Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 23 – ‘The Red File, Part 2’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Red File Part 2, Victoria Principal

Split decision

“The Red File, Part 2” plays a lot like a ’70s crime drama, with Bobby in the role of the dashing detective. He spends much of the episode tooling around town in his red convertible, chasing clues in his investigation into Julie’s death.

This installment also features some terrific “Perry Mason”-style legal theatrics, with the wonderful Walter Brooke commanding every courtroom scene as Cliff’s perpetually incredulous attorney, Cole Young. (Trivia: In “The Graduate,” Brooke portrayed Mr. McGuire, who famously advised Dustin Hoffman’s character to go into plastics.)

But “The Red File, Part 2” is mostly notable because the events of this episode change Bobby’s character, hardening his edges and forever altering his dynamic with J.R. The script demands a lot from Patrick Duffy, and he more than delivers. This is one of his best “Dallas” performances.

Bobby throws himself into his investigation not so much because he wants to clear Cliff’s name but because he needs to find out for himself how far J.R. is willing to sink. In the scene where Bobby confronts J.R. with the phony codicil to Jock’s will, Duffy makes Bobby’s indignation palpable. The character’s disappointment is downright heartbreaking.

The episode’s other pivotal scene comes at the end, when Bobby tells J.R., “For the first time in my life, I know exactly what you’re all about.”

This is the moment Bobby appoints himself J.R.’s guardian, the role he’ll occupy through the rest of “Dallas’s” run. It isn’t a job he wants, but after finally seeing J.R.’s red file, Bobby knows he’s the only member of the Ewing family with the moral compass – and the muscle – needed to keep his older brother in check.

It all culminates during “The Red File, Part 2’s” poignant finale, when Bobby tells Pam he isn’t willing to leave Southfork to save their marriage. The man who talked about wanting to “resign” from his family at the beginning of this episode knows that’s no longer an option, now that he’s charged himself with protecting the world from J.R.

Grade: A


Cliff Barnes, Cole Young, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Red File Part 2, Walter Brooke

Error and trial


Season 2, Episode 18

Airdate: February 9, 1979

Audience: 16.2 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Cliff’s past is scrutinized at a hearing before his trial for Julie’s murder. Bobby uncovers J.R.’s red file and uses it to clear Cliff and squelch J.R.’s scheme to forge Jock’s will. Pam tells Bobby she isn’t ready to return to Southfork.

Cast: John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Walter Brooke (Cole Young), Jordan Charney (Lieutenant Sutton), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), John Harkins (Judge Potter), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), John Petlock (Dan Marsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charles Siebert (Assistant District Attorney Sloan), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Sandy Ward (Jeb Ames)

“The Red File, Part 2” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. This sounds like a good episode, but unfortunately I don’t remember that well, apart from the scene about the codicil.

  2. missiea5 says:

    I also liked the scene when Ellie tells Bobby that Digger has no one to blame but himself for the state of his life. It is the first time we really see her shed light into who the younger Jock was.

  3. Of course Bobby protects every1 from J. R. But at points he lets J. R. cuts loose & as I stated from last episode, he is not above using J. R.’s dirty tricks to knife Cliff & preserve the Ewings power now that Brother J. R. is dead. Even at J. R.’s funeral when Brother Bobby speaks, he speaks in awe & reverence of J. R. b/c he knew that J. R. kept the Ewing family together thru his dirty work & schemes!

  4. Another one of my favorite episodes! Gotta love that detective work being done by civilians haha

  5. Dianna Argoss says:

    I forgot or didn’t pick up on a young Nicolas Coster making an appearance in Dallas . I’m definitely looking forward to watching Jocks trial again . As I was also big Santa Barbara fan , which shared some similarities with Dallas in that it revolved around two eternally warring families . Coster playing the main foe of CC Capwell for most or all of the shows run I believe . Lionel Lockeridge a more suaver , street smart and stronger take on a Cliff Barnes type perhaps.

    Julie’s return – Red File 2 all seem like the same episode rolled out . First appearance of McSween I believe(in RF1 ) the best and most memorable of JR’s corrupt law men .Unlike the others Harry didn’t seem like a sleazy rent a cop but seemed to have his own stoic take on law and order . Probably sussing out that having a JR slithering around on the right side of law was better then nothing and most of his victims had brought the wrath of the law on themselves by giving into their greed. Shame they did not expand on Harry’s character as the years drew on especially since his nice ended up being JR’s longest serving secretary.
    Patrick Duffy does the good guy part to perfection here and his seething anger ( driven with a performance of emotional sensitivity and sad anger was always a key element that made this show so great Just as much as JR’s acidic one liners and evil gloating .
    Cliff Barnes .making the final transformation in these episodes from a smart morale public servant who carried an altruistic drive which out eclipsed his hatred of the Ewings into the angry wild loser who ate chinese takeaway’s in his apartment and festered after JR had beaten him senseless again . I started watching Dallas for the first time in the mid 80s (who shot Bobby era ) by that time Cliff had really gone to seed and KK probably bored with the repetitive story lines had already just started hamming it . When I went back and watched the first two seasons it was hard to believe that Cliff was once a respected man whom ladies found attractive and Kercheval was more then an over actor. RF2 is definitely one of Kerchevals best performances showing a lot of different sides to Cliff’s character one last time . Before he changes into the one not JR hating machine . The Cliff getting set up by JR or because of him and hauled into the cop shop was reused too often though in future seasons .
    Pam , JR Cliff and Bobby all seem to get moulded into the dominant types the viewers would know them for here on in .
    JR is seen in the eyes of Bobby and the viewer for the first time as having no conventional scruples at all . The buffon type villian of Barbecue and winds of Vengance would never been seen again until the final two episodes of the entire run but that was just an episode shot from the perspective of JR’s hallucinations ?
    Pam looks like she will no longer be that independent sassy strong girl that she was in the first few episodes who could almost outplay JR and certainly never showed him he could hurt her , here we see her highly emotional anxious responses to JR’s tactics for the first time her emotional dependence on Bobby . I was never a fan of those Pam angry scenes which became plentiful as the seasons went by .


  1. […] forget about Cole Young! Cole (Walter Brooke) helped acquit Cliff of Julie Grey’s murder through sheer incredulity. During J.R.’s three-minute testimony […]

  2. […] “The Red File, Part 2,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is seated on the edge of his office desk, […]

  3. […] “Jock’s Trial, Part 2” is also elevated by its other guest stars, including Barry Corbin, who is perfectly cast as the perfectly named Fenton Washburn, Braddock’s big-bellied sheriff. I also like Nicolas Coster and Stephen Elliott as dueling lawyers Lyle Sloan and Scotty Demarest, although their courtroom theatrics aren’t quite as entertaining as those seen in the second-season episode “The Red File, Part 2.” […]

  4. […] J.R.’s secrets to Cliff. This time around, Julie wound up dead and Cliff wound up in jail, framed for her murder — courtesy of J.R., […]

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