Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 30 – ‘Whatever Happened to Baby John? Part 1’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Whatever Happened to Baby John Part 1

Meet the press

J.R., how do you do it?

During “Dallas’s” first two seasons, you neglect your wife, mistreat your mistress, forge your daddy’s will, ruin your mama’s reunion with her long-lost brother, sabotage one brother’s attempt to reconcile with his wife and child, drive another brother out of the family business, ruin your rival’s political career and frame him for murder, attempt to blackmail a closeted gay man into marrying your niece and try – twice – to ensnare your sister-in-law in a compromising position.

Yet as “Dallas’s” third season begins, I can’t help but feel sorry for you as you struggle to be a better husband to Sue Ellen, only to be rebuffed at every turn.

What’s wrong with me?

I realize J.R.’s motivation for wanting to save his marriage isn’t altogether altruistic. The character is obsessed with his reputation, and now that his wife has given birth, he undoubtedly wants his family – and Dallas society – to see him as a loving husband and doting father.

On the other hand, Sue Ellen’s near-death experience in the second-season finale, “John Ewing III, Part 2,” seemed to stir long-forgotten feelings that remain strong in this installment. Never before has J.R.’s concern for Sue Ellen seemed this heartfelt.

You have to give Larry Hagman a lot of credit. Can you think of another actor who could make J.R. this sympathetic, even after all the terrible things he’s done?

Toward the end of “Whatever Happened to Baby John? Part 1,” when J.R. finally runs out of patience and forces his frigid wife to accompany him to the hospital to pick up the child, it seems like he’s reverting to his mean, old ways.

But when J.R. and Sue Ellen arrive at Dallas Memorial and learn the baby is missing, he exhibits more uncharacteristic selflessness when he calls Southfork to share the news with Miss Ellie, who responds by saying she’ll have Lucy and Pam brought home.

“That’s a good idea,” J.R. says.

Wait, what?

J.R. Ewing is concerned about his bratty niece and least favorite sister-in-law?

Never mind what’s wrong with me.

J.R., what’s wrong with you?

Grade: B


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Whatever Happened to Baby John Part 1

Mr. Nice Guy


Season 3, Episode 1

Airdate: September 21, 1979

Audience: 16.1 million homes, ranking 19th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: While her baby remains hospitalized, Sue Ellen returns to Southfork, where she resists J.R.’s attempts to be kind toward her.  When the couple goes to the hospital to bring the child home, they’re stunned to learn he has been kidnapped.

Cast: John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Sheila Larken (Priscilla Duncan), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Cliff Murdock (Lieutenant Simpson), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Sandy Ward (Jeb Ames)

“Whatever Happened to Baby John? Part 1” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. This started Sue Ellen’s “cold” phase, which I never bought. It’s a shame since, as you point out, Linda Gray was so good in many season 2 episodes.

    • Linda Gray is such an expressive actress. I’m not sure the “cold phase” was the best use of her talents.

    • Dan in WI says:

      Maybe the cold phase was the best use of Gray’s talents but she did it so well.

      Personally I’d argue it was far from her worst storyline.

    • By “cold period” are you talking about the period where she was basically ignoring the baby? Because it only makes sense that she would be feeling that way. First off, she was probably suffering post-partum depression which is not rare and can happen to any new mother. Secondly, her baby is a constant reminder JR and Cliff, and they have both broken her heart and she feels they both used her. Her difficulty bonding with John Ross makes sense in light of all that.

  2. There’s absolutely nothing with Brother J. R. here C. B. Yes he’s showing the properly “fatherly” concern. But he’s also manipulating those around him, including the media indirectly to give him sympathy. This of course can only be great free p. r. for the Ewing Oil Company Limited of Dallas, Texas! Will J. R. get his son back or won’t he?


  1. […] and Sue Ellen’s dynamic here brings to mind the third-season opener “Whatever Happened to Baby John, Part 1,” when he makes a sincere attempt to patch up his broken marriage, only to discover she’s […]

  2. […] “Whatever Happened to Baby John, Part 1,” “Dallas’s” third-season opener, J.R. (Larry Hagman) sits next to Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), who […]

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