Now, the Who Shot J.R. episode of Dallas, way back in 1980, defined the term cliffhanger. Need evidence? It even inspires questions decades later.
And Linda Gray, who played Sue Ellen Ewing, even still thinks she needs to keep the culprit under wraps. Consider that when a Youtube vlogger asked her the key question “who shot J.R.,” she immediately defaulted to 1980 and keeping a secret.
“Now, I’m not really supposed to tell you,” Gray said, with an unspoken wink.
Spoiler alert. Gray then gave it away.
“It was my sister Kristin,” she said with a smile.
Fans Tuned Into Dallas to Hate Watch JR Ewing on Friday Nights
If you were alive and watching television in 1980, it was difficult to not get caught up in the Dallas buzz. Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing probably was the meanest, most unscrupulous character on TV. But folks loved his nastiness as he sipped on a bourbon and branch. We were right there with him as he hurled insults and provided his own insights on life.
So if you wanted to live the big Dallas life of JR, you need to soak in his words of wisdom:
“A conscience is like a boat or a car. If you feel you need one, rent it.”
Or how about: “contracts were made to be broken, honey, but a handshake is the law of God.”
And this line about sums up every dialogue on Dallas involving JR. “Never tell the truth when a good lie’ll do!”
Since JR basically was shameless, a whole bunch of folks might’ve wanted him dead. With a broadcast date of March 21, 1980, Dallas showed just how badly people despised the head of Ewing Oil. The classic episode was called A House Divided.
Sue Ellen told her psychiatrist that she wanted to leave her husband and move away with true love Dusty. But JR tells her he’s having her committed. Bobby (Patrick Duffy) was really disgusted with his big brother and moved out of Southfork. Plus, besides the family drama, the cartel was threatening JR. And he’d fired his mistress, Kristin, from Ewing Oil. And he’d just screwed over Cliff Barnes. Again.
JR ends up in his office, in the dark. The phone rings. He answers it, but no one is there. JR hears a noise, maybe from the reception area. No one is supposed to be there, either. Then someone steps from the shadows and fires two shots. JR falls to the floor. And Dallas fans had to wait until November to find out if their favorite villain is even alive.
Thanksgiving and the Big Reveal: TV Fans Finally Found Out
Four episodes into Dallas season four, just before Thanksgiving, we finally found out who shot JR. The official name of the episode was Who Done It.
We learn that Sue Ellen’s fingerprints were found on the gun. But the last time she’d had the gun on her, she was at Kristin’s place. Sue Ellen had been there looking for her cheating husband. But Kristin realized her sister was drunk, as usual. So she offered her another cocktail and waited for her to pass out. Then Kristin took her gun, drove to JR’s office, and shot him. Then she planted the gun in Sue Ellen’s closet.
Kristin admitted it all, but JR wouldn’t press charges. She was pregnant with his baby and he didn’t want his child to be born in prison.
Who Done It was the most-watched show in TV history, with 83 million flipping on the TV to finally find out who shot JR. So it definitely was worth Linda Gray keeping it a secret.