Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 51 – ‘Jock’s Trial, Part 1’

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Jock's Trial Part 1

Face of a killer?

“Jock’s Trial, Part 1” comes toward the conclusion of “Dallas’s” third season, and it very much feels like the beginning of an ending. By the time this episode’s closing credits roll, Digger is dying, Dusty is dead and those skeletal remains discovered on Southfork nine episodes ago have finally been identified.

Hutch McKinney’s 28-year-old murder dominates “Jock’s Trial, Part 1,” making the episode feel a bit like “CSI: Dallas.” Although Cliff is motivated by his suspicion the Ewings are implicated in the death, his investigative skills – including his embrace of forensics – turn out to be pretty sharp. Maybe Cliff has finally found his calling.

I also like how J.R. and Bobby, after spending much of this episode sniping at each other, stop squabbling and join forces the moment it looks like Jock might be fingered for Hutch’s murder. The Ewings are fun to watch when they’re at each other’s throats, but it’s also satisfying to see them circle the wagons when a family member is threatened. These are the moments I wish I was a Ewing.

“Jock’s Trial, Part 1” also offers a terrific scene between Bobby and Sue Ellen that showcases the nice chemistry between Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray. I love Duffy’s impassioned delivery when Bobby warns Sue Ellen against emulating J.R. “Don’t try and play his game,” Bobby says. “Honey, he’s too good at it.”

I’m less enthralled with Miss Ellie’s storyline here. Barbara Bel Geddes is wonderful as always, but Matt Devlin’s declaration that he’s fallen in love with Ellie – and that he knows she has feelings for him, too – seems rather sudden. I don’t object to having Ellie be tempted by another man, but wouldn’t it have made more sense if that man was Digger, a character with whom she already has a rich history?

Imagine how much more poignant Digger’s looming death would seem if Ellie had been flirting with him at the end of the third season instead of with Matt. The title “Jock’s Trial” would have taken on a whole other meaning.

Grade: B


Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Jock's Trial Part 1, Ken Kercheval



Season 3, Episode 22

Airdate: February 22, 1980

Audience: 17.5 million homes, ranking 16th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Cliff, now an assistant district attorney, determines skeletal remains found on Southfork belong to onetime foreman Hutch McKinney, whom Jock fired decades earlier. After a bender, Digger is hospitalized. Dusty dies in a plane crash, sending Sue Ellen back to the bottle. Matt tells Miss Ellie he loves her. Jock is arrested for Hutch’s murder.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Christopher Coffey (Professor Greg Forrester), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Fenton Washburn), Nicolas Coster (Assistant District Attorney Lyle Sloan), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), David Cryer (Professor Wilbur Calder), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dennis Holahan (Tiny Voight), Al Hopson (Merdo Ferris), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joan Lancaster (Linda Bradley), Joel Lawrence (Gene), Don Porter (Matt Devlin), Dan Priest (Newly), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

“Jocks’ Trial, Part 1” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Destinee says:

    This episode was not as strong as its conclusion, in my opinion, but it had some great moments, like the Bobby and Sue Ellen scene as you mentioned. I always thought they could have had a little thing going, when Pam was being a cold fish and JR was being nasty, they could have had each other. With today’s CGI, I’ll bet they could flashback somehow… haha.

    Jock’s “I’m mad as HELL, boy” is a great line.

  2. How ironic, the irony of ironies C.B. that ADA Clifford Barnes of DALLAS County (& with Braddock as a subjurisdiction) gets a deathbed confession to a murder, but its from his old man Willard “Digger” Barnes, proving once again that Jock Ewing should have never have been in Cliff’s sites to begin with. A firing yes, but Jock wasn’t the killer! Still, Jim Davis gave a killer performance here!

  3. Dan in WI says:

    Matt Devlin hitting on Miss Ellie was just way too “out of left field” to be believable. Miss Ellie was fighting him tooth and nail and it was quite contencious. So when does the guy actually fall for Ellie?

    • It’s been a few months since I saw this storyline, but I seem to remember them developing a relationship for several episodes between Ellie and Devlin. They kept meeting each other to discuss Takapa, but even though they were on opposite sides idealogically, they were very friendly and kept having lunch and taking strolls and things.

  4. Dan in WI says:

    There is a big reason this episode feels like the beginning of the end of the season. Don’t forget the famous tale how this was originally to be the penultimate episode of the season. Then very late in the game CBS ordered two additional episodes. So this was the first episode of a season ending two-parter. The shooting of JR was never in the original plans. It was only when those two additional episodes were ordered and the writers had to fill them that they decide to leave the Trial of JR in place (instead of stretching the trial out a bit more) and created TV’s most famous cliffhanger ever on the fly. Some things were just meant to be.


  1. […] him, Washburn didn’t hesitate to exert his authority when the family ran afoul of the law: He arrested Jock for Hutch McKinney’s murder, hauled J.R. in for questioning in Kristin Shepard’s death and […]

  2. […] is the most fantastical, of course. At the end of “Dallas’s” third season, Sue Ellen learned Dusty died in a plane crash. In “Lover, Come Back,” after some Nancy Drew-style sleuthing, Sue Ellen discovers Dusty […]

  3. […] “Jock’s Trial, Part 1,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby and Sue Ellen (Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray) chat on the […]

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