Dallas Parallels: Teach Your Children Well

Battle Lines, Dallas, False Confessions, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

J.R. imparts a lot of wisdom to John Ross over the years — and like all fathers, sometimes he has to repeat himself before the lessons sink in.

In “Battle Lines,” one of the original “Dallas’s” eighth-season episodes, J.R. is leaving for work when he runs into John Ross on the Southfork patio. The little boy has heard Uncle Bobby is in the hospital after being shot and wants to know if Daddy is going to take control of Ewing Oil now that Bobby is sick.

J.R. sits in a patio chair, looks John Ross in the eye and gently explains that’s not how he operates. “There’s something I want to explain to you, son,” J.R. says. “One of these days I expect to control all of Ewing Oil, and Bobby won’t work there. He’ll be doing something else. But I want you to remember that he’s my brother — and I love him very much. And it just wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of him while he’s sick. That’s just something you don’t do to the people you love.”

This is a sweet father-son moment and a nice reminder that J.R. has limits. But how much of an impression does his lesson make on John Ross?

In “False Confessions,” one of TNT’s second-season “Dallas” episodes, Bobby is once again involved in a shooting — except this time, Bobby has been accused of gunning down archenemy Harris Ryland. The shooting occurs while J.R. and John Ross are plotting to seize control of Ewing Energies, and so John Ross suggests using Bobby’s arrest to gain leverage against him in their takeover scheme.

Once again, J.R. sets his son straight — but this time, he’s not as nice about it as he was when John Ross was a child. “You still got a lot to learn, boy. When the family’s in trouble, we don’t take advantage,” J.R. says.

To be fair, J.R. doesn’t always play by this rule, as Bobby and the other Ewings would surely attest. One example: In the TNT episode “Family Business,” when J.R. resists John Ross’s plea to give Southfork back to the cancer-stricken Bobby, J.R. snaps, “You’re confusing emotion with business.”

So much for not taking advantage of family, huh? Then again, this is J.R. Ewing we’re talking about. Of course he’s going to break the rules — even his own.

‘It Just Wouldn’t Be Fair to Take Advantage’

Battle Lines, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Play fair

In “Battle Lines,” an eighth-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) stands over John Ross (Omri Katz), who is cleaning his bike on the Southfork patio.

JOHN ROSS: Are you going to see Uncle Bobby at the hospital?

J.R.: Well, I might drop in on him this afternoon. [Looks at his watch] I’ve got an awful lot of work to do at the office.

Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) exits the house and stands on the patio, listening.

JOHN ROSS: Maybe I can go to the office and help you.

J.R.: [Chuckles] Well, that’s a good idea. Maybe we ought to wait until you’re a little older, though, huh?

JOHN ROSS: Daddy are you going to be running Ewing Oil all by yourself?

J.R.: Well, I’m just going to run it until Bobby gets back. Why do you ask that?

JOHN ROSS: Well, you said you were going to run the company all by yourself some day and then give it to me.

J.R.: Well, I couldn’t take it away from Bobby while he’s in the hospital.

JOHN ROSS: But Mama said Bobby can’t see right now.

J.R.: [Sits in a patio chair] John Ross, there’s something I want to explain to you, son. One of these days I expect to control all of Ewing Oil, and Bobby won’t work there. He’ll be doing something else. But I want you to remember that he’s my brother — and I love him very much. And it just wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of him while he’s sick. That’s just something you don’t do to people you love. But when he’s well — and able to defend his shares in Ewing Oil — well, I’m going to fight for it. And of course I’ll win. Then I’m going to give you the whole company — and you’ll never have to share it with anybody. Now you understand that?

JOHN ROSS: I think so.

J.R.: Good. And you’ve got to remember: With family, you play fair. Because there are rules to follow. And if you do, you’ll be able to live with yourself.

‘When the Family’s in Trouble, We Don’t Take Advantage’

Dallas, False Confessions, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Fair play

In “False Confessions,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is standing at his bedroom window, ending a phone call, when John Ross (Josh Henderson) enters.

JOHN ROSS: What’s going on?

J.R.: Bobby got arrested for shooting Harris Ryland.

JOHN ROSS: You serious? [Steps forward] You think that will help us get him out of Ewing Energies?

J.R.: You still got a lot to learn, boy. [Slides his cell phone in his pocket] When the family’s in trouble, we don’t take advantage.

JOHN ROSS: You got a problem with me?

J.R.: You damn right I do. [Steps forward] I hear you’ve been cavorting with Pamela Barnes. What do fathers say? I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed? Well, I am both.

JOHN ROSS: Who I cavort with ain’t none of your business.

J.R.: It is when her last name is Barnes. [Sits] What do you want with Christopher’s scraps anyway?

JOHN ROSS: I’m working her.

J.R.: And apparently not learning from your mistakes. You already got in bed with one crazy woman in that Marta. Not a good idea to get in bed with another one.

JOHN ROSS: I’ve got a plan to get her shares of Ewing Energies after the divorce.

J.R.: You let that Barnes girl get a piece of our company and you’re inviting a vampire into our home. She’ll suck the life out of us. That’s why I’ve seen to it that there won’t be a divorce.

JOHN ROSS: How’s that?

J.R.: I made a deal with Cliff’s man Frank. We’ve got a plan to take Pamela out of the picture.

JOHN ROSS: You must be getting senile in your old age, Daddy, because I’m the one calling the shots here. Remember?

J.R.: You asked me to teach you every dirty trick I know so we can take Ewing Energies. I teach by example.

JOHN ROSS: What do you and Frank plan on doing to Pamela?

J.R.: You got feelings for this girl?


J.R.: Then why do you care?

What do you think of the lesson J.R. teaches John Ross? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”


  1. garnet mcgee says:

    ive only finished season 4 of the original. The Jr of the early seasons would definitely have taken advantage of anything that happened to bobby. sounds like he wasnt quite so mean in the later seasons.

    • J.R.’s always kind of up and down when it comes to Bobby. He’s still quite capable of being a jerk to Bobby during the later years. J.R. pulls an especially mean stunt against his brother during Season 11.

  2. Brother J. R. had some standards & he took advantage of his family. But he’s not sick & twisted enough to have ever murdered or murder anyone. Cliff Barnes ordered his grandkids killed & ordered Frank to kill himself. Cliff is a deranged lunatic who thinks he is smarter than he is b/c he’s a lawyer.

    • THAT is solely to blame on the writers of the new series, who never watched the original series and therefor didn’t really understand the character, including Cliff. The real Cliff would have never risked Pamela’s life (or sent her to deceive his nephew Christopher in the first place) and the life of his unborn grandchildren. After everything he went through, being abandoned by his mother as a child, and then reunite with her as an adult, only to lose her again, having a real family of his own would have meant everything to Cliff. He wouldn’t jeopardize that.

  3. Margaret Krebbs says:

    Beautiful parallel. These are the kinds of things TNT Dallas gets right – that sense of history that isn’t so much about ‘fact’ as it is about creatively understanding its own past, if that makes sense.


  1. […] embittered John Ross told his father to teach him “every dirty trick” he knows; the time J.R. schooled John Ross on Ewing unity; and their final phone call, when J.R. told John Ross he was his son […]

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