Here’s Everything That’s Happened on ‘Dallas,’ Ever*

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson

Ain’t over yet

It’s never too late to start watching “Dallas.” If you missed the original show and the first two seasons of TNT’s sequel series, fear not: This post will tell you everything you need to know before Season 3 begins on Monday, February 24. (*OK, this isn’t really everything that’s happened on “Dallas.” For that, you’ll have to keep reading Dallas Decoder every day.)

 

The Original Series (1978 to 1991)

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

In the beginning

Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), the youngest son of a rich oil and cattle clan, marries Pam Barnes (Victoria Principal) and brings her home to Southfork, the Ewing ranch. This upsets everyone, especially Pam’s daddy Digger (David Wayne), who blames Bobby’s daddy Jock (Jim Davis) for stealing his sweetheart, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), and cheating him out of half of Ewing Oil. While Bobby’s devious brother J.R. (Larry Hagman) is building the family empire and catting around, J.R.’s neglected wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) becomes an alcoholic and has an affair with Cliff (Ken Kercheval), Pam’s vengeful brother. Later, J.R. and Sue Ellen have a son, John Ross, while Bobby and Pam adopt Christopher, the orphaned child of Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) and sleazy Jeff Faraday (Art Hindle). Elsewhere, Ray Krebbs, Southfork’s foreman, discovers Jock is his daddy and marries savvy politico Donna Culver (Susan Howard), while Lucy (Charlene Tilton), the daughter of J.R. and Bobby’s middle brother Gary (Ted Shackelford) and his wife Valene (Joan Van Ark), gets engaged to everyone.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

End of an era

More drama: Digger dies and so does Jock, leaving Ellie to hold the family together with help from second hubby Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel). Southfork burns down, but the Ewings rebuild it. Cliff hooks up with Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers), who gives birth to their daughter Pamela Rebecca, but Afton refuses to let Cliff near the child because of his fixation with destroying the Ewings. Cliff and Pam’s half-sister Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany) arrives, becomes obsessed with Bobby and tries to kill him, then vanishes under a big hat. Sue Ellen beats the bottle and divorces J.R., while Pam has a bad dream, gets burned in a car crash and runs away. Bobby has an on-again, off-again romance with first love Jenna Wade (Priscilla Beaulieu Presley), who gives birth to their son Lucas and then marries newly divorced Ray. James (Sasha Mitchell), J.R.’s illegitimate son, shows up for a while and emulates the old man. Bobby marries April (Sheree J. Wilson), but she dies. J.R. marries Cally (Cathy Podewell), but she leaves. In the end, Cliff finally takes over Ewing Oil, leaving J.R. alone and suicidal.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Swan Song

Hurts so good

Best Episode: “Swan Song.” The eighth-season finale finds J.R. and Sue Ellen’s marriage on the rocks, unlike the vodka she’s secretly swilling in her bedroom.  Meanwhile, Bobby chooses Pam over Jenna, but crazy Katherine runs him over with her car. The episode ends with the Ewings bidding farewell to Bobby in a deathbed scene that’s so beautifully written and acted, you almost wish it wasn’t part of Pam’s dream. Almost.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Who Shot J.R.?

Shot in the dark

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who shot J.R.? Sure, taking a couple of slugs to the gut is no fun for our hero, but at least he makes billions of dollars in a risky offshore oil deal before he’s gunned down. Oh, and in case you didn’t hear, J.R.’s assailant turns out to be Kristin, his sister-in-law/ex-secretary/ex-mistress, who’s revealed as the shooter in one of the most-watched broadcasts in television history. (Props to Sue Ellen, who figures it all out.)

 

TNT Season 1 (2012)

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

When cousins clash

J.R. emerges from a nursing home and tricks Bobby into selling him Southfork so he can tap the ocean of oil flowing beneath it. Like their fathers, John Ross and Christopher (Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe) butt heads, except their rivalry has an added twist: John Ross has fallen for Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who was Christopher’s childhood sweetheart. Christopher marries Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo), unaware that she’s the daughter of Cliff, who is now the gazillionaire owner of Barnes Global and still hell-bent on destroying the Ewings. Rebecca kills her lover Tommy Sutter (Callard Harris) in self-defense and has Cliff’s henchman Frank Ashkani (Faran Tahir) dispose of the body. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen runs for governor; Bobby’s new wife Ann (Brenda Strong) feels threatened by ex-husband Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), who knows she’s harboring a dark secret; and John Ross, Christopher and Elena form a company, Ewing Energies, but the partnership is threatened when Elena breaks her engagement to John Ross and reunites with Christopher, who dumps the pregnant Rebecca.

Dallas, Family Business, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Bad does good

Best Episode: “Family Business.” In one of Hagman’s most poignant performances, J.R. learns Bobby is secretly battling cancer and returns Southfork to him, ending the season-long war for the ranch. Later, in a chill-inducing musical montage (set to Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”), poor Bobby suffers a seizure and Rebecca shoots Tommy, splattering blood over her unborn twins’ stuffed animals. Hmmm. Foreshadow, much?

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

Pass the torch

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who loves J.R.? His son John Ross, who ends the season by gazing at the Dallas skyline with dear old dad and asking him to teach him “every dirty trick” he knows so he can push Christopher and Elena out of Ewing Energies. J.R. beams with pride and tells John Ross that he’s his son “from tip to tail.” Hey, J.R. may have given up the fight for Southfork, but he wasn’t giving up his devious ways — thank goodness.

 

TNT Season 2 (2013)

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, TNT

All about evil

Rebecca reveals she’s Pamela Rebecca Barnes and hooks up with John Ross. Ann shoots Harris after learning he kidnapped their daughter Emma when she was a baby and sent her to be raised by his control-freak mother, Judith (Judith Light). Ann gets probation, Harris recovers and Judith falls down the stairs. Frank takes the blame for Tommy’s death and kills himself at the request of Cliff, who causes Pamela’s miscarriage. When J.R. is murdered in Mexico, it appears Cliff is the killer, so Bobby, Christopher and newlyweds John Ross and Pamela plant evidence on Cliff to make sure he’s arrested. Oh, and Christopher also discovers Cliff covered up his mom’s death. Elsewhere, John Ross somehow inherits half of Southfork; Sue Ellen loses the election but continues to tangle with Governor McConaughey (Steven Weber); Emma (Emma Bell) sleeps with Elena’s ne’er-do-well brother Drew (Kuno Becker), becomes John Ross’s mistress and turns Harris in to the cops for drug trafficking; and when Christopher dumps Elena, jailbird Cliff asks her to become his proxy at Barnes Global, which the Ewings now control.

Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Mourning glory

Best Episode: “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” Our hero is laid to rest in an instant-classic hour that brings back several stars from the original series. The highlight: On the night before J.R.’s burial, Sue Ellen takes a heartbreaking tumble off the wagon, then delivers a mesmerizing eulogy for the man she calls “the love of my life.” Can someone please explain how Linda Gray didn’t win an Emmy for this performance?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Only you

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who killed J.R.? J.R. did, of course. It turns out he was dying of cancer and arranged his own death so Cliff could be framed for the crime, thus ending the Barnes-Ewing feud … for about 2 minutes, at least. Only a handful of people know the truth, including Bobby, J.R.’s loyal private eye Bum (Kevin Page), Christopher and John Ross, who gets it right when he says, “The only person who could take down J.R. … was J.R.”

What are your favorite “Dallas” memories? Share them below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

Dallas Cliffhanger Classics: Season 4

Dallas Decoder celebrates “Dallas’s” classic cliffhangers with weekly summertime flashbacks. Collect all 14 images and share them with your friends.

Dallas Cliffhanger Classics 4

Dallas Cliffhanger Classics: Season 3

Dallas Decoder celebrates “Dallas’s” classic cliffhangers with weekly summertime flashbacks. Collect all 14 images and share them with your friends.

Dallas Cliffhanger Classics 3

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Ends the Season with Bigger Ratings

Dallas, Guilt by Association, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, TNT

Compounding interest

“Dallas” got a nice ratings boost on April 15 with a season-ending double feature that revealed what happened to Pam and who killed J.R.

“Guilt by Association” the first of the evening’s two episodes, was seen by 2.82 million viewers, including 1 million adults between ages 18 and 49, an important demographic in TV ad sales.

“Legacies,” the second hour, drew 2.99 million viewers, including 1.1 million in the 18-to-49 demo. This makes “Legacies” the season’s second most-watched “Dallas” telecast after the landmark “J.R.’s Masterpiece” funeral episode, which drew 3.6 million viewers on March 11.

“Dallas” averaged 2.7 million viewers on Monday nights this year, although DVR users who record the show and watch it later in the week have boosted its weekly average to 3.4 million viewers. “Dallas” averaged 4.2 million viewers on Wednesdays last summer, when there is much less competition on other channels.

TNT has not announced whether it will order a third season, but this week the Hollywood news site Deadline suggested “Dallas” is “a slam dunk for renewal.” Although ratings fell this season, the well-known “Dallas” brand generated strong international sales for the studio that produces the show, Deadline reported.

Name that Tune!

Dallas, Faran Tahir, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, TNT, Venomous Creatures

Liars

Forget “Who Killed J.R.?” Here’s the question “Dallas” fans really want answered: What’s the name of the song that kept popping up on the show this season?

You know the song I’m talking about. It was first heard in “False Confessions” when the police arrested Frank Ashkani (Faran Tahir) for Tommy’s murder. The song played again in “Legacies” when Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) planted the gun in Cliff’s trunk.

Here’s the answer: The song is called “Liar” and it comes from a band called The Unknown, a TNT spokeswoman told us yesterday.

The bad news: This appears to be an unreleased track. I can’t find it on iTunes or anyplace else. So if you want to keep hearing it, just do what I do and watch those scenes over and over.

Speaking of “Dallas” music: The song that played at the end of “Legacies,” when John Ross (Josh Henderson) proved again he’s his daddy’s son from tip to tail, is “Come Unto Me” by the The Mavericks. Meanwhile, the terrific tune that appeared at the end of “Love and Family,” when Bobby (Patrick Duffy) took that slow-mo stroll out of Ewing Energies, is “My Time Has Come” by The Bowery Riots.

Cidre Speaks

In case you missed it: “Dallas” producer Cynthia Cidre gives TV Guide the post-mortem on the second season, including her reaction to Victoria Principal’s statement-hear-round-the-world, whether Katherine Wentworth is really dead and those cocaine shoes. Earlier this week, Cidre spoke to Yahoo! about what we might see during a third “Dallas” season, including the possibility that – gasp! – John Ross might build his own house on Southfork.

Divas II

Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) had a good week: Not only did she track down Ken (Lee Majors), turn the tables on McConaughey (Steven Weber) and announce Cliff’s arrest, she also defeated sister Kristin (Mary Crosby) in Dallas Divas Derby’s second brackets competition. Get it, girl.

Killing J.R.

Last December, not long after Larry Hagman’s death, I asked three writers and a director from the original “Dallas” how they think J.R. should die. Now that the character has been laid to rest once and for all, it’s interesting to go back and read their ideas, which aren’t far off base from what ended up happening.

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” is published regularly. Share your comments below.

‘Who Killed J.R.?’ Here’s My Final Theory in ‘Dallas’s’ Mystery

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Ken Kercheval, Larry Hagman, TNT, Who Killed J.R.? Throughout the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery, one thing has nagged at me: Is anyone “big” enough to take down the “Dallas” legend? This is why I never considered characters like Carlos del Sol or Carmen Ramos (Castulo Guerra, Marlene Forte) to be serious suspects. Even Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), as important as he’s become to this franchise, hasn’t earned the “right” to go down in history as the man who murdered J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman).

Frankly, only one character has enough stature to take out J.R. – and that’s J.R. himself. So during the first few weeks of this storyline, I figured we’d eventually discover our hero was secretly suffering from a terminal illness and arranged his own shooting – perhaps J.R.’s loyal private eye Bum (Kevin Page) pulled the trigger – so that his “murder” could be pinned on one of the Ewings’ enemies.

Many of my fellow “Dallas” diehards found the idea of J.R. taking his own life anathema, and I’ve come around to their way of thinking. Also, if the show went the J.R.-arranges-his-own-death route, it could be perceived as a cop-out – and let’s face it, this franchise already pulled a fast one on the audience when it explained away Bobby’s death as a bad dream. Would the people who make the new “Dallas” want to risk alienating fans again?

For awhile, I also theorized J.R. could’ve been done in by an enemy from his past. My suggestion: What if Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) was still alive and returned to finish the job she started in 1980? This idea also turned off a lot of fans, who suggested it would be the ultimate retread: It would turn “Who Killed J.R.?” into “Who Shot J.R.?” all over again, right down to the same assailant. I see their point, but I still think it would be cool.

The other great choice from the “old enemies” camp would be Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany), especially if it turned out she faked her death and stole Pam’s identity. I also love the idea that Katherine is somehow connected to Harris, and that she used a Ryland Transport truck to orchestrate the car accident that disfigured Pam and prompted her to flee Southfork in the first place. What a twist that would be! Unfortunately, based on recent comments from Brittany and “Dallas” producer Cynthia Cidre, it doesn’t sound as if Katherine will be returning to the show anytime soon.

This leaves one viable suspect as J.R.’s killer: Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). Think about it: Cliff has become a pretty soulless figure this season. He allowed his “son” Frank Ashkani (Faran Tahir) to kill himself and ordered the bombing of the Ewing Energies rig, even though it put the lives of many people at risk, including his daughter Pamela (Julie Gonzalo), who ended up losing her unborn twins. I have a feeling the worst is yet to come too. Maybe it will turn out Cliff also killed Katherine and somehow kept Pam from returning to Southfork. Perhaps J.R. was about to expose these sins, and that’s why Cliff finally offed his old enemy.

Where does Harris’s Mexican trucking operation and club hostess Rhonda Simmons (Emily Kosloski) fit in? Suppose Carlos and Cliff are in cahoots; Carlos knew his “friend” J.R. was interested in digging into Harris’s past, so he lured J.R. to Nuevo Laredo by leading him to believe Harris was up to something shady south of the border. (Could it be Harris really is transporting nothing more than ugly high heels?) Once J.R. arrived in Nuevo Laredo, Carlos tipped off Cliff, who came to town and shot J.R. (Or maybe Frank isn’t really dead and pulled the trigger on Cliff’s behalf.) Rhonda is part of the scheme and lied to Bobby about Harris’s Nuevo Laredo connection to help Carlos cover his tracks. Before all is said and done, maybe Cliff will even turn on partner-in-crime Harris and try to frame him for J.R.’s death.

Would it be shocking if Cliff turns out to be the killer? No and yes. On the one hand, J.R. is murdered by his oldest adversary? Where’s the surprise in that? On the other hand: Besides Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, Kercheval is the only original “Dallas” cast member who has a regular presence on the new show. From this standpoint, turning him into a killer would be bold.

Also, consider this: “Who Killed J.R.?” has never been much of a traditional whodunit. From the beginning, this storyline has been about tying up loose ends (“Where in the world is Pam Ewing?”) and settling old scores. Now that J.R. is gone and Cliff has taken control of Ewing Energies, what else is left for him to do?

Besides, it’s not like there isn’t room for a big twist: There’s still the matter of the letter that J.R. left for Bobby. What does it say? Perhaps it will reveal John Ross (Josh Henderson) really is Cliff’s son after all. J.R. faked the paternity test all those years ago to spare his family – and himself – a lot of embarrassment and raised John Ross as his own. This would undoubtedly upset a lot of fans, but it would also add a new shade to J.R.’s character and give new meaning to the famous scene where he holds John Ross for the first time. As for John Ross’s recent nuptials to Pamela, look at it this way: She already married her cousin. Why shouldn’t her brother be next?

I think it’s more likely the letter to Bobby reveals that Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) is actually J.R.’s son. Perhaps J.R. concealed the truth from Bobby because he knew how much his brother and Pam needed a child of their own. This might explain Bobby’s heartfelt line after he received J.R.’s note after the funeral: “I knew you’d have at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R. It is a good one. I love you brother.”

As for the gun that J.R. left John Ross? Maybe it will turn out to be the gun that Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) used to shoot Tommy and the Ewings will use the weapon as leverage to gain control of Barnes Global. When the Ewings threaten to expose Pamela’s crime, Cliff finally does something selfless and protects his daughter by fessing up to J.R.’s murder, allowing Pamela and John Ross to take control of two-thirds of Barnes Global, with Christopher finally inheriting his mother’s third.

Once the Ewings control Cliff’s company, maybe they can turn Harris out of Ryland Transport, assuming the money Cliff gave Harris last week comes with strings attached to Barnes Global. This might explain J.R.’s cryptic description of the gun in his note to John Ross: “Use what I’ve given you to take from them what they want to take from us.” In other words: They want to take our company from us, so we’ll take theirs from them.

Then again: Knowing this show, there’s a good chance every one of my guesses is wrong. Who knows what twists and turns await us tonight?

Who done it? Share your final theories below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Faces Tough Ratings Competition

Bobby Ewing, Call to Arms, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Steven Weber, TNT

No match

“Dallas” felt a ratings pinch on April 8, when TNT telecast back-to-back episodes against tough competition on the broadcast networks.

TNT showed the first hour, “A Call to Arms,” at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. The episode drew 1.9 million viewers, including roughly 760,000 adults between ages 18 and 49, a group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

“Dallas’s” second hour, “Love and Family,” was shown in the 9 p.m. time slot, where it was seen by 2.4 million viewers, including more than 1 million people between 18 and 49. Through last week, “Dallas” has averaged about 2.7 million viewers in its Monday telecasts.

The April 8 “Dallas” double feature was seen opposite NBC’s two-hour “The Voice,” which drew 13.7 million viewers, including more than 6 million between 18 and 49, a season high for that series. Meanwhile, the second half of “Love and Family” faced CBS’s coverage of the NCAA basketball championship, which averaged 20.7 million viewers between 9:30 and 11 p.m.

“Dallas” continues to perform well with DVR users too. Last week’s telecast, “Let Me In,” attracted 2.6 million viewers on April 8, but during the next three days, DVR users boosted the audience to 3.6 million. This included 1.3 million adults between 18 and 49, a 16 percent increase over the previous week, and 1.5 million between 25 and 54, a 9 percent jump.

Et Cetera

• TNT has made no announcements, but Patrick Duffy says “Dallas” will return for a third season, according to a report in yesterday’s New York Daily News.

• “Lost” alum Sam Anderson will play Dr. David Gordon, Pam’s plastic surgeon, during the two-hour “Dallas” season finale, which will TNT will show Monday, April 15, from 9 to 11 p.m. Anderson replaces Josef Rainer, who played Gordon in 1988. Producers couldn’t locate Rainer to reprise the role, TV Guide reported yesterday.

• Dallas Divas Derby’s second brackets competition is down to its final two contestants: Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) and Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby). Vote for your favorite through April 15.

A Dallas Decoder Programming Note

I’ll be posting a little less regularly through the rest of this week. My goal is to post critiques for “A Call to Arms” and “Love and Family,” along with my selections for Scene of the Day, sometime between now and April 15. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.

Until then, please keep the conversations going in the comments section of my recent posts. I’ll do my best to approve comments as they come in, but I probably will be unable to chime in as often as I’d like. Please know how much I appreciate your contributions, though. I hope things will get back to normal next week. Thanks for understanding.

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” is published regularly. Share your comments below.

‘Who Killed J.R.?’ More Questions, Few Answers

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Harris Ryland, J.R. Ewing, Ken Kercheval, Larry Hagman, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, Who Killed J.R.? TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode, “Ewings Unite!,” offered a few potential clues in the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery – but not many. Here’s what I think we know.

J.R. was searching for Pam. At the end of “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” Bum (Kevin Page) told Bobby, John Ross and Christopher that J.R. had been looking for Christopher’s “mother” before his death. Since Bum didn’t specify which mother, I suggested J.R. wasn’t necessarily on the trail of Pam (Victoria Principal), the mom who adopted Christopher and later abandoned him and Bobby. My left-field theory: J.R. was hunting Christopher’s biological mom Kristin (Mary Crosby). Yes, I know she supposedly drowned in the Southfork swimming pool, but hey, this is “Dallas.”

In “Ewings Unite!,” we seem to receive confirmation that Pam was the target of J.R.’s search after all. This happens when Bobby (Patrick Duffy), while filling in the Ewing cousins on the history of Cliff’s company, holds a stack of papers and says, “This is a summary of the financial reports for Barnes Global, dating all the way back to its inception, when it was started by Cliff’s mother. Now she divided that company up between the three children: Pamela, Cliff and Katherine. Katherine’s dead. So if Pamela’s still alive, she could be a silent partner in Barnes Global. Maybe that’s why J.R. was looking for her – to help us take Cliff down.”

Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) responds: “If my mother’s alive, I’ll find her. It’s about time I did.”

Bobby’s history lesson isn’t exactly how I remember the origin of the old Barnes/Wentworth empire, but setting that aside for a moment, this scene seems to offer two things: a) confirmation that J.R. was indeed trying to find his old nemesis Pam, and b) Bobby’s theory that J.R. wanted Pam to help him stop Cliff.

In other words: There’s no reason, at this point, to believe Kristin is anything but dead.

The list of suspects is taking shape. In addition to Kristin, the list I posted last week of eight potential suspects included Katherine (Morgan Brittany), who I figured would want J.R. dead because she’s still holding a grudge against the Ewings. Now that we know Katherine is dead, she comes off the list too. (Presumably Katherine’s demise occurred sometime between the end of the original “Dallas” and the beginning of TNT’s revival.) Is it possible she’s still alive and Bobby doesn’t know it? Sure, but there’s no evidence to support that one either.

I also think we can drop the Ewings’ disgruntled lawyer, Mitch Lobell (Richard Dillard), from the list of suspects, since no one has mentioned him and he was a long shot to begin with. And even though I’m still suspicious of J.R.’s friend Carlos del Sol (Castulo Guerra) – who, we learn in “Ewings Unite!” is investigating Harris’s Mexican trucking operation on Bobby’s behalf – there’s no reason to consider him a suspect at this point either.

This leaves three chief suspects, beginning with Cliff (Ken Kercheval), who wouldn’t seem capable of killing J.R. – until now. In the chilling finale of “Ewings Unite!,” Cliff orders Harris’s henchman Roy Vickers (Alex Fernandez) to blow up the Ewing Energies methane extraction rig – even though Cliff knows the blast might harm his pregnant daughter Pamela (Julie Gonzalo). If Cliff is willing to risk his own flesh and blood, why wouldn’t he be willing to take out J.R.?

The second suspect: Harris (Mitch Pileggi), who joined forces with Cliff in “Ewings Unite!,” just like J.R. predicted in his note to John Ross (Josh Henderson). I still don’t know why Harris would have a beef with J.R., unless he believed getting rid of him would leave Bobby and Ann vulnerable to attack. I doubt the “Dallas” producers will have Harris turn out to be J.R.’s murderer, though, even if his altercation with mother Judith (Judith Light) at the end of “Ewings Unite!” suggests a violent streak.

The third and final suspect: J.R. Yes, I know: It’s unlikely Larry Hagman’s iconic character would arrange his own death, even if it turned out to be part of an elaborate scheme to set up Cliff, Harris or one of his other enemies. But I keep coming back to a point I made last week: Who else on “Dallas” is big enough to take down J.R. Ewing – except J.R. himself?

There’s still a lot we don’t know. “Ewings Unite!” opens with the reading of J.R.’s will, in which John Ross somehow inherits half of Southfork from Miss Ellie and John Ross and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) split J.R.’s share of the ranch’s lucrative mineral rights. You might think an inheritance this huge would make John Ross or Sue Ellen suspects in J.R.s death, but c’mon, that would be nuts. The new “Dallas” producers wouldn’t go that far, would they?

“Ewings Unite!” doesn’t shed much light on the other clues in the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery. In addition to the discovery that J.R. was searching for Pam, “J.R.’s Masterpiece” also ended with Bobby receiving a mysterious document from his deceased brother. In “Ewings Unite!,” John Ross refers to the document as “a letter,” but Bobby declares he won’t reveal its contents until J.R.’s master plan is implemented. “Because that’s the way he wanted it,” Bobby says.

We also still don’t know what to make of the gun that J.R. left for John Ross. While watching “Ewings Unite!,” it occurred to me: Could this be the gun that Kristin used to shoot J.R. all those years ago? If so, might it signal her eventual return? Uh oh, here I go again!

Who done it? Share your theories below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.

‘Who Killed J.R.?’ 5 Questions Surrounding ‘Dallas’s’ Mystery

Bobby Ewing, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Patrick Duffy, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?Every “Dallas” fan has one thing on his or her mind: “Who Killed J.R?” Before the mystery is solved, a few other questions must be addressed. Will the answers lead us to one of the eight potential suspects I named earlier this week?

1. Why was J.R. in Mexico? In “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” this week’s “Dallas” episode, we learned our hero was shot and killed in a flophouse in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. According to the policewoman who investigated the crime, J.R. entered the country to go quail hunting. Later, his private eye Bum (Kevin Page) told Bobby, John Ross and Christopher that the quail hunt was a cover: J.R. was actually following a lead in his scheme to bring down Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), the Texas trucking magnate who specializes in driving the Ewings crazy.

What business would Harris have in a place like Nuevo Laredo? The policewoman told the Ewings that the local drug cartels have started reaching out to “successful businessmen across the border for advice.” Bobby (Patrick Duffy) insisted J.R. would never do business with the cartel, and we don’t doubt him. Harris, on the other hand, might be the type to get mixed up in the illegal drug trade. After all, didn’t he try last season to blackmail Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) into laundering money for him?

2. Why was J.R. looking for Pam? Before J.R. entered Mexico, he went to Abu Dhabi to close an oil deal. But as Bum explained to Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe): “The reason he chose Abu Dhabi was because for the last several months, he’s been trying to find your mother.” Bobby’s stunned reaction: “You mean Pam?” Bum didn’t respond to Bobby; instead, he handed Christopher a document and said, “J.R. thought that once you’d seen this, you’d understand why it’s important for you to find your mama.”

Let’s pause here to remember that Christopher had two mommies: Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby), his biological mother, who famously shot J.R. in 1980 and later drowned in the Southfork swimming pool, and Pam (Victoria Principal), Bobby’s first wife, with whom Bobby adopted Christopher after Kristin’s death. Assuming Kristin is really dead and that she isn’t the missing mama that J.R. was trailing, the question becomes: Why in heavens would J.R. want to find Pam, his longtime nemesis?

Some theories from Dallas Decoder readers: J.R. figured Pam, who abandoned Bobby and Christopher after she was badly burned in a fiery car crash, is the only person who might be able to talk her brother Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) into finally ending his war against the Ewings. Or perhaps J.R. found evidence that Cliff had somehow bilked an unwitting Pam and/or Christopher out of their rightful share of the fortune they inherited from Pam and Cliff’s rich mother Rebecca Wentworth. (Could such evidence be included in the document that Bum handed Christopher?) Or maybe the aging J.R., seeking immortality, wanted to find Pam because he knew of her ability to dream dead Ewings back to life.

Whatever the reason, if Christopher resumes Uncle J.R.’s search and ends up finding Pam, don’t expect her to look like Principal. Earlier this month, as rumors swirled that Pam might return to “Dallas,” Principal issued a statement suggesting she will never resume the role.

3. Why did J.R. give John Ross a gun? After Bum handed Christopher the document about his mother, he gave John Ross (Josh Henderson) a box that contained J.R.’s gun. It came with this note:

“John Ross, if you’re reading this, it means I’m dead. And if I’m dead, that means Barnes is coming after you. You must crush him before he can win. I promised your Uncle Bobby that taking down Harris Ryland would be my masterpiece. I’d bet my last nickel Barnes will join forces with Ryland to destroy us. Use what I’ve given you to take from them what they want to take from us. When you’ve done that, Bobby will know what to do. And remember: You’re my son, tip to tail.”

Perhaps the most revealing thing about J.R.’s note isn’t his prediction that Cliff and Harris will join forces; it’s that J.R. wrote it in the first place. He knew his life was in danger, although this doesn’t necessarily rule out the theory that J.R. arranged his own death so it could be pinned on one of his enemies. If you buy that theory, you might think this is the gun that was used to kill J.R. But keep in mind: The coroner who examined J.R.’s body said he was killed with a “Saturday night special,” and that’s not the kind of gun John Ross received. On the other hand: Medical examiners on “Dallas” aren’t the most trustworthy people, are they?

4. Who is Lady X? When J.R.’s friend Carlos del Sol (Castulo Guerra) visited Southfork to update the Ewings on the investigation, he explained J.R. met a woman in a club near the hotel where he died. “Not your professional sort of lady, mind you, but there are witnesses to their assignation,” Carlos said. According to the policewoman who accompanied Carlos to the ranch, this mystery woman – let’s call her “Lady X” – asked J.R. to meet her near her workplace, which is how he wound up in the Hotel Colon. A witness saw someone follow J.R. to the hotel, but that person could not be found, the policewoman said.

So who is Lady X? Could she be one of the women I named as suspects earlier this week? Did she intentionally lead J.R. to the hotel, knowing he would be killed there? Did she pull the trigger herself? Does she really exist? Or did Carlos invent her because he’s involved in the killing and wanted to throw the Ewings off his trail?

5. What does Bobby know? Of course, despite what Carlos and the policewoman told the Ewings, we know J.R. was not the victim of a robbery. After Bum distributed J.R.’s “gifts” to John Ross and Christopher, he gave Bobby a sealed envelope. Bobby opened it, read the document it contained and walked out of the room, dismissing John Ross and Christopher’s plea for more information. “This is between my brother and me – for now,” Bobby said.

Outside the room, Bobby told Bum to “pay off whoever you have to pay off so that everybody still thinks J.R. was killed by a mugger. When the time comes, we’ll take care of this ourselves – as a family.” Bobby then walked into J.R.’s room, noticed the framed wedding photograph of J.R. and Sue Ellen, poured himself a glass of bourbon, sat on the bed and said: “I knew you’d have at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R.” He glanced at the document in his hand, half-smiled and continued: “It is a good one. I love you brother.”

So what did Bobby learn? During the “Dallas” cast’s panel discussion last week, Duffy revealed the show’s producers told him who shot J.R. so he would know how to play certain scenes, including this one. So whatever the document reveals, it holds a big clue to the identity of J.R.’s killer. I have my own theory, but for now, I’d rather hear yours. What do you think it says?

Who done it? Share your theories below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.

‘Who Killed J.R.?’ Possible Suspects in ‘Dallas’s’ New Mystery

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Who done it?

In “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” we learned Larry Hagman’s iconic character was shot and killed in a Mexican flophouse. The police investigation concluded J.R. was the victim of a burglary, but Bobby told Bum, his brother’s private eye, that J.R. was murdered. Who killed J.R.? Here are some potential suspects.

OLD ENEMIES

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Pre-emptive shot?

• Cliff Barnes. As J.R.’s oldest enemy, Cliff (Ken Kercheval) automatically earns a spot on this list, although I’m not sure why he’d want J.R. dead at this point. Cliff is now one of the world’s richest men. He has already beaten the Ewings: Cliff took away J.R.’s company at the end of the old show and recently helped his daughter Pamela seize 10 percent of the new Ewing Energies. Then again, maybe Cliff blames J.R. for the death of his adopted son Frank, who recently fell on his sword after betraying Cliff to J.R. Or could Cliff have killed J.R. to prevent him from rising again?

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Waiting to strike?

• Katherine Wentworth. There was no love lost between Katherine (Morgan Brittany), Cliff and Pam’s loony half-sister, and J.R. On the old show, she plotted with him to break up Pam’s marriage to Bobby, whom Katherine wanted for herself. When J.R. betrayed her, Katherine went off the deep end and shot Bobby, then tried to poison him before vanishing. (Pam also dreamed she ran over Bobby with her car, killing him.) Later, Katherine stalked Pam in the hospital after her car crash before resuming her life on the run. Could Katherine have been waiting all this time to spring a trap for her ex-partner-in-crime?

NEW NEMESES

Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Protecting secrets?

• Harris Ryland. J.R. ordered his private eye Bum to investigate Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), who has caused lots of problems for the Ewings, including blackmailing Sue Ellen. Could Ryland have gotten wind of Bum’s snooping and killed J.R. to prevent him from uncovering his misdeeds? Perhaps, although “Dallas” has been grooming Pileggi as its new villain so it seems unlikely he’ll turn out to be the killer. But what about Ryland’s overprotective mama Judith? She could be a suspect, although if she were going to kill someone, it would probably be a withering glance, not a gun.

Dallas, Mitch Lobell, Richard Dillard, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Disgruntled dad?

• Mitch Lobell. Lobell (Richard Dillard) was the Ewing family lawyer who helped John Ross and Veronica Martinez trick Bobby into selling Southfork to J.R. When Lobell got greedy and demanded millions of dollars in hush money, J.R. and John Ross blackmailed him with incriminating photos that could’ve sent his son Ricky, a recovering drug user, to jail. After J.R. seized control of the ranch, Lobell vanished without a trace. Has he been hiding in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to take his revenge against J.R.? Perhaps, but if he turned out to be the killer, would anyone remember him?

FRENEMY?

Carlos Del Sol, Castulo Guerra, Dallas, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Turncoat?

• Carlos del Sol. Carlos (Castulo Guerra) is a billionaire conservationist and one of J.R.’s old friends. When J.R. wanted to join Cliff’s high-stakes poker game in Las Vegas last season, Carlos agreed to front him the money. He’s also the father of the real Marta del Sol, whose identity was stolen by Veronica, the con artist who helped John Ross in his scheme to defraud Bobby. But isn’t it suspicious that Carlos turned up at the Mexican police station when the Ewings gathered there after J.R.’s murder? Even if he didn’t pull the trigger, something tells me Carlos knows more than he’s letting on.

WILD CARDS

Dallas, Pam Ewing, TNT, Victoria Principal

Dead?

• Pam Ewing. At the end of “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” Bum told Christopher that J.R. had been searching for his mother. The backstory: Pam (Victoria Principal) was disfigured in a fiery car crash and ran away from Southfork. Later, the audience learned she had a terminal illness and wanted to spare Bobby and Christopher the pain of having to watch her die. Suppose Pam went into remission and is still alive but, for whatever reason (shame?), doesn’t want to be found? Could she have killed J.R.? It’s extremely doubtful, especially since Pam was such a beloved heroine and Principal recently announced she won’t reprise the role.

Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Alive?

Kristin Shepard. Yes, she’s dead – but when has that ever stopped “Dallas”? Kristin (Mary Crosby) famously shot J.R. in 1980, only to later drown in the Southfork swimming pool. What if she somehow faked her death and went into hiding, waiting for the right moment to try another assassination attempt? Suppose J.R. found out Kristin was still alive and was on her trail? Bum told Christopher that J.R. had been tracking down his mother; what if he was referring to biological mama Kristin and not adopted mom Pam? This is my dream scenario; I don’t expect it to come true. But how cool would it be if it did?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Who Killed J.R.?

Savior?

• J.R. Ewing. What if J.R. wasn’t murdered? What if his “masterpiece” plan was taking his own life so his death could be pinned on Harris, Cliff or one of his other enemies? I know it appeared someone off camera gunned down J.R. at the end of “The Furious and the Fast.” Could it have been Bum, acting on J.R.’s orders? I don’t love the idea of J.R. killing himself, but I do like the notion of him making a grand sacrifice to save the Ewings from some outside threat. This scenario would also solve the major dilemma with this plot: Who is “big” enough to take down J.R. Ewing – except for maybe J.R. himself?

Who done it? Share your theories below and read more posts on Dallas Decoder’s “Who Killed J.R.?” page.

The Dallas Decoder Interview: Michael Preece

Michael Preece

Michael Preece

No one “shot” J.R. Ewing more often than Michael Preece, who directed more than 60 episodes of the original “Dallas” series. He graciously agreed to share some of his memories of working on the show and with its biggest star, Larry Hagman.

You probably worked with Larry Hagman more than any other director. How much direction did he need when he was playing J.R.?

There was a saying on the set that “Dallas” was director-proof. Larry knew his character. He had a tendency to go a little bigger than was needed, so you’d try to curb him a little bit. Or if he didn’t know his lines well, sometimes he would have them written on cue cards and I’d say, “Larry, you sound like you’re reading it.” But basically, he needed very little direction – and that was true of much of the cast. They made it easy.

Larry Hagman in “Changing of the Guard”

Larry Hagman in “Changing of the Guard”

Did you two ever have disagreements about how a scene should be played?

Once in awhile, but usually Larry would win. Sometimes we would need an interpretation of something and would call [executive producer] Leonard Katzman because I didn’t know what was going to happen in the next episode and Leonard did. But usually that was worked out before we started shooting. I never had an argument with Larry or Patrick [Duffy] or Linda [Gray]. Not one.

It sounds like it was a pleasant set to work on.

It was a wonderful atmosphere. And jokes, all day long. We never got a clean rehearsal, but when it came time to shoot, the cast would play it perfectly. Most television shows go to 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock at night. With “Dallas,” we’d be leaving the [studio] lot for the day when people on other shows were just breaking for lunch.

Do you have a favorite scene you remember directing?

One scene stands out to me more than any other: when Barbara Bel Geddes goes into the kitchen and throws around the pots and pans after she realizes Jock is really dead. And the dining room scene prior to that, where she’s just sitting there thinking and the other people at the table are just babbling on.

That whole episode is wonderful!

Those dining room scenes were always chaotic. The boys – I call them the boys, Larry and Patrick – would always flick food at each other during rehearsal. So the night before we did that scene, Barbara called me and said, “You know, Michael, tomorrow is going to be difficult for me. Would you ask the boys to behave?” So I made the mistake of going to Larry and Patrick the next day. I said, “You know, this is a very important scene for her, so please, no fooling around.” And they said, “Don’t worry. We’re pros.” So we start the scene – this isn’t a rehearsal, we’re rolling – and the camera’s slowly moving in on Barbara and suddenly a pea hits her. I think it was right in the forehead.

Barbara Bel Geddes in “Acceptance”

Barbara Bel Geddes in “Acceptance”

Oh no!

She never broke. She just kept on acting. And she came back later and said, “I’m going to get you boys!” She had a terrific sense of humor. She loved to swear. I mean, she wasn’t like a sailor and she didn’t swear in anger so much, but she could get her swear words out.

It’s funny to imagine Miss Ellie cursing. She must have been fun to work with.

She was very professional. I would make a point of looking up her old movies and then I’d go up to her and I’d say, “Remember you worked with so and so.” She loved it. She’d tell stories about working with Hitchcock or someone else. A lot of those pictures, I’d never seen them. I learned about them from her.

What was it like when it came time to shoot the scene of her smashing the dishes? That must have been difficult.

Yeah, but only because it had to be precise. She didn’t want to do it over and over because she was crying, and you had to build up that momentum. I remember shooting it quite simply. But “Dallas” was shot very simply anyway. It wasn’t very artistic film-wise.

Was that frustrating? Did you ever think, “Gosh, I wish I could do something more creative here”?

Yeah, very much so. But “Dallas” was basically talking heads. We were able to make a shot once of someone coming out of the elevator, and then they go into one of the offices, and then they go into another office and then they come out [to the reception area] again. All in one shot. And when you see it, you don’t think, “Oh, wow, how’d they do that?” It didn’t draw attention, but it was different.

Mary Crosby’s legs in “Full Circle”

Mary Crosby’s legs in “Full Circle”

That reminds me: One of my favorite shots from one of your episodes is the scene where Mary Crosby’s character comes back to town and the first time we see her, the camera is following her legs across a hotel lobby.

I’m glad you remember that! We shot that at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. They wanted her return to be a little mysterious, so the script read something like, “She’s standing at the desk and turns and you see it’s Mary Crosby.” I remember thinking, “My, she has nice legs. Let’s follow her legs.” You don’t plan something like that.

You mentioned Leonard Katzman a little earlier. He really brought his own vision to the show, didn’t he?

Len would take situations that his family was going through and use them in the plot. I’d sit in on a story meeting and he’d say, “My daughter did this the other night. Let’s put that in a script and give it to Lucy.” Len and I were pretty close, and he would take things from my family too. He was always writing from real-life experiences, whether it was his own or mine or someone else’s. I think that’s the case with a lot of writers – they use what they know best.

It’s interesting to see “Dallas” being made without him. What do you think of the new show?

I want to see more of Larry and Patrick and Linda. I think the kids are good. I think some of them look too much alike, to be honest. [“Dallas” creator] David Jacobs said they should have switched and made Bobby’s son the bad one and J.R.’s son the good one. I thought that was a good idea when I heard it. But [the producers] wanted all-new ideas and new writers and directors, which I completely understand and kind of agree with.

Really?

Yeah. If they hired the writers and directors [from the original], you’d have a lot of, “Well, you know in the old days, we used to do it this way.” That’s the last thing you want to hear. [Laughter] I got into the business a long time ago – 1955 – and I remember hearing people say, “Oh, it’s not like the good old days.” And here it is many years later, people are still saying, “Oh, it’s not like the good old days!”

Well, I agree with you. I’d like to see more of the original stars too. It’s going to be hard to imagine “Dallas” without Larry Hagman.

He could still light up a screen. There are very few people like that. Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando – they had that quality. Larry had it too.

Share your comments below and read more interviews from Dallas Decoder.