J.R. is mourned at a rowdy memorial and somber funeral, and sets his masterpiece in motion from beyond the grave

By Mandi Bierly
March 12, 2013 at 02:00 AM EDT
Zade Rosenthal/TNT
S2 E7
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From the special title sequence created for this episode to the mystery that still remains surrounding who shot J.R., what he dug up on Harris, and why he was looking for Pam, this was an episode designed to honor Larry Hagman in his signature role and ask viewers to keep watching the show without him. For me, the producers succeeded. (They had me at John Ross having sex with Emma in the backseat of a car.) Let’s dig in.

We opened with Bobby, Christopher, John Ross, and Sue Ellen flying into Mexico in a helicopter. John Ross was confused — he thought his father had phoned him from Abu Dhabi. But police said customs records showed J.R. had arrived in Mexico two nights prior with the purpose of “quail hunting.” A female sergeant took them to a hotel room far beneath J.R.’s usual standards where they saw a chalk outline with a blood pool where J.R.’s heart would have been. She suggested J.R. had come to town to do business with a cartel or was simply killed during a robbery because he was a rich tourist. There was no ID on the body. They’d only found his cell phone under the bed.

John Ross asked to be taken to J.R.’s body, and they were led to a crowded morgue also below your NCIS standards. From Sue Ellen’s and John Ross’ reactions when the body bag was unzipped, we knew it was true — J.R. Ewing was dead. Christopher hugged Sue Ellen while Bobby just stood there stoically. The show’s opening credits began and it was an appropriately reverent take on the theme song, like something off the JFK soundtrack. By the time the final image of J.R. faded, I’d teared up. You? They deserve another look. Watch them (and read what producers had to say about the change, and how they pieced together J.R.’s phone call to John Ross in last week’s episode) here.

Bobby didn’t stay silent for long. After he pressured the authorities for an answer as to when he’d be able to take J.R.’s body home, he got in John Ross’ face and asked him why J.R. was in Mexico and what John Ross had brought into their lives now. John Ross told Bobby that all he knows is that J.R. said this would be his masterpiece, and then he heard gunshots.

At the police station, their good friend Carlos — clearly the man in charge — showed up and told everyone to return to Dallas. A teary-eyed John Ross didn’t want to leave his father, but Carlos promised he wouldn’t leave J.R.’s side until he figured out why he’d been in Mexico and said he’d personally escort J.R. home. It was nice that they took the time to linger on John Ross’ painstricken face.

Back at Southfork, Harris arrived to find Emma wearing a cowboy hat. He asked her to come home with him and said he’d “let” her see Ann as much as she wanted. But she wouldn’t budge. Ann came out outside and kindly asked Harris to leave. That went over well. Then Drew appeared and made sure Harris saw that he had a gun on him. Emma ran inside, and Harris left Ann with these words: “Tell your husband that he has no idea what he’s started.” It’s tough to storm off in a Lamborghini, Harris: You have to wait for the door to come down.

Everyone returned from Mexico, and Bobby quickly got to work on funeral and memorial plans because he knew if anything went wrong, J.R. would haunt him. You wanted to laugh, but too soon, right? Gary didn’t know how to feel — he spent his life hating J.R., but now he’s gone. Sue Ellen didn’t either — she expected this to happen for 30 years, and now it has. She went to check on John Ross, who was searching J.R.’s room for clues to who killed his father. “Half the people in this phonebook wanted to,” Sue Ellen said helpfully. Maybe it was just a petty thief, and that was one of the many ironies of J.R.’s life, she said. It best not be, Sue Ellen, I thought. And REALLY? She wanted to keep working on Gary to get the oil turned back on? John Ross couldn’t believe that either. “Are you kidding me? My father’s barely cold, and you’re talkin’ about already going to seduce his brother? Could you at least pretend to mourn him for five minutes, for my sake?” he shouted. He stormed off, and Sue Ellen took out the letter J.R. had sent her. She still couldn’t open it. But man, the booze in J.R.’s engraved bottle was starting to look real good. FORESHADOWING.

NEXT: A toast to J.R.

The memorial was held at the Dallas Petroleum Club. Along with Gary, Ray Krebbs and Lucy were there. Bobby chatted with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Jerry Jones, and Mark Cuban (who told him that when the Mavs finally won that championship, J.R. sent him a note that just said “About time”). Sue Ellen, meanwhile, chatted with J.R.’s ex-wife Cally and mistress Mandy Winger about how hot J.R. was. “All right, let’s face it, he was as bad as they come, but he was as hot as hell,” Cally argued. Mandy agreed: “He was hot as hell because he was as bad as they come.” There was a purpose to that conversation: Mandy said Sue Ellen was the lucky one because she made peace with J.R. and got over him. Sue Ellen explained that the many years of him lying and cheating on her had helped. Obviously, she hadn’t gotten over J.R., and we wondered whether she’d join the ladies in a little bourbon and branch — J.R.’s drink of choice being served. She didn’t. Yet.

John Ross was drinking at the bar and didn’t want to be comforted by Christopher and Elena. When Elena said J.R. had touched a lot of lives, John Ross snapped back that half the people there came to make sure J.R. was really dead and the other half were there for the free drinks. Where was Pamela, I thought? Someone needs to be there just for John Ross. But then she did show up, and John Ross wouldn’t let her in either: She cares about herself and what makes her dad happy more than him, he said. He stormed off up the stairs, hearing people gossip about J.R.’s passing on the way. Emma was in a wine closet getting ready to take her pills. John Ross spotted her, took the bottle, read the label — the sedative Clonazepam — and helped himself to one. Is it wrong that I totally wanted them to hook up right there, even with the see-through door? He handed back the bottle and left.

Speaking of see-through, Sue Ellen clung to Gary and said she felt so alone and needed him more than ever. She claimed she had never wanted a drink more (okay, that part was believable). She said J.R. always wanted everyone to get drunk at his funeral — he thought it would make everyone honest. “I want to be honest with you, tonight, Gary,” Sue Ellen said. OHMYGOD, SHE IS HORRIBLE AT THIS! She looked fabulous though in a cutout black dress and large gold earrings.

Now it was time for the main attraction: Enter Cliff Barnes, who announced that he was there to pay his “disrespects and good riddance.” Screw you, Cliff! John Ross went after Cliff saying he’d killed J.R., and Christopher stopped him. Cliff said he wishes he had but somebody beat him to it. Bobby thought Cliff would have enough decency to leave the feud at home today, but Cliff said without the “junkyard dog” J.R., nothing would stop him from taking the Ewing family down. Pamela stepped in and asked Cliff to go home — for her. He did, but not before saying, “Look who’s dancing on whose grave now,” which harkened back to J.R.’s dig at Cliff when he first saw him in the TNT reboot.

Another man piped up saying J.R. was a junkyard dog who died the way he deserved in the armpit of the world. Christopher stopped John Ross from going after that guy, too. But twist! “I got this, cousin,” he said. Then he punched the guy. A fist fight broke out, and Christopher and John Ross started swinging. Wouldn’t that be something if J.R.’s death brought Christopher and John Ross together — at least for an episode?

When we caught up to everyone back at Southfork, the bruised cousins were side-by-side with their jackets off. “That was awesome,” John Ross conceded, icing his face. Christopher told him they’d find out who killed J.R. and avenge his death as brothers. “Ewings take care of Ewings, always,” Christopher said.

Carlos showed up at Southfork with the medical examiner, the sergeant, and someone else we never really met. He said the police were right: J.R. was the victim of a robbery-homicide. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. John Ross refused to believe it. But they said J.R. had met a lady at a club near the Hotel Colon (“not a professional sort of lady”), and she’d asked him to meet her some place near where she worked. They found a witness who said he saw someone follow J.R. into the hotel, but there was no suspect — the description was very general. The fatal wound came from a Saturday Night Special, and it was unlikely that the killer would ever be found. John Ross stormed off again. This time he went outside and drank directly from the bottle, which he shared with Emma when she joined him. So either she’s badder than we thought, or she’s been so good for so long that she wants to be bad. “You high?” he asked her. “You’re low,” she said. This is how you seduce, Sue Ellen! She went into the backseat of a nearby SUV and peeled off her jacket (did she have a shirt on underneath that or just a bra?). They started getting it on. HOT!

Inside, as Ann and Bobby took all the pillows off their bed, things were downright chilly. Ann begged Bobby to talk to her. She thought he was upset and confused about J.R., and he was no doubt, but he was more upset that their relationship wasn’t strong when he needed it to be. He admitted he was pissed at her. How could she not tell him about Emma? He thought they’d talk about how isolated and insignificant she’d made him feel after the trial when life got back to normal. She had no idea Bobby felt this way. (Neither did we, Ann!) She said she’d do anything to make it right. He just told her to talk to the hand and walked out.

Sue Ellen, meanwhile, went into J.R.’s room, and with a photo of them and the letter, sat down at a table in front of his booze. She poured herself a drink, toasted their photo, and drank. Glass. After. Glass.

NEXT: The funeral

At the funeral, many people spoke about J.R.: Half-brother Ray expressed how it feels to be related to J.R. Ewing — you don’t whether to celebrate or shoot yourself — which was the general theme of Gary’s speech as well (every step he’d taken forward or back had been because of J.R.). Niece Lucy put it nicely when she said in the end, J.R.’s horrible deeds just seemed honest; he never pretended to be anything but himself. Elena told how J.R. encouraged her to make her father proud after he died when she was nine. And Christopher recounted the only time J.R. had let him inside the inner circle was when he was seven: J.R. sat him down and said he didn’t know why Pam left when she had a good, smart little boy like him, and that Christopher was a Ewing now — so he had to stop crying and behave like one.

I held it together until Sue Ellen spoke. She talked about meeting J.R. when she was Miss Texas. She fell madly, passionately, hopefully in love with the most infuriating, charming scoundrel she’s ever know. It was enough to drive a girl to drink, she said. And then she admitted she’d spent the night in J.R.’s room drinking liquid courage to read the letter he’d sent her. Everyone looked so sad, for multiple reasons. “I’m a bit drunk now,” she said. “And I wanted to share the letter that J.R. wrote to me.” In it, J.R. said apologizing for everything he needed to would take all the time he had left. He said he was never worthy of her, but he loved her from the moment he saw her — and today, he loves her more than he ever did. His greatest hope was to earn a second chance with her. “So what do you say? When I get back to Dallas, will you have dinner with me?” she read. That’s when Sue Ellen and I both lost it. “Yes, yes, J.R., the answer is yes. You were the love of my life,” she said, touching his American flag-cloaked coffin. She broke down, and Bobby rose to bring her back to her seat as John Ross sat teary-eyed. It was Bobby’s turn now. Throughout his life, Bobby said, it’d been easy for him to do good because he could count on J.R. to do bad. A lot of times, the bad things J.R. did were necessary — more often than he cares to admit. His brother is dead, and now he has to figure out what he’s supposed to do. I was surprised I didn’t cry then, but that’s just because they were saving Bobby’s moment for later.

John Ross didn’t speak at the service. He was the last one there though, sitting with the American flag on his lap. It was a beautiful shot, with Christopher standing nearby. When Christopher finally approached John Ross and put his hand on John Ross’ shoulder, John Ross again didn’t want to be comforted. He got up and went closer to the grave, which was now piled high with dirt and flowers. Bum showed up at the cemetery and said he brought a message from J.R. — a box marked Fragile.

NEXT: J.R. may get the last laugh yet

Back at Southfork, Bum said J.R. had gone to do oil business in Abu Dhabi, but he chose that location because for the last several months, he was trying to find Christopher’s mother, Pam. He handed Christopher a file and said after Christopher read that, he’d understand why it was important for him to continue the search. Intriguing.

As for why J.R. then went to Mexico, Bum said he was there following a lead on Harris. Remember, J.R. had said he’d help Bobby take Harris down — that was going to be his masterpiece. He gave Bobby a folder of papers. Bum said J.R. knew what he was investigating was dangerous, and if something happened to him, he wanted them to have these things. So it was Harris who killed J.R., John Ross insisted. Bum said no, it really was a mugger. But he had something for John Ross, too. He gave him a box holding a gun, and a note. The note said if John Ross was reading this, J.R. was dead — which means Cliff Barnes will come after him (meaning the family, I assume). “You must crush him before he can win,” J.R. had written. He thinks Harris will join forces with Cliff to destroy them. (That’ll be fun!!!) “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,” the letter ended.

While we were processing that, Bum gave Bobby one last envelope. Bobby didn’t tell Christopher and John Ross what it said, he just motioned for Bum to follow him. He told Bum to pay off whoever he had to so everyone still thinks J.R. was killed by a mugger. When the time comes, they’ll take care of this themselves as a family, he said. So who did it?! The mystery continues. Very smart of the producers (who, by the way, promise we’ll learn the answer by season’s end.)

Bobby went into J.R.’s room and poured himself a drink (or two). He saw J.R.’s hat and sat on the edge of his bed. “I knew you’d have at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R.,” he said. “It is a good one. I love you, brother.” Then he broke down as he drank his bourbon, and I seriously thought about pouring myself one. The tears in Patrick Duffy’s eyes had to gut you. They were real.

Once you dry your eyes, share your theories. Who shot J.R.? Why does Christopher need to find Pam? And what’s the next move in the war between the Ewings and Clarris (Cliff and Harris)?

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  • 04/02/78-05/03/91
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