Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Mama, You Don’t Know’

Billion Dollar Question, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

His father’s son

In “Billion Dollar Question,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and J.R. (Barbara Bel Geddes, Larry Hagman) sit at the breakfast table on the Southfork patio after Bobby and Pam depart.

ELLIE: You look as if you’re going into town.

J.R.: Well, there’s nothing to do here. Ray’s got the ranch under control and I wasn’t cut out to punch cattle, that’s for sure.

ELLIE: No, I guess not.

J.R.: Bobby’s living my life. He’s doing everything I should be doing. [Pours coffee]

ELLIE: J.R., I know how you feel. You are my son and I do care about you.

J.R.: I have a hard time believing that right now. [Takes a bite]

ELLIE: I know what Ewing Oil means to you. But I can’t allow the company to be used to savagely destroy someone.

J.R.: [Tosses down his napkin, rises from his seat] Mama, I worked for a number of years with Daddy, side by side when he was running Ewing Oil. Now he was a fair man. But he was tough and ruthless when he had to be. He wouldn’t let the runny-nose, spineless Cliff Barneses of this world tell him what to do.

ELLIE: Your daddy never set a trap the way you did for Cliff.

J.R.: Mama, you don’t know the half of what Daddy did when he was running that company. He brought strong leadership to the company and he brought strong leadership to the family. You think he’d approve of the way the family’s been handled since he died? In that letter he sent you, dividing up all the shares? Supposed to be temporary. Well, how long is temporary? What direction is the family going in, anyhow? Who’s going to provide for Christopher, John Ross and Lucy? Are you handling the family the way he would want you to?


  1. Ellie and the rest of the Ewings got on my nerves with voting JR out of Ewing Oil over Cliff Barnes given what had done to them in the past.

    In that scene, I wanted JR to remind Ellie how Cliff tried to have Jock convicted of murder among his other actions against the Ewings.

    I thought the voting shares plotline was dumb anyway.

  2. missiea5 says:

    I am probably in the minority here but I believe Jock shared a great deal more with Ellie than people think. She was far from dumb or naive. And have you ever noticed that the men she seems most taken by are ambitious and powerful? She knew better than anyone who her husband was. Maybe it is just the strength the actress brought to the role but I always want Ellie to come back with something like “you don’t know the half of what I know about your Daddy.”

    • Dan in WI says:

      Missiea5: About the only thing we have to go on here is the Takapa storyline. In that case Jock was wheeling and dealing at odds with Miss Ellie and the DOA. In that case they were not communicating and when the truth came out they were on opposite sides it nearly ended in divorce.
      That’s not to say Miss Ellie is naive. But in that case Jock didn’t discuss his business with Ellie and I’d tend to say JR is right here. Jock did plenty of things in the office he didn’t come home bragging about. I’m sure Ellie did know things about Jock the children did not but I suspect the bulk of that was not business related.

    • Good points, Missiea5! I like your idea for Miss Ellie’s comeback. I wish she had said that.

  3. missiea5 says:

    Dan: If you recall Takapa wasn’t really about Takapa at all so I am not sure if that is a fair indication. We may agree to disagree but there are other things to go on- Jock’s division of the shares favored Ellie over either son, his will would have left everything to her- he only changed it right before he died, among other small signals. Plus, I don’t think they could have been married as long as that and he live this double life.
    LBF: I am no Cliff sympathizer! I also wonder why no one ever recalls that murder trial!

    • Dan in WI says:

      I’m not saying anything about a double life. Jock is clearly comfortable with most everything he ever did. Sometimes it just as simple as I’m home from the office and I don’t want to rehash work at home. They did have that rule about no business talk at dinner. As a result Ellie doesn’t hear everything since it isn’t being rehashed in her presence.

      • She may not have known, or even wanted to have known, all the little details, but it’s hard to believe that she could be married to a man like Jock, and have been around the oil business all those years, and somehow not been aware that Jock wasn’t always “Mr. Nice Guy.”

        Heck, let’s not forget that, according to original Dallas continuity, the main reason she married Jock in the first place was because Southfork was going bankrupt and Jock was the only one who had enough money to save it. They may have legitimately fell in love later, but it started as a business deal. Miss Ellie was no Saint.

      • Yes! I agree, J.R. Miss Ellie wore blinders selectively, didn’t she?

  4. missiea5 says:

    My point wasn’t so much that Jock came home with a play by play of every day, but that Ellie knew what he was and wasn’t capable of. I always got the impression that there was a lot of “pillow talk” between the two of them. I think there is an early episode where Jock hints at that??? I feel like JRs statement was that only he knew the real Jock Ewing and I tend to think he saw what he wanted to see. Jock just strikes me as having been more directly aggressive rather than sneaky. I think he was more like Bobby, albeit with a little more edge. However Jock was in business, with Ellie I think he let his guard down and she saw him from the inside out- flaws and all.
    I have never bought into the Miss Ellie as saint idea. She married for money, they never hide that fact. She is pretty open about it and Jock seemed to know that as well. She cared about Southfork the way Jock and JR cared about power.

  5. Garnet McGee says:

    Miss Ellie seemed to idealize Jock and turn a blind eye to the worst of his misdeeds. She does the same exact thing with JR. I completely agree with Ellie booting JR from the family business. Not only is it unethical for him to use the business as a tool of revenge it is a horrible way to run a business. John Ross seems to have inherited the same tendency from his Daddy. This scene is typical whiny passive/aggressive JR.


  1. […] eye shot of J.R. tooling along the highway in his Mercedes. I also like Barbara Bel Geddes’ scene with Hagman, when Miss Ellie tells J.R. that his father never played dirty when he was president […]

  2. […] deluding herself when she declares otherwise? This wouldn’t be the first time she’s put on blinders where her late husband is concerned. Or could it be that Ellie is so desperate to end her sons’ […]

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