I'm going to not talk about events of the story per se, but talk about a change of attitude in Bilbo and in the dwarves.
At the beginning of Inside Information, Bilbo says:
QUOTE "If you mean you think it is my job to go into the secret passage first, O Thorin Thrain's son Oakenshield, may your beard grow ever longer," he said crossly, "say so at once and have done! I might refuse. I have got you of of two messes already, which were hardly in the original bargain, so that I am, I think, already owned some reward. ..."[/quote]
Here we have a hobbit who is starting to realize his own worth, out of the Shire and in the 'world'. In the Shire, Bilbo didn't have to do anything to maintain his comfortable lifestyle (from what I understand anyway). He had inherited wealth and position, and just lazed around with this and that. His moral fiber had not been tested, nor perhaps even developed! Now he has been through events which tested him and he has grown in inner strength. He is still courteous with the words, but at the same time he is saying he understands what the meaning behind what Thorin says is and he is calling Thorin on it.
Now he is talking to the dwarves as a real person who is becoming aware of his own worth -- and the dwarves are actually listening to him. He is not saying this because of the Ring -- and thinking he will be depending upon it to get him out of trouble or whatever -- he is saying this because this is what he is truly feeling.
I think that if he hadn't had this metanoia (change of stance, or position), the rest of the story would have gone quite otherwise.