"Survival" begins in New York City, where Pam is on a business trip with Liz Craig. Bobby calls and gives her grief because she didn't accompany him on his business trip, and she's working way too much, and wah wah he's such an insecure manbaby I could puke. Why can't he see that Pam is a True Professional Lady? She doesn't mess around! She's so competent, she even brings every pen she owns to the hotel on this business trip.
I mean, I assume Pam brought all those pens. If I'm wrong, I don't wanna be right! Or something.
Their business meetings concluded, Bobby and J.R. are about to leave New Orleans in a puddle jumper when the pilot tries to beg off. There's a mighty storm a-brewin' out there, and it could mean trouble! J.R., however, waits for no man. J.R. waits for no weather! They take off even though it's a bad idea, and I, for one, am glad. The stormy weather really brings out the evil in J.R.'s magnificent eyebrows.
At Southfork, Jock is told for the millionth time by his doctor and Miss Ellie that he's still recovering from his bypass and he needs to "go easy" lest he keel over. Meanwhile, LUCY'S HAIR. WHAT IS IT AND WHY.
"Yeah, I tied a bunch of weeds from the yard in my hair. I'm so fucking bored in this house. Please kill me!"
Cliff Barnes is at his office doing lawyer stuff when guess who walks in. Here's a hint:
Wait, that's not a hint, that's the answer. Yes, Sue Ellen has shown up at Cliff's, and when she walked in I let out one of those "ooooOOOOO!" sounds you heard from the audience on, like, Married With Children whenever someone did or said something naughty.
Supposedly she's there to enlist Cliff in helping her track down the Black Market Mama that J.R. drove out of town because Sue Ellen still wants that baby. Cliff says there's absolutely no way she can adopt a baby without J.R.'s consent, but in order to cheer her up he'll take her to lunch. ooooOOOOO!
By the way, there's been a sort of running theme in Dallas so far, that Cliff is really into lunch. I love this.
Oh hey, that plane is going down, J.R.'s menacing eyebrows and all! Uh oh. I sure hope that two of the show's major characters survive!
Miss Ellie gets a call that the plane has dropped off the radar and has most likely crashed in a swamp. She immediately launches Operation: Really Fucking Bad Idea, which entails no one telling Jock lest he, you know, keel over from the news. Miss Ellie commands everyone to go on Emotional Lockdown and pretend that nothing is wrong. Yes, even you, Pam, who returned home from New York early to assuage the feelings of your manbaby husband. Sure, he's probably dead...but wash away your Sadness Tear® and act like everything is fine! That's really what Miss Ellie tells her to do. Miss Ellie is still the absolute worst.
Okay, maybe this Dollar Tree Carmen Sandiego-meets-Charlie Chaplin hat is the worst. But Miss Ellie sucks!
Sue Ellen and Cliff are having a grand ol' time at lunch. She's boozing it up, he's charming it up, and they're primed and ready for some Afternoon Delight, nawmean?
Their plans to do it are thwarted when Sue Ellen calls Southfork; she was hoping to tell J.R. that she'd be home late, but now he's inconveniently (and inconsiderately) gone missing. She has to rush home, but she promises Cliff that they'll have their afternoon "some other time". ooooOOOOO!
Dinner at Southfork that night is super tense. Everyone has to scramble to keep Jock in the dark. They tell him that the storm over New Orleans kept Bobby and J.R. there for another night, and that phone lines there are down. It's bad enough that Jock is clueless about what's really going on, but Pam and Sue Ellen being forced to engage in small talk? Miss Ellie, what a twisted game you play! Well, Sue Ellen doesn't seem to mind so much so long as the booze is flowin'.
Lucy has snuck off to make a few calls. She's hoping to track down her father Gary because she thinks he should be here in this time of crisis. Sue Ellen catches her and hangs up the phone, and then they get into it. Sue Ellen calls Lucy's motivations into question, thinking she just wants her father to take over Southfork if J.R. and Bobby are dead. Lucy reminds Sue Ellen that she's not actually a Ewing, and if her husband is dead she'll be thrown out on her ass. There's a lot of scowling on both sides. It's pretty great.
Later, Ray forms a posse to keep reporters off of Ewing property. Miss Ellie reminds Jock yet again that he needs to take it easy.
And Sue Ellen is pretty blitzed.
Pam comes in to check on her, but Sue Ellen is in full-on drunken soliloquy mode, which nets us two eyerolls from Pam. In other words, I love this scene so much.
While Pam eyerolls are the best, I must admit that Sue Ellen's speech is pretty insightful. She realizes that her entire identity is based solely on her husband: everything she has and everything she is is because of J.R.. She's nothing except "Mrs. J.R. Ewing", and he doesn't even love her. If she loses him, she loses herself. I tell ya, it's the most self-reflection anyone on this show ever engages in!
Then Sue Ellen takes it too far and starts projecting her insecurities and self-loathing onto Pam, calling her a gold digger and saying she's never had anything that a man didn't give her. Pam is all WHAT? BITCH I WORK and smacks her. She smacks her! And geez...Pam's final Not the One form is fucking terrifying.
A pesky reporter finds a way past Ray's posse and shows up at the front door. Miss Ellie brandishes both a shotgun and righteous anger to shoo him away...and while the shooing works, Jock has overheard everything. Miss Ellie cops to lying to him, and although he gets teary-eyed, Jock does not, in fact, keel over.
Miss Ellie blah blah blahs at Pam about her sons and how wonderful they were and are while Jock springs into action by telling Ray to spring into action. Ray's gonna go up in a chopper, see, and find those boys. He just needs to look for anything in a group of three- three rocks, three sticks, three evil eyebrows, etc- because that's a survival tip he gave J.R. when he was a kid.
You know, that info might have been useful to the search party that started looking for the plane for 20 hours ago. It might be useful to them now! But only Ray gets to hear it, because I guess Jock wants to keep even the search and rescue operation in the family.
But not the whole family! Lucy brings up calling Gary to fill him in on his missing brothers, and Jock basically tells her to go screw.
But no matter! Super Ray finds J.R. and Bobby in no time. No word on the pilot, so I guess he's either dead or alive depending on whether you're a glass half full type or not. But really, the fucking plane was totally obliterated and none of them would have walked away from it in real life. I mean:
But walk away they do, and the boys return to Southfork looking not all that much worse for wear.
Everyone is happy, and Miss Ellie says, "Maybe now we can be a family again!" and Sue Ellen gives her the best "Dafuq?" face of all time.
I so, so wish the episode had ended with a freeze frame of that, but it goes on for another minute as everyone goes inside and Lucy scoffs at the idea that J.R. might need anything from his wife. It's a weird downbeat ending, especially after all the high-stakes drama throughout the episode. Not that anyone with half a brain would ever think that Bobby or J.R. would die in a plane crash in a swamp, but still. All that booze, all the tears, all the slapping!