‘Who Killed J.R.?’ More Questions, Few Answers

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Harris Ryland, J.R. Ewing, Ken Kercheval, Larry Hagman, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, Who Killed J.R.? TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode, “Ewings Unite!,” offered a few potential clues in the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery – but not many. Here’s what I think we know.

J.R. was searching for Pam. At the end of “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” Bum (Kevin Page) told Bobby, John Ross and Christopher that J.R. had been looking for Christopher’s “mother” before his death. Since Bum didn’t specify which mother, I suggested J.R. wasn’t necessarily on the trail of Pam (Victoria Principal), the mom who adopted Christopher and later abandoned him and Bobby. My left-field theory: J.R. was hunting Christopher’s biological mom Kristin (Mary Crosby). Yes, I know she supposedly drowned in the Southfork swimming pool, but hey, this is “Dallas.”

In “Ewings Unite!,” we seem to receive confirmation that Pam was the target of J.R.’s search after all. This happens when Bobby (Patrick Duffy), while filling in the Ewing cousins on the history of Cliff’s company, holds a stack of papers and says, “This is a summary of the financial reports for Barnes Global, dating all the way back to its inception, when it was started by Cliff’s mother. Now she divided that company up between the three children: Pamela, Cliff and Katherine. Katherine’s dead. So if Pamela’s still alive, she could be a silent partner in Barnes Global. Maybe that’s why J.R. was looking for her – to help us take Cliff down.”

Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) responds: “If my mother’s alive, I’ll find her. It’s about time I did.”

Bobby’s history lesson isn’t exactly how I remember the origin of the old Barnes/Wentworth empire, but setting that aside for a moment, this scene seems to offer two things: a) confirmation that J.R. was indeed trying to find his old nemesis Pam, and b) Bobby’s theory that J.R. wanted Pam to help him stop Cliff.

In other words: There’s no reason, at this point, to believe Kristin is anything but dead.

The list of suspects is taking shape. In addition to Kristin, the list I posted last week of eight potential suspects included Katherine (Morgan Brittany), who I figured would want J.R. dead because she’s still holding a grudge against the Ewings. Now that we know Katherine is dead, she comes off the list too. (Presumably Katherine’s demise occurred sometime between the end of the original “Dallas” and the beginning of TNT’s revival.) Is it possible she’s still alive and Bobby doesn’t know it? Sure, but there’s no evidence to support that one either.

I also think we can drop the Ewings’ disgruntled lawyer, Mitch Lobell (Richard Dillard), from the list of suspects, since no one has mentioned him and he was a long shot to begin with. And even though I’m still suspicious of J.R.’s friend Carlos del Sol (Castulo Guerra) – who, we learn in “Ewings Unite!” is investigating Harris’s Mexican trucking operation on Bobby’s behalf – there’s no reason to consider him a suspect at this point either.

This leaves three chief suspects, beginning with Cliff (Ken Kercheval), who wouldn’t seem capable of killing J.R. – until now. In the chilling finale of “Ewings Unite!,” Cliff orders Harris’s henchman Roy Vickers (Alex Fernandez) to blow up the Ewing Energies methane extraction rig – even though Cliff knows the blast might harm his pregnant daughter Pamela (Julie Gonzalo). If Cliff is willing to risk his own flesh and blood, why wouldn’t he be willing to take out J.R.?

The second suspect: Harris (Mitch Pileggi), who joined forces with Cliff in “Ewings Unite!,” just like J.R. predicted in his note to John Ross (Josh Henderson). I still don’t know why Harris would have a beef with J.R., unless he believed getting rid of him would leave Bobby and Ann vulnerable to attack. I doubt the “Dallas” producers will have Harris turn out to be J.R.’s murderer, though, even if his altercation with mother Judith (Judith Light) at the end of “Ewings Unite!” suggests a violent streak.

The third and final suspect: J.R. Yes, I know: It’s unlikely Larry Hagman’s iconic character would arrange his own death, even if it turned out to be part of an elaborate scheme to set up Cliff, Harris or one of his other enemies. But I keep coming back to a point I made last week: Who else on “Dallas” is big enough to take down J.R. Ewing – except J.R. himself?

There’s still a lot we don’t know. “Ewings Unite!” opens with the reading of J.R.’s will, in which John Ross somehow inherits half of Southfork from Miss Ellie and John Ross and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) split J.R.’s share of the ranch’s lucrative mineral rights. You might think an inheritance this huge would make John Ross or Sue Ellen suspects in J.R.s death, but c’mon, that would be nuts. The new “Dallas” producers wouldn’t go that far, would they?

“Ewings Unite!” doesn’t shed much light on the other clues in the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery. In addition to the discovery that J.R. was searching for Pam, “J.R.’s Masterpiece” also ended with Bobby receiving a mysterious document from his deceased brother. In “Ewings Unite!,” John Ross refers to the document as “a letter,” but Bobby declares he won’t reveal its contents until J.R.’s master plan is implemented. “Because that’s the way he wanted it,” Bobby says.

We also still don’t know what to make of the gun that J.R. left for John Ross. While watching “Ewings Unite!,” it occurred to me: Could this be the gun that Kristin used to shoot J.R. all those years ago? If so, might it signal her eventual return? Uh oh, here I go again!

Who done it? Share your theories below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.


  1. Oh, I totally think J.R. did it. I thought that when he said to John Ross, “You shouldn’t have to pay for my sins.” I also think that J.R. was in control of every part of his life (even if others didn’t know it), so why wouldn’t he be in control of his death, too?

  2. garyhilbornactor says:

    I also think JR planned his own death. Perhaps we’ll find out that JR learned he had terminal cancer and decided to use the hand he’d been dealt to his advantage. After all, why waste a prime opportunity to take down Cliff and Harris.
    I also think Drew is a good candidate for having pulled the trigger. Makes sense that JR paid him to do it. After all, Drew wanted money to buy back the land.

  3. I don’t think Katherine is dead. The episode before, did any new viewer know who Katherine was? Well, they do now. I think she faked her death to get the authorities to stop looking for her and maybe JR found this out, so she killed him. To just mention and kill off a character who won the “Dallas Divas Derby” would be unforgivable!

  4. What do I think? I think that I’d be pretty upset if JR was the cause of his own death, whether by hiw own hand or someone else’s.

    • What do you think of the terminal illness angle that one of your fellow commentors, Gary, described? In other words: J.R. finds out he only has a brief time to live and decides to make the most of the hand he’s been dealt by arranging his own death and framing Cliff or Harris for the crime?

  5. I still think J.R. planned his own death. Maybe he did have a terminal illness. Really don’t believe any of the other people from the original show would have anything to do with it. Although he was looking for Pam, for some reason.

    • I’m torn: It’s hard for me to believe J.R. would do something like that, although I like the idea of him pinning his “murder” on one of his enemies.

  6. Harris Ryland made a comment about JR being out of the way and now there is nothing to stop him from bringing down Ewing Energies. It would be great to bring back Pam. I think a different actress for the role would be in order because of the rough car crash she was in. I can’t rule out Carmen. Cliff Barnes ordered a bomb to detonate in an oil rig that had his pregnant daughter inside. Valene does not care for JR. IT is hard not to think it is Cliff Barnes. Although for Dallas, that would be too obvious.

  7. I’m on the side of people hoping that Katherine is not really dead. I would certainly love to see Morgan Brittany back at one point and would like to believe that the reference to her death is a red herring which mainly serves the purpose of “reintroducing” a character that has been completely out of the picture so far… Maybe Christopher will happen upon her while looking for her sister?
    I have to admit that may clues seem to indicate that J.R. might have planned his own death. My main issue with this theory is his letter to Sue Ellen: He was clearly trying to win her back: “When I get back to Dallas, will you have dinner with me?” Would J.R. write that to the love of his life if he was planning never to return?

    • Unless the dinner invitation was more of a metaphor, which is how I interpreted it. As I see it, J.R. wasn’t really asking Sue Ellen to “have dinner” with him. He was asking her to forgive him. Doesn’t necessarily lend credence to the arranged death theory, but it’s something to consider.

      • I am in agreement here. I think the whole letter was him asking for forgiveness for all of his horrible crap. The letter was beautifully written. (and again …still saying NO to JR suicide!) Its kind of sad that he died before he ever knew her response.

      • I’d like to think in his heart he knew what her answer would be. But I’m a softie that way.

  8. After Cliff found Pam when she was portrayed by Margaret Michaels, she mentioned to the doctor after Cliff left that she had only a short time to live. What if she did in fact die, then Katherine stole her identity. Legally, Katherine Wentworth is dead, but she has been alive, assuming the role of Pamela Barnes Ewing all these years? Then, when Christopher finds his “mother,” it’s really Katherine. That’s one way to make her “soap opera dead.”

  9. Tanner Y. says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s not the gun Kristen used. Kristen used a revolver, not a pistol. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s just another thing TNT Dallas will change.

  10. See, I like what someone said above about Katherine. Why on earth did they need to bring up her name? One thing I have noticed about this creative team they are very circumspect in what the characters say. In roundup, Cidre said that they map out in detail what is going on and what will happen. A few times when pressed they have said they didn’t mention a person or event because it opens a door and they don’t want to be forced to deal with it.

    For example, last night after the will reading, Aaron Allen said they thought about having other relatives show for the will reading. But choose not to do so, to not complicate the issue. I asked where were his other two sons. He replied. They are probably miffed etc. he tweeted today that they had considered it but didn’t want to complicate things. In other words, bringing up the other two sons would force them to walk thru a door.

    So back to Katherine, while keeping in mind the above penchant of the Dallas creative team, why would they bring up Katherine by name? They did a little massaging of the facts to simplify the Barnes Global story….so why couldn’t they just leave Katherine out of the story altogether?!!! This surely could be a red herring.

    I too like the idea that Pam is the one dead and Katherine has stolen her identity.

    Fun stuff. So now we know for sure that Ryland is a smuggler and has muscle. Now that Frank is gone…Cliff doesn’t appear to have any left.

  11. I want to say that am voting ‘no’ for the option of JR setting up his own death. I might end up eating my words but I am not buying it for a second….lol

  12. No to JR killing himself not by the surprise on his face and the footsteps I heard of someone coming,..Note- A suicide is one gunshot…hatred is always several.

    • “A suicide is one gunshot, hatred is always several.” That’s a great line! I agree with what you wrote: If J.R. arranged his own death, it’s hard to explain the stunned expression on his face.

    • Dan in WI says:

      Not to mention if it was a suicide I think JR would have had the shooter hold off long enough to finish the phone conversation with John Ross.

      I also am saying I do NOT want to learn JR committed any form of suicide. Even if terminal, he would do anything and everything possible to wrap up his revenge masterpiece with whatever time he had left so he could use his dieing breath to gloat.

  13. On Katherine, first when watching that I bet Morgan Brittany got seriously pissed, there goes a potential nice paycheck plus she wanted to return someday.

    That said, she could easily not be dead and that was just a swerve. Remember, when last seen she was being taken to prison for trying to murder Bobby in the hospital only to be thwarted when JR showed up to save him. So, she’s got both the violent history and a motive to kill JR, after all he’s the reason she’s been in prison (supposedly).

    I think there may be a major twist coming in regards to Carlos Del Sol. My theory is that he’s actually Mexican Mafia and the wealthy environmentalist thing is just a cover. It would make a lot of sense.

    One thing that disappointed me was the turnout for the funeral. They said “your old favorites are back” but then it was only the people we’ve already seen and Cally & Mandy which were the two they leaked so it was a let down. They should have had more there, one side of the room should have been family and friends (did anyone know that “Punk Anderson” is still alive? No Sly was ridiculous if you think about it) and the other side should have been enemies who wanted to make sure he was really dead (Jeremy Wendell is still alive and who would have been cooler than Dusty Farlow?) Also, where is Jenna Wade? Before the show launched there was news that Priscilla Presley had agreed to appear, yet she’s nowhere to be found. Are Jenna and Ray even still married? Plus, no Lucy/Gary together scene even though they were in the same room, that was just weird. Couldn’t they have just had them stand together?

    One more thing, shouldn’t we get an explanation for why Cliff has gone nuts with the feud again? In the next to last original episode, he got Ewing Oil. He won the war, so what happened in the meantime to rile him up again? It sure seemed like the Ewings were out of business during that time and until Ewing Energies was formed, he really had no motive. I wish they’d address that plot hole.

    • Yeah, Cliff’s obsession with the feud isn’t really explained. And I doubt it will be. Too bad, huh? Also, like you, I would’ve preferred seeing some surprise guests at the funeral. And where was Sly?!

      • Dan in WI says:

        The conversion to Don Cliff really does need to be explained. I would hope that will come out as we work through this current storyline. But I am not holding my breath.

      • Yeah, I have a feeling we’re not going to get much more on Cliff’s transformation.

  14. i love the old Dallas and i love the new Dallas but if JR is the one behind his own death then im done with it.. that would not be fitting of JR..itd be unbelievable for him to do it..i just dont think hed do that to John Ross,Sue Ellen or Bobby. now i know they said JR was looking for Pam but i still dont rule out Kristen and i certainly dont think itd be out of the question for Katherine to be alive regardless of what Bobby said…so my bet is still on one of them. time will tell.

  15. GetItTogether says:

    What I gathered from the conversation about JR looking for Christopher’s mother is that if she’s alive, (Pam) then she owns part of Barnes Global. If they can track her down that would definitely change things in this game of cat and mouse. It really has come down to who can outdo who for rights to a grand fortune. 30 years later and the Ewings are still trying to keep Barnes at bay. I was telling my co-workers that some things never change and in this case I think it’s for the best. Who wouldn’t love to see Barnes fall?

    • You’re so right. If Pam is alive and owns a portion of Barnes Global — and if the show brings her back into the fold — it would completely transform the dynamics. What a blockbuster storyline!

  16. I wrote a column with my list of suspects and I have Cliff’s daughter Pamela as the lead suspect.


    eric aka the Tygrrrr Express

  17. Jaime Ewing says:

    I really love the idea that Katherine did it. If Pam did die six months after we last saw her on Dallas as she said, It would make a great storyline that Katherine, who was on the run from the feds for the shooting and attempted murder of Bobby, and who was last seen next to Pam’s hospital bed after Pam’s car accident, would stage her own death and assume Pam’s identity in order to get the authorities to stop looking for her. Then J.R., while searching for and closing in on Pam, finds out it’s really Katherine, but by that time it’s to late, as Katherine has already tracked him down and killed him to avoid her cover being blown. That scenario gives closure to multiple questions left open ended on the original Dallas, such as that Pam really is dead all these years (thereby putting to rest any Victoria Principal returning issues or Bobby/Pam reuniting scenarios), and also whatever happened to Katherine after she disappeared from the hospital all those years ago. It also gives us a worthwile villian of who killed J.R. in Katherine, who in my opinion was the original Dallas’ biggest villian of all time.

  18. I think Miss Ellie did it! Just kidding. I hope whoever did it has a connection to the old show. I’m holding out hope for Kristin.

  19. Anonymous says:

    From what I’ve seen I am going with JR doing himself in, he seemed in control of the situation being he had time to make a phone call.
    That said I think the gun is the one used to kill Tommy which would help tie in the JR wanting the body to be found and getting Frank to make it appear.
    Now was it used to kill JR also?

  20. It is possible that thw woman that JR met at the night club could be the shooter. I mean she’s American and comes to the club alot and seems to know alot about it’s owners history of beng a drug cartel member. sounds suspious. JR could’ve given her his hotel room number and the place he was staying at.

    • I think it’s possible. The shooter might end up being a “lackey” like the woman, Roy Vickers or — egad! — back-from-the-dead Frank Ashkani!

  21. In the last episode, Bobby did not refer to Katherine as being dead as he did in the previous episode. Do the writers even know the whole history of this character? I am confused now due to this revelation. Will have to see what unfolds now!

    • My guess is the writers aren’t going to have him refer to Katherine as being dead each time her name comes up. Probably the writers figure most of us caught the reference the first time Bobby mentioned it. Or maybe they’re leaving the door open for her return!

  22. I have narrowed it down to 10 suspects.

    (1) Katherine Wentworth (likely the one behind the hat rather than Pam) ; (2) Carmen The Maid; (3) Drew Ramos (4) Frank (assuming he did not really die); (5) Roy Vickers; (6) The Original Pam; (7) Barbara Eden; (8) Ken “Stevie Bionics” Richards; (9) Cliff Barnes; (10) Harris Ryland

    • Harris Ryland is shown with the gun. and the promos tease us into thinking that the top 3 are Harris, Roy and Pam. However, they then stated that the episode will have a shocking end. Wind new alliances. Thus, it leads me to believe that as John Ross and Pamela II turn from heel to baby face, Elena could make a heel turn, and join forces with Barnes and Ryland, if Drew or Carmen turn out to be the trigger person.

    • Joe Hallen says:

      What makes you think Fran didn’t die?


  1. […] Global and casually reveals that Katherine is dead. Then again, as Dallas Decoder readers have pointed out, this show usually doesn’t mention older characters unless they’re going to figure into the […]

  2. […] we don’t know: In a previous episode, we learned Katherine is dead. If this is true, who inherited her third of Barnes Global and why isn’t anyone asking about […]

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