Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 199 — ‘Quandary’

Dallas, Donna Krebbs, Quandary, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard

Courageous convictions

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?

Grade: B

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Deborah Shelton, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Mandy Winger, Quandary

Bubble heads

‘QUANDARY’

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)

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

Comments

  1. I cannot comment on this episode because did not see it and glad I did not due to Pam jumping into bed with Ugh Mark (could not stomach that). It is like she forgot about her love for Bobby so quickly. I mean it seems the writers just rushed storylines and relationships this season cannot wait for this nightmare to be over!!!

  2. Susan and Steve ROCK!

    That final scene of Pam and Mark was very sexy. I remember watching that when I was younger when it first aired and thought it very steamy.

    Pam, Mark, Suan and Steve and original Ellie are the only thing that keeps this season going from here on until the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers.

  3. As I have a relative with Down’s Syndrome I can attest to just what a great guy he is. I am so glad Raymond & Donna decided to put time in with the down’s kids at their camp as well as treat them with respect at the stables with horses at The Southfork Ranch!

  4. I think it’s great that Ray and Donna keep the baby. Being a parent is time consuming and there is no going back to “normal” once a child enters the picture. I know Susan Howard says she was fired from “Dallas” because she expressed her opposition to her character having an abortion. The other side of the story is that she was let go because they ran out of story lines for her character. I think this is an important episode and it is educational. 90% , 9 out of 10 pregnancies that have the baby diagnosed with down syndrome are aborted. That disturbs me. I am not trying to say that everyone should have the same position on abortion as Susan Howard on abortion because people are quite capable of making up their own minds. I feel we can do better for people with down syndrome than preventing them from being born to begin with.

    • It was my assumption that they let Susan Howard go for budget reasons. If I remember correctly she was a very popular character with the viewers. They probably would have kept her on the show if she had agreed to work for free (just slightly exaggerating). After all, the ones who “got rid” of her fetus were not the ones who let her go a year later. I am also sure that they let go Victoria Principal for the same reason. I am calling her statement wanting to leave b/s. The actors became very expensive after so many years and Lorimar was not just not increasing the budget. They were cutting the budget because revenue from commercials went down and because they were cheapskates. And on top of that Larry H. kept asking for more money.
      There was still a lot of fictional life in for Donna or Pam. They knew those two would be leaving the show and they made the characters less appealing to make their farewell less painful. Again: Just my assumption. Not sure any writer or producer would openly confirm my theory. 😉

  5. There are two ways to look at Mandy caving into JR.
    A) It’s a dream and she never really caved.
    B) JR always gets what he wants. (And Mandy did hold out longer than most.)

  6. I loved those “grounded” stories about Sue Ellen learning how to stay sober or Donna & Ray dealing with a difficult pregnancy. Stories like these not only make over-the-top stories like Marinos or Jenna turning crazy bearable. The grounded ones get me the impression that the whole show and all stories are still rooted in a real(istic) world (even if that’s hardly true in any soap). Over the top is only OK if the grounded story lines are still out there. If everything goes over the top like the other 80s weekly soap with a D. it’s losing credibility. That’s why I still cherish this dream season even if it has its flaws.

  7. Pam rocks in that scene with JR in Bobby’s office. 🙂
    As for Mandy’s weird change of attitude towards JR – my point exactly. (As I mentioned in my comment of “Wind Of Change”.) Lobotomy seems to be the only logical explanation indeed! Did the writers really think the fans would be too stupid to notice that drastic change? What kind of “love” is it that makes you give up your dignity?

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