Relive 80’s Soap Drama With Primetime Hit ‘Dallas’ in This Recap of the Pilot Episode
Join the Ewings for drama as big as the size of Texas.
To offer readers some primetime options to pair with their daily soaps, Soaps.com has been reviewing the first episodes of current primetime shows. This time we’ve turned back the clock, reviewing the first episode of 80’s primetime soap Dallas, which showcased the oil rich Ewing family and the devious machinations of J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman). Soaps.com had a blast recapping pilot episode entitled Digger’s Daughter, which aired back in 1978.
The show opens with Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy, Stephen Logan, Bold and the Beautiful) and newly minted wife, Pamela Barnes Ewing (Victoria Principal) driving a fancy red convertible, on their way to Southfork Ranch, the sprawling ranch home of the Ewings. Both are nervous about how the family will receive Pamela and they should be – her brother Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) is on a personal mission to discredit Bobby’s family. The scene flashes to Cliff on live TV, who is being watched by a pensive looking J.R. at the Ewing Oil office. Cliff, a lawyer, is grilling a Ewing associate who is giving testimony at a hearing. Jock Ewing (Jim Davis), family patriarch and recently retried Ewing Oil president (J.R. has the reins now and intends to keep it that way), complains to J.R. about Cliff’s enduring vendetta against the Ewings.
Back on the ranch, another drama is unfolding. Trusted Southfork ranch hand, Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) is hiding rebellious Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton), the daughter of outcast Gary Ewing, in the haystacks, where they are carrying on a steamy affair. Turns out, Rey had been dating Bobby’s new wife Pam on and off somewhere in between her meeting and marrying Bobby.
Pam and Bobby are greeted by family matriarch Ellie Ewing (Barbara Bel Geddes) who is shocked hearing her handsome son has married a Barnes. She summons Jock and J.R. home where its discovered that Pam isn’t just Cliff’s sister, she is Digger Barnes daughter – Jock and Digger were former partners, but Digger drank his money away, so Jock formed Ewing Oil without him. Digger’s been a thorn in Jock’s side ever since. Feeling the heat from her in-laws, Pam goes outside and is joined by J.R. for a friendly chat – until he inquires how much it will take to buy her off. It’s the first glimpse of the dastardly J.R. viewers would come to love to hate.
Pam rebuffs him and later J.R. receives another setback when Jock announces he is promoting Bobby from company hustler to company executive. With a Barnes in the family and Bobby threatening to gain a footing in the company, J.R. is determined to act.
The next day, Pam’s brother Cliff angrily confronts her about marrying a Ewing, the sworn enemy of the Barnes. Her father Digger (David Wayne), drunk at a local bar and spinning a tale about Jock swindling him, is also disgusted. Later, Pam is tormented by Lucy, who tells her she doesn’t stand a chance against J.R. Lucy should know – J.R. drove Lucy’s young mother out of town and took her to be raised by Jock and Ellie. Meanwhile, Bobby is feeling out of his new role at Ewing Oil. J.R. pretends to be helpful, but secretly withholds one red file which he arranges to have tucked away in a secret deposit box.
That evening, J.R. informs Bobby he has to travel to Austin for one last hustle job, angering Pam who thinks Bobby chooses family over her. By the time Bobby departs for Austin the next day, J.R. has convinced a disillusioned Pam to take a helicopter ride with Ray to survey the ranch. After giving Pam a tour, Ray grounds the chopper in a remote area of the property.
Pam complains about her troubles as she and Ray stroll along a lake. Ray suddenly puts his arms around Pam, claiming they are much more alike than she and Bobby. He then teasingly picks her up off the dock they are standing on and jumps with her into the freezing water (but not before covertly checking his watch). Pam, at ease with her old flame, laughingly agrees to head to a nearby cabin to dry off. Meanwhile, J.R., driving Bobby to the airport, abruptly turns the car around, telling Bobby he has to show him something.
While a shirtless Ray serves Pam a hot drink and calls her beautiful, Pam hears a car approaching and to her astonishment, sees J.R. puling up with Bobby. It dawns on Pam that J.R. and Ray have set her up. She threatens Ray to tell Bobby the truth, that nothing happened, or she will tell J.R. about Ray’s affair with Lucy, which she has discovered. But Bobby defends Pam vigorously, proving to her she comes first, even over his domineering family. After a fistfight nearly breaks out between the brothers, Pam and Bobby depart, united as one. J.R. stares after them, vowing never to underestimate Digger’s daughter again.
Dallas delivers solid character-driven drama, while also exploring the power plays of the oil business. The contrast between the charming Bobby and the scheming J.R., make for a riveting bother dynamic, as does the beleaguered Barnes contrasted against the rich and powerful Ewings. Will Bobby and Pam survive? What other schemes does J.R. have in his back pocket? Travel back to the 80’s and have a wild time finding out.
Enjoy reliving one of the best primetime soaps from the 70s? Let us know if you’d like to see more recaps. And if you’re seeking more soapy shows, take a look at our Dynasty reboot recap which is just as scandalous.