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'Dallas' recap: as timeless as blackmail

Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzolo) and Tommy Sutter (Callard

Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzolo) and Tommy Sutter (Callard Harris) in "No Good Deed," which aired July 25, 2012. (Credit: TNT)

Just when I think "Dallas" exists in its own time and place, Sue Ellen goes and references Michael Jackson. This would have been disconcerting if it hadn't occurred during a blackmail attempt. Because while the show certainly bears markers of 2012, such indicators tend to serve more as dressing than anything else. Ann carries designer handbags, John Ross drives a new Corvette, et cetera, but these are mere props, not plot points. Elena may have a cell phone, but it's not as if she sexts her boyfriend. Take that away from a show like "Gossip Girl" and many storylines would crumble.

Even the city itself -- and the great sprawl Dallas has become that is depicted during the opening credit sequence -- isn't nearly as much in the foreground as is Southfork Ranch, a place where time stands more or less in place. City shots tend to be interiors (John Ross in prison, Sue Ellen at the hospital), whereas the ranch provides plenty exterior shots, such as Bobby visiting his mother's grave via horseback, a quiet acoustic guitar strumming on the soundtrack, during the  "No Good Deed" episode.

And J.R. expresses an aversion to the flash of Las Vegas as he sits in a cozy bar, perplexed by the messiest neat bourbon he's ever seen. After the bartender puts the drink down, he looks confused as he pulls out its garnish -- a maraschino cherry and elaborately curled lemon rind -- and asks himself, "Well what the hell is that?"

MORE: Read all our 'Dallas' blog posts.

A subtle nod to celebrity culture does appear early in the episode, just before the credits, as John Ross is booked for Marta's murder and we get a glimpse of his mug shot. It's this incarceration, and the subsequent beating John Ross endures from evil Vicente's men inside the jail, that sees Sue Ellen sliding around the muddy world of blackmail.

Trying to get John Ross out of prison, she tells the coroner he should rule Marta's death a suicide. She offers him the position of chief medical examiner when she becomes governor and then adds the maraschino cherry on top: "I have sources that have told me that you've been writing more prescriptions than Michael Jackson's doctor. Which is odd, since all of your patients are dead."

Blackmail is an uncredited character on the show, and the episode ends with one more, from Rebecca's brother, sealed with a kiss. Yes, they're as much siblings as Jack and Meg White. But I date myself.

Let's focus on the present: We have an allusion to incest and just two episodes left in the season. What could be more classic?

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