Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 52 – ‘Jock’s Trial, Part 2’

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Jock's Trial Part 2

Rush to judgment

Digger dies at the end of “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” and this is not an insignificant thing. The character appeared on “Dallas” just 14 times, but his shadow loomed large when he wasn’t around. After all, Digger’s name is included in the title of “Dallas’s” first episode, even though he shows up just once in that installment.

Appropriately, while Digger’s death produces several touching scenes in “Jock’s Trial, Part 2,” he isn’t present during the moment I find most poignant: when Cliff approaches Miss Ellie in the courtroom and tells her Digger is dying and asking for her.

No matter how often I see this scene, it always moves me. There’s something profound about the idea that no matter how hard the Barnes and Ewing children fight each other, their families are forever bound by the relationships their parents forged decades earlier.

The deathbed scene itself is also touching, particularly when Digger finally acknowledges Ellie was always “Jock’s girl.” How sad he wasn’t able to admit this until his final moments of life.

I’m also struck by how closely Digger’s death mirrors Bobby’s heart-wrenching deathbed scene at the end of the eighth season, right down to the sound of the flat-lining monitor. Keenan Wynn is quite good during Digger’s farewell, and so are the women at his side: Barbara Bel Geddes, Victoria Principal and the wonderful Sarah Cunningham, who plays Digger’s sister Maggie.

“Jock’s Trial, Part 2” is also elevated by its other guest stars, including Barry Corbin, who is perfectly cast as the perfectly named Fenton Washburn, Braddock’s big-bellied sheriff. I also like Nicolas Coster and Stephen Elliott as dueling lawyers Lyle Sloan and Scotty Demarest, although their courtroom theatrics aren’t quite as entertaining as those seen in the second-season episode “The Red File, Part 2.”

Of course, not everything about “Jock’s Trial, Part 2” works. The sepia-toned flashbacks are pretty campy, but I don’t dwell on them because the rest of this episode is so monumental. Digger had probably run his course on “Dallas,” but that doesn’t mean the character won’t be missed, even if he wasn’t around that much to begin with.

Grade: A


Dallas, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Jock's Trial Part 2

Dead end


Season 3, Episode 23

Airdate: February 29, 1980

Audience: 20.7 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: Miss Ellie tells Matt she doesn’t love him. The state indicts Jock, but moments before Digger dies, Digger confesses he killed Hutch after discovering Hutch was sleeping with his wife. Digger also reveals Hutch was Pam’s biological father.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Kale Brown (reporter), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Fenton Washburn), Nicolas Coster (Assistant District Attorney Lyle Sloan), David Cryer (Professor Will Calder), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Stephen Elliott (Scotty Demarest), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Susan Keller (reporter), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), William Munson (judge), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Don Porter (Matt Devlin), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing, Rebecca Barnes), Tom Spratley (Virgil Tuttle), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), William Watson (Hutch McKinney), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“Jock’s Trial, Part 2” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘God, J.R., How Low Can You Get?’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Red File Part 2

Why, he never!

In “The Red File, Part 2,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is seated on the edge of his office desk, talking on the phone, when Bobby (Patrick Duffy) enters carrying Julie’s attaché case.

J.R.: Yeah, no fooling Dave. I think we got Cliff Barnes out of our hair permanently. Yeah, that’s right. [Chuckles]

Bobby snatches the phone out of J.R.’s hand and slams it onto the receiver.

J.R.: [Angry, to Bobby] Now what the hell was that all about?

BOBBY: You’ll have plenty of time for that when I’m through – if you’re still president of Ewing Oil.

J.R.: You know, I think one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life was letting Daddy talk me into taking you off the road and putting you into an office next to mine.

BOBBY: No, J.R., that was your second biggest mistake! [Tosses materials off J.R.’s desk, slams down the attaché case] That’s your first!

J.R.: What is that?

BOBBY: [Opens it] Julie was gonna set you up. She Xeroxed all your confidential files and she was gonna turn them over to Cliff Barnes.

J.R.: Where’d you get ahold of this? [Starts rifling through the case]

BOBBY: Oh, it’s all there, J.R. Everything. [J.R. studies a document and sits in his chair] Records of payoffs to senators, congressmen, photographs of judges. It’s all there.

J.R.: Why, that cheating little tramp.

BOBBY: That’s your red file, isn’t it J.R.? I mean, that’s everything that you didn’t think I was ready to see.

J.R.: Well, you are my baby brother. Some of this stuff’s pretty gamey. I suppose you’re ready to face the realities of life.

BOBBY: Yeah. [Reaches into his suit jacket, unfolds a document and shows it to J.R.] Well, I wasn’t ready for that.

J.R.: It’s a copy of Daddy’s will. Now what is she doing with that? You know, sometimes I can never figure out what makes a woman’s mind work. I –

BOBBY: [Disgusted] Yeah, J.R., it puzzled me, too. I mean, it wouldn’t have meant a whole lot to Cliff Barnes, would it? Just part of the package. I think the one that would’ve found this most interesting is Daddy.

J.R.: Now, what are you talking about?

BOBBY: I’ll refresh your memory. [Begins reading] “This codicil amends paragraph 37. In the event of my death, I hereby grant to my son, John Ewing Jr., full drilling rights to all oil found in Section 40 of Southfork Ranch, as described in said paragraph.”

J.R.: Bobby, I can explain that!

BOBBY: To who? To Daddy? To Mama?

J.R.: Well let’s not bring them into this!

BOBBY: J.R., this is a forgery!

J.R.: It was a business maneuver!

BOBBY: A bu – it brought an oil crew to Southfork. Ray was damn near killed on account of it! And to make matters worse, you were trying to con your own mother and father. God, J.R., how low can you get? [Turns away from J.R.]

J.R.: [Rises from his seat] I was trying to make Ewing Oil into the most powerful independent in Texas! I needed the muscle!

BOBBY: [Faces J.R., looks stricken] Do you mean that somebody else in the cartel knew about this? J.R., you’re the one who knew that Julie was going to give these, these papers to Cliff Barnes!

J.R.: I didn’t know about that!

BOBBY: [Slams the attaché case shut] Don’t lie to me!

J.R.: Bobby, I never killed anybody in my life. I’m not a murderer. I didn’t kill anybody, not even during the war. Now, if you don’t believe me, you talk to Dan Marsh. He had a tap on Barnes’ phone. He brought me those tapes the next morning, after Julie was dead.

BOBBY: The next morning?

J.R.: That’s right.

BOBBY: Well, then I guess I’d better talk to Dan Marsh.

J.R.: You’re not gonna say anything to Daddy about this, are you?

Bobby walks to the door, pauses and then slams it behind him.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 23 – ‘The Red File, Part 2’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Red File Part 2, Victoria Principal

Split decision

“The Red File, Part 2” plays a lot like a ’70s crime drama, with Bobby in the role of the dashing detective. He spends much of the episode tooling around town in his red convertible, chasing clues in his investigation into Julie’s death.

This installment also features some terrific “Perry Mason”-style legal theatrics, with the wonderful Walter Brooke commanding every courtroom scene as Cliff’s perpetually incredulous attorney, Cole Young. (Trivia: In “The Graduate,” Brooke portrayed Mr. McGuire, who famously advised Dustin Hoffman’s character to go into plastics.)

But “The Red File, Part 2” is mostly notable because the events of this episode change Bobby’s character, hardening his edges and forever altering his dynamic with J.R. The script demands a lot from Patrick Duffy, and he more than delivers. This is one of his best “Dallas” performances.

Bobby throws himself into his investigation not so much because he wants to clear Cliff’s name but because he needs to find out for himself how far J.R. is willing to sink. In the scene where Bobby confronts J.R. with the phony codicil to Jock’s will, Duffy makes Bobby’s indignation palpable. The character’s disappointment is downright heartbreaking.

The episode’s other pivotal scene comes at the end, when Bobby tells J.R., “For the first time in my life, I know exactly what you’re all about.”

This is the moment Bobby appoints himself J.R.’s guardian, the role he’ll occupy through the rest of “Dallas’s” run. It isn’t a job he wants, but after finally seeing J.R.’s red file, Bobby knows he’s the only member of the Ewing family with the moral compass – and the muscle – needed to keep his older brother in check.

It all culminates during “The Red File, Part 2’s” poignant finale, when Bobby tells Pam he isn’t willing to leave Southfork to save their marriage. The man who talked about wanting to “resign” from his family at the beginning of this episode knows that’s no longer an option, now that he’s charged himself with protecting the world from J.R.

Grade: A


Cliff Barnes, Cole Young, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Red File Part 2, Walter Brooke

Error and trial


Season 2, Episode 18

Airdate: February 9, 1979

Audience: 16.2 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Cliff’s past is scrutinized at a hearing before his trial for Julie’s murder. Bobby uncovers J.R.’s red file and uses it to clear Cliff and squelch J.R.’s scheme to forge Jock’s will. Pam tells Bobby she isn’t ready to return to Southfork.

Cast: John Ashton (Willie Joe Garr), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Walter Brooke (Cole Young), Jordan Charney (Lieutenant Sutton), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), John Harkins (Judge Potter), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), John Petlock (Dan Marsh), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charles Siebert (Assistant District Attorney Sloan), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Sandy Ward (Jeb Ames)

“The Red File, Part 2” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.