Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 52 – ‘Jock’s Trial, Part 2’

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Jock's Trial Part 2

Rush to judgment

Digger dies at the end of “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” and this is not an insignificant thing. The character appeared on “Dallas” just 14 times, but his shadow loomed large when he wasn’t around. After all, Digger’s name is included in the title of “Dallas’s” first episode, even though he shows up just once in that installment.

Appropriately, while Digger’s death produces several touching scenes in “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” he isn’t present during the moment I find most poignant: when Cliff approaches Miss Ellie in the courtroom and tells her Digger is dying and asking for her.

No matter how often I see this scene, it always moves me. There’s something profound about the idea that no matter how hard the Barnes and Ewing children fight each other, their families are forever bound by the relationships their parents forged decades earlier.

The deathbed scene itself is also touching, particularly when Digger finally acknowledges Ellie was always “Jock’s girl.” How sad he wasn’t able to admit this until his final moments of life.

I’m also struck by how closely Digger’s death mirrors Bobby’s heart-wrenching deathbed scene at the end of the eighth season, right down to the sound of the flat-lining monitor. Keenan Wynn is quite good during Digger’s farewell, and so are the women at his side: Barbara Bel Geddes, Victoria Principal and the wonderful Sarah Cunningham, who plays Digger’s sister Maggie.

“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.”

Of course, not everything about “Jock’s Trial, Part 2” works. The sepia-toned flashbacks are pretty campy, but I don’t dwell on them because the rest of this episode is so monumental. Digger had probably run his course on “Dallas,” but that doesn’t mean the character won’t be missed, even if he wasn’t around that much to begin with.

Grade: A


Dallas, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Jock's Trial Part 2

Dead end


Season 3, Episode 23

Airdate: February 29, 1980

Audience: 20.7 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Miss Ellie tells Matt she doesn’t love him. The state indicts Jock, but moments before Digger dies, Digger confesses he killed Hutch after discovering Hutch was sleeping with his wife. Digger also reveals Hutch was Pam’s biological father.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Kale Brown (reporter), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Fenton Washburn), Nicolas Coster (Assistant District Attorney Lyle Sloan), David Cryer (Professor Will Calder), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Susan Keller (reporter), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), William Munson (judge), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Don Porter (Matt Devlin), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing, Rebecca Barnes), Tom Spratley (Virgil Tuttle), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), William Watson (Hutch McKinney), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“Jock’s Trial, Part 2” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Destinee says:

    Agree on all points here. That scene with Cliff and Ellie is a heart breaker. Dallas at its best right there. Even though I generally hate when Victoria does her staccato cry, for some reason it worked in that scene because it was such a shocking moment. Not many men would raise another man’s child as his own the way Digger did, even if he was a crappy parent, he had moxie.

  2. If Digger Barnes hadn’t been dying, I would as the Prosecutor ask the Judge to give him a charge of Involuntary Manslaughter: Crime of Passion. He may have been a murderer, but he did his penance & raised Hutch’s daughter into a very beautiful & smart young lady. Since he did this, I as Prosecutor would ask the Judge to give a sentence, but then suspend it to a lifelong series of visits to a parole officer. Also C.B., & Andy, I would make Digger live in another locale such as Houston & have zero contact with any of the Ewings ever again & they in turn with him.

  3. Dan in WI says:

    I agree Wynn’s deathbed performances where incredible. I’ll go ahead and call them the most believable in the run of the show.

  4. Dianna Argoss says:

    Should have kept Digger around for a bit longer as his presence added to the Barnes Ewing feud . Which in latter seasons just descended into JR upstaging Cliff at every turn. Season 3 was a peak era in the show Kerchavel still playing Cliff with some sophistication and poise , absent in latter seasons . Accepting that Wynn’s digger suddenly went out on a final destructive bender after seeing a more together and sorted character through out the season is pretty hard , they could have easily have sent Digger to the slammer for a while if they had chosen a different story line . Brought the character back sparingly , could well have seen him beng backed by Wendell to get back what he claimed to be his and acting as a rock and a spur to Cliff .

    Nice to see Nicolas Coaster , the future Lionell Lockridge backing up Cliff in his scheme to convict the Ewings in law. Coaster went on to play the main nemesis of the Capwell family in another soap saga that focused on a family at war.

  5. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    Not only that but Bobby leaving Southfork after JR closed that oil field or the family voting JR out as President of the company after destroying Cliff. Their memories were short lived. There could be nothing that JR could do to Cliff that I would not be OK with never mind having him in my home.

  6. Ha ha. Not a fan of Cliff, huh?

  7. Who would be, Cliff murders little kids & innocent stepsons. J.R. never did!


  1. […] to the top of your invite list. No matter what Cliff (Ken Kercheval) did to the Ewings – he once prosecuted Jock for murder!– Miss Ellie never stopped inviting him to family functions. Why? Because she knew she could count […]

  2. […] conflict of interest? When Jock’s case went to trial, the assistant prosecutor was – drumroll, please – Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). Did it matter […]

  3. […] livin’, Keenan Wynn’s tragic character was laid to rest in the last scene of the 1980 episode “Jock’s Trial, Part 2.” It was a fittingly humble affair. When the minister asked Digger’s sister Maggie if she’d like […]

  4. […] “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Bobby (Barbara Bel Geddes, Patrick Duffy) join […]

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: