Here are "Dallas" characters from way back including former wild child Lucy (Charlene Tilton), J.R.'s niece; Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly), the illegitimate son of J.R.'s father; and Gary (Ted Shackelford), the "black sheep" brother who left Dallas for a long life on series spinoff "Knots Landing."
But the embittered John Ross isn't buying that any of the gathered have a kind thought for his father: "Half these people are here to make sure he's dead. The other half are here for the free drinks."
Then decorum is shattered by Cliff Barnes, the Ewings' archenemy (played by Ken Kercheval), who storms into the room and tells J.R.'s brother Bobby, "Since you lost your junkyard dog, there's nothing to keep me from taking your family down."
Is it any wonder a brawl erupts?
The next day, J.R. is mourned at a private graveside service.
Several of the principals speak, and, hearing them, it would be hard for any "Dallas" devotee not to grieve the loss of Larry Hagman, nor to wonder if some of the actors' sorrowful display comes from genuinely missing their fallen cast mate.
Among them is Sue Ellen, who tearfully reveals a letter she has just received from J.R. that begs her for a second chance: "When I get back to Dallas, will you have dinner with me?"
It also turns out J.R. left behind another letter, this one addressed to Bobby (Patrick Duffy).
But what that letter reveals, Bobby isn't saying — not to his family nor, God forbid, the audience.
"I knew you'd have at least one more (trick) left up your sleeve, J.R.," Bobby murmurs later, alone, as he knocks back bourbons poured from J.R.'s own decanter. "And it's a good one."
The task for "Dallas" to outlive J.R. Ewing is huge. Rest in peace, Larry Hagman. But there better be no peace on this show in J.R.'s absence if it hopes to survive its magnificent villain.
Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier