Who Done It (Dallas)

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"Who Done it"
Dallas episode
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 4
Directed by Leonard Katzman
Written by Loraine Despres
Production code 58
Original air date November 21, 1980
Guest actors

Mary Crosby as Kristin Shepard
Susan Howard as Donna Culver
Leigh McCloskey as Mitch Cooper
John Lehne as Kyle Bennett
Laurence Haddon as Franklin Horner
Gregory Walcott as Jim Redfield
Jeff Cooper as Dr. Simon Elby
Tom Fuccello as Dave Culver
Nik Hagler as Detective Frost
Lee Holmes as Doctor
Ken Farmer as Gil
Debra Stricklin
Tim Lonsdale as Cab Driver
Toni Garret
Tyler Banks as John Ross Ewing III

Episode chronology
← Previous
"Nightmare"
Next →
"Taste of Success"

"Who Done It" is the fourth episode in the fourth season (1980–1981) of the television series Dallas. The episode was written by Loraine Despres, and revealed who shot J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman) in the third season finale, "A House Divided".[1] The perpetrator's fate was revealed in the subsequent episode one week later.[2]

Overview[edit]

'"Who Done It'" resolved the "Who shot J.R.?" cliffhanger from the previous season, entitled "A House Divided". Some suggest that the resolution of the whodunit was delayed until the November "sweep" period as a ratings ploy.[3] 76% of all television viewers in the United States watched the episode; the 53.3 rating[4] was the highest rating of any television episode in US history, a record it held until February 1983 when the final episode of M*A*S*H aired. "Who Done It" remains third on the list of all-time most watched television episodes. Dallas went on to finish at #1 in the Nielsen Ratings for three of the next four seasons as a result of the publicity this episode generated.

International oddsmakers created a set of odds for the possible culprits. The favorite was Dusty Farlow, who was Sue Ellen Ewing's lover (Sue Ellen being J.R.'s wife), with odds installed at 6:4. Sue Ellen herself was given 25:1 odds, as was J.R.'s mother Miss Ellie Ewing. At 4:1 were Sue Ellen's sister and her husband's mistress, Kristin Shepard and banker Vaughn Leland, who fell victim to a J.R. swindle.[5] After Sue Ellen's fingerprints were found on the gun in subsequent episodes she became the favorite at 3 to 1 according to some oddsmakers,[6] while others listed Kristin and Cliff Barnes as favorites (Cliff being J.R.'s rival from childhood).[7]

J.R. Ewing is a fictional character that William K. Stevens of The New York Times described as "the nastiest man on television, the Iago of Texas oilmen, the smiling snake of a star of Friday night TV's Dallas, a man so venal, so low, so mean, so diabolical that he has become an absolute delight to an estimated quarter of a billion viewers around the globe."[8] His New York Times colleague John J. O'Connor described him as "the eldest son of the oil-rich Ewing family..." who is "...a sadistic bully and a swindler" that "captured the public's imagination".[9] Prior to the episode, there were numerous people to suspect for the murder:

  • Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray), J.R.'s wife: J.R. had threatened to reinstitutionalize her for her bout with alcoholism.[6]
  • Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby), J.R.'s ex-mistress and Sue Ellen's sister: J.R. broke his promise to marry her and gave her 24 hours to leave town.[6] J. R. framed her for prostitution in response to business pressure she put on him.[10]
  • Dusty Farlow (Jared Martin), Sue Ellen's lover: Supposedly killed in a plane crash.[11]
  • Vaughn Leland (Dennis Patrick), J.R.'s business partner: J.R. swindled him out of $20 million (US$57 million in 2014 dollars[12]).[13]
  • Miss Ellie Ewing (Barbara Bel Geddes), J.R.'s mother: J.R. mortgaged the family ranch, unbeknownst to his parents, and had plans to drill for oil on the property.[13]
  • Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), J.R.'s brother-in-law (through his sister's marriage to Bobby Ewing) and business rival: His father Digger Barnes was swindled by J.R.'s father Jock Ewing out of his half of their combined oil company (Digger's side of the story; Jock claimed he had kept the company in his name due to Digger's recklessness),[11] leaving him penniless except for some oil wells that J.R. had shut down.[13]
  • Alan Beam (Randolph Powell), Political fixer: Beam knew too much, making him expendable. After J.R. tried to extinguish him, he had motive.[13]
  • Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald), widow of a business associate: Husband committed suicide as a result of business dealings with J.R.[13]
  • Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), mild-mannered brother: Sibling rival, who is fed up with J.R.'s handling of family business and slights to Bobby's wife.[13]

Although generally regarded as somewhat of a rival of J. R. in the fictional world of Dallas, Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) was not a suspect due to his activity in the related fictional Knots Landing world. Similarly, Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton) had an alibi provided by liaisons with a married college professor.[14]

In order to preserve secrecy before the episode aired, multiple endings were filmed, including the aforementioned characters each firing the gun.[15]

Plot summary[edit]

After a considerable number of suspects have been identified, Sue Ellen deduces that it was Kristin who shot J.R. At her psychiatrist's office, as she is discussing the gun and how it made its way to her bedroom, she remembers that the last time it was in her possession was when she was at Kristin's condo. She finds J.R. at home, when Kristin shows up and Sue Ellen reveals all.

When Sue Ellen earlier showed up at her sister's apartment with the gun (looking for J.R.), Kristin calmly offered her a drink, with the knowledge that she was drunk and would most likely pass out. Once that happened, after placing Sue Ellen back in her car, unconscious, Kristin took the gun and shot J.R. and planted the gun in Sue Ellen's closet the next day in order to frame her.

After J.R. hears everything and is about to notify the police, Kristin reveals she is pregnant with J.R.'s baby and threatens to reveal everything if the police are brought in. Facing the prospect of another scandal should his child be born in prison, J.R. decides the matter should be handled quietly.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

The "Who Done It?" episode of "Dallas" that revealed "Who shot J.R.?", the famous 1980 cliffhanger, received the highest domestic ratings at that point with over 90 million American viewers tuning in for the answer. The last episode of M*A*S*H in 1983 finally beat the ratings; however, internationally "Dallas" still holds the record for the highest rated episode with nearly 360 million viewers tuning in to see who shot J.R.

References[edit]

  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1980-11-22). "Quotation of the Day". The New York Times. p. 2.47. "No, J.R.'s beautiful wife did not do it. She was too obvious a suspect. The real culprit was her conniving sister, Kristin, the only other character in Dallas capable of equalling J.R. at viciousness. At 10:54 last night, Kristin, played by Mary Crosby, daughter of the late Bing, stepped forward to admit the dirty deed." 
  2. ^ Buck, Jerry (1980-11-20). "Even J.R. Will Be On The Edge Of His Seat Friday". Evening Independent. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  3. ^ McLean, Robert A. (1980-10-15). "A J.R. Solution Soon?: [First Edition]". The Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ Meisler, Andy (1995-05-07). "TELEVISION; When J. R. Was Shot The Cliffhanger Was Born". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  5. ^ White, Diane (1980-07-12). "J. R.'s Wild, Crazy Antics: [First Edition]". The Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ a b c Thomas, Jack (1980-11-21). "Place Your Bet On Who Shot J.R. Ewing: [First Edition]". The Boston Globe. 
  7. ^ Montgomery, Paul L. (1980-11-23). "Dallas Broke Rating Record, Network Says". The New York Times. p. A24. 
  8. ^ Stevens, William K. (1980-11-21). "Dallas Watches Nation Watch 'Dallas'". The New York Times. p. A16. 
  9. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1980-11-21). "TV Weekend; Finally, The Answer To Who Shot J.R.". The New York Times. p. C30. 
  10. ^ "About 82 Million Tuned In To See J.R.'s Assailant: [First Edition]". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. 1980-11-23. 
  11. ^ a b "Who Shot J.R.? Most Callers Say Kristin Did It". The Miami News. 1980-11-21. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  12. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Buck, Jerry (1980-11-21). "Did This Man Shoot J.R.: He's a 500-To-1 Shot, But Then Again, Who Knows?". Evening Independent. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  14. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1980-11-22). "Quotation of the Day". The New York Times. p. 2.47. "Few characters escape the scriptwriters' calculated finger of suspicion. Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) was presumably in the clear because he was in California busy with the spinoff series Knot's Landing. His promiscuous daughter Lucy (Charlene Tilton) appeared to have spent the night in bed with a married college professor." 
  15. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (2010-11-20). "It's no mystery why TV cliffhangers won't die". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 

External links[edit]