Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 78 – ‘Missing Heir’

Drowned and out

Drowned and out

In “Missing Heir,” “Dallas’s” fifth-season opener, we learn the dead woman floating in the Southfork swimming pool is Kristin, who notoriously shot J.R. one year earlier. This gives Mary Crosby the distinction of being the central figure in the two most-watched cliffhangers in “Dallas” history.

But “Who’s in the Pool?” proves much less satisfying than “Who Shot J.R.?” To begin with, there’s hardly any suspense here: It took “Dallas” four episodes to reveal Kristin as J.R.’s assailant, but she’s identified as the floating corpse just 65 seconds into “Missing Heir.” And while J.R.’s shooter could have plausibly turned out to be any number of suspects, was there ever any question who would turn out to be the brunette doing the dead woman’s float? (You didn’t really think it would be Sue Ellen or Pam, did you?)

The main reason I dislike this cliffhanger’s resolution is because killing off Kristin feels so shortsighted. The character appeared on “Dallas” for three seasons, and during that time she shifted effortlessly from ugly duckling kid sister to husband-stealing hussy to homicidal ex-mistress to con artist. Her death means the show has lost its most malleable character. What a shame.

Of course, “Missing Heir” isn’t a total washout. Having Cliff acknowledge the parallels between Kristin’s death and Julie Grey’s demise is a nice touch, and by dispensing so quickly with the cliffhanger’s resolution, the show is able to get down to the business of unspooling its fifth-season plot threads (even though one of them – Pam’s renewed obsession with having a baby – is a third-season retread).

“Missing Heir” also offers several nice examples of character development, including scenes where Afton comforts a heartbroken Mitch and Lucy and Donna each turn to Bobby for advice – presaging the wise head-of-the-family role Patrick Duffy does such a fine job filling on TNT’s “Dallas.” There’s also a moving moment where J.R., in a show of genuine compassion, breaks the news of Kristin’s death to Sue Ellen.

I also appreciate “Missing Heir’s” climax, when Sherriff Washburn suggests J.R. might be arrested for Kristin’s murder. I’m sure the “Dallas” producers don’t expect us to believe J.R. really killed his sister-in-law/ex-mistress, but isn’t it comforting to know Kristin is still capable of causing him trouble, even after she’s dead and gone?

Grade: B


Presumed guilty

Presumed guilty


Season 5, Episode 1

Airdate: October 9, 1981

Audience: 26 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: The police question J.R. after Kristin’s dead body is discovered in the Southfork swimming pool. Sue Ellen, who now lives with John Ross at the Farlows’ Southern Cross ranch, rejects J.R.’s plea to come home. Pam’s mood swings worry Bobby. Donna frets over Ray’s burgeoning business career. Lucy tells Mitch their marriage is over.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), James L. Brown (Harry McSween), Barry Corbin (Sherriff Fenton Washburn), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Patrick Duffy (Senator Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Harlan Jordan (Sheriff Bull Hawkins), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Bill Lucking (Deputy Matland), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Herbert Rudley (Howard Barker), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Missing Heir” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Kristin’s death is still a mystery in my mind. I feel like it was never fully resolved. J.R was so cool and nonchalant about it. He didn’t even pretend to act frightened or shocked. He just stood up on the balcony sipping a drink. I realize he doesn’t care a fig cuz she did try and shoot him, but all the evidence pointed to him If I remember. That’s one secret he’ll take to his grave. 😛

    • Good insights. You’re right: It still feels very mysterious, all these years later. It would be cool to see the new series revisit this.

    • We all know JR didn’t push her but maybe in way she jumped to frame JR.Maybe she thought she would be okay and then she could blackmail JR by threatening to imply he tried to kill her.Plus we don’t know how long she was in the water before Cliff found her.So maybe after JR left her on the terrace she saw a car approaching the house and she jumped.I don’t think it takes too long to drown and she may have been knocked out when she hit the water.

      • Yeah, she probably was knocked out. It’s cool how the show made you think that JR did it though because he was so calm and collected. It always kept you guessing.

  2. barbara fan says:

    Agree re Kristin, it was a mistake to kill her off so early on, there was more mileage in her character and after the hype of who shot JR it falls a little flat
    Also ltd BBG in 1st 2 episodes so roll on ep 3!! lol

  3. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    I don’t think that JR killed Kristin. If he were capable of killing anyone, it would have been Pamela who just kidnapped his son.

    • Yeah, I think he probably didn’t kill her either. But the mystery is kind of cool.

      • Garnet McGee says:

        I know JR hated Kristin for shooting him but he seems very unmoved that she died. He did sleep with her for months. He seems very unconcerned about whether she was or was not pregnant. If he can have Sue Ellen followed wouldn’t it have been a simple matter to determine whether Kristin was pregnant? Somebody should be worrying about what happened to her baby?. Was Chris named after Kris? I noticed they called her Kris one time. The whole “let’s send Kristin to California” plot was dumb. It would have been much better for Kristen to have been imprisoned and then given birth in prison. Kristen’s pregnancy should have given Sue Ellen some leverage but the writers chose not to write Sue Ellen as someone smart enough to use the situation to her advantage.
        Sue Ellen showed sorrow when she got the news. She might have hated what Kristen did but she felt some love. I wish the writers on Dallas TNT would acknowledge Sue Ellen’s biological ties to Christopher and at least have him call her Aunt Sue Ellen. Was Christopher’s birth mother ever referenced when Christopher was a little older? People accuse Dallas TNT of being plot driven but some of the Kristin storyline feels tailored to create more plot and is not believable. I would have liked to see Kristin reconcile with her sister and become her ally.

      • Garnet, a Kristin/Sue Ellen alliance would have been fascinating. I always believed the show killed her off way too soon, but when I used to contemplate what she would have been like had she lived, it was always as a troublemaker. A Kristin/Sue Ellen alliance would have been fascinating.

      • I’m trying to reply to Garnet but there was no button on her post. I was just going to say I don’t think Sue Ellen hated Kristen at all. I think she hated the situation, hated JR for fathering a baby, hated the fact that Kristen was completely sold on the lifestyle their mama taught them to seek. But while Kristen was alive, there are multiple instances of Sue Ellen trying to tell her that she should make her own way for herself and that mama’s vision is not all it’s cracked up to be. I think she even told Kristen that she was smart. She cared for her all along. She may have hated her after JR’s shooting and the subsequent pregnancy reveal, but that doesn’t erase those previous years. Sue Ellen wanted Kristen to have a better life than she had.

  4. As I told u C.B., J.R. couldn’t have killed Kristin. He came from inside the house after Cliff had jumped in to rescue her. He was too far back on the deck landing outside his bedroom & would’ve had to put down his drink, presumably bourbon & branch to stuff her body over, then wash his hands & clean up the deck, then appear like he knew nothing, all b4 Cliff arrived on scene. So no J.R. didn’t murder Kristin.

  5. Maryann says:

    I was upset that they did not go back and show what really happened on the balcony the night Kristen died. I think maybe Kristen’s fall was an accident just like Pam’s fall from the loft. She and JR were arguing and maybe she tried to get away from him and fell or he accidentally pushed her, but still the show should have revealed to the viewers what really happened that just leaving us with guesses or that she was on drugs as we later found out.

    • That’s a great point, Maryann. I wonder why the producers didn’t show us exactly what happened? Maybe they wanted to keep it shrouded in the mystery.

  6. How Kirstin, even on drugs, could have destroy the balcony ? IMO JR kill her. (but I’m not certain)

  7. My favorite moment from this episode was when JR came into the office and told Bobby’s secretary to let him know when his secretary Louellen would arrive. He has forgotten he has fired her! So true to character!


  1. […] “Missing Heir,” “Dallas’s” fifth-season opener, J.R. (Larry Hagman) visits the Southern Cross ranch, where he […]

  2. […] recover the dead woman’s body from the Southfork swimming pool in this 1981 publicity shot from “Missing Heir,” “Dallas’s” fifth-season opener. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. […] 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 threatened to arrest Sue Ellen for manslaughter […]

  4. […] Marta dies at the hands of two men, just like Julie. The shot of Kristin’s dead body (in “Missing Heir,” the episode that follows “Ewing-Gate”) is creepily reminiscent of the image of Marta’s […]

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