Becoming Donna Reed

Season 1: Episode 16 – Jeff’s Double Life


The episode opens with Alex and Donna returning from a dinner party. As they prepare to enter the house Donna gets a feeling that something is wrong. They no sooner enter the house when they hear footsteps coming up the walk. Donna predicts it is their busybody neighbor, Mrs. Wilgus. Indeed, it is Mrs. Wilgus who informs Alex and Donna that the kids had a loud party while they were out. She nearly called the cops. She tells Alex repeatedly that such behavior is especially unbefitting the children of a doctor.

Mary and Jeff come down and confess that they did have people over and it got a little out of hand. Alex lays into them and stresses the importance of maintaining his excellent reputation within the community.

The next day is Sunday and Alex, Donna, and Mary are having lunch. Jeff is nowhere to be found. Donna has another bad feeling, but Alex tells her he is probably just out playing. Meanwhile Jeff is hiding outside the house listening. He keeps rubbing his arm. It is clear he is injured. Alex and Donna leave to run errands and Jeff comes in. He is clearly distraught and confesses to Mary what happened. He accepted a ride from an unlicensed driver, a friend of Mary’s, there was an accident and he ran from the cops. The kids decide not to say anything because they don’t want to hurt Alex’s reputation. Mary gives Jeff money to go see Dr. Berry, the new doctor in town who doesn’t know the Stones.

Jeff goes to the doctor and gives a false name. The doctor is suspicious. During the exam Jeff shows an unusual knowledge of anatomy which piques the doctor’s interest. Jeff has a sprained elbow. When Jeff turns to grab his coat the doctor peeks at Jeff’s name in his school book.

Donna is waiting for Jeff outside Dr. Berry’s office. Mary told her everything. Donna talks with Jeff about his bad decisions. She feels bad that he felt the need to protect her and Alex.

Alex gets a phone call from Dr. Berry about his patient, Jeff. Alex is hurt that Jeff had a medical issue and didn’t come to him.

Back at home Alex and Donna talk about appearances and nosy neighbors. They realize that they are being asked to uphold unreasonable expectations because Alex is a doctor. They just want to be like everyone else. They talk to the kids and tell them that they can talk to them about anything and it’s OK to make mistakes.

Mrs. Wilgus returns to gossip about the accident and Jeff’s role in it. Donna and Alex politely tell her to go fly a kite.


Nosy neighbors be damned. In life, the only expectations you need to live up to are those you set for yourself.


I think we’ve all probably have a Mrs. Wilgus in our lives. The person who comes by to just check and see how you are measuring up and spread idle gossip. The Mrs. Wilguses of the world are a pain in the buttocks.

Also a pain in the buttocks is this whole notion of reputation, of what you are supposed to live up to. It is a notion that is from a long ago time when the lives of parents predicted the lives of children. When you know you are not inheriting a mansion and a nice fat trust fund, when you know it will be up to you and your hard work alone to make your place in the world, it is hard to adhere to some preconceived notion of how to conduct yourself. This is not to say that we should all be running around like wild things and doing whatever strikes our fancy, but we need to be free to explore what makes sense for us, not be tied to rules of past generations. Our world is just moving too quickly. If a lawyer’s daughter wants to learn woodworking, or if the son of a mechanic wants to be a fashion designer it simply shouldn’t matter. Finding your path in life is hard enough without having to be chained to someone else’s idea of what life should be.

Of course, it is not only others who try to confine us with expectations. Sometimes I think the greatest limits placed on us are placed there by ourselves. We allow ourselves to get boxed into certain roles and force ourselves to live up to certain expectations, even when these expectations are not doing us any good.

As I am working to free myself of one of my boxes, the teacher box, I am struggling against my own expectations. Not that teaching is bad. I have loved teaching, but somewhere along the line I convinced myself that it is all I am qualified to do. I believe this attitude, which is not something I came upon consciously, is helpful to neither myself nor my students. I deserve to feel like my career is full of possibilities and my students deserve to feel that the person teaching them is there because there is nothing else in the world they’d rather be doing. Right now, I really feel like there are things I’d rather be doing. I’d like to try a new career. I am a bit vague on what that means, but I know I want a new challenge. I know I’d like writing to be part of it. I know I’d like to work with driven and creative people.

Plan Of Action

I am establishing a new expectation for myself and it is, for now, not to have any expectations. I am going to apply for jobs that interest me and trust that when the right opportunity comes I will know it.