DALLAS – Season 1, Episode 4: “The Winds of Vengeance”

WARNING: This is one of my least favorite episodes. I read the novelized version of Season One, and the creepy humiliation of Sue Ellen still terrifies me. Even by 1970s standards this is exploitive and gross and I considered not recapping it, but Ray’s coat alone warranted some TV archaeology.

Dear God.

J.R. and Ray are in a cheap motel sleeping with some women they picked up in Waco. Ray wears a terrifying faux-Native American, gray and sunset-colored coat. I’m glad J.R. isn’t classist, but it seems odd he’s so chummy with the ranch foreman.

The womens’ husbands pull up to the motel after J.R. and Ray leave and start knocking on doors to find them.  After some violence that is even more disturbing to me now than as a kid, the husband finds J.R.’s business card on the floor. J.R. clearly needs better pockets or a business card holder.

But does it have a fax number on it?

It also, oddly enough has SouthFork Ranch (aka 3737 Plot Device Lane) listed as his address. Does he have separate business cards for the women he sleeps with? If so, why he give his home address? Can the Ewings not afford PO Boxes?

Also, it turns out Southfork is in Braddock, Texas, not Dallas, so really, the whole show had become a geographical lie, though I suppose even with only three networks in the lates 70s, no one was going to watch a show called Braddock.

Ray’s ugly coat drives them home while J.R. can’t sleep. Some cattle business gets discussed, so now the business card starts to make more since. As they drive a radio reports a Plot Device with gusts of up to 100 mph is moving across the state in a northwesterly direction … otherwise known as straight to Southfork.

I wonder if some fact-checking interns had to rewrite the dialogue since it’s doubtful any of the writers or producers knew which way Waco was in relation to Braddock.

Sue Ellen is serving Miss Ellie some lunch in bed, because she has a severe case of Plot Device, which as you know, you can come dramatically close to death from.  Miss Ellie wants the two of them to make Pam more comfortable and Sue Ellen is resistant. When the phone rings, Sue Ellen can’t wait to end this conversation and jumps to answer it. Miss Ellie wonders why they can’t turn that thing off in here, which seems odd, since I remember my parents unplugging my phone and taking it away and we weren’t even rich like the Ewings.

It’s Bobby, calling to warn them there may be a hurricane. Pam says she knows how to handle herself in a Texas hurricane, but Bobby reminds her she’s a city gal, and it’s different out here in the desolate wilds of Braddock County in a mansion-ranch.

Sue Ellen eavesdrops and wonders if J.R. is late due to the oncoming storm. Lucy’s school closes, so she’s home. Sue Ellen unexpectedly takes charge, putting the other two to work. At the office, Bobby wants to go home, but Jock’s made dinner plans for them – with Punk Anderson and some of the boys. I believe this is the first we’ve seen of members of the Cartel, that will play a much more important part in the show going forward.

You go, Sue Ellen!

Jock really doesn’t want to go home and I wonder if he realizes he and Bobby are in a skyscraper, which is exactly where I don’t want to be in a hurricane. Of course, the sky is still blue outside the window, so maybe Jock knows something we don’t.

CLEARLY hurricane weather.

The Waco wackos are almost to Southfork and Luther has a plan to do to the Ewing women what J.R. did to his wife … so, take them to a cheap motel and have sex?

J.R.  and Ray’s ugly coat get home and J.R. has had enough of that outfit. He says he’s going to change clothes to take care of the livestock and I’m sure he hopes that will inspired Ray to do the same.

Here’s the winds …

J.R. comes into the kitchen, tells Sue Ellen good morning and grabs a beer. Damn. J.R. is not fooling around when it comes to carbs. Sue Ellen has a try ready to take up to Miss Ellie, and there’s a knock at the door.

So. The Ewings don’t have a gate at the driveway, maids to answer the door or even ranch hands to question why people could walk right up to the big house and ask if J.R. has accepted Jesus as his personal savior? Rich people. The Waco wackos claim their car broked down and they need to use the Plot Device.

And here’s the venegance.

Lucy flirts with the younger one, because she’s always horny. Sue Ellen flirts with the older one because J.R. works late all the time. Lucy explains it’s the feast of San Antonio and everyone has the day off. This does not seem legit, as the only Saint Antonio I could Google was the patron saint of protecting against shingles, so the Ewings’ staff may have pulled one over on them.

“We didn’t start the fire …”

The wackos giggle about some past assaults on people. Pam is suspicious. The radio at the office explains the storm is heading straight to Dallas. J.R. says the roads are impossible and Bobby should stay in the office. J.R., Ray and the Wackos head out to do ranch things. I’d pay at least $100 to see Southfork spin up into the air and land on a witch in a technicolor forest. 

The cows mill around and the horses want to stay in the barn, because they’re smart. It is awesome seeing J.R. run around after a calf. Why they just want to save the one and the rest of the herd is left to become a Cownado must involve some ranch logic I don’t comprehend.

Because that hat will stay on in the wind.

Ray gets thrown and breaks his leg. All of this, combined with his earlier seductions of his half-niece, would make me rethink his position as foreman of the ranch. The cattle are forgotten as they get Ray back to the ranch.

Miss Ellie’s Plot Device is lessening and she wants to get up and join the fun as they bring Ray into the house. Lucy calls the doctor and all the menfolk and Lucy still have their hats on … which means they have extremely well-fitting hats to stand up to that wind, or the Plot Device is also lessening outside. As everyone frets over Ray, the Wackos lock the door and begin a vaguely-threatening dialogue.

Didn’t see that coming.

J.R. offers money, and Luther explains why they’re here. They’re not criminals, they explain, just getting them some justice for their womenfolk. The Plot Device rings and he tells Pam (the “countess,” which makes me realize Bravo has really missed an opportunity to cast Victoria Principal in a Real Housewives franchise) to answer it. She subtly clues Bobby in, telling him she and J.R. are playing backgammon. Jock tells Bobby he’s being an old lady, but they head home.

Giggly can’t decide who he’s going to sexually assault first. Luther spills the beans, saying they found Wanda in a motel room and her story was she was kidnapped and raped by two men – and J.R.’s business card was in the room.

Everything gets sicker and more weird now. The episode is hard to watch, and it’s bizarre this made prime-time 40 years ago. Giggly kisses Sue Ellen roughly and when J.R. and Ray try to fight back, they get knocked out and hit in the broken leg. Giggly starts assaulting Pam she puts up a great fight. Just then, Miss Ellie comes downstairs.

Bobby and Jock are stuck on the road. J.R. has to tie Ray up. Miss Ellie tries to reason with the thugs, invoking the name of Jock Ewing. They see a photo of Sue Ellen as Miss Texas and they tell her to get into her bathing suit. They want her to wear the Miss Texas banner. The novelization of this scene scarred me as a teen. I couldn’t quite understand why people wanted to be so cruel.

Miss Ellie and Pam try to reason with Giggly, but he is a lunatic. Lucy spills the beans that Ray and Pam used to date. Pam tries to be the one selected to save Lucy, but they want Ewings, not “one of them.” They make Sue Ellen perform the song she sang in the talent portion of the Miss Texas competition.

This is truly degrading and hard to watch, so we’re going to skip ahead.  After it comes out that Wanda wasn’t raped, Luther has a change of heart, but Giggly still wants to go ahead with it.

Bobby and Jock make it home and they come in through the back door and find Ray. Just as Giggly takes Lucy upstairs, Bobby and Jock save the day. Miss Ellie says they have to let them go and not involve the law, so Jock sends them packing. Sue Ellen realizes how little J.R. thinks of her and gives J.R. and Ray a Look of Death as she walks out. Good for you.

Assholes.

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy to rewatch but no matter how I tried to make it funny, the degradation of Sue Ellen was just not a forgivable thing in my mind. It served a narrative purpose to shatter her marriage, but it was too hard to watch and I won’t watch it again.

Double asshole.

Capice Moment: Ray hobbles off, leaving J.R. by the fireplace, at least somewhat shamed by his actions.

Next week – a great palette cleanser – the first annual Ewing Barbecue episode!!

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