Thanks again to @Toni for resurrecting these posts -- and apologies to the concerned person who kindly sent me a private message to tell me I was wasting the few remaining years of my useless life by continuing to post about a long-dead TV series for ignoring their advice that I should do something else instead. "Killer at Large” Ooh, new location pictures in the opening credits! The city looks brighter, glitzier; its buildings taller, more modern, even sorta space-agey. It’s weird not to see Barbara Bel Geddes in the opening credits. Patrick Duffy succeeds her as the first actor in alphabetical order. There are updated panel pictures of Cliff (finally), Donna (new hair), Pam (new hair) and Lucy (balancing a stetson on her head). Steve Kanaly’s clips remain stubbornly unchanged since Season 2; something to do with his “timeless cowboy” image, perhaps. The big news is the addition of Howard Keel and Jenna, looking distinguished and beautiful respectively and making the whole opening credits sequence feel fuller than ever before. This is the fourth successive season premiere written by Arthur Bernard Lewis. The action picks up moments after where the Season 6 cliff-hanger left off. It’s Tuesday night at the Ewing offices and as we see the door of one elevator tantalisingly close, the other opens and out hurries ... Afton. (Don’t tell me the banshee cleaning woman who discovered JR at the beginning of Season 3 was unavailable?) This is the second of only two visits Afton makes to Ewing Oil. The first is shortly after her arrival in Season 3, and so having return here in her last episode helps bring the character full circle (sorta). “JR, I wanna talk to you,” she shouts. “You and your lousy schemes, you ruined everything!” She barges into JR’s office only to find Bobby lying unconscious on the floor, in much the same way that she discovered Cliff after his overdose at the end of Season 4. (Afton-on-the-spot was also first with the news of Rebecca’s fatal plane crash in Season 5.) “Cliff, what have you done?” she murmurs, crouching over Bobby. Back at Southfork, JR returns home to a quiet house. “Where is everyone?” he calls out. “I’m everyone,” Lucy replies, sounding like a unisex Chaka Khan. “What happened with Peter?” she asks. Oh, Lucy, Christopher Atkins is so last season. “I have reliable information that he’s on his way to New York right now,” replies JR. “They’ve dropped all the charges against him.” Lucy is suddenly transformed from Chaka Khan into Hercule Poirot. “Charges dropped? Lack of evidence?” she muses, mentally twiddling her moustache. “Peter’s on his way to New York and Sue Ellen’s back in your room ... It’s all very neat, JR. Almost like someone with a lot of power and influence stepped in and settled the case ... You set Peter up, didn’t you? ... Peter was playing around with Sue Ellen and you found out! I’ve been a damn fool. Nobody around here cares about anyone or anything!” Time to sling some hash, girlfriend. While JR is changing into his jim-jams, a freshly mulleted Sue Ellen (is the new hair a desperate attempt to turn JR off?) steals into “their” bedroom, takes a gun from her purse, puts it in a drawer and then ... well, to be honest, I’ve never been quite sure what it is she does next. She appears to take another gun from the exact same position and place it under her pillow. I don’t quite get it. JR appears. “Get undressed,” he snaps. As police sirens wail through downtown Dallas, Bobby is wheeled out of the Ewing building on a stretcher, just as his brother was four years earlier. There is a smaller (if still unlikely) crowd watching this time around; I guess when you’ve seen one facially obscured Ewing brother on a stretcher, you’ve seen ‘em all. Over at the Krebbs’ house, the news isn’t good. Donna has an unflattering new haircut, (which admittedly improves in subsequent scenes) and to add insult to injury, the props man has handed Susan Howard a romance novel to hold. She regards the book with an amused detachment. Edgar Randolph calls, but doesn’t make much sense. (“It’s a terrible time, Ray. A terrible time!”) He agrees to meet with Donna and Ray the following morning. Ray calls JR to make sure he isn’t dead or anything, but JR is more interested in having his way with Sue Ellen. “Don’t force me,” she pleads, but he ignores her. “All I want you to do is gimme the same kind of attention you gave that college boy,” he murmurs. “If it helps you can think of him, honey.” She reaches under her pillow for the gun, but before she can pull a Holly Harwood, the phone rings. It’s a nurse calling from Dallas Memorial (the very same nurse who helps Pam escape from the hospital in Season 10. How’s that for continuity?). “Bobby’s been shot!” JR tells Sue Ellen. Lucy tags along with them to the hospital where his condition is described as “critical.” He has two bullet wounds and internal bleeding, but the nasty looking head injury, the one that made him look seriously dead in the cliff hanging freeze frame, is explained away as a graze from “a third bullet across the temple. We don’t think that one did any serious damage.” Afton, after being questioned by Burke Devlin from DARK SHADOWS, (“Are you saying that I did it?” “Don’t leave town unless you call us”) joins JR, Sue Ellen and Lucy (the three Ewings she had most interaction with during her early days on the show) at the hospital. But there is no time for reminiscing. Afton has one more bombshell to drop: “Bobby was shot in your office,” she tells JR. “There were bullet holes right through the back of your chair.” “Oh my God,” he exclaims. “That means someone was trying to kill me!” It seems there’s “critical” and then there’s “critical” and by the next morning, (Wednesday) Bobby is out of danger. “He came through the surgery well,” Sue Ellen reports. It’s a wise move on the writers’ part not to draw out the life-or-death aspect of Bobby’s shooting. What worked in 1980, when JR’s life hung in the balance for two whole episodes, probably wouldn’t fly so well in 1984. During the span of DALLAS’s run, television audiences grew increasingly sophisticated (eventually becoming downright cynical). Whereas in 1981 it seemed conceivable that it really could be Pam or Sue Ellen doing the Dead Woman’s Float in the Southfork pool, three years later, we’re pretty certain Bobby isn’t going to expire from his bullet wounds. In fact, the entire “Who Shot Bobby?” concept is an unspoken admission to the audience that “Hey, remember that whole ‘Who Shot JR’ thing? We know we’re never gonna top that and you know we’re never gonna top that, so let’s not even try.” What saves the story line from becoming cheap self-parody, however, is the conviction with which it is told. There is, thankfully, not one wink to the audience, not one rolling-eyed “here we go again” moment in the entire episode. The importance of what has become a tradition, even a ritual, of the DALLAS season premiere--the scenes in which we see each of the central characters reacting to the news of the previous season’s cliff hanger--should also be noted. While these moments do nothing to further the plot--after all, we’re just watching information being conveyed that we’ve been privy to since the end of last season--and the characters’ standard reactions (usually “Oh my God!” followed by a stunned expression) rarely provide us with any fresh insight into their psyches, we still need to see the event impacting on the characters before it can truly impact on us. It’s only when the character’s reactions are glossed over--following Pam’s car crash, for example--that we realise how crucial these moments are. To that end, much of the second act of this episode is given over to the remaining characters being told not only about Bobby’s shooting, but also Cliff’s oil strike. There is, however, a striking lack of logic to the sequence of these events. Bobby was shot at approximately 8.30pm, but Sue Ellen waits almost twelve hours before notifying his fiancee. “I didn’t wanna call you till he was out of danger,” she explains lamely. “I was hoping you hadn’t heard the news reports.” But why hasn’t Jenna heard the news reports? In fact, why wasn’t she on the news? Did no one in the Texas media think to call the former heiress for a quote? Meanwhile, Ray and Donna are busy being stood up by Edgar on a street corner when, through a shop window, they see Bobby’s face on a TV news report. “Looks like he’s been hurt!” concludes Donna. So that means neither Sue Ellen nor Lucy could be bothered to call them with the news either. Guess the Krebbses really are the second class relations. Over at Barnes-Wentworth, Jackie finds Cliff asleep in his car in the parking lot. (There’s a parallel here with Sue Ellen, who woke up in her car in the airport parking lot the morning after JR was shot.) Cliff looks almost dead, as well he might after pulling his second all night bender in a row. “Cliff, you’re sleeping in the parking lot,” Jackie informs him amusingly. “Wake up! ... Bull Dawson called. 340 came in. He said it’s the biggest strike ever!” Cliff’s dishevelled, disbelieving, delighted response is truly touching: “I struck oil?! ... Before Vaughn Leland’s deadline ran out? You mean I won? ... You mean I beat Vaughn Leland? You mean I beat JR? ... You mean, after all these years I finally won??! ... I’m a winner!!” Katherine is in Houston, buying back her parents’ house. (Full points again for continuity--the location is the very same as the house Pam tracked Rebecca down to in Season 3). While Bobby’s shooting comes as no surprise to Katherine, news of his recovery certainly does. “The fact that he was found so quickly is probably the reason he has survived so far,” announces the radio report. So not only is Afton responsible for Cliff’s oil strike, (she is the one who advised him to change crews, remember) but she has also saved Bobby’s life. Whattagal! Katherine’s expression is appropriately enigmatic, but “darn that pesky blonde!” is possibly the uppermost thought in her mind. In fact, when she later plants the gun in Cliff’s condo, might her plan have been to frame Afton for the dirty deed? It has long been a DALLAS tradition for Pam to be the last person to hear bad news. Whether it’s Baby John’s kidnapping, JR’s shooting, Kristin’s death, Cliff’s suicide attempt, Sue Ellen and Mickey’s accident, the Southfork fire or Jenna’s arrest for murder, she (along with Bobby if he’s with her) remains in blissful ignorance until every other cast member has had their “Oh my God”/stunned expression moment. And so it proves here. “I wanted to call Cliff and congratulate him,” she tells Jackie excitedly from San Antonio. “I just read about his oil strike!” So, she managed to read about the oil strike but not about the shooting, even though the events happened almost simultaneously. Does this mean Pam subscribes to a newspaper that only prints happy news? It doesn’t take Jackie long to knock the smile off her face: “Bobby’s been shot!” “Oh my God!” Pam quivers. “I’m coming back to Dallas!” There’s more bad news waiting when she gets there. “Pam, Bobby’s blind,” Jenna tells her. “Do they think it’s permanent?” Pam quivers. They listen solemnly to a bunch of medical gobbledygook from Bobby’s doctor, President Palmer from 24, (who ends up getting shot himself! Oh it’s all so ironic and Kennedyesque.) As the ex-wife, there really is no place for Pam at the hospital, but she hovers anyway, Jenna tolerating her presence for the time being. Back at the office, a twitchy JR (“My life is in danger!”) meets with Burke Devlin from DARK SHADOWS to run through the list of suspects. This bit’s always fun. “Afton Cooper appears in the clear,” reports Captain Devlin. “Cliff Barnes is another story. We’re checking on him. Same goes for Edgar Randolph.” JR reminds him about Katherine Wentworth and “a young man named Peter Richards.” Marilee Stone (big hat) drops by with some more names for the list. “I know of a dozen people who’d like to shoot you, including me,” she tells JR. “If I had a gun, I’d put a bullet between your eyes right now!” JR looks at her in confusion. “You act like you don’t know what Cliff Barnes did,” she continues. “He brought in what could just be the richest tract in the Gulf ... I was partners with Cliff Barnes until you talked me out of it ... The cartel and every independent in Texas will be linin’ up to do business with him ... You’re yesterday’s news!” It’s Wednesday evening and Cliff returns home with a bottle of champagne to find Afton (big red hat, never lovelier) with her bags packed. “I’ve gotten permission from the police to visit my mother in Biloxi,” she tells him. You know, until I started posting about individual episodes, I never really noticed what a good character Afton is. She was always just ... there. In a way, that’s her genius. This, her final scene, is the highlight of the episode and probably the best exit any character gets from the series. Not only is it a touching farewell scene, but it also advances the plot. “I think you went to the Ewing office to kill JR and you shot Bobby by mistake,” she tells Cliff. He ridicules the notion, but it then becomes clear that he cannot account for his whereabouts at the time of the shooting. (At this point, he has no recollection of being at The Mandy Winger Bar and Grill.) “You blacked out before, I guess you blacked out again,” Afton persists. “So I blacked out!” he replies, trying desperately to shrug it off. “So you could have done the shooting!” (Again, this is the exact same dilemma that Sue Ellen was faced with after JR was shot.) “Look, if that’s what you wanna think that’s fine, but I got a rich oil strike to celebrate.” “Doesn’t it even bother you that Bobby was shot?” she asks. “No,” Cliff replies defensively. “He’s a Ewing. Wanna drink?” “I’m not drinking with you,” Afton replies, tears in her eyes. “You are the coldest man I have ever met. You make JR Ewing look like a saint.” She heads for the door. Cliff is perplexed. “Well, say hello to your mama in her new house!”--oh I just love that they kept that as a running gag right to the end--”When are you coming back?” “I’m not.” “That’s ridiculous!” “No, Cliff. Our relationship is ridiculous. It’s over. I just wish I could say it’s been terrific ...” “Just when everything’s going great!” “Great? Great for whom? For you. The only one you’ve ever cared about. Cliff Barnes.” And with that, she’s gone, (pregnant, don’t forget!) leaving Cliff alone in the dark with his champagne. A beat. “Who needs her?” he says to the silence. Does KK have tears in his eyes as well? Guess we’ll have to wait for the DVD release (fingers crossed) to be sure. Thursday morning. Bruce Broughton’s achingly poignant, sweeping score plays over early morning footage of downtown Dallas, making it feel as though the whole city has somehow been affected by the shooting. Flanked by bodyguards, JR arrives outside the Ewing building. The mood suddenly shifts gear as Edgar Randolph steps out of nowhere. “EWING!!” he cries before firing his gun in JR’s direction. After Mark Graison’s off-screen plane crash and Miss Ellie’s off-screen kidnapping, it’s good to get some on screen, honest to goodness action, even if poor old Edgar does prove a lousy shot. “You’re sick and you damn well near killed my brother too,” JR tells him as police cars and bystanders gather in the background. “JR, I’m gonna spend the rest of my life tryin’ to kill you!” yells Edgar before being dragged away, swearing vengeance just like Sue Ellen, Walt Driscoll and so many others before him: “I’ll get you, JR. I’ll get you!” Meanwhile, a remorseful Marilee shows off her thunder thighs to Cliff Barnes, aka “the most courageous man in the oil business ... I don’t know how to make it up to you. I’ll do anything, Cliff.” They end up doing anything on an inflatable air bed next to Marilee’s pool. (It’s a wonder one of her talons didn’t cause a puncture.) Cliff then gives her the memorable kiss-off (“That, Marilee, was the last time you and I will be partners in any endeavour, professional or otherwise. I don’t need your money, I won’t miss your body, I hate to be double-crossed and I don’t forgive and I don’t forget.”) which will come back to haunt him during Season 9. Patrick Duffy smartly sidesteps any “For Your Emmy Consideration” blind acting by donning a pair of dark glasses for his hospital scenes. The writers have ingeniously decided, with the aid of a wibbly wobbly flashback, to make a mystery out of Bobby being in JR’s office when he got shot. “I had an overseas call to make,” he explains to Jenna and Pam. “The person on the other end couldn’t hear me ... For some reason, I decided to look in the mouthpiece. I was a little surprised to find my phone bugged ... Maybe all the phones were bugged ... The logical place to start lookin’ was JR’s office ... I went to the desk, sat in JR’s chair and picked up his phone. I was about to unscrew the mouthpiece when I [got blam, blam, blammed].” Pam intercepts Katherine (big hat, hypodermic in her handbag) outside the hospital. “ You’re a troublemaker!” she tells her. “Go back to Houston and stay out of our lives!” In the last scene of the episode, a guilt-ridden JR finally faces his brother. He addresses him in the same apologetic “You gotta believe me, Bobby” tone he adopted in the wake of Miss Ellie’s kidnapping. “Bobby, you took two slugs in the guts because of me. I know that. You don’t think I’d take advantage of you at a time like this, do you?” The brothers are interrupted by the latest news bulletin from Captain DARK SHADOWS. “There was no ballistics match between the bullets they took out of Bobby and Edgar Randolph’s gun,” Fogarty tells JR. “Whoever tried to kill you is still at large.” Oh goody! And here are some further observations I made about this episode when I last re-re-watched it a couple of years ago: When JR employs bodyguards, it feels like an act of weakness — an example of physical cowardice that Jock would surely have disapproved of. Of course, Afton’s departure becomes even more interesting when viewed in hindsight, when one realises that the character, like Sammy Jo when she first departed DYNASTY in Season 2, must be pregnant at this point. Her line to Cliff, “I’m not drinking with you,” leapt out at me this time around. For the first time, it occurred to me that Afton might already know she’s pregnant here. Perhaps it’s even the reason — combined with the fact that “Cliff Barnes has just become a mighty big man in this town” — that she decides to leave. Nothing if not intuitive, could it be that Afton senses what a dangerous combination power and a child could be for Cliff? Given how things will pan out in New DALLAS, one of her final lines to him — “You are the coldest man I have ever met; you make JR Ewing look like a saint” — now sounds oddly prophetic. JR assures Bobby that he will take care of Ewing Oil in his absence. “That’s a little like having the fox watch the henhouse,” Bobby replies drily. JR will use the same metaphor himself a few decades later. “You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse,” he tells Cliff and Afton’s offspring at the beginning of New DALLAS’s second season.