TVLine Performers of the Week: Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray of Dallas

Dallas Season 2 Linda Gray, Patrick DuffyA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMERS | Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy

THE SHOW | Dallas (TNT)

THE EPISODE | “J.R.’s Masterpiece”

THE AIRDATE | March 11, 2013

RELATED | Dallas Corrals Season-High Ratings for J.R. Ewing’s Exit

THE PERFORMANCES | When crafting the send-off for not just a character as iconic as wily J.R. Ewing but, embedded within that, his passed-on portrayer Larry Hagman, surely it’s tempting to press play on a montage of classic clips (if rights issues don’t get in the way, that is) or scatter around a few retro snapshots. But as TNT’s new Dallas laid J.R. to rest, Gray and Duffy stepped forward as the pallbearers carrying more than 15 aggregate years’ worth of history and emotions.

After barely processing his brother’s death (under, of course, suspect circumstances), Bobby exhibited the blow he had absorbed by deflecting Ray Krebbs’ well-meaning platitude with a brusque, “Well, he’s not [coming back].” Sue Ellen meanwhile was left to ruminate over a letter J.R. had left for her before taking what would be his final trip, long eyeballing a bottle of bourbon before making a single toast to an old picture of her and her ex. At this pivotal moment in the dry doyenne’s life, Gray registered disgust at the strange-yet-familiar taste, before the character tragically imbibed again. And again.

At J.R.’s gravesite, Gray’s sometimes-icy alter ego wore her heart on her sleeve, recounting how years ago she found herself “madly, passionately, hopelessly in love with the most charming scoundrel I’ve ever known.” After acknowledging that she had given back in to  drink, she shared that J.R.’s letter was an overture to rekindle their love affair upon his return. “Yes, J.R. The answer is yes,” she directed at his casket. Through sobs, she attested, “You were the love of my life.”

Bobby’s eulogy followed, commenting on J.R.’s role as the doer of bad (if necessary) things, thus making it “easy for me to do good.” But with that familial foil now gone, “I have to figure out just what I’m supposed to do in this grand scheme of things.”

By episode’s end, Bobby had his answer, in the form of a mysterious letter left for him by J.R. With a nod to his brother’s hat hooked on a nearby chair, Bobby said, “I knew you had at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R — and it’s a good one. I love you, brother.”

RELATED | Dallas Post Mortem: Weigh In on J.R.’s Funeral and Get Scoop on Pam’s Return

HONORABLE MENTION | The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg, who delivered an emotional wallop (and landed a few terrific zingers) as Howard debated whether or not to read an unopened letter from his estranged father. We laughed, we cried, we were reminded that Helberg remains the CBS comedy’s most underrated performer.

What performance knocked your socks off this week?