Ahhh, Ray Krebs. Your tangled love life is a mess, but in Donna Culver’s debut, we see the bright shining hope for your future.
Not today, of course. She’s still a Culver and won’t be your wife for a while. But this episode introduces one of my favorite characters and actresses (until I discovered she is a gun-nutty board member of the NRA … Why, Donna? Why?) and it’s a low-key episode for the most part but packs an emotional punch.
It’s breakfast time at the ranch and J.R. is on the phone trying to reach Kit Mainwaring’s father. Still trying to salvage that refinery deal! Good on you, J.R., but ain’t gonna happen. Mainwaring is not taking his calls.
In the dining room, Lucy is depressed and moping. J.R. subtly chides her, but Miss Ellie defends her and says no more talk of the Mainwarings. Bobby comes in and offers to drive Lucy to school. J.R. remarks to his momma that Bobby “always was the understanding one.”
In fact, Bobby is NOT taking her to school. There is a giant wooden box in the driveway. Now … of course, it’s a car. However, he gives her a rope to pull and the sides fall away and she is the proud owner of EWING 5! I should have almost married a gay guy my uncle wanted to invest in a refinery with …
At the office, J.R. and Jock meet with Bud Morgan. Morgan lets them know the OLM has halted their test drilling. After Morgan leaves, Jock knows there is only one man in Texas who has the power to stop Cliff Barnes and the OLM — former Governor Sam Culver. They set up a lunch and Jock tells J.R. Culver still owes him a couple of favors. POLITICS!
Ray drives up to the house. He and Bobby talk about Lucy’s new car and Ray says Bobby didn’t buy him anything after Garnet broke up with him. Bobby’s not related to you, Ray! Oh, wait …
That night, Ray is at a bar, listening to a Hollywood producer’s idea of a country music band from the 70s. Donna is there with friends and they are bored and want to go to a disco. She intends to stay and listen to the Hollywood producer’s idea of a country music band from the 70s. Her friends are about to leave, then one wants to force her.
Ray steps in and nods at the bar full of cowboys, indicating there would be trouble if the guy doesn’t leave the li’l lady alone! The guy leaves and OF COURSE, Donna stays to have a drink. They then proceed to nearly close the bar down. Ray’s comments show he was clearly broken by the Garnet McGee fiasco. Donna asks if he will be at the bar the next night, which, hello, of course he will for you!
Sam makes Jock and J.R. wait at lunch. As he comes in, you can tell he’s a powerful person because EVERYONE says hi and shakes his hand. He sits with the Ewings and gets to the point. He knows Cliff is giving them trouble – which was more than his daddy could ever do. BURN!
J.R. wants him to help get Cliff out of the OLM or shut the OLM down … he’s not quite explicit about what he wants, or how Sam is supposed to get rid of Cliff. Sam even says, he’s an ex-politician now. J.R. pushes back, saying unless you like us buying all our oil from A-rabs (he really says it like that – RACIST!)
Then he suggests Sam could help with some new laws to put the reins on the OLM. Sam is ready to socialize now. He’s married and his new wife is meeting them and he asks Jock if Ellie is “ still the same stick of fire she always was.” They make plans for dinner at Southfork that weekend and Sam’s wife comes in and of course … it’s DONNA!
That night, J.R. comes in on Sue Ellen drinking in the dark. This kid is going to have problems. I know in the late 70s, we knew you shouldn’t drink while pregnant … I can’t be imagining that. They are snarky and J.R. suggests she shouldn’t come to dinner since she feels so “poorly.”
At the bar, Donna gives Ray her life story. She’s 28, like white wine, long walks on the beach and is from Marshall, Texas. She only came tonight because Ray DIDN’T hit on her last night, but he is definitely hitting on her tonight. They get deep quickly, and he says all he is looking for is a happy ending, which, I don’t think this is that kind of bar, Ray. They go back and forth on how to get to a happy ending, which, honestly is one of the questions everyone SHOULD ponder before getting into a relationship. Donna worries because things always change. Since they are getting too serious, she drinks a toast to “fun.” Donna NEVER becomes what you’d call the “fun” character, so that toast is pointless.
Jock tells Ellie that the Culvers are coming for dinner and they share a sweet moment where Jock says no woman has ever compared to Ellie. They do mention Donna is Bobby’s age. Speaking of Bobby, he and Pam have nothing to do this episode except go play tennis, so off they go. Sue Ellen has nothing to do but drink and brood, so she has a Bloody Mary, and claims its tomato juice.
Ray drives up to talk to Jock about buying cattle for his section of land. Bobby and Pam hold off on tennis briefly to say they want to meet Ray’s new lady friend. He says they will be at the Longhorn on Monday, if they REALLY have to stop by.
We cut to Dinner With The Culvers, and as they have after-dinner drinks, Bobby, Pam and Donna chat. Donna spins out more of her origin story, telling them her parents died after her junior year and then she left school and met rich, old Sam … so there was no need to go back and graduate. Pam’s hair is in a not-great perm, which we don’t see again.
Jock, J.R. and Sam talk business. Sam says he’s come to depend on Donna’s judgement and he looks at all sides of things now, and doesn’t just jump in like he used to. He’s on the fence on the OLM stuff and J.R. is itching to push him onto their side.
Later, J.R. compliments Sue Ellen on handling herself that evening – she didn’t say a word, which was “the best thing you could have done.” Sue Ellen is pensive, sad that a woman married to someone so much older has a better marriage than she does. J.R. mocks them, saying Donna probably has to cut Sam’s meat for him (is this a metaphor?) and he’s going to find something to make Donna push Sam in the Ewing direction. WATCH OUT, RAY!
Lucy and her friends are all hanging out at the pool and she has the sads. They want to go to a party and so they peer pressure her into doing a red pill. I’m assuming some kind of upper? When she takes it, they clap, so, you know … nice friends.
Bobby and Pam show up at the Longhorn and see Donna with Ray! They bolt before Ray or Donna see them. Bobby is convinced Ray doesn’t know who Donna is so of course, he is going to GET INVOLVED.
He calls Donna the next day and J.R. overhears the conversation. As Sue Ellen makes her way down the stairs, she says J.R. is in an especially good mood. He says some days just start off better than others!
Sue Ellen is having a Daughters of the Alamo meeting at the ranch that day. As Bobby gets involved in Ray’s life. Marilee Stone pulls Miss Ellie aside at the DOA meeting. Marilee thinks its best Sue Ellen “resigns” until she has the baby and is “feeling better.” Miss Ellie can’t argue as Sue Ellen gulps down two martinis and even Raoul watches her in disbelief. Everyone knows what’s going on here! Marilee thinks the resignation would be “kinder” coming from Miss Ellie.
Meanwhile, Bobby meets Donna. She was surprised to hear from Bobby, but quickly realizes why he called. She explains she’s not trying to hurt Ray and until now, never cheated on Sam? We get more backstory as find Sam lost his wife around the same time Donna lost her parents.
She knew by the time they were married she wasn’t IN love with him. She was proud to be with him and never “short-changed” him until now, which I guess is code for “cheating.” Bobby asks why Ray is the one she decided to short-change with. She’s not sure and she knows that all three of them are gonna get hurt.
At the DOA meeting, J.R. comes home and Sue Ellen stumbles as she gets up from the table. He suggests maybe these events are too much for her and in an AMAZING display of blindsiding someone, Miss Ellie says Sue Ellen had already discussed with her temporarily resigning from the DOA. Marilee smirks and Sue Ellen is trapped. WOW, Miss Ellie, that was cold-blooded.
J.R. asks Jock if Ray is around, and Jock says he was getting dressed to go into town. We KNOW what this means! As Ray and Donna have some post-coital discussion on what the future holds for them, J.R. is outside creeping around.
The next day at what is DEFINITELY the old Century City Mall, Donna is in a hideous tracksuit. J.R. comes up and tells her he just happened to see Ray’s truck speeding by him on the highway and then he just happened to follow Ray to see if he was in trouble and then just happened to be outside their window and catch them short-changing Sam.
Donna tells J.R. to spell out what he wants. He wants Donna to convince Sam to take power away from the OLM. She wonders why he thinks she’ll do it and he says (rightly) that he can read people. J.R. tells her to have a nice day. Well, I liked Donna, but she did kind of put herself in this position.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch – Lucy’s friends want to go to a party, as some boys from Plano will be there. Is that like saying hot surfers from Malibu will be at a Pasadena party? She is hesitant, but they remind her how great the red pill made her feel. She pops another one, but no one claps this time.
Her friends give her another pill and guys from Plano and they head off.
Ray is showering and his towel, like all his wardrobe, is Native American-appropriated. Donna calls and wants to meet him in public. It’s a big day for Ray!
Jock is going over Ray’s land breeding reports, which I think are something totally different. He asks J.R. if he’s heard anything from Sam Culver. J.R. smirks and says he thinks he’ll hear from him shortly.
Donna and Ray meet in what looks like a deserted parking lot, so yes, it’s public, but really? He admits he never wanted to know the answer to why they were sneaking around, but figured Donna would tell him one day. Today is that day! Donna says she’s been married for three years to someone older, rich and powerful. Ray guesses he was her “nice, young, stud” which is somewhat charitable.
Donna explains it never happened before and Ray caused her to have feelings. She is divorcing Sam, who was super chill about the whole thing and wished her well. WOW, I wish I’d tried to get a Texas sugar daddy LONG before now!
Donna tells Ray she is leaving Dallas. She has to figure things out. But if he’s still there when she comes back, which is rude on every level. Still, Ray says he will be waiting.
At breakfast the next day, J.R. FINALLY gets a call from Sam Culver. Sam explains Donna thinks the OLM is doing a great job, and Cliff has his full support. J.R. wants to have a meeting with Sam to try and convince him otherwise, but in a wonderful nail in the coffin, Sam says there’s NOTHING J.R. could tell him that Donna hasn’t already! WOW!
Capiche Moment: Ray asks Bobby for his house plans and explains that while he’s bummed that things with Donna didn’t work out, it’s a “damn fine feeling” that he learned he could care again. AWWWWWWWW!
A sweet if uneven episode … three and a half Sue Ellen martinis out of five. Next week – Lucy’s pill-popping and Sue Ellen’s drinking are both out of control … and Sue Ellen is headed for the sanitarium! Join us, won’t you?