Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 35 – ‘The Dove Hunt’

Dallas, Dove Hunt, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Facing his past

“The Dove Hunt” is a western, plain and true. It drops the Ewing men into the Louisiana wilderness, but it might as well transport them to the 18th-century frontier. The themes scriptwriters D.C. and Richard Fontana explore here – honor, justice, redemption – are timeless.

Throughout “The Dove Hunt,” we don’t know why craggy-faced Tom Owens is stalking the Ewings’ hunting party. In the next-to-last scene, Owens finally comes face to face with Jock and reveals he wants to avenge events from 32 years earlier, when Jock forced Owens to sell him his farmland, ruining him.

The tense confrontation climaxes when Owens points his rifle at Jock, who doesn’t flinch. “Come on,” Jock huffs. “If you’re gonna do it, do it.”

While composer John Parker builds a drumbeat in the background, director Leonard Katzman zooms in for tight close-ups of Jim Davis and Robert J. Wilke, the veteran villain-of-the-week (“Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke”) who plays Owens.

Finally, Owens lowers his gun. “I can’t. I’m not a killer,” he says.

What a great scene. We watch it knowing Owens isn’t really going to kill Jock – after all, this is 1970s episodic television, where the hero never dies – but the confrontation is still dramatic.

Much of the credit goes to Davis and Wilke. Both actors did a ton of westerns before “Dallas,” and they know exactly what a scene like this calls for. Wilke makes Owens menacing, while Davis’s steely courage has us rooting for Jock, even though we never doubt for a minute the Ewing patriarch wronged Owens when they were younger.

I also love the Fontanas’ beautiful dialogue at the end of the scene, when Owens asks Jock why he isn’t pressing charges against him.

“I owe you, that’s all,” Jock says. “Back in those days, I ran roughshod over a lot of people. I don’t remember you, Owens, but I should have – because you got a lot of pride. When you get right down to it, that’s all a man can take to his grave.”

Ultimately, this is what makes “The Dove Hunt” so good. There are no white hats and black hats here. Owens isn’t seeking revenge as much as he’s seeking justice, the only way he knows how; Jock’s redemptive impulses allow us to forgive him for strong-arming Owens all those years ago.

This is a western, but a morally ambiguous one. With “Dallas,” would we expect anything less?

Grade: A


Dallas, Dove Hunt, Robert J. Wilke, Tom Owens

Not a killer


Season 3, Episode 6

Airdate: October 26, 1979

Audience: 20.1 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writers: D.C. Fontana and Richard Fontana

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: On a hunting trip, Jock and J.R. are ambushed by a farmer Jock once strong-armed in business. While awaiting rescue, Jock confesses to J.R. he was married briefly before Miss Ellie and later vows to make amends with people he treated unfairly while building Ewing Oil. Ellie has a lump in her breast examined.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Thomas Callaway (Dan Owens), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stefan Gierasch (Ben Masters), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Robert J. Wilke (Tom Owens), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“The Dove Hunt” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. The gun fight in this episode is brutal. Isn’t J.R. shot too? (Foreshadowing, I suppose).

  2. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    I was amazed at Jock’s resolve at staring at this man’s gun showing no fear.

  3. Jock may have run roughshod over Owens, but he didn’t shoot at him. Owens should have sued Jock for civil damages in a proper court of law C. B. That’s how II resolve things properly!

  4. Dan in WI says:

    This is the episode where it is firmly and irrevocably established that JR is a wimp when it comes to physical confrontation. Even before things get bad in the wild we find him removing his watch for safe keeping only to hide behind a table during the bar fight. Then later on we find him falling asleep on the job guarding Jock while Bobby and Ray go for help. But to give him a bit of credit he does very impulsively/stupidly try to get to Jock when he is first hit resulting in taking his own first bullett.
    It sure makes you wonder what he did in Vietnam. It also makes one wonder if Jeremy Windell was ever in physical danger when JR would threaten to kill him over the famous Jock portrait. My guess was no but I’m sure I’ll be in the minority on that one.
    The highlight of this episode for me (possibly my all time favorite episodic Dallas episode) is the pre-brotherhood brotherhood displayed by Bobby and Ray. These are two guys who obviously trust each other totally and completely when all the chips are down. It is very cool.

    • Yeah, I might have to disagree with you on the J.R./Jeremy Wendell scene. I don’t know if J.R. would have actually killed him, but I believe he might have been capable of physical violence in that moment. I’m also reminded of the second-season episodes where he slapped Sue Ellen (not cool, J.R.) and Jeb Ames.

      • Dan in WI says:

        The few times we’ve seen JR do something resembling violent it was as a bully. He slapped Sue Ellen because he could. We don’t know a ton about Jeb Ames but maybe he was an equal “not physical” type. Even in this very episode we see JR clock one guy in the bar with a beer mug after he was already thoroughly dazed. When it comes to physical confrontation I can’t think of a single time JR participated when he didn’t already have the advantage going in.

      • That’s a great point, Dan. Thanks.

      • JP Nasiatka says:

        JR did get physical with Cliff at his second wetting with Sue Ellen. He could of gotten enraged with Wendell, but look at what happened with Ray in the Southfork fire. He had to knock Ray out with the telephone as he seemed like using his fists was not an option. Plus his wrestling skills sucked to as Ray had him in a hold.

  5. I have recently started watching Dallas episodes from the beginning and I am really enjoying the humor in them. In this episode the J.R. scenes gave me a good laugh. At the dinner table when Miss Ellie suggested the men go hunting, J.R. clearly didn’t want to go but Sue Ellen suggested Bobby and Jock go on their own knowing J.R.’s jealousy would cause him to go too. Then in the bar fight J.R. stayed at the table and participated by clobbering an already dazed man over the head with a pitcher of beer. Finally at the camp site, Bobby, Jock, and Ray were sleeping on the ground while J.R. had a cot and was protected with a mosquito net.

    • Good observation about J.R. and the cot. I’m not sure I picked up on that when I wrote this critique. He wasn’t one for roughing it, was he?

      Thanks for your observations, Geoff!

      • Larry said in his autobiography “Hello Darlin” that the cot was his idea! He says he got a cot and mosquito netting and Katzman was like “They’re supposed to be roughing it” and Larry was like “This is how JR roughs it.” So funny! He understood his character so well!

  6. Ian Delaney says:

    The Dove Hunt was an interesting chapter in the Dallas saga in that it shed some light on Jock’s past and how he had managed to amass a fortune. It is obvious from the storyline that his journey to founding an oil empire had been founded on sheer ruthlessness, something which we don’t get that much of an insight into until now. The only saving grace from all this is that Jock actually admitted his guilt to Owens in the final showdown which seemed to convey an air of humility.

    • Great observations, Ian. Good point about how Jock admitted his guilt to Owens. Can you imagine J.R. doing something like that?

      Thanks for writing. I’m enjoying your comments.


  7. I like this episode because it continues the early narrative that Jock is not a saint and has done some things he is not proud of. Unfortunately, this is wiped away during the storyline about Jason and Digger’s claim on Ewing Oil.


  1. […] the nicest discovery has been how good Davis is as Jock, especially in third-season episodes like “The Dove Hunt,” when he stares down rifle-wielding Tom Owens, and “Return Engagements,” when the humbled Ewing […]

  2. […] 9. Confronting Owens. On a hunting trip, the Ewing men were ambushed by Tom Owens (Richard J. Wilkie), a farmer who claimed Jock ruined him decades earlier. Owens cocked his gun and aimed it at his wounded enemy, who didn’t blink. “If you’re gonna do it, do it!” Jock shouted, moments before the defeated Owens lowered the weapon and declared, “I’m not a killer.” You’re also no match for Jock Ewing, mister. (“The Dove Hunt”) […]

  3. […] “The Dove Hunt,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, an injured Jock and J.R. (Jim Davis, Larry Hagman) come face […]

  4. […] episodes sounds like it was lifted from the cancer brochure Ellie is seen reading in “The Dove Hunt,” an earlier third-season entry. Various characters refer to “regular checkups,” “frequent […]

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