Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 31 – ‘Whatever Happened to Baby John? Part 2’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Whatever Happened to Baby John Part 2

Gone baby gone

One thing about the Ewings is certain: These people believe in doing things for themselves. When emergencies arise, the Ewings don’t dial the police, an ambulance or even a lawyer – they call each other.

Maybe this reflects the rugged, pioneering spirit the family represents, or maybe it reflects life after Watergate, when the nation’s faith in society’s institutions was shaken. Whatever the reason, the Ewings’ can-do spirit sometimes defies logic.

In “Whatever Happened to Baby John? Part 2,” when newly paroled Jeb Ames contacts J.R. and tells him he and fellow parolee Willie Joe Garr have taken baby John, J.R. doesn’t call the cops – he instructs banker Vaughn Leland to get him the $1 million he needs to pay the ransom.

Later, when an angry Bobby tells Pam he believes Cliff took the baby, Bobby doesn’t take his suspicions to law enforcement – he shows up on Cliff’s doorstep.

This might be the episode’s silliest scene. Bobby enters Cliff’s apartment, slams the door behind him, suggests Cliff is responsible for the kidnapping and growls at him – twice. It’s almost as if Patrick Duffy has turned into a paler version of the monster on “The Incredible Hulk,” one of “Dallas’s” Friday night companion series in the 1970s.

Eventually, Bobby, Pam and Cliff – looking a bit like “Dallas’s” version of “The Mod Squad” – head to the hospital, where they snoop around and discover baby John was taken by Priscilla Duncan, a mentally disturbed woman whose own infant died recently.

When Bobby and Pam bring baby John home, Rollins, the Dallas police detective who has been investigating the kidnapping, steps aside so the couple can enter the living room. It’s a symbolic gesture, signifying his deference to Texas’s first family of do-it-yourself crime-fighting.

Don’t feel bad, detective. The Ewings create a lot of work for your department. Be thankful they’re willing to pitch in and help clean up their own messes.

Grade: B


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Whatever Happened to Baby John Part 2

Who’ll J.R. shoot?


Season 3, Episode 2

Airdate: September 28, 1979

Audience: 16.7 million homes, ranking 10th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Newly paroled Jeb and Willie Joe tell J.R. they have baby John and demand a $1 million ransom. Pam determines the child was actually kidnapped by a woman whose own infant recently died. Bobby and Pam bring baby John home to Southfork.

Cast: John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jocelyn Brando (Mrs. Reeves), Maryedith Burrell (Nurse Barker), Jordan Charney (Detective Rollins), 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), John O’Leary (Dr. Freilich), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), 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 2” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. I like the raw pain & emotion on J. R.’s eyes when he puts the gun up to Jeb & Willie Joe. My aunt saw Larry Hagman once in Houston at a cocktail party for organ donation awareness & was asking about the raw emotion of that shoot & he told her makeup artists had put white & paleface makeup on him to give him a more ghostly look, almost a look of terror for that scene since he lost a baby! Just look at how inset his eyes are.

  2. Dean Dixon says:

    One of those rare episodes they used to spoon in every other season with JR acting out of pure family concern as the lone hero . Larry Hagman would expertly take out the acidic glee that was the characters hall mark and convey a sense of deep morel weight with sporadic moments of emotional pain . He played it to perfection so good that it was almost believable that the grinning and villainous ol JR , from previous episodes had been expunged from the characters soul . I’m not surprised the writers returned to this side of the character through out the years intermittently to cool down the narrative for a episode or two as Dallas was usually quit an intense and emotionally steamy show.
    When I was viewing Dallas the first time around I was really hocked into believing JR had changed into a good guy and that’s how he’d been in future episodes ha ha .
    The 70s cop show narrative that are prevalent through Dallas , Especially the early years make sense in the context of what was out there around the time.
    Dallas was screened at different days through out the week , through out its run in the UK on BBC1 . Season 3 was screened on Saturday night at around or just after 9pm before Match of the day ., That peak slot had been reserved for Starsky and Hutch and other imported top drawer Police dramas . No wonder it took of during 1980 to an unprecedented level of success and fan mania ; Long before the greed is good ” 80s had fully blossomed . People saw it more as a cross diversion from the sprawling western shows and Americana like the Virginian , Roots ,Kojak . As a pose to a soap opera which it latter came to be classified as .


  1. […] “Whatever Happened to Baby John, Part 2,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Cliff and Pam (Ken Kercheval, Victoria Principal) are talking […]

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