David Bock
May 13, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Was it a prime-time night of the living dead? Or just a case of mistaken identity? Daytime soap operas had brought characters back to life for years, but when loyal viewers heard in the spring of ’86 that Patrick Duffy would be returning to Dallas, they wondered how the show would pull it off. After all, his character, Bobby Ewing, had been killed with such finality in a car crash the previous season that the prospect of his returning to the sixth-place series seemed laughable. Speculation was rampant: Would he be a long-lost brother or an evil impostor? Or neither?

One clue to the answer was revealed during the final seconds of the May 16, 1986, season finale, when Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal) wakes up, hears the shower running, goes into the bathroom and-poof!-sees former husband Bobby standing in the shower. ”Good morning,” he says, and the season ends.

That ambiguous but tantalizing closing came as a surprise to everyone-even Duffy. ”I did not know when that scene was going to be inserted until I saw it that night on the air,” recalls Duffy. ”Nor did Victoria. I got a call from her almost immediately and she thought it was terrific.”

When Principal originally shot the scene it was actor John Beck—playing the role of her new husband, Mark Graison—who was in the shower. But executive producer Leonard Katzman edited in Duffy after the fact from footage shot for a bogus Irish Spring soap commercial that Katzman and Duffy had staged in order to keep the new plotline a secret-even from the show’s cast. ”We shot it in a little studio in downtown Hollywood with a (non-Dallas crew),” says Duffy. ”It looked like a legitimate commercial so that Leonard could extract that ‘Good morning’ from it.”

Like all good cliff-hangers, Duffy’s brief appearance raised many questions. ”Even I had to wait the whole summer to find out (exactly) what happened,” says Duffy. ”And I was the one coming back.” The mystery was solved, however, in the first scene of the following season premiere, when Pam tells Bobby that she’d had ”a terrible nightmare” in which he had died. And just like that, nearly everything that had happened the previous season was undone.

The move upset some fans and appalled many critics, but it was a ratings hit, drawing 36 million viewers. Says Katzman of Duffy’s return: ”It resuscitated a show that I think everybody had taken for granted and got it back on the front page again.”

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