Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 101 – ‘The Investigation’



By the end of “The Investigation,” Cliff’s world is collapsing around him. He’s lost Sue Ellen and his fortune. He’s also on the verge of losing his job, now that his mother knows he’s embezzled millions of dollars from the family business. This is when J.R. arrives at Cliff’s office to revel in his misery – and to reveal he engineered Cliff’s fall.

“How does it feel, Cliff?” J.R. asks. “A couple of days ago, you owned my oilfield. You were going to marry my wife. You were expecting a big gusher. Oh yeah, millionaire time – that’s what it was. And now you’re over your head in debt and the only property you own is a dry hole north of Lubbock.” Larry Hagman pauses here before delivering J.R.’s final verbal kick in the teeth. “You have succeeded in becoming the perfect failure,” he says with a chuckle. “I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe it.”

This is the most brutal takedown on “Dallas” yet. Heaven help me, I cheer the whole time I watch it.

Maybe I love the scene because Hagman and Ken Kercheval are so good in it. The glint in Hagman’s eye has never been brighter, while Kercheval shows nice restraint as poor, defeated Cliff. Or maybe I love the scene because – despite the sympathy I feel for Cliff – he kind of has it coming. Earlier in the fifth season, when the roles were reversed and J.R. was the one who had been backed into a corner, Cliff gloated over J.R.’s misfortune. He should have known better.

But ultimately, I think the main reason I enjoy seeing J.R. destroy Cliff is because the prize isn’t the usual cocktail of wealth, power and pride. It’s love. Since Jock’s death during the middle of the season, J.R. has been fighting to win back Sue Ellen and their son. Yes, his efforts created plenty of collateral damage: J.R. drove both Dusty and Clayton out of Sue Ellen’s life, he blackmailed Bobby, and now he’s ruined Cliff. But even though his methods are harsh, J.R. is fighting for a high purpose: reuniting his family. How can you begrudge him that?

This is why I also adore the wonderful scene that closes “The Investigation,” when J.R. visits Sue Ellen and tells her it’s time to come home. Hagman shows us J.R.’s sincere side for a change, and Linda Gray does a nice job conveying Sue Ellen’s confusion, but what I like best about this scene is scriptwriter Bruce Shelly’s dialogue. “You’re a Ewing. Remember that,” J.R. tells Sue Ellen. “I’ve hurt you so much in the past, and I’m sorry. I love you. You know that. We’re the same kind. We have our shortcomings, our faults. But we look at the world the same way. There are no two people that are meant for each other more than you and I.” Have truer words been spoken on this show?

I also have to hand it to director Irving J. Moore, who generates genuine suspense during Bobby and Pam’s rescue of Lucy. The sequence where Lucy, bound and gagged in the back room of Roger’s studio, struggles to knock over the lamp and signal for help is one of those moments where I find myself talking to my TV. (“Hurry Lucy!”)

Later, Charlene Tilton is given a nice showcase when Lucy and Mitch finally acknowledge it’s time to divorce. The characters admit they were always wrong for each other and agree the marriage’s failure is no one’s fault. Shelly’s dialogue is a little hokey (Lucy: “Sometimes love isn’t enough”), but Tilton delivers it with so much heart, I don’t mind. It’s a lovely performance.

The scene takes place in Lucy’s hospital room, so Tilton doesn’t wear a lot of makeup and her hair is straight. It brings to mind the teenaged Lucy we met when “Dallas” began. The contrast is striking: Even though Tilton looks more girlish than she’s appeared in years, her character has never seemed more grownup.

Grade: A





Season 5, Episode 24

Airdate: March 26, 1982

Audience: 28 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Bruce Shelly

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Cliff is rebuffed by Sue Ellen and defeated by J.R., who reclaims the original Barnes-Ewing oilfield that Cliff took from him. Bobby learns Farraday was a drug dealer who was killed by his suppliers. Bobby and Pam rescue Lucy, who says goodbye to Mitch.

Cast: Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Jack Collins (Russell Slater), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Phyllis Flax (Mrs. Chambers), Jonathan Goldsmith (Joe Smith), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Bob Hoy (Detective Howard), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Arthur Malet (Forest), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Tom Stern (Detective White), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

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


  1. I think the scene with JR and Cliff is a true highlight of the episode, and maybe even of the whole series. Interesting thought JR’s motive for defeating Cliff was love, and keeping the family together. I agree that was part of it, but I think good old JR never does anything just out of love. 😉 A big part of it is money and power. (Like getting John Ross’ 10 percent of Ewing Oil voting shares.) We can never guess exactly how many percent of JR’s motives are love, money, and power…

    As for Cliff, I did feel a bit sorry for him when JR revelled in his defeat, but only for a second. Cliff was really acting like a true idiot, and a jerk. Using a huge amount of money from his mother’s company for his own purpose… and on top of that, asking Sue Ellen for money? Hello??… I felt sorry for Pam. Like she said it, he was using both Sue Ellen and his mother.

    • I love any scene that features Larry Hagman and Ken Kercheval. Those guys are always a hoot to watch.

    • I wonder if Cliff hadn’t been involved with Sue Ellen if JR still would have gotten Cliff the way he did.Yes i know that earlier in that season Cliff gloated when he sort of beaten JR and that may have made JR mad but JR might have been willing to give Cliff that one victory if Cliff hadn’t gotten involved with Sue Ellen and Cliff sort of rubbed that relationship in JR’s face.JR might have been willing to give Cliff one moment of gloating over him but not a second or third moment.

  2. Garnet McGee says:

    We saw shades of the Cliff Barnes of TNT Dallas in this episode when Sue Ellen told him the only thing he loved was power. Cliff has it in him to be just as evil as JR given the right circumstances. I might be the only Dallas fan that disagrees that Sue Ellen and JR belong together. I really prefer them as sparring ex-spouses. It is fun to watch them in scenes together as long as she is not under his thumb. All the drinking must have impaired her memory. I talked to my TV set and said Sue Ellen don’t you remember how mean he was when he had you committed! You can do better. Moving back to Southfork means moving in with the child you believe is a product between your sister and your husband. But she didn’t listen.

    I love any story line that gives BBG a chance to show her stuff so it is great to see her in scenes with Donna.

    Cliff and Pam haven’t had a scene together in ages. I’m also in the minority that I was hoping that Cliff would really strike oil or wise up. I prefer when Cliff bests JR.

    I wish the stories intersected more. This whole Kristin/Farady mystery could have been handled better. Doesn’t anyone care that she may have been taking drugs while pregnant?

    Lucy’s maturity was refreshing but I hated that Roger storyline.

    My friend told me her daughter’s name was inspired by the character of Kristin on the show.

    • Thanks, Garnet. I agree with a lot of what you wrote here, including the part about Cliff besting J.R. It’s always good to see that once in awhile. Also: I have a niece who was named after Kristin!

    • I’m right there with you Garnet. JR and Sue Ellen are NOT meant for each other. JR has caused and will continue to cause Sue Ellen too much pain. JR is completely unable to be faithful to anyone. Therefore he is meant for no one.

      I’m not even sure if JR really wants Sue Ellen back at this point. (There are other points in the series where he does.) But so long as there are voting shares in play I can’t convince myself this is one of those times. I don’t even think his end of the episode plea for Sue Ellen to take him back is all that convincing on the reason and logic side. “We’re the same kind.” That in and of itself doesn’t make two people a match. I’ve known may instances where two people are too similar to be together. For example, take two stubborn bull-headed people who want the same goal but have two totally different methods to achieve a goal. Two people in that scenario may want the same thing but if they can’t go about in the same way they aren’t going to work together well at all. If they are the “same kind” I think they fall into this category of “same kind.” Then JR acknowledges they both have shortcomings and faults. That is true. But so long as chronic infidelity is among a list of faults I just don’t see how two such people can meant for each other. No I don’t believe they belong together at all. Both people must be capable of holding up their end of a healthy relationship and this has never applied here.

      Also I need to get a pet peeve off my chest here. I can’t agree with this notion that nobody is at fault in the failed Lucy/Mitch marriage. If they are wrong for each other because they are from two totally different worlds then aren’t they at fault for rushing into the marriage too quickly? I know there are plenty who will disagree but that has always been the way I saw this scenario.

      • @Dan in WI, I agree especially to what you wrote about Lucy and Mitch. They were simply two stubborn children who decided to “play adults” for a while. Neither of them ever seriously considered what marriage is actually about. And both of them only thought of themselves.

  3. Don’t think C.B. that it was just J.R.’s love for Miss Texas. Nah, J.R. loved screwing Cliff out of the oilfields just as much! The oil bidness, u gotta luv it Bobby!

  4. I liked the Sue Ellen in Season 5 divorced from JR and a financially secure woman she made a huge mistake falling for JR’s “sincerity” and going back to him. It makes me think of a scene later on between Pam and Cliff where Cliff says that Pam should be committed if she is thinking of going back to Bobby, Sue Ellen should be the one committed for even having the thought of going back to JR. Compared to the Ewing wives Sue Ellen should have been the one to be divorced from her husband forever. Also in Season 5 Cliff and Pam did not have many scenes together only the one with Rebecca on the grounds of the hospital.

  5. How often do people get kidnapped in their lifetime? Lucy has now gone through this ordeal twice in less than 4 years. What are the odds?


  1. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “The Investigation,” Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) opens her door and finds J.R. (Larry Hagman), who breezes into her living […]

  2. […] an extended break (before “Requiem,” her most recent appearance came in the 101st episode, “The Investigation”), and the actress gets to show us new shades of Katherine’s persona. I believe the character’s […]

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