Key Points:

Twenty-eight years after a mystery assailant shot JR Ewing on Dallas - and 13 years after The Simpsons parodied the historic television event with Who Shot Mr Burns? - Shortland Street writers created their own homage to the iconic episode with last night's Christmas cliffhanger.

As the dastardly Ethan Pierce stumbled and flailed to his apparent death, you can bet TVNZ's publicity department were already printing their "Who Shot EP?" T-shirts and billboards.

Last night's season finale didn't stop at Dallas. There were allusions to the Godfather franchise - in the shape of a (supposedly) trained assassin who followed Ethan throughout the day, watching him through his rifle scope - and again, during the final, bloodless shooting sequence, choreographed to the dramatic trill of an operatic aria.

Austin Powers' Dr Evil also got a look in - perhaps unintentionally - as actor Peter Mochrie repeatedly tensed his mouth like a sphincter every time his character Callum McKay discovered a new revelation about Pierce's evil duplicity.

Pierce has proved himself a most excellent baddie - the best the Street has seen since the days of the villainous Oscar Henry. Who, incidentally, starred in the Christmas cliffhanger of 1998, lying dead on the floor of Ellen and David's house.

Of course, in fine soap opera tradition, he wasn't really dead. Just like JR in Dallas, Henry survived the attempt on his life, and we can only presume so too will Pierce.

Which will undoubtedly lead to some high drama revenge in 2009.

Pierce isn't the type of guy to take a shooting lying down. After all, this is the man who had fisticuffs with his anaesthetist in the middle of an operating theatre, whilst his haemophiliac patient lay bleeding on the table, all because his colleague wanted to call Chris Warner for help.

The question is, just who will he be reaping his revenge on?

If we follow the Dallas model, Alice Piper will be the prime suspect. As Pierce's partner, she is the Sue Ellen of the piece, and had conveniently been shooting her mouth off earlier in the day about how much she would like to, er, shoot Pierce.

But just like Sue Ellen, Piper was too sloshed to stand on her own, let alone pop a shot into Pierce's chest.

Then there's the hitman, hired by Kieran Mitchell, who has been following Pierce throughout the day, oblivious to Mitchell's attempts to call off the kill.

Libby and the entire Jeffries family also have motive to murder after learning Pierce is responsible for Yvonne's cancer, while Dr McKay is equally miffed after discovering Pierce was not simply an investor in Nessus-Bio but the owner of the dodgy outfit.

Yes, there are plenty of people who want to see him dead. But perhaps none more so than his spurned lover, and ongoing D&S [dominance and submission] partner, Brooke Freeman.

As Pierce sped off in his silver sportscar, leaving a broken Freeman alone and bereft in the carpark, you could see the psychosis set in.

Which would tie in perfectly with the original Dallas plotline, in which J.R's mistress Kristin Shepard was revealed to be the assailant.

Then again, the Shortland Street writers have prided themselves on being funny buggers this year, so maybe they'll take a leaf from The Simpsons' book and blame it on Baby Jay.

It would still be more believable than the idea of a trained assassin stalking suburban Auckland streets.