So far this season, Dallas been about all the little schemes the characters have been cooking up in order to get their piece of the pie. Whether that pie is Southfork, a patent on methane extraction or just a little extra cash, the show has certainly had a lot of balls in the air. Now, with the fourth episode, it looks as though - in classic Dallas fashion - some of the allegiances that made these schemes a possibility are beginning to fall apart.
The big question, however, still revolves around the pending sale of Southfork. Since underhanded lawyer Mitch Lobell (Richard Dillard) has held up the delivery of the very documents that will finalize the sale (and effectively put Southfork in the hands of J.R.), the actual fate of the ranch has yet to be determined. Thankfully, John Ross (Josh Henderson) and his father, J.R. (Larry Hagman), are on hand to constantly remind one another - and by extension, the viewers - exactly what's at stake.
While 'The Last Hurrah' is superficially concerned with what appears to be the final days of Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and Ann (Brenda Strong) in Southfork, the episode just uses that as a cover to further darken the already murky morality of nearly everyone on the show. Between John Ross and his father double-dealing against the family, then each other - which is then followed by them making nice with one another, just so that they can do it all over again - Dallas has more fluctuating coalitions than the government sees in an election year. Once you figure in scheming siblings, Tommy (Callard Harris) and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), fake Marta Del Sol (Leonor Varela) - henceforth known by her real name Veronica Martinez - and the Sue-Ellen-seducing Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), the amount of underhandedly opportunistic individuals likely exceeds broadcast television standards. But then that's probably why the show is on cable now.
With all the digging J.R. has been up to since making a miraculous recovery from a near-catatonic state, it's unsurprising he's managed to come up with the dirt needed to make his move against not only Lobell, but John Ross as well. By uncovering the true identity of Marta (Veronica), J.R. has become privy to her less-than-pleasant romantic history apparently brought on by bipolar disorder (because heaven forbid the condition be portrayed with any more seriousness or complexity than a crazy ex-girlfriend). Now, Veronica has gone from potential high-stakes con artist to ticking, emotional time bomb - just in time for the final Southfork BBQ, too.
Meanwhile, Lobell's son, Rick, is John Ross' new assignment from his father. Not wanting to use Veronica, John Ross segues into the world of blackmail by threatening to reveal the origin of the email that broke up Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and Elena (Jordana Brewster). So far, John Ross has performed as the villain in a sort of perfunctory manner, going from task to task and sulking, yelling or backstabbing after whatever he's trying to accomplish falls through. Now, for the first time, we see some kind of enjoyment in being the baddie on John Ross' face - either that or he simply can't believe his scheme worked. So coaxing an emotion out of John Ross beyond reflexive anger should be considered a small victory.
For her part, Rebecca catches up with Rick after an AA meeting, but bails on her attempt to lure him back into doing drugs after he talks about getting his life back together for love. Returning home, she's confronted by Tommy, who presses her to move quicker on their plan to steal Christopher's methane patent. With all the plots she's just trying to back out of, Rebecca has proven herself to be way more interesting than Elena - if only there were a way to show Christopher the real her, then he wouldn't be having second thoughts about his former fiancée.
Thankfully, Bobby's keen sense of when his son is in need of some fatherly advice allows him to broach the subject with Christopher. Either that or he didn't want to have to redo the section fence Christopher was haphazardly banging away at. After giving his father the lowdown on his romantic quandary, Christopher still seems unsure which direction his heart wants him to go. However, before any hasty decision can be made, Christopher learns a powerful lesson about choice and gains a new perspective on his own adoption through the death of a pregnant cow. We could all learn a thing or two from that cow.
Inspired by whatever oblique message he picked up essentially watching food be born, Christopher later hands Elena a check for $20k, attempting to end any future obligation (professional or otherwise) he has toward her. Once more returning to his new wife with a renewed interest in their relationship (that's twice in four episodes, for those counting), Christopher wants to show her the calf that motivated him to choose her, but Rebecca seems more interested in spilling the beans before John Ross can. We'll have to wait until next episode for the reveal on that.
Whatever machinations are going on in and around Southfork, they all pale in comparison to what J.R. has cooking. So hell-bent on claiming his birthright, he's now enlisted Marta/Veronica to do his bidding after allowing her to believe John Ross is still pursuing a relationship with Elena. That move allows him to deliver damning photos of Rick to Lobell, which in turn reveals J.R.'s intentions of cutting John Ross out of any potential ownership in Southfork.
As the season progresses and episodes go by where multiple characters are handed photos of themselves or people they care about in compromising positions, the question becomes: is the prying observation continually on display in Dallas an intentional reflection of what the audience seeks in watching the show, or is it purely happenstance? It's probably not what the writers are going for, but so far, that question has proven more interesting than the romantic predicament Christopher, Elena and John Ross find themselves in.
Dallas continues next Wednesday with 'Truth and Consequences' @9pm on TNT. Check out a preview below: