Dallas Recap, Episode 1: Changing of the Guard

Hello darlin’!

Welcome to the recap of Episode 0101 “Changing of the Guard” of the 2012 Dallas (or D:TNG — just throwin’ it out there before the hipsters do). Before we kick back and enjoy ourselves, I want to give recognition to the brave souls here in Dallas who made it through 6/13/12: Hail on Earth to the Texas Theatre to share in a moment 20 years in the making. Your gasps, laughter, and applause made this passion play of the Blackland Prairie a night to remember. And for the many windshields, back windows, and bodywork I passed on 75 South, I pour the Franconia out on the curb.

So we’re at Southfork Ranch in Dallas, Texas (ssh! Don’t tell the transplants!). Cows a-grazin’ and hosses a-runnin’ – it’s so bucolic, I thought I saw Bob Phillips sipping a Blizzard in the corner of the screen. An oil well stands triumphant, a symbol of Lone Star State power. Seconds later in a nearby trailer an oilywhatchamameter goes off, prompting the girl from The Fast and the Furious into a frenzy. “Wake up John Ross! Awl’s a-spoutin’!” And thus from a nearby cot we are reintroduced to John Ross Ewing III, all growed up and molestached. He springs into action, rallying his men. For a moment, you’re feeling it; John Ross is the natural-born reincarnation of his grandfather Jock, a wildcatter to the fullest. According to Dr. Roberts from Chuck, it turns out the well just spouted ten thousand barrels of oil, which in layman’s terms must be an eff-ton. It’s all good tonight on Southfork, says John Ross, as long as no one tells Uncle Bobby.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before (Kelsey Grammer in pilot of Boss): A man walks into an oncologist’s office and finds out that he has stomach cancer. Happy birthday, Bobby Ewing! Doc tells him that his cancer is so advanced that he must tell his family, but Bobby can’t because that would sortakinda put the wet blanket on his only son’s impending nuptials.

So we get to the standby of almost every Friday Night halftime show inTexas:

Duuun –dun-de-DUN!!! Duuun-dun-de-dun-de-DUN!!!

I have to admit, I’ve looked forward to the new series opening credits. Thematically, it still hearkens back to the old school: the Dallas skyline, side-scrolls of ranches and the Cowboys. But instead of the “Neapolitan” star credits of the past, Jordana Brewster’s name peeps out from behind a skyscraper and so on.

We return to Christopher Ewing, who is showing off his nifty science fair project to two very uninterested investors at the country club.  Turns out that Chris  has been totally into renewable fuels, and that methane is the key to the future. With gas at more than three bucks at the pump, the investors can’t hear Chris over the ka-chings. He’s adrift in a sea of disinterest until salvation arrives in the  form of a beautiful French girl who pulls him away with her winsome Gallic wiles. Before things get to hot and heavy in the locker room, it’s revealed by a matronly buzzkill that the French girl is actually Rebecca Sutter, Christopher’s fiancée, and that they must remain chaste before the wedding, which, I may add, takes place in 2012. We also check in with Bobby, who is making time with Wife Number Three, Annie, who we may remember as the dead wife from Desperate Housewives. At a bar, John Ross congratulates his men on a job well done and pays off some skeevy dude for his silence about drilling at Southfork. He then goes outside to report to a mystery person in a red sportscar that their plam continues apace.

Bobby then visits The Home for Retired Villains, Rogues, and Scoundrels where he has a sitdown with his older brother. Seems J. R. has been brought low: a lifetime of schemes and overall d-baggery has lost control of his birthright (Ewing Oil) to that idiot Cliff Barnes and control of Southfork Ranch to his wuss of a little brother. Now there’s nothing for this once force of nature to sit and literally watch the grass grow outside his nursing home window. Bobby’s there to make amends. After decades of Ewing-on-Ewing crimes, he wants the younger generation to be at peace. As Bobby leaves, there is a slight twitch from the seemingly catatonic J. R.

Back at the ranch, everyone is preparing for Christopher’s wedding to Rebecca. Amidst all the hubbub is the family domestic Carmen, who is the mother of the Girl I Saw One Time in Maxim. I finally looked her up on IMDb, and it’s Jordana Brewster who plays Elena, the cute geology lady from the oil well and childhood friend of both Ewing scions. Outside a car arrives and drops off the potential next Governor of Texas (like Rick Perry is going anywhere), the G-MILFy Sue Ellen Ewing. During family dinner, the bride-to-be is revealed to have been an orphaned because of a plane crash. And her bad luck continues, her bridesmaids can’t make it in for the wedding but her fiance’s ex-girlfriend Elena will do in a pinch. No awkwardness there, right? Bobby admonishes John Ross on his refusal to visit his estranged father, and Christopher and his cousin lock horns in a squabble over renewable fuels vs. wildcatting. Saint Bobby, in an effort to cool down his hotheaded kids, pours on the gasoline: Stop fighting, children! I would send you to your rooms but I’m selling them to a Mexican consortium! Say goodbye to your ancestral home and pass the biscuits.

John Ross then shows off the oil well that he had secretly dug at Southfork, a well that can produce billions of barrels of sweet crude, which Bobby verifies in a blind taste test.  The problem is that good ol’ Miss Ellie (God bless her beautiful soul) forbade any drilling on Southfork, even by her husband Jock. Bobby promised Miss Ellie that he would respect the old Southworth restrictions on her deathbed. Worse yet, Chris’ research reveals that “fracking” practiced by his cousin will destroy Southfork’s soil.  A livid John Ross begins to talk smack about his late grandma, which earns a terse rebuke from his uncle. After calling Christopher’s parentage into derision, the cousins fight. That night, the two discuss their  familial problems with their significant others: John Ross with the poisonous, Sue Ellen-like  Elena and Chris with sweet Pamela-like Rebecca.

While talking over business with family lawyer Mitch, Bobby gets served with an injunction filed by John Ross against the sale of Southfork claiming Miss Ellie was mentally incompetent at the time of writing the will. Bobby declares that it’s on and, armed only with earnestness and a well-prepared speech, persuades John Ross’ crew to stop drilling. Thwarted, John Ross throws his credibility as a villain out the window by hissing “We’re not done here. . .uncle,” and pouts off into the distance. Meanwhile, at a wedding store we learn more about Rebecca, and she reveals to her drafted bridesmaid Elena that her father taught her a thing or two about reading people. She also tells her fiance’s ex about their cute meeting in Hong Kong.

Christopher receives bad news from a colleague in the Far East: Godzilla’s on the rampage! Just kidding: but seriously, dude, your drilling for methane has caused a massive earthquake and it could result in the displacement of thousands or maybe millions. I was hoping to cut out early so if you could start spinning this before the media gets wind I’d really appreciate it.

At the Death Star, John Ross meets with Emperor Palpatine (J.R.) whining about how uncle Bobby won’t allow him to drill all that sweet, sweet oil. Did someone say oil? And with that magic word, J. R. comes back online, his program of badassery buffering, buffering. Requiring fried chicken and red Jell-O, he begins to weave a web of trickery and deceit that will put him and his hapless son back at the top. The next day, John Ross enlists Elena in a recon mission at Chris’ pad to dig up some dirt. When she seems reluctant, he preys upon her feelings of inadequacy to the Ewing clan (he knows, babe, ‘cause he feels it too!) to push her onward. During the job, Elena’s woeful ninja skills awakens Chris, who candidly reveals his quake troubles to her. Feeling sympathy for her ex, she keeps mum about his Chinese troubles to her current beau John Ross.

That night, Bobby’s in pain and Annie goes to get meds downstairs, only to find an intruder. Grabbing a shotgun, she chases him out the window warning him that she “don’t miss, mister, not at any range”. She then proves this by allowing the prowler to escape into the night. After the local NRA reps remind Mrs. Ewing that Texas protocol demands that she should shoot first then talk trash afterward, Bobby then goes back upstairs and leaves his victim of a late-night home invasion wife at the scene of the disturbance. That’s when she finds his real medicine.

The day of the blessed event finds Bobby with the prospective buyer of Southfork, Marta del Sol, who puffs Bobby up with promises of respect to the land with golf courses, resorts and pony rides. Guests pour into Southfork, among them half-brother Ray Krebbs and niece Lucy (they didn’t ride together, did they? See Season 1 of the old-school Dallas if you need a squicky reminder of why these two should not carpool). Rebecca’s brother Tommy blows in fresh from following some jam band across Patagonia, or something to that effect, down for starting a hackysack circle before his sis is hitched. Bobby warns John Ross to not even think about ruining this day. Sue Ellen  speaks with her son and brings on her dormant Lady Macbeth (she looks at her hands and sees Bloody Marys!). Apparently she’s been a mover and shaker in state politics and can get things done, and John Ross should get on the winning team.

John Ross runs into a busboy who turns out to be the leader of the crack team of ninja assassins that broke into Chris’ apartment. Armed with damnable evidence easily accessible to anyone with even a passing knowledge of Google, John Ross attempts to blackmail Christopher into stopping his father’s sale of Southfork and allowing drilling on the ranch.  Because it seems that his cousin’s a bit slow, Chris allows him about three seconds of dignity before walking away in disgust. Chris then confronts Elena, who he believes squealed about the quake. Elena all but reveals the torch she still carries for him, despite the e-mail that broke things off with her and drove her into John Ross’ arms and him to Hong Kong where he met his soon-to-be wifte. Chris knew nothing about this message and confronts who he thinks is the true author of the e-mail, John Ross, with a brusque “I knew it was you!” If he ended that with “Fredo,” it would be a truthful assessment of his cousin’s sad villain skills.

While Christopher and Rebecca get hitched to some really lame date-rock, Bobby finalizes his deal with Marta Texas-style with a handshake.  We see just how far that gets you when we discover that Marta has been in cahoots with J. R. who will buy Southfork back from the del Sols after getting it from Bobby. But J. R. is always good for a bit of wisdom: “Blood is thicker than water, but oil’s thicker than ‘em both!” Glad to have you back, Mr. Ewing.

And at Cowboys Stadium, the mysterious red sportscar arrives; it’s occupant, Marta del Sol. At the 50-yard line she meets her fellow conspirator John Ross.

Looks like it’s only the first quarter of a game that can last all season.


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