The episode begins with a glimpse into the exciting lives of the women of Southfork as Miss Ellie and Sue Ellen discuss potential color schemes for the nursery. "Oh yeah," I think to myself. "Sue Ellen is pregnant."
Okay, so me saying "exciting lives" was disparaging and sarcastic, but I suppose that is unfair. Some people do get excited about things like babies and nurseries, and furthermore I don't have much room to talk when a glimpse into my exciting life would show me, you know, making toast or more likely just thinking about making toast. Besides, it doesn't matter if Sue Ellen is talking about nurseries or toast or whatever, because her outfit is so on point in this scene that it far supersedes the ultimate hollowness of her life.
J.R. doesn't have time to discuss color possibilities because he actually, truly does live an exciting life. He's giving a speech to the Chamber of Commerce: "They want to hear my success story," he says. and I can't decide whether or not it's a lie. Who cares? I love it and it's 100% priceless ego perfection either way.
Side note 1: Sue Ellen calls Cliff Barnes on the down low to ask for his nursery color suggestions and he's like "Please stop calling" and she's like "But I just want to share" and it's kind of sad that they can't just be together. It's much less sad, however, when you remember that they can't be together because Sue Ellen is too greedy to give up that Ewing lifestyle! Well, also because who knows what J.R. would do if she left him for his nemesis–I mean, he's all sorts of abusive and threatening to everyone, particularly his wife. She's as trapped as she is selfish!
Side note 2: I know I've mentioned this before, but holy fuck is it weird that everyone lives at Southfork forever. I love that if you're poor and forced to live with your parents for whatever reason–hey, maybe it's circumstances or maybe it's just what you want to do–it's a source of shame and people insult you if it's brought up. But if you're a Ewing, it's simply how things are even though they're all rich enough to have a million places of their own. "You live in your mom's basement!" is a scathing indictment, but it's okay to live in your mom's hideously decorated spare bedroom? Whatever, man, whatever.
I realize I may be coming off as a bit defensive here and you're wondering if that's because I live in my mom's basement, so let me assure you that I do not. This is but one of the many colors in my rainbow of Dallas feelings, one of the many squares in the quilt of my Dallas thoughts.
Anyway, some guy takes the wrapper off a painting he commissioned and he hates it. It's awful, it's a cartoon, why didn't he have one of the most famous artists in Europe do it instead? What a hothead, geez. On the other hand...the painting really isn't so great.
He hand delivers it to Southfork, intending to give it to Miss Ellie, but she's not home. Later that evening, she opens it and gets all weird–that little cartoon ranch house is Southfork back in the day, can you believe it? If you think that's completely totally insane, get this: the some guy who dropped it off isn't just any old some guy–he's Miss Ellie's brother Garrison! She hasn't seen him in 40 years! She thought he was dead! C'EST UN SCANDALE!
The reaction to Garrison's coming...wait for it...home again...is decidedly mixed. Miss Ellie is beside herself, or at least she gets tears in her eyes. Jock is less than thrilled, as Garrison and he have never liked each other and besides, Garrison was best pals with that no-good Digger Barnes. Pam is pleasant and happy enough because Garrison was best pals with that no-good Digger Barnes. Lucy is ecstatic because, bless her heart, the name Garrison reminds her of the name Gary, which is, of course, her father's name. J.R. is immediately suspicious: Garrison must be sniffing around for some sweet, sweet Ewing money. Sue Ellen then worries the same and seethes a bit. Or maybe she's just seething because she's once again wearing that awful grape jumpsuit we saw a few episodes ago.
Oh, and Bobby...eh, who cares about Bobby.
It turns out that Daddy Southworth actually left Southfork entirely to Garrison when he died. As Garrison had split town long before that, however, Miss Ellie eventually filed paperwork declaring her brother legally dead, which made Southfork hers. This was done at Jock's behest, and it was his money from the oil industry that transformed the place from what you see in that terrible painting to its current tacky splendor.
Now that her brother has returned and he's obviously not a zombie–meaning he never actually died–Miss Ellie's conscience kicks in and she thinks she wants to give Southfork back to him because "it's right." As you may suspect, her sons and husband aren't having it at all. Things get heated to the point where Jock busts out with a...he busts out with a...(sorry, it's hard for me to type when I'm shaking with fury)...he eventually yells "You're overstepping your place, Miss Ellie!" HER PLACE! Because he's "head of the household" and all decisions are ultimately his and...her rage at this sexist bullshit is second only to my own. I swear, during this scene my bra flew off my body, and it joined all my other bras and they suddenly combusted, burning themselves. At the same time, I am sure Gloria Steinem got her Obi-Wan on and felt a serious disturbance in The Force. All around the world, my fellow Seven Sisters alumnae opened their checkbooks and made pledges even though they already gave this year, or maybe they only thought about giving because you know, just because they went to a Seven Sisters college that doesn't necessarily men they're a rocket scienceologist or a super-rich CEO of Whatever, Inc...maybe they are just a humble writer-type who kind of mostly "gets" "by" and eats toast and enjoys writing recaps of 40-year-old nighttime soaps and never compares herself to her classmates who are saving the world or whatever and no I'm not talking about me at all why are you looking at me like that there's nothing wrong with any of my life choices.
The point is, this scene reiterates that Jock is a sexist a-hole and Miss Ellie might get a little mad about it but she's of a generation where ultimately she just accepts it...and if that were not depressing enough, the scene is also so very, very brown.
With the possibility of losing Southfork to his mother's whims lurking, J.R. goes into full paranoia mode. He's convinced that Kathy, Garrison's traveling companion and Presumed Interesting Lady Friend (PILF), is a gold digger who's goaded the old man into returning and snatching all that land up. Hmm, in that scenario, I guess Garrison would also be a gold digger, wouldn't he, if he were cozying up to Miss Ellie just for the money? Or would he only be the poor, manipulated put-upon because only women can be "gold diggers"? Ugh this show is pushing all my feminist buttons today.
I will say this for J.R.: he is awful, but he doesn't hide it. He doesn't merely think and wonder these things about Kathy, he takes her for a tour of the ranch and accuses her of gold diggery right to her face! It's rude, yes, but if I am to believe what I see on social media, "Telling It Like It Is" is apparently something to be admired, so.
On the show, however, this brash behavior only serves to make everyone angry. Kathy is insulted; Garrison decides that fuck it, he does want Southfork and he's gonna fight for it; Miss Ellie yells at J.R.; Bobby...eh, who cares about Bobby.
Okay, fine: Bobby and Pam go to Garrison's to try to smooth things over a bit, and it's here they learn The Terrible Secret. Kathy isn't Garrison's gold-digging hoochie mama, she's his nurse! Garrison is dying and he came home to see his sister and make amends and...you know. To Die. Pam and Bobby act surprised at the news, but I am dubious about their ignorance because they showed up apparently already dressed for Garrison's funeral.
Also, just so you know, I paused this moment in the scene and stared at it for a long, long time:
I couldn't take my eyes off of Garrison's hair. I had that faint itching at the back of my brain: what does his hair remind me of? Where have I seen it before? Images and names passed through my mind, always hazy and beyond reach. I tried to let it go, but I couldn't. What was it? Was it going to drive me insane? Would it come to me in the middle of the night? Did it actually remind me of anything at all? Was this a past-life experience? Finally...finally after like ten minutes and some furious pacing around my apartment where I tried to think about it really hard without thinking about it at all, it came to me.
Anyway. Now that that's out of the way...Bobby tells Miss Ellie about The Terrible Secret, and she rushes to Garrison's side and manipulates him into telling her on his own terms. She convinces him to spend his remaining days at Southfork (OF COURSE), and when she tells the rest of her family the news, well, J.R. looks mildly chagrined but Jock apologizes for his behavior. Miss Ellie says she's not angry: "At least I found out you love this ranch as much as I do."
Are you fucking kidding me? That's the lesson she learned?? That's her takeaway from this? Not "At least I found out my husband is a terrible sexist, my son is an all-around disgusting greedy person, and my life is reprehensible!"? Really, Miss Ellie? REALLY?
Hmm, actually...it's more likely that she already knew those things and she didn't need to learn them here necessarily. I mean, we knew all that already, I didn't need EPISODE 2.14 HOME AGAIN to tell me. I'll assume that's what Miss Ellie meant, because the alternative is just too much for me to handle right now, what, with all the fury I've been feeling and all the thinking I've been doing.
Well, nice knowing you, Garrison. Your storyline and The Battle for Southfork should have been at least a 2-part arc! Sure, you're alive at the episode's end...but come on. You'll die in the hazy interim before the next episode, yes? It is The Way of Things on Dallas. Trauma: out of sight, out of mind!