Did that get your blood pumping or what? That's totally what I would write if I were asked to create a little commercial bumper thing for this episode when it aired like 40 years ago.
Really, though, it pretty much sums up this episode. But it's not the snoozefest I've made it out to be, I swear. In fact, "Election" is super-extra interesting in that it could run today and be as relevant as ever because the realm of the American political campaign has not changed a GD bit since this episode aired. Sad, but true. It's even sadder than women just ain't as stylish as Pam and Sue Ellen anymore. I'm at least gonna use them as an inflatable ring in this giant cesspool of depression I've waded into!
The episode begins at Ewing Oil Headquarters where a bunch of rich white dudes sit around trying to figure out which puppet candidate they're going to pay for/support in this race for a state senate seat. I tell ya, my blood begins to boil so hard when I start thinking about the desperate need for campaign finance reform in this country, it's a good thing the action moves across town, where Cliff Barnes is turning down a sizable contribution from Big Oil. I might have had a stroke or something!
Of course, integrity doesn't pay for air time or stickers with Cliff's face on them, so he hits up Pam for some financial help. Though she wants to remain as on the down-low as possible during this whole ordeal, he quickly cajoles her into organizing a fashion show fundraiser. DON'T GET EXCITED: we don't get to see this fashion show. DO GET EXCITED: Pam's outfit in this scene is jaunty casual hot and I love it.
That night before dinner, Pam works on the fashion show by looking intently at some papers. Everyone comes in and starts nosing around, asking what she's doing this (Bobby, Miss Ellie) and throwing shade that (Sue Ellen).
Everyone- Jock in particular- is mad that Pam has moved beyond "stuffing envelopes" for her brother's campaign and oh, there goes my blood starting to boil again. What a bunch of sexist, entitled assholes! It's a good thing the action moves to the bedroom, where Pam tells Bobby what's up: that his family is gross for being so into exploitation and greed. Bobby says that anyone could build an empire like his daddy did with a little hard work, and when Pam yells "That's easy to say when you're born rich!" it's like she's speaking from the place where my heart would be if I had one. Phew, dodged another stroke!
The next day, the candidates have a debate sponsored by the Daughters of the Alamo. Cliff's opponent starts spouting off on the evils of Big Government taxing the people who have all the money, and then he busts out some "words of Jesus" and again, I feel like Encino Man or something because what year is it, exactly?
My blood boils again, but this time it's boiling with excitement because Sue Ellen and Cliff get their flirt on- she's not into politics, but she's very into certain politicians, you see- and it's not long before everyone starts making eyes at them making eyes at each other.
Cliff's opponent may have the words of Jesus on his side, but he doesn't have the charisma of Jesus on his side and he's falling behind in the polls. J.R. and Jock worry because J.R. can't find any dirt on Barnes, so J.R. decides that if worse comes to worse, he'll just put some there.
At dinner that night, J.R. goes digging and...well, see for yourself.
J.R. can barely contain his excitement over the potential scandal- after all, Cliff has broken "the cardinal rule of politics: never get caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman." The dead woman bit I can agree with, sure. But since the other half of that sentiment seems to preclude the very notion that (gasp) gay men or (gasp gasp) women wouldn't even be a part of the political arena; I had to remind myself that despite all evidence to the contrary, this show is old.
It doesn't take long for the private investigator hired by J.R. to get the scoop- and it's only a hot second later when it goes public, thanks to a reporter ambushing Cliff right before the fashion show. Dammit! I wanted a fashion show!
Oh yeah, the scoop! Cliff's fiancée died during an abortion. Damn, Dallas ain't afraid to go there!
Cliff wanders off in a daze to try to figure out a way to salvage his campaign, and Pam totally worries.
We learn the whole story when Cliff gathers his troops to fill them in: he and his fiancée were living together when she got pregnant. Cliff wanted to marry her, but she'd just been accepted to law school and didn't think it was the right time for them to have a kid. He got some money together and took her to a back alley doctor- he had to because abortion was illegal at the time. "I loved her and wanted to do what she wanted to do." Oh Cliff, I would totally vote for you! I would even campaign for you if I didn't have to talk to anyone or leave the house to do so.
The story is all over the news, and Sue Ellen takes to her battle wagon and heads right for Barnes Campaign Headquarters to console Cliff. Things between these two have escalated to meaningful light touches, you guys!
Because, you know, the story is all over the news, Pam takes to her black t-top Corvette and heads right for Ewing Oil Headquarters to confront J.R. and Jock. Things between these three have escalated to Pam Righteous Anger Tears® you guys!
For real, though, Pam lets those Ewing assholes have it for ruining Cliff's campaign. Jock waves her off- literally- with a "Politics is politics!" while J.R. says that Pam would also use any advantage she had to protect her own interests. She's a Ewing now, after all. "Then God help me!" she cries. If only she'd, like, move the fuck out of Southfork, amirite?
Pam is feeling wicked guilty and decides to come clean with her brother. She heads to his apartment and tries to convince him that talking about his fiancée was an accident and besides, she didn't mention any specifics, but Cliff is having none of it. He figures she blurted his beeswax to help Bobby: "You live with vipers, you become a viper!"
That's a sad development for sure, but I'll tell you what's not a sad development: this bitchin' little tune that played during a scene change. Why oh why is it only 11 seconds long? I want it to go on forever!
At Southfork, Pam doesn't get much support from Bobby, who pretty much echoes Jock's "Politics is politics!" sentiments. Cliff made a mistake, you see, by breaking the law. All J.R. did was exploit it. Man, I hate politics.
Apparently the campaign season was only 40 minutes long, because it's time for the election results! Pam sits squarely in the nest of Southfork vipers as they throw a party, and sure enough, Cliff loses. The only other person who's upset by this is...a slurry, messy Sue Ellen, who, for the first time, actually sits down and talks to Pam. "I'm sorry that the best man lost," she says. "It would be nice if J.R. didn't get what he wants for once." She squirts out a few boozy tears and leaves the room, which can only mean one thing...there is serious drama lurking on the horizon, and I can't wait for it.
At Bobby's urging, he and Pam go to see Cliff to try to convince him that Pam didn't deliberately sabotage his campaign. When Cliff's still not having it, Bobby naturally threatens violence (for fuck's sake, Pam, get out of this family while you can!). Eventually Cliff hears his sister out and they have a make-up hug.
But all is not well! Cliff's hatred of the Ewings has broken that good man. He calls his campaign manager to set his sights on Congress- and he'll buy whomever he has to in order to win a seat.
Who's the viper now, Cliff? Who's the viper now?