Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 87 – ‘Starting Over’



At the end of “Starting Over,” Bobby enters the Southfork foyer holding Christopher, the infant he believes J.R. fathered with Kristin. Bobby plans to confront his brother with the boy, but when Pam spots the newborn, she assumes her husband has finally found a child for them to adopt. “It happened!” Pam says after she snatches Christopher from Bobby’s arms. “Oh, we’ve got a baby to adopt!”

Freeze frame. Flash credits. Roll eyes.

Since the baby at the center of this scene will grow up to be Jesse Metcalfe’s character on TNT’s “Dallas,” this is one of the most consequential moments in the history of the franchise. It’s also one of the silliest. Do the writers really expect us to believe Pam would see Bobby with a baby and automatically assume it’s for her? For a woman who just checked out of a mental hospital, Pam has never seemed loonier.

Despite this, “Starting Over” is one of the fifth season’s strongest entries. The scene where Sue Ellen finally acknowledges she and Dusty have grown apart is nicely written, even if the dialogue isn’t quite as poetic as the couple’s previous farewell in the fourth-season entry “Lover, Come Back.” I also like “Starting Over’s” shot of J.R., lying alone in his shadowy New York City hotel room. It brings to mind the “Gone But Not Forgotten” scene where J.R. stands silently in the Southfork nursery, missing John Ross. This has been a dark season for our hero, hasn’t it?

My favorite scene of all comes at the beginning of “Starting Over’s” third act, when Miss Ellie summons Ray to the Southfork living room and gently gets him to admit: a) he’s bitten off more than he can chew with his latest real estate deal; and b) he should accept help from her. Ellie isn’t necessarily closer to Ray than she is to her biological sons, but their relationship feels more mature. This makes sense. Ellie and Ray did become “mother” and “son” as adults, and as she once pointed out, neither was born with the Ewing name.

More than anything, I love watching Barbara Bel Geddes and Steve Kanaly perform together. Both are terrific actors who make their characters feel like relatable people. They keep “Dallas” grounded, which is important – especially when Pam is running around Southfork, snatching babies.

Grade: A


Dark times

Dark times


Season 5, Episode 10

Airdate: December 11, 1981

Audience: 23.2 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer and Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Bobby determines J.R. is Christopher’s father and brings him to Southfork, where Pam assumes the boy is a child for her and Bobby to adopt. Miss Ellie agrees to loan Ray $3 million from Ewing Oil to salvage his development deal, then discovers J.R. has depleted the company’s cash reserves. Sue Ellen breaks up with Dusty after he returns to the rodeo circuit.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Edmund Gilbert (Paul Winslow), Bruce Gray (Dr. Alan Cosby), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Barry Nelson (Arthur Elrod), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Gretchen Wyler (Dr. Dagmara Conrad)

“Starting Over” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.


  1. Great review! LOL. I think Pam’s baby snatching is one of the looniest things she’s ever done and probably one of the craziest Dallas subplots. It calls for a major eye-roll. And tsk, tsk, Bobby for just standing by and letting it all happen. At least Christopher got a home and despite all the dysfunction, a lot of love.

    • Can you imagine what Christopher’s life would have been like if he had been raised by sleazy Jeff Farraday? Like you wrote, at least with the Ewings he got a home and two loving parents (until mom ran away, that is).

  2. barbara fan says:

    Great review (as always) and agree with your comments re Miss Ellie and Ray – along with Donna they kept Dallas grounded and you can relate to them,
    there is hardly a dud episode this season
    (those were the days Cynthia Cidre – you should watch and learn!)
    thanks Chris – love BF original Dallas fan of original Dallas and cast!!

  3. Ugh, Pam is becoming so annoying this season. I really don’t like her character( or the way she was written) . Pam and bobby were perfectly suited in season 1and 2. Then it just seemed they were no longer a good match. But I’m biased, being a big fan of the later seasons.

    • Interesting! I usually hear the opposite: Fans like the earlier and middle seasons better than the later ones. What do you like about the later years?

      Thanks for commenting!

      • I think it’s just because I remember watching the later seasons live. My mom, aunt and I Friday evenings, getting all excited. Then I went back and watched from the beginning when I was older. Might be time to start over and enjoy them all again! New perspectives!

      • I know what you mean. Nostalgia plays a big role in my love of “Dallas.”

        I think I started watching the show in 1979 or 1980 and mostly stuck with it until the very last episode. I have a kind of special affection for the final seasons because, at that point, I was a teenager and had a better understanding for what was happening on screen. I have nice memories of watching those episodes alongside my dad, who was the other big “Dallas” fan in our household.

        Thanks for your comments!

        Chris B.

  4. I like what you wrote about Ray. In a sixth season episode I watched recently she tells someone that she considers Ray to be another son and that he’s more like her than J.R. or Bobby in many ways. To a certain extent, do you think Ray has basically taken the place of Gary?

    • Yes, I think Ray and Gary serve a similar purpose. Both characters are colored in shades of gray. They’re not quite as heroic as Bobby nor are they as unethical as J.R.

  5. J.R.Ewing says:

    I disagree that the idea of Pam believing the baby to have been adopted for her is silly. I believe it is totally in keeping with what we know of her life at this time. She has previously suffered miscarriage, the threat of a baby having a genetic illness and now is told she will never concieve. Obviously this has played on her mind to the point she has become obsessed, depressed, suicidal and suffers a breakdown. The short period she spent in the sanitarium is not going to cure her overnight. The need to be a mother is so overwhelming and all consuming that logic goes out the window. How can you expect someone who has suffered what she has suffered to think logically. She is mentally ill. The thing a lot of other fans have difficulty in believing is how she goes from being depressed to so elated in such a short space of time and I think that can be explained, in that she has achieved what in part was the focus of her depression. Having a baby.

  6. I cracked up reading the caption in the photo of Pam and the baby. Very funny!!!

  7. kirksroom says:

    This episode started out great, and as I watched the first acts, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bobby and Pamela’s scenes were written very well, and J.R.’s scenes were fun, but then they just abruptly ending without going anywhere at all. Jordan and Vaughn came to J.R.’s office to remind him to pay up, and J.R. again failed to sell his oil. However, the scene with Vaughn and Jordan was very well acted and written, but

  8. C.B., J.R. has the legal right as President & Chairman (with Jock dead) to move around Ewing Oil Co. Ltd. cash w/o consulting the other owners of the company. He has that right. Miss Ellie could certainly have offered up a personal loan to Ray here, what with her & the late John Ross Ewing Senior’s wealth combined. Maybe even Clayton would have gone in for 1.5 million $ b/c of his great respect for Ray.

  9. Re-watching old episodes starting season three I’m puzzled that nobody was actually trying to find Kristin’s baby. Especially after Kristin died, wouldn’t you think that JR tries to find out what happened to the baby that he presumably fathered? Or Sue Ellen as the aunt, or mother Shepherd as the grandmother. I’m assuming she was in touch with Kristin at least at some point during her ten months of pregnancies. And nobody wondered what happened to the baby? Very odd…

  10. I do not think that Pam was crazy to believe that the baby Bobby had was one from an adoption agency. Bobby had told her when she was in the mental hospital that no agency had called yet but they had to give it time and he was still working on it. I mean come on where could that baby come from the Ewings did not know any other baby except John Ross III, so where or who could that baby come from. Pam could have thought also that Bobby did finally get a baby from an agency and was going to surprise her when she finally could come home from the hospital if she had not already checked herself out. The thing that seemed unusual to me is that the writers did not go more into Pam’s depression and suicide attempt with the Dr. and ended that storyline so quickly, having Pam turn around so quick just because she got a baby was odd. Her feeling of self hatred and being depressed could magically disappear with the presence of a baby???

  11. In this episode, we could see how deep can be Dallas. How many tv show have empty secondary characters ? But not in Dallas.

    Take a look on Jeff Farraday. In a scene, Bobby said he despide Jeff. But on the last scene, with stuff for the baby Jeff provides plus his advice about what food Christopher likes, we can see than Jeff have a little crush for the baby, even if he takes the money. And Bobby notices the sad gaze of Jeff at this moment and became cooler with him.

    I love those little details (as could have said Lt Columbo^^)

  12. I can believe that Pam would think the child was theirs to adopt (why else would Bobby be carrying a baby into the house?) BUT… the part I didn’t understand is why Bobby would bring Christopher to Southfork. Yeah he wants to confront JR, but he could do that anyway, without physically having the baby there. He has documented proof that the baby is Kristen’s, he could confront JR with the birth certificate.


  1. […] (Jared Martin) returns to the rodeo circuit in this 1981 publicity shot from “Starting Over,” a fifth-season “Dallas” […]

  2. […] “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Starting Over,” Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) summons Ray (Steve Kanaly) to the Southfork living room, where they […]

  3. […] first appearance on “Dallas” since Dusty bid Sue Ellen farewell in the fifth-season episode “Starting Over.” I’ve always loved Martin’s chemistry with Linda Gray, but frankly their characters annoy me a […]

  4. […] vengeful brother. Later, J.R. and Sue Ellen have a son, John Ross, while Bobby and Pam adopt Christopher, the orphaned child of Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) and sleazy Jeff Faraday […]

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