Dallas Parallels: The Saboteurs

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

J.R. Ewing is a man of many talents, but he takes special delight in the fine art of sabotage. During the original “Dallas’s” seventh season, after Cliff Barnes blackmails J.R.’s secretary Sly into spying on her boss, J.R. retaliates by turning one of Cliff’s employees against him. J.R.’s ultimate goal: to ruin Cliff, once and for all.

The scheme begins when J.R. tricks Cliff into investing in some expensive offshore oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Once Cliff is leveraged to the hilt, J.R. bribes Max Flowers, Cliff’s foreman, to slow down the drilling so Cliff won’t strike oil before his bank loan comes due, thus bankrupting him.

This must be one of the dirty tricks J.R. teaches John Ross, because three decades later, the son pulls a similar stunt. It begins during the second season of TNT’s “Dallas,” when John Ross is secretly plotting to seize control of Ewing Energies from his partners, who include onetime love Elena Ramos. To nab her share, John Ross bribes Brian “Bubba” Davis, Elena’s foreman, to drill in the wrong direction on land where she’s trying to strike oil. By delaying Elena’s strike, John Ross hopes to prevent her from repaying a loan to his mother Sue Ellen, thus putting Elena’s piece of Ewing Oil in play.

Both storylines include scenes where the victims (Cliff, Elena) visit their drilling sites with their siblings (Pam, Drew) and talk about how proud their deceased fathers would be if they strike oil. The strongest similarities, however, are found in scenes where the saboteurs (J.R., John Ross) meet with the duplicitous foreman (Flowers, Bubba) to discuss their schemes.

In the 1984 episode “Turning Point,” J.R. ducks into a dive bar and sits in a booth across from Flowers, who worries a member of his crew will figure out what he’s up to and tip off Cliff. J.R. expresses confidence the plan will work and dismisses his enemy’s capabilities. “You’re just going to have to make sure he keeps getting the short straw. Hell, he’s used to that anyway, isn’t he?” J.R. says.

The parallel sequence is found in the 2013 episode “False Confessions.” This scene also takes place in a dive bar, where the principals sit across from each other in a darkened booth. Like Flowers, Bubba worries someone close to the victim — in this case, Elena’s fiancée Christopher — will figure out the scheme against her. Like J.R., John Ross expresses confidence the plan will succeed and takes a swipe at his rival. Referring to Christopher, John Ross says, “It’s good that he thinks he has a chance. That’ll make it hurt more when he loses.”

Originally, I ended this post by pointing out how J.R.’s plot fails, while John Ross’s plan succeeds, but as Dallas Decoder reader Stephan points out in the comments section below, neither scheme is particularly successful. In J.R.’s case, Cliff fires Flowers and replaces him with a new foreman who hits a gusher at the 11th hour, saving Cliff from bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Elena fails to strike oil on her land and loses her share of Ewing Energies, but only after Sue Ellen invokes a morals clause in her contract with Elena.

So more than anything, J.R. and John Ross’s forays into sabotage confirm what we already know: Like father, like son.


‘Someone Might Tip Him Off’

Dallas, Denny Miller, Max Flowers, Turning Points


In “Turning Point,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) enters a bar and sits at a booth across from Flowers (Denny Miller).

J.R.: Hello, Flowers. I hardly recognized you.

FLOWERS: That’s okay. Want a beer?

J.R.: Yeah, sure. If that’s all they got.

FLOWERS: [To a waitress] Hon, bring us a couple beers.

J.R.: So how’s everything in the gulf? Cliff Barnes ready to strike oil?

FLOWERS: Not yet. But the whole operation’s got me worried.

J.R.: Yeah? Why’s that?

FLOWERS: Well, you’ve been paying me a lot of money to slow things down. I don’t think I’ve been able to slow them down enough.

J.R.: Well, now, you’ve been doing a good job so far.

FLOWERS: Oh, I know. I’ve been able to miss the most promising geological formations. Barnes is so dumb, he doesn’t know that. But the crew is getting suspicious, and someone might tip him off.

J.R.: Well, you’ve just got to get rid of any potential troublemakers.

FLOWERS: Oh, I’ve been trying to do that. And I’ve hired the worst crew I could find. But you know, that’s hard to do. [J.R. chuckles.] Most of those guys are pretty sharp.

J.R.: Well, you’ve just got to hold it up for another couple of weeks at the most. Barnes is just about to run out of money.

The waitress sets two beers on the table.

FLOWERS: Thanks. If he was drilling any other tract, it’d sure be easier. He’s got possibly the richest tract in the gulf.

J.R.: Yeah, I know that. If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t be pouring every dollar he can get his hands on into it.

FLOWERS: Okay. I just wanted you to know that I’m doing my best. But sooner or later, even an idiot with a long straw could suck up oil out of that tract.

J.R.: You’re just going to have to make sure he keeps getting the short straw. [Sips his beer] Hell, he’s used to that anyway, isn’t he? [Chuckles]


‘He’s On Your Tail’

Dallas, Brian Bubba Davis, Matthew Posey, TNT


In “False Confessions,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) enters a bar and sits at a booth across from Bubba (Matthew Posey).

JOHN ROSS: [Slaps an envelope on the table] Let’s call that your severance.

BUBBA: [Peeks inside] Much obliged, John Ross. But you should know that Christopher’s after me. He thinks you put me up to it.

JOHN ROSS: Just because he’s a pussy doesn’t mean he ain’t smart.

BUBBA: [Chuckles] You’re not concerned that he’s on your tail?

JOHN ROSS: It’s good that he thinks he has a chance. That’ll make it hurt more when he loses.

What do you think of J.R. and John Ross’s schemes against Cliff and Elena? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”


  1. First of all: Congratulations on your choice of screencaps. Could any real-life father and son look more alike?
    However, I can’t agree to your assessment of John Ross as the superior saboteur in comparison to J.R. Ewing. After all, the sabotage of Elena’s drilling site on the Henderson Ranch comes to nothing, when Drew fires the corrupt foreman. It is due to a morals clause in her contract that Elena loses her shares in Ewing Energies to Sue Ellen after Drew pleads guilty of a felony. John Ross’s other attempt at sabotage in Season 2 (the one involving a part in Christopher’s racing car in Episode 2.07) also fails. So it actually does turn out to be another “like father, like son” moment, but I doubt that J.R. meant that when he told his son: “I teach by example.” 😉

  2. garnet mcgee says:

    As watchable as I find John Ross, I prefer it when his schemes fail. Now that he has betrayed the woman who loves him I really want to see him suffer and come out the loser.

    • Some of the best drama on the original “Dallas” occurred when J.R. suffered setbacks. I have a feeling this will hold true for John Ross on TNT’s “Dallas” too.

  3. I really don’t have a problem with either J. R.’s or John Ross’s schemes. J. R. & John Ross are clearly not inII murder. Whereas “that god damned Barnes” is when he orders his own unborn grandchildren murdered in hisscheme to blow up a Ewing well together with Harris Ryland & others. Sure its dirty tricks, but the Ewing father & son just want to humiliate & cost others cashflows. They are not inII having corpses around, they have “scheme standards” if u will!

  4. Superb tv. Scheme away John Ross like your daddy is in heaven!

  5. Scheme away John Ross. Granpa Jock & Daddy J. R. are doing so in heaven. So just be inspired boy & scheme to the 9’s!

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