The Ewings discover Ann and Emma (Brenda Strong, Emma Bell) have been kidnapped in “Boxed In,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode. Fortunately, our favorite TV family has plenty of experience dealing with this kind of thing. Here’s a look at the 13 most harrowing kidnappings from the original series.
13. Lucy (1978). When the Ewings refused to let Valene come to Lucy’s birthday party, Lucy ran away from Southfork and hitched a ride with Willie Gust (Greg Evigan) — and who can blame her? Willie had the tightest jeans, the most feathery hair and the grooviest custom van in Texas, right down to the wall-to-wall fake-fur carpeting. Too bad Willie was also a lunatic who ended up taking Lucy (Charlene Tilton) on a cross-Texas crime spree. Bobby rescued her, of course, but we never found out what happened to Willie. Was he really as psychotic as he seemed? Or were those jeans merely cutting off the circulation to his brain?
12. John Ross (1979). Hey, remember when Sue Ellen nipped a little too much from her “special bottle” of Scope, escaped from the sanitarium, wrecked her car and gave birth to John Ross? And remember how Priscilla Duncan (Sheila Larken) quietly snatched the baby from the hospital? And then remember how happy we all were when Pam figured out what happened and reunited J.R. and Sue Ellen with their son? Well, hindsight being what it is, am I the only one who now thinks John Ross might have been better off with Ms. Duncan? Sure, she was nuts, but think of all the daddy issues the kid would’ve avoided.
11. J.R. Ex-mobster Joseph Lombardi wanted answers when his son Nick Pearce plunged to his death after tussling with J.R. (Larry Hagman) on a high-rise balcony, so Lombardi sent his goons after our hero. They bound and gagged J.R. and brought him to a cheap motel, where Lombardi grilled him about the night Nick died. J.R. insisted it was all an accident — and fortunately Sue Ellen confirmed his account, prompting Lombardi to release him. It was cool to see Hagman act opposite the great Joseph Campanella, and we have to give Lombardi props for stand up to ol’ J.R. But would I want to see him kidnapped again? Fahgettaboudit.
10. Bobby. “Dallas” has given us a lot of credibility-stretching storylines over the years (cough, cough Haleyville), but you know what I’ll never believe? I’ll never believe that Bobby James Ewing (Patrick Duffy) — that strapping, hunk of Grade A Texas beefcake — could be outmuscled by the clowns who kidnapped him during the middle of the show’s second season. For goodness sakes, Bobby is the kind of guy who can take on a barroom full of drunk cowboys and walk away without a scratch. The only thing more ridiculous than seeing him abducted is seeing the Ewings turn to Cliff Barnes to rescue him!
9. Sue Ellen. Oh, for the love of Pete. Sue Ellen, what have you gone and done now? Did you really allow that creep B.D. Calhoun to slip you a mickey so he could photograph himself with you and send the pictures to J.R.? Didn’t you learn not to trust strange men during Pam’s dream the previous season? Actually, even though Sue Ellen should have known better, this subplot marked the beginning of a turning point in her marriage: Once J.R. vanquished Calhoun, he felt so bad about what happened to his family, he finally kicked that Winger tramp to the curb. Hmmm. On second thought, maybe Sue Ellen knew what she was doing all along.
8. Pam. When an old back injury flared up during “Dallas’s” ninth season, Victoria Principal took a break from the show, leaving the writers scrambling to explain her absence. Their solution? Have Pam kidnapped by jungle mercenaries, of course! The subplot proves surprisingly effective, especially when we see Cliff’s determination to rescue his sister. (Their reunion after the bad guys release her is one of many great scenes between Principal and Ken Kercheval.) Looking back, I can’t help but wonder: Why couldn’t “Dallas” come up with a good storyline to explain Principal’s absence when she left the show for good two years later?
7. Jenna. When Jenna (Priscilla Beaulieu Presley) fled Dallas on the day she was supposed to marry Bobby, she left behind a note that explained she had fallen in love with someone else and was running away. Except that wasn’t true: Jenna’s ex Renaldo Marchetta (Daniel Pilon) had kidnapped her and forced her to pen the letter to throw the Ewings off their trail. When this storyline aired during the winter and spring of 1985, I spent weeks on the edge of my seat, anxious to see how it would turn out. Little did I know things would end on such a tragic note, when Dreadful Jenna™ returned to Southfork. Oh, the humanity!
6. John Ross (1986). Here we go again. After B.D. Calhoun (Hunter von Leer) kidnapped and released Sue Ellen, he set his sights on John Ross (Omri Katz), J.R. and Sue Ellen’s son. Calhoun snatched the kid from a hotel pool in Los Angeles, where J.R. and Bobby sent their wives and boys to protect them from the threat Calhoun posed. The crazed mercenary forced little John Ross to make a hostage tape, which turned Sue Ellen into a blubbering mess when she watched it. Fear not, honey: The Ewing brothers eventually rescued John Ross, who would grow up to star alongside Emma Ryland in a much different kind of video.
5. Lucy (1982). Well, what do you know? Lucy’s been kidnapped yet again. This time, the culprit is Roger Larson, the photographer who helped turn her into Texas’s tiniest top model. Unlike most of the other kidnappings on this list, Roger didn’t abduct Lucy for ransom or revenge — he was obsessed with her. He kept the Ewing heiress locked in a room plastered with the pictures he took of her. (Do stalkers do this in real life, or only on TV?) Bobby and Pam eventually rescued Lucy, but not before Pam told off Roger in one of Principal’s best scenes. Gee, like Sue Ellen, maybe Lucy should’ve gotten kidnapped more often too.
4. Lucy (Early 1960s). Lucy’s first kidnapping is an integral part of “Dallas” lore. It’s mentioned in the first episode, when Lucy recalls how J.R.’s “old boys” snatched her from Valene’s arms when she was a baby and brought her to Southfork to be raised by Jock and Miss Ellie. We finally saw the kidnapping in a “Knots Landing” flashback, where we learned the ugly mess probably could’ve been prevented: No, I’m not referring to the fact that Lillimae refused to let Val (Joan Van Ark) into her shack when J.R.’s henchmen were chasing her. I’m talking about the fact Val was barefoot when she was trying to outrun them. Good grief, Val. Buy some shoes.
3. John Ross (1981). When Sue Ellen and John Ross went to live at the Southern Cross, J.R. was determined to get his boy back. He saw an opportunity when Sue Ellen took the child with her to Kristin’s funeral in New Mexico. Mother and son were gliding through a Love Field terminal when two of J.R.’s thugs approached. While one man distracted Sue Ellen, the other snatched the child. Suddenly, Dusty Farlow and a trio of Southern Cross cowboys swarmed the dude holding John Ross. “Give us the boy,” Dusty demanded — and of course the guy did. This might have been “Dallas’s” briefest abduction, but wasn’t it exciting!
2. Miss Ellie. Look everybody, Donna’s here! What’s wrong, Donna? You seem upset. What’s that, you say? Jessica called Dusty and told him Clayton’s wedding to Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) is off? And then Jessica knocked you out with the phone? And then she stole your car? And then she took Mama?! Geez, Donna, couldn’t you have given us that last bit of information first? No matter. Between Susan Howard’s pained delivery and Richard Lewis Warren’s tension-building score, the scene where the Ewings discover Mama has been abducted by loony tune Jessica is positively thrilling — even if Donna did bury the lede.
1. April. Every abduction on this list ends happily for the victim — except this one. The original “Dallas” kicked off its final season with the kidnapping of April (Sheree J. Wilson) during her Parisian honeymoon with Bobby. The storyline was a little complicated — the culprit was Hillary Taylor (Susan Lucci), a mystery woman who took April so she could assume her identity and make a big speech at an OPEC conference — and yet it was also a dramatic thrill ride. Fans expected Bobby to get his bride back by the time all was said and done — and so imagine our surprise when she was gunned down at the conference. It was a hell of a way to start the original show’s last season, telegraphing to the audience that this would be the year anything could happen on “Dallas” — and damn near did.
Which kidnapping did you find most harrowing on “Dallas”? Share your thoughts below and read more “Dal-Lists.”