Conundrum (Dallas)

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Dallas episode
Episode no. Season 14
Episode 22 & 23
Directed by Leonard Katzman
Written by Leonard Katzman
Production code 356-357
Original air date May 3, 1991
Guest actors

Mary Crosby as Kristin Shepard
Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing
Joel Grey as Adam
Steve Kanaly as Ray Krebbs
Jack Scalia as Nicholas Pearce
Ted Shackelford as Gary Ewing
Joan Van Ark as Valene Ewing
Anthony Addabbo as Jeff Peters
Rosalind Allen as Annie Ewing
Leslie Bevis as Jeanne Lawrence
James T. Callahan as Mr. Smith
Kathrine Cannon as Beth Krebbs
Denise Gentile as Courtney Ewing
Kim Johnston Ulrich as Bootsie Ewing
Kathrine Justice as Alice Kingdom
Richard Lineback as Eb
Teri Ann Linn as Kimberly Kavanaugh
Tricia O'Neil as Barbara Barnes
Patrick Pankhurst as Jason Ewing
Barbara Rhoades as Judy
Tony Auer as Ted
Sylvia Brooks as Carol
Brioni Farrell as Alice Ann
Dan Livingston as Edgar
James Newell as Walter Kingdom
Robert Neches as Bob
Herman Poppe as Wally Ford
Jerry Potter as Bartender
Edson Stroll as Charlie Haas
Christine Joan Taylor as Margaret Barnes
Deborah Marie Taylor as Debbie
Virginia Watson as Secretary
Wayne Chou as Houseboy
Kim Delgado as Stage manager
Connor Duffy as Little JR Ewing
Tim Eyster as Jock Krebbs
Kate Horton as Little Ellie Ewing
Michael Gonda as Cally's kid #1
Jonathan Gonda as Cally's kid #2
Stephen Held as Young man
David Katzman as Bobby Ewing Jr
Kenyon Moad as Cally's 3 year old
John Mueller as Harry
Nicolas Read as Cliff Barnes Jr
Mike Simmrin as Andy Krebbs
Gregory White as Kleever

Episode chronology
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"The Decline and Fall of the Ewing Empire"
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"Conundrum" is the two hour series finale of the television series Dallas. The episode originally aired on CBS on May 3, 1991, and in subsequent reruns in syndication, "Conundrum" aired as two-part one hour episodes.

Nearing the point of suicide, J.R. Ewing is visited by Adam, who takes him on an It's a Wonderful Life-style journey to see what would have become of the Ewings, had he never existed.



J.R. is contemplating committing suicide. Southfork was taken out of his control and given to Bobby by Miss Ellie, while Cliff Barnes now had control of Ewing Oil. Clayton had given J.R. voting rights at WestStar, but J.R. was tricked into believing he would become Chairman of WestStar by Carter McKay. J.R. had sold his half of Ewing Oil to Cliff to take over WestStar, but old foe and stepbrother Dusty Farlow revealed that he had sold his WestStar shares to McKay, thus making McKay the majority stockholder. McKay fired J.R. from WestStar after revealing that he had set him up (McKay had sent two WestStar directors to J.R. and convinced him to sell Ewing Oil to pave the way for a WestStar takeover that would never happen). John Ross, his own son, disowned him and moved to London to be with his mother.


With J.R. now having nothing left, the episode begins with him walking around the Southfork pool in a drunken stupor with a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a loaded gun in the other. While J.R. is in this state a spirit named Adam (portrayed by Joel Grey), whose "boss" has been watching J.R. and likes him, enters the pool area to J.R.'s disbelief. In a parallel with the storyline of the movie It's a Wonderful Life, Adam proceeds to take him on a journey to show him what life would have been like for other people if he had not been born. Among what he shows him:

  • J.R.'s place as eldest Ewing child would have been taken by Gary, who would also take over for J.R. as heir to the Ewing Oil fortune. In addition, Jock and Miss Ellie have Bobby, the middle brother, and a third son Jason.
  • Since Gary was not anywhere near the oil man that his brothers were, Ewing Oil went bankrupt under his watch. As such, Jock died from a stress-related illness instead of being killed in a helicopter crash and a heartbroken Miss Ellie died two years later without ever meeting Clayton Farlow.
  • The non-existent Jason would have become a shady real estate developer and cheating husband who would eventually trick Bobby and Gary into selling their stakes in Ewing Oil and Southfork, leaving the property in his hands once his parents died. This would result in the destruction of the ranch in favor of "Southfork Estates", a development of tract houses built in its wake.
  • Jason would also become a family pariah, as Gary wants nothing to do with him and Bobby was swindled out of $500,000 in a bad real estate deal of his.
  • Having never met Pam (due to there being no rivalry between J.R. and Pam's brother Cliff), and due in part to losing all of his savings in Jason's deal gone wrong, Bobby's wild ways caught up with him and he became a down-and-out hustler owing thousands in gambling debts and child support which he cannot pay. Carter McKay is connected with his gambling debts, as due to his firing at WestStar Oil he went into the casino business in Las Vegas. Bobby later settles his debt, but Adam tells J.R. it will not be the last time he runs into money trouble.
  • Gary became a successful divorce lawyer who never married, and thus never had Lucy Ewing, J.R.'s niece. He does meet Valene Clements, who would have married him otherwise, but all that comes out of it is a date which failed to see a resolution.
  • Without having met J.R., Cally Harper never left her poor roots, and lives with an abusive husband in a shack. She finally takes a stand and shoots him dead, but will eventually go to jail for murder because no one would believe her husband beat her (according to what Adam tells J.R.).
  • Without J.R. in the way and forcing him to be a part of the Ewing-Barnes rivalry, Cliff Barnes was able to earn a law degree and enter politics. When J.R. sees that Cliff has become Vice-President of the United States, he tells Adam of its impossibility, that Cliff would ruin the country, and that he did not like the fact that Cliff would rise to his position of power. To make matters worse, Cliff becomes Acting President when the sitting President is disabled by a stroke. Adam goes on to tell J.R. that Cliff will become one of the great Presidents, and that it did not matter whether he liked it or not.
  • Since J.R. was never born (and thus, never shot), Kristin Shepard never met him (and, thus, never died), and became a successful con artist in Los Angeles. She poses as a hooker initially and then a police officer, which sees her accept a bribe from an embarrassed customer.
  • Having never met J.R., Sue Ellen has entered acting and become a successful soap opera star. Since he never met J.R. (and thus was never shoved out of the window to his death), Nicholas Pearce was able to form a relationship with Sue Ellen, who did not develop her alcohol problem that plagued her throughout her marriage.
  • With J.R. out of the picture and Jock dying before he could find out, Ray Krebbs never knew of his Ewing blood ties. After an injury he suffered in a Ewing Oil-sponsored rodeo, Ray was forced to become a ranch hand and would often find himself out of work. Fortunately for Ray, however, he was able to have a great family life with a wife and children who loved him unconditionally, even if he couldn't always provide for them. One of his sons is named Jock.

After being taken through this journey, J.R. is encouraged by Adam to pull the trigger and kill himself. J.R. scoffs at the idea, saying that Adam's boss would not be happy— implying that Adam is an angel. However, Adam reveals himself to be actually a demon sent by Satan himself.

By this time J.R. has either fallen asleep or passed out, and he wakes up with a start in his bedroom with the gun and bourbon still in his hands. He appears relieved that it was a dream, only to find Adam staring at him from his bedroom mirror dressed in red. In the midst of this, Bobby returns to the ranch to check on his brother. Adam continues to egg J.R. on as Bobby enters the house, and J.R. raises the gun to his head. Finally, Adam's eyes roll into the back of his head and glow bright red and he screams "DO IT!" to J.R., who fires a shot (although the audience cannot see where he shot). Bobby hears the gunshot and runs up to J.R.'s room. Looking at the scene, he gasps and says "Oh, my God" when he sees what has happened. The episode and series end on that note, with J.R.'s fate left unknown.


The "Conundrum" cliffhanger was not resolved until 1996, with the first Dallas reunion movie, Dallas: J.R. Returns. It was revealed in the beginning of the movie that J.R. had not, in fact, shot himself, but had instead shot at the mirror where Adam was appearing to him despite there being no sound of shattered glass when he pulled the trigger.[1]


Although the audience had dwindled considerably, with the series ending at #63 for the 1990-91 season, Dallas‍ '​ final telecast was the second highest rated program of the week. "Conundrum" pulled a 22 rating and 38% share of the audience. This was Dallas‍ '​ highest rated episode since the January 23, 1987, broadcast.[2]

These final two episodes aired in feature length form make for the 14th most watched television series finale in U.S. history. The sharp decline in the soap's audience had been largely attributed to the early 1990s decrease in Friday primetime viewership as Friday nights gradually had become graveyard slots on U.S. television. In 2011, the whole two-part finale was ranked #13 on the TV Guide Network special, TV's Most Unforgettable Finales.[3]


  1. ^ Carter, Bill (May 6, 1991). "So 'Dallas' Is Finally Over. Or Is It?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  2. ^ Pierce, Scott (May 8, 1991). "'DALLAS' BOWS OUT WITH A RATINGS BANG; `ALL IN THE FAMILY' RETURNS TO CBS LINEUP". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  3. ^ TV's Most Unforgettable Finales - Aired May 22, 2011 on TV Guide Network