Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 110 — ‘Hit and Run’

Dallas, Hit and Run, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman


To fully appreciate how much composer Richard Lewis Warren contributes to “Hit and Run,” I challenge you to an experiment. First, turn off the volume and watch the sequence where reckless driver Carol Driscoll strikes the pedestrian. Without music, it plays like a series of disjointed shots: Here’s Carol leaving the beauty parlor, there she is getting behind the wheel of her Cadillac Seville, now she’s screaming as a body smashes her windshield. Next, watch the scene again with the volume up. Warren’s dramatic strings unite the images into a narrative, lending the scene urgency, tension and suspense. The music, more than anything else, makes this the episode’s most memorable moment.

Of course, the scheme behind Carol’s mishap is pretty compelling too. J.R. wants to blackmail her husband Walt, an ethical state government official, into doing him a favor. To gain leverage, J.R. taps dirty cop Harry McSween to orchestrate Carol’s collision, which ends with the pedestrian’s “friend” assuring Carol that the man she struck is perfectly fine and that Carol should go home — which she does, foolishly. Little does she know the two men are part of a scheme to ensnare her husband. In the episode’s closing moments, J.R. happens to be visiting the Driscolls when McSween arrives and announces Carol is in big trouble for fleeing an accident scene. J.R. offers to intervene — and Walt eagerly accepts. “J.R., if you could get my wife out of this, I’d owe you. I really would,” he says.

Ben Piazza and Martha Smith are terrific as the naïve, desperate Driscolls, but this moment, like so many others in “Hit and Run,” belongs to Larry Hagman. In the final shot, Walt and Carol stand together as J.R. faces them, grips their shoulders and gazes into their eyes. It’s the kind of sincere, everything’s-going-to-be-OK gesture that Bill Clinton used when comforting disaster victims during his presidency. “Carol, Walt, what are friends for?” J.R. says. As Hagman delivers the line, Warren brings back the dramatic strings from the accident scene and lets it play through the freeze frame of J.R.’s self-satisfied half-smile. This is a great ending.

The other subplot in “Hit and Run” has Bobby weighing whether to join the McLeish brothers in their Canadian drilling venture. Bobby’s dilemma: The deal is all-but-guaranteed to produce a big windfall, but the money might not start rolling in until after the contest for Ewing Oil ends. “I refuse to make a perfect deal just so J.R. can inherit it,” Bobby tells Pam. Scriptwriter Howard Lakin does a nice job making sure we understand the risk Bobby faces. At the end of the episode, when Bobby announces he’s going to take a chance and join the McLeish deal, it feels like a moment of high drama.

In the meantime, “Hit and Run” gives Victoria Principal some of the best scenes she’s had at this point during “Dallas’s” sixth season. I like Pam’s cute exchange with Bobby in the Southfork living room, as well as the scene where she entertains the McLeish brothers, which foreshadows the business savvy she’ll demonstrate in later seasons. Principal’s best moment, though, is Pam’s confrontation with Rebecca, who is consumed with getting Cliff to resume his fight with the Ewings. “Mother, you’ve always had strength. You proved that when you left your children to go out and start a new life. It’s a cold, calculating kind of strength. Is that what you want for Cliff?” Pam asks. Principal delivers the line sharply, and it’s nice to see the “Dallas” producers haven’t forgotten Rebecca’s sins.

Other highlights of “Hit and Run” include the first appearance of Annie, Lucy’s photographer. Fay Hauser plays the role in three guest spots, becoming one of the few African American actors to appear with anything approaching regularity on “Dallas.” The episode also gives us John Larroquette’s debut as Lucy’s lawyer, Philip Colton. It’s a small role, but Larroquette manages to give us a glimpse of the charm that would later make him one of television’s most popular actors.

But make no mistake: The only scenes stolen in “Hit and Run” have Hagman’s fingerprints on them. In addition to the sequence where J.R. comes to the rescue of the hapless Driscolls, this episode gives us J.R.’s classic first encounter with Ray’s cousin and Southfork’s newest ranch hand, Mickey Trotter. When J.R. says it’s good to know there’s “a whole wagonload of Krebbses running the ranch now,” Mickey points out that he doesn’t share Ray’s last name. “Oh, well,” J.R. responds. “I’m bound to sleep more soundly tonight knowing that.”

Grade: A


Ben Piazza, Carol Driscoll, Dallas, Hit and Run, Martha Smith, Walt Driscoll



Season 6, Episode 7

Airdate: November 12, 1982

Audience: 20.6 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Howard Lakin

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: J.R. secretly orchestrates a hit-and-run accident involving Driscoll’s wife, then offers to get her out of trouble with the police. Bobby joins the McLeish deal. Cliff begins his job as president of Barnes-Wentworth Oil. Pam objects to Rebecca’s vow to get revenge against the Ewings. Lucy prepares for her divorce.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), James Brown (Detective Harry McSween), Paul Carr (Ted Prince), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Nicholas Hammond (Bill Johnson), Fay Hauser (Annie), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), John Larroquette (Phillip Colton), J. Patrick McNamara (Jarrett McLeish), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Dale Robertson (Frank Crutcher), Martha Smith (Carol Driscoll), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Ray Wise (Blair Sullivan), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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