In “Quandary,” expectant parents Ray and Donna Krebbs deal with the news their child will be born with Down syndrome. Donna wants to have the baby, believing it would be wrong to terminate the pregnancy just because the child will be abnormal. Ray has strong feelings too: He candidly admits he isn’t ready to raise a child who is likely to have many health problems. By the end of the episode, though, Donna has brought her husband around to her way of thinking. Placing Ray’s hand on her belly, she tearfully says, “This baby was conceived in love — our love. How could it be anything but right?”
Like Sue Ellen’s efforts to get sober, Ray and Donna’s storyline feels like a deliberate attempt to inject more realism into “Dallas’s” ninth season. Fans who come to the series for escapist entertainment tend to be dismissive of these sorts of things, but I find a lot here to admire. Steve Kanaly and Susan Howard each deliver moving performances, and Joel J. Feigenbaum’s script is sensitive without ever resorting to schmaltz. There’s no doubt “Dallas” is trying to educate its audience — particularly in the scene where Donna’s doctor ticks off a list of Down syndrome statistics — but the story never becomes as heavy-handed as Miss Ellie’s third-season bout with breast cancer, “Dallas’s” other stab at so-called relevant storytelling.
Besides, it’s not like Feigenbaum doesn’t give us the usual wheeling and dealing too. After announcing her decision in the previous episode to take Bobby’s place at Ewing Oil, Pam shows up for work in “Quandary” and immediately clashes with J.R. She memorably cuts short his attempt to bully her by buzzing Phyllis and ordering “a cup of tea — a cup of herbal tea,” then quietly melts after he storms out of the room. Later, Pam is forced to crash a staff meeting when J.R. fails to invite her, which is a fun scene for a lot of reasons, especially since it confirms that J.R. and his secretaries are not, in fact, the only employees of this multi-billion-dollar corporation. I also like how J.R. and Cliff’s meetings with mysterious shipping executive Angelica Nero illustrate their differing styles: Cliff leaps at the opportunity to join forces with her, while J.R. plays it much cooler, wining and dining Angelica and even pretending to not mind when she orders mussels at La Champagne.
“Quandary” also has fun with Cliff and Jamie in the scene where she hangs up on him — repeatedly — when he calls to apologize for their latest fight. I also appreciate how this episode shows Sue Ellen telling Dusty she needs to focus on the other relationships in her life before she resumes her romance with him. Isn’t it nice to see Linda Gray’s character becoming smarter and wiser? In the same spirit, I like how Pam and Mark’s relationship is maturing. He spends this episode feeling overshadowed by Bobby’s ghost, and then in the sexy final scene, Pam barges into Mark’s bedroom, kicks off her heels and climbs into bed with him. If that doesn’t prove she wants the guy, what does?
These relationships stand in contrast to J.R. and Mandy’s, which no longer rings true. After spending much of the previous season refusing to become J.R.’s mistress, Mandy has now surrendered all her principles, although the show hasn’t gotten around to telling us why. In “Quandary,” she even allows J.R. to buy her a love nest, which the couple “christens” by hopping into a bubble bath and sipping champagne. What happened to the strong, independent-minded woman who once threw a key in J.R.’s face when he tried to rent her an apartment? Did Mandy have a lobotomy when she left town a few episodes ago, or has she always been this vacuous? Could it be the air in those bubbles is a metaphor for the space between her ears?
Season 9, Episode 8
Airdate: November 8, 1985
Audience: 19.5 million homes, ranking 11th in the weekly ratings
Writer: Joel J. Feigenbaum
Director: Michael Preece
Synopsis: Ray and Donna decide to continue her pregnancy. Angelica uses Cliff as bait to lure J.R., although her real target is J.R. Jamie leaves Cliff over deceiving Pam, whose decision to work at Ewing Oil sparks backlash from J.R. and Mark. Sue Ellen tells Dusty she must decide what to do about her marriage. J.R. and Mandy resume their affair.
Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Barbara Carrera (Angelica Nero), Linda Gehringer (Ewing Oil employee), Lee Gideon (Carl), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Frances Lee McCain (Dr. Amy Rose), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Deborah Shelton (Mandy Winger), Michael Skipper (Bill Crawford), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Merete Van Kamp (Grace)