As season eight of Dallas gets under way, Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) painfully convalesces from the gunshot wound that felled him at the end of season seven. The most likely suspect would seem to be Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), the brother of Bobby's ex-wife, Pam (Victoria Principal), but in fact the would-be killer is Cliff and Pam's obsessive half-sister, Katherine (Morgan Brittany), who was incensed that Bobby had spurned her in favor of his fiancée, Jenna (Priscilla Presley). Had Katherine but waited a while, she could have saved a bullet; Bobby breaks up with Jenna, who ends up wedding a former lover, Renaldo Marchetta (Daniel Pilon) -- and is then accused of Marchetta's murder! In other romantic developments, despite all of the evil J.R. Ewing's (Larry Hagman) efforts, his mother, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), has tied the matrimonial knot with Clayton Barlow (Howard Keel), millionaire father of Dusty Barlow, the former lover of J.R.'s wife, Sue Ellen (Victoria Principal). But is it really Miss Ellie who walks down the aisle? Well, technically, it is -- but it isn't the same actress who has been playing the character since Dallas began. Citing illness and exhaustion, Barbara Bel Geddes had left Dallas at the end of its seventh season. Her replacement is Donna Reed, light years removed from the innocuous 1950s sitcom that bore her name in the title. Getting back to the Miss Ellie-Barlow nuptials, all is not peach blossoms and roses. It turns out that Clayton has a demented sister named Jessica (Alexis Smith) -- who very nearly commits wholesale murder before she's caught and institutionalized.
Newcomers to the cast this season include Joshua Harris as Christopher Ewing, Bobby and Pamela's adopted son; Jenilee Harrison as cousin Jamie Ewing, who is destined to wed Cliff Barnes after aligning with him to wrest a piece of Ewing Oil from J.R.; and Deborah Shelton as Mandy Winger, who arouses the libido of both J.R. and Cliff, but who definitely prefers one over the other. Conversely, two of Dallas' stalwart leading players make their exits this season: Charlene Tilton as Lucy Ewing (though she'd eventually return), and more spectacularly, Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing. Honoring Duffy's insistence that he wanted to leave the series to pursue different roles, the writers contrived to have Bobby get killed while trying to save Pamela from a deranged hit-and-run driver (Katherine Wentworth again!). Thus, the season ends with the hospitalized Bobby "flatlining" -- thereby setting the stage for the series' notorious "dream" season.