**NOTE - This review contains Spoilers**
Season Five of "Dallas" originally aired on CBS during the 1981-82 season containing twenty-six episodes and for the second year in a row, the series was #1 in the Nielsen ratings. Despite the absence of a shocking cliffhanger, this has been my favorite season of "Dallas" so far, and much better than the higher-rated, over-hyped Season 4!
The real-life passing of actor Jim Davis had the writers scrambling to incorporate his absence into the scripts, and the first half of the season Jock is away on business in South America. After Miss Ellie receives the devastating news of a helicopter crash, J.R., Bobby and Ray go searching for him, but have no luck. Each of the family members deal with his death in different ways. No disrespect to the memory of Mr. Davis, but orney, craggy-faced Jock Ewing was never one of my favorite characters. I was delighted that Howard Keel as swaggering yet affable Clayton Farlow was given much more screen time in the patriarch role. He helps Sue Ellen get her life in order after she wins custody of son John Ross and when she decides to leave his Southern Cross ranch and let his son Dusty (Jared Martin) get on with his life. As the season progresses, J.R. begins trying to woo Sue Ellen back and even proposes they re-marry. She becomes undecided after tragedy befalls Cliff Barnes. Linda Gray looks absolutely stunning this season, 41 in real life at the time. Unfortunately, the next year she got that trendy but unflattering '80s mullet!
Pam ends up in a psychiatric hospital after having a breakdown and being rescued from a rooftop by Bobby. Later, when Bobby discovers J.R. fathered the late Kristin's baby and actually pays cash for the infant, his plans to confront J.R. with the child backfire when Pam mistakenly believes he came from an adoption agency, and Bobby doesn't have the heart to tell her the truth. Pam and Bobby begin raising Christopher as their own, but the storyline takes a few more twists.
Without Jock to guide him, Ray gets in over his head on a business deal, losing millions and going into a depression. This puts a damper on Donna's success as a best-selling authoress and their marriage. Perhaps my favorite scene of the entire season is when Donna has a showdown in a honky-tonk bar with the woman Ray cheated with. Susan Howard looks absolutely gorgeous in a fur-coat as she utters the priceless line "I just wanted to see what the competition looked like...with CLOTHES ON!". Howard's portrayal as a no-nonsense, powerful political widow didn't do much for me in previous seasons, but this year she ingratiates herself to the family (and the viewer) by acting as confidant to Miss Ellie, Bobby and Pam. And you have to love a woman who can take a drink in the face, sucker-punch a homewrecking floozie and still look like a million bucks while doing it.
Lucy also has marriage troubles and she and Mitch separate. She embarks on a modelling career that takes a sordid turn when her photographer turns out to have stalkerish tendencies and holds her captive.
When Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) gets tired of J.R. pimping her out to make good on business deals, she comes crawling back to Cliff Barnes, he having obtained a prestigious new job at Wentworth Industries, courtesy of his wealthy mother Rebecca (Priscilla Pointer, who reminds me of Agnes Moorehead at times here). Unfortunately, greed gets the best of Cliff and he ends the season in the hospital in a coma.
This season boasts some notable guest stars: Morgan Brittany makes her debut as Pam and Cliff's half-sister Catherine Wentworth; Pam's therapist is played magnificently by the always-dependable Gretchen Wyler; Patty McCormack ("The Bad Seed") shows up as a patient of Mitch's who eventually tells Lucy she wants him for herself; Diane McBain as a matchmaking friend of Sue Ellen's who turns on her.
The overall picture quality on these DVDs is a big improvement over previous sets. Almost all the episodes and scenes are much brighter, clearer and more colorful. Visually, this is the best release yet, but the discs are still dual-sided and they are housed in plastic snapcases this time instead of a digipak.
A great season for fans; the show is in its prime here and running on all four cylinders. Highly recommended!