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Dallas: The Early Years

Aired: Thursday, November 18, 1999 TNN 8 PM EST

Summary | Trivia, Comments and Nitpick page

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Cast of Characters:

Hoyt Axton as Aaron Southworth
Ryan Beadle as Young Bobby James Ewing
Bill Duke as Seth Foster
Johnny Felder as Young Clifford "Cliff" Barnes
William Frankfather as Newman
Diane Franklin as Amanda
David Marshall Grant as Willard 'Digger' Barnes
Molly Hagan as Elanor "Miss Ellie" Southworth Ewing
Larry Hagman as JR Ewing
Elizabeth Keifer as Cherie
Geoffrey Lewis as Ed Porter
Dale Midkiff as John Ross "Jock" Ewing
Norma Moore as Maggie Barnes
Matt Mulhern as Garrison Southworth
Joe Ranier as Sam Culver
Marjie Rynearson as Barbara Southworth
Marshall Thompson as Dr. Ted Johnson
Andrea Wauters as Young Pam
David Wilson as Jason Ewing
Kevin Wixted as Young JR Ewing 


JR begins the story by talking about "The Early Years" of Dallas to someone who wants to write a book about Jock and Digger way back in the old days.

The action cuts to Armistice Day, 1951, at the Ewing Barbecue. While Ellie and Jock attend to their guests, JR spends time in the hayloft with a pretty young thing named Mary Lou. Maggie Barnes arrives to the barbecue with her young niece Pamela and a mouthy Cliff. A drunken Willard 'Digger' Barnes wanders through the crowd with a gun, which he points at Jock Ewing. A shot is fired...

Cut to 1933. Ellie finds Willard just before a dance party at Southfork to get him dressed up for the event, which he reluctantly decides to attend. Willard ditches Ellie and heads inside the house in search of booze, but is distracted by Ellie's mother Barbara, causing him to cause the whole liquor cabinet to topple. He and Ellie talk later and he tries to tell her that he loves her, but she's blathering on laughing about catching her brother Garrison's girlfriend Cherie about to get it on and doesn't hear him.

That night, after all of the Southfork lights go out, a drunk Willard climbs a ladder up into Ellie's room. He asks Ellie why she laughed at him and she says she just didn't hear him say he loved her. They start to get romantic until overheard by Ellie's brother Garrison, who sends Willard out the window to a nasty fall and a broken wrist.

The next morning, Aaron Southworth tells his daughter that he wanted to leave Willard's father a piece of land but he was too proud to take it. He says he's decided to give Willard the land in the hope that he might gain some common sense - and stay away from Ellie. But Willard's left the premises before Ellie can give him the news.

Cut back to 1951. Digger's shot goes awry and he's divested of his gun by Ellie. Dr. Johnson, who tended his wrist 18 years ago finds that his wrist is permanently mangled because it never healed properly. Jock Ewing wonders what brought Digger back that day, after so long.

Cut back to 1933. In the boxcar of a train, a guy tries to take Willard's daddy's boots while he sleeps and a brawl ensues, which Willard loses because of his broken wrist. Jock happens to be there, comes to his rescue and subdues the would-be thief, who is unceremoniously tossed into a passing creek. Jock advises Willard to take better care of his stuff and splits his lunch with him. They get off at Regal, Texas and meet up with Jock's brother Jason. Oil's just been discovered near the town and the three of them attempt to get on as hired hands for the field boss Ed Porter until Willard pipes up that he doesn't think there's any oil there. Turns out after a few weeks Willard is found to be absolutely right.

Meanwhile, at Southfork, an anthrax outbreak continues to ravage the cattle herd, while oil towers are seen off in the distance.

On their way east to find new work, Jock stops at a sanitarium to see his unstable wife Amanda. While the trio is stopped for car repairs near Pride, Texas, Willard says he knows there's oil right where they're standing. They talk to Seth Foster, a black sharecropper who tells them that most of the land is owned by a man named Newman, who's already got a deal with an oil company. Jock gets an idea and tries to strike a deal with Foster because he sees that Seth's contract entitles him to half of whatever oil is found on the land - but they'll need money to get the project started. Willard gets some money from Jason and joins a poker game, sucking back drinks the whole time. Jock and Jason start to worry as the stakes get higher and higher and Digger grows less and less coherent. An oil lease is tossed into the pot as well and Jock figures it's over when Digger's opponent puts out a full house - but Willard has four fours.

That night, Jock finds that Digger told a prostitute she can have it all because he doesn't care about the money. Realizing that she's telling the truth, Jock lets her go. When Jock rips into him the next morning about it, another fight ensues, which Jason tries to split up until he's told what happened. Enraged, he turns the fight into a triple-threat match. All three combatants end up on the floor.

Things at Southfork become so bad that Aaron Southworth agrees to have the land drilled for oil. But none is found.

Jock enlists the aid of a local lawyer, Sam Culver, to try and convince the local sharecroppers to put in with Jock against Newman. None of them are willing to take the chance to lose what little they have except Foster. The rest of the crowd eventually agrees and Willard again sniffs out the drilling spot. Ed Porter is brought in to get the process started.

Newman returns to Pride and is mad at hell at what's transpired, with words of doom for the sharecroppers who turned on him. Texas Rangers are called in as well as a detective to prevent trouble. No oil is found on Willard's special spot at first, but suddenly a gusher starts spewing out. Ed Porter anoints Willard "Digger" for his wildcatting nose. Sam Culver suggests a community agreement to protect all interested parties, and Newman concurs. That evening, Jason proposes to a local tavern worker named Nancy Shaw.

The prostitute from a few nights ago tells Jock that Jason and Newman are conspiring to turn on the sharecroppers at the meeting to finalize the agreement. Jock warns Ed Porter, who changes the venue of the meeting from the local church to the oil field. In the end it makes little difference because the Sheriff shows up with a dozen KKK hoods, including Newman. Jock leads the assembled throng out of the field house. As torches are lit, one of the hoods falls off of his horse and starts a wildfire which spreads amongst the nearby wells. Most of the hoods crash and burn, and Jock rips into Jason for his stupid greed.

The next morning, before he leaves town, Jason tries to explain that he figured they wouldn't have won a court battle so he sold out to Newman. Jock refuses to buy his argument and is still angered at the betrayal, but he shakes Jason's hand for Nancy's sake. A dude from Petrolux Oil comes by and offers to buy their oil leases - and pay the sharecroppers handsomely - to prevent any future trouble in the area.

A triumphant Jock and Digger take their fortune and buy up some more oil leases. They then head back to Southfork with Sam Culver and his wife for Thanksgiving dinner. Digger gets predictably drunk and again professes his love for Ellie - but this time she feels the same way. Digger passes out and Jock comes by to collect him. Jock tells Ellie that he knows she just wants Digger now that he's a success, in order to save her daddy's ranch. He also tells her to find a dress that fits better, because she obviously stuffed hers in anticipation of Digger's visit.

Jock takes Digger back to their hotel and says he plans to help him win Ellie's heart - unless he messes it up, in which case he considers Ellie fair game. He pours out all of Digger's booze which causes him to go ballistic because it's Sunday the next day and there's no booze to be had. Jock tries to smarten him up and tell him to lay off in order to keep his chance to make a life with Ellie, but Digger goes into another tirade and says he wants out of the partnership. He tosses a coin and Jock calls it correctly. Jock tells Sam he intends to give Digger his rightful share of the proceeds from the wells.

Ellie visits a dead-to-the world Digger at the hotel and is told by Jock that she'll have to sell herself to someone else in order to save her daddy's ranch, which earns him a vicious slap. Ellie returns home to learn that Aaron had a heart attack. She later visits Jock again to apologize, and after another brief argument about whether it's a buyer's or seller's market, Ellie realizes she doesn't have much of a choice in the matter and we have a five-minute love scene.

Ellie visits her father, who's recuperating in the hospital, and tells him that she's been seeing Jock rather than Willard. She heads out to the oil fields to find Jock and tells him that she's pregnant. Ellie expects him to marry her but he hedges on it. Figuring he's just a trifling weasel, Ellie spits at him. With a heavy heart, Jock goes back to visit Amanda to tell her that he has to divorce her. Amanda, of course, has no idea what he's talking about. Jock promises her he'll always take care of her. Then he returns to Southfork with flowers for his bride-to-be. Meanwhile, Digger wanders around the fields and roads nearby, singing "Yellow Rose of Texas".

Cut back to 1951. Digger blathers to his fellow oil workers about how Jock robbed him blind. Aaron and Jock visit him and try to convince him to take the piece of Southfork that Aaron wanted to give him but Digger refuses to take it. He does offer to let Jock buy it from him for $ 1000, and Jock realizes that he's beyond anyone's help.

Cut back to the 1951 Barbecue. Seth's son Ben Foster tells Jock he should have Digger locked up, but Jock reminds him that without Digger, Ben wouldn't be a successful Dallas lawyer.

Cut back to earlier that day. Digger's boss tells him to deliver some samples in a hurry, so he cuts across Southfork. He ends up on the land that would have been his if he hadn't sold it back to Jock and finds that there's oil there. In a mad craze, he heads over to the barbecue.

Back at the barbecue, Jock and Ellie wonder what drove Digger to try and shoot Jock. Cliff and Pam and taken away by JR and Gary, respectively, to the play area. Cliff continues to pout, so Maggie decides to take the kids and leave, dragging Pamela away from the swings and a disappointed Bobby Ewing.

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