’s clear John Ross hasn’t quite figured out a way around the Mitch Lobell (Richard Dillard) issue. Hopefully, it’ll be something more interesting than liquid carbon dioxide.

Dallas continues next week with ‘The Last Hurrah’ @9pm on TNT. Take a look at the episode below: