The slow exclusion of J.R. (Larry Hagman) from the core cast of Dallas has been deepening as the season wears on. At first, he was a welcome attraction, a throwback to another time and a reminder of just how much fun it could be to watch a bunch of wealthy Texans lie, cheat and steal in order to accumulate more wealth. Well, after about three episodes, it was clear that, like the original run of Dallas, J.R. is still the man.
It's fairly clear he was used as bait to lure viewers in, get them hooked and then fade away to make room for a seriously watered down version of his patented oilman smarminess. Still, what his son John Ross (Josh Henderson) lacks in experience and depth of character, he more than makes up for it in naiveté and generally humorous blunders stemming from being an overly confident blowhard that's gotten himself in way over his head. At this point, it wouldn't be surprising if this season turned out to be a dream pinpointing all the insecurities John Ross has about following in his father's footsteps. Because, if there's one rule to having an evil, money-grubbing father, it's the requirement that the son has to become a pampered, slightly imbecilic version of the man who came before him. I present the News Corp. scandal as exhibit A.
So, while J.R. is off trying to learn about Cliff Barnes' right-hand man, Frank (Faran Tahir), John Ross is getting an earful from Bobby, Christopher and even his secret Venezuelan investors who are growing increasingly impatient at the lack of oil they've received. John Ross seems to take them seriously enough that he buys more time by selling out Veronica (Leonor Varela) – which he hopes will also curb her increasingly Glenn Close-like behavior. In comparison to the Venezuelan businessman who can make re-corking a bottle of wine look like a death threat, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and Christopher's (Jesse Metcalfe) quest to win back Southfork by playing fair seems like a walk in the park – even for a novice like John Ross.
Christopher, who has seemingly abandoned his methane research to alternately pester and then reject Elena (Jordana Brewster) – only to pine for her all over again – decides that an important part of playing fair is not having a DVD of his cousin being intimate with the woman who fraudulently sold Southfork in his media collection. John Ross sees this move as a sign of weakness – failing to recognize his own utter failure as another, slightly more troublesome sign of weakness.
During one of the rare afternoons that Christopher isn't hanging out in her doorway, Elena is visited by Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), who delivers a lovely thank you/sorry-I-conspired-to-ruin-your-relationship basket of creams and lotions, and then promptly vomits in Elena's bathroom. Keen as ever, Elena connects the incident with Rebecca's nosebleed from the previous day to infer that Christopher's con-artist wife is indeed carrying his child. She then keeps this information close at hand for the next inevitable Christopher encounter and basically blindsides him with the news.
Wisely, Christopher insists on a paternity test rather than express the elation most men in their mid-twenties would exhibit upon finding out they'll have to go without a full-night's sleep for the next few years. For some reason or another, it seems like Rebecca thought this might be the ace up her sleeve, and responds to Christopher's less-than-pleased reaction by recalling the nasty, persistent rumor of Christopher being sold by his birth parents. When the paternity test results finally come in, an increasingly secretive and emotionally fragile Ann (Brenda Strong) is seen chastising Christopher over his inability to forgive Rebecca.
Ann doesn't seem to have fully recovered from her ill-fated meeting with ex-husband Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), and instead is distancing herself from Bobby – a move that makes his subsequent arrest for assault even more troubling.
Ryland is positioning himself as a quality Dallas villain. He's rich, powerful and appears to hold all the cards (including the ones that haven't occurred to his opponents, yet). Ryland's quest to get into Bobby's head (as either retribution for losing Ann, or just because he's that kind of guy) gets off to a great start after he agrees to drop the assault charges in exchange for a simple apology from the master of the backhand. What Ryland really wanted to do, however, is poison the well in regards to Ann and Bobby by handing over an envelope, which would answer all of Bobby's questions about his wife. Naturally, Bobby being one to play fair figures having any sort of scandalous information about Ann that didn't come from Ann herself is no way to play the game. Instead, he burns the unopened envelope in front of Ann as a sign of trust and consolidation against a common foe.
Unfortunately, neither Christopher nor John Ross has reached that level in any of their relationships. Christopher gets the Maury Povich-like news that he is the father of the twins Rebecca is carrying, and displays a brief moment of compassion for her, before letting her hand slip from his grasp.
Meanwhile, John Ross gets caught up in all sorts of Veronica craziness after being led to believe she's kidnapped Elena. Given her frantic, paranoid state, it's clear that Veronica is at the end of her rope, but seems to be hanging on just to see how long she can convince John Ross that she is holding Elena captive. After about half a day, John Ross figures out that the kidnapping is a mere ploy to get his help now that the Venezuelans have frozen her bank accounts (they can do that?) and are likely coming to kill her. After a brief scuffle, John Ross recovers Elena's phone and leaves the building – attracting as much attention to him as humanly possible when he sees Veronica's broken body lying atop a car in the hotel parking lot.
'Collateral Damage' ends with John Ross being taken in for questioning regarding Veronica's murder, which the scratch on his neck likely won't help. If the rest of the season consisted of John Ross hatching a plan to escape from prison, or the aforementioned dream, Dallas will have proven to be the best guilty pleasure on television. That being unlikely, we'll just have to wait for Larry Hagman to return.
Dallas returns next Wednesday with 'No Good Deed' @9pm on TNT. Check out preview of the episode below: