Former spouses Blake Carrington and Alexis Carrington make a televised plea for the return of their kidnapped infant grandson L.B. Colby. While on the air, Alexis confesses a dark secret from their past: their firstborn son, Adam, had been kidnapped as a baby and never recovered. Traumatized by the event, they had hidden his existence from their subsequent children Fallon and Steven. (Alexis first mentions Adam during an argument with Blake in episode 36 during season 2.)
In Billings, Montana, an elderly woman named Kate Torrance watches the broadcast from her deathbed. Afterwards, Kate tearfully tells her grandson Michael that he is really the Carrington heir. To prove it, she shows him an engraved silver baby rattle with the monogram AAC. Michael is stunned by the news. As her dying wish, Kate tells Michael to find his real family. Michael agrees, telling Kate, "My name is Adam Carrington."
Still using the name "Michael Torrance," Adam travels to Denver and checks into the La Miranda Hotel. He meets a beautiful woman, and while they flirt with each other and share a kiss, she playfully refuses to tell him her name. Adam first goes to meet his father. Blake assumes that he is a con-man who saw the TV broadcast. Stunned by Blakes abrupt rejection, Adam leaves without showing him the baby rattle. In episode 41, "The Will," Adam meets his mother, Alexis. She immediately accepts him as her lost child, and they have an emotional reunion. When Alexis introduces Adam to his sister Fallon, they are shocked - she is the woman from the hotel! Adam isn't bothered by their close-call with incest, but notices that it troubles Fallon. Over time, their relationship will remain strained. Alexis and Adam also visit a doubtful Blake, who gradually accepts the idea that Adam could be his son.
Alexis offers Adam, a lawyer, a job at ColbyCo. When she also recruits Fallon's husband Jeff Colby Adam is jealous. Revealing his devious nature, Adam has Jeff's office painted with toxic paint. Gradually, Jeff's behavior becomes increasingly erratic. In episode 51, Alexis sends Jeff away on a vacation. Realizing that Jeff will "recover" when he's not breathing toxic fumes every day, Adam confesses to Alexis. Alexis orders Adam to have the paint removed from Jeff's office. Adam warns his mother that if she betrays him, he will implicate her in the scheme, since Alexis used Jeff's poor health to trick him into signing over his son's shares in Denver-Carrington to her.
During this time, Adam also is attracted to Kirby, Jeff and Fallon's nanny. Jeff protects Kirby from Adam's unwanted advances, increasing tension between the two men. In episode 48, a drunken Adam rapes Kirby. In episode 55, Adam attacks Kirby again but she is rescued by Jeff, who proposes to her..
Blake and his wife Krystle are suspicious of Alexis when they learn from Jeff's doctors that there was poison in his bloodstream. But Fallon suspects Adam and vows to learn the truth. She notes that Adam is distressed that his family doctor from Billings is in Denver for a conference. Fallon questions Dr. Edwards, who reveals that Adam once won a court case that involved poisoning by toxic paint fumes.
In episode 66, Alexis warns Adam that if Fallon learns the truth about Jeff's illness that he's on his own. In return, Adam tricks Alexis into signing documents that make it look like she ordered the office to be painted. Alexis travels to Montana to investigate her son's background and learns from Dr. Edwards that Adam had experimented with drugs as a teen and suffered a psychotic breakdown. Alexis is somewhat more sympathetic to Adam at this point, feeling guilty that they gave up the search for their lost son so many years ago, condemning him to such a tragic life. As she does not want his past drug addiction to be widely known, Alexis is resigned to suffer the consequences of his actions. Therefore, she gave up her control of Denver-Carrington.
In episode 71, Adam is attacked by Jeff. Jeff tells him that Kirby (who is now married to Jeff) is pregnant with Adam's child. Surprised, Adam tells Kirby that he wants to be a father to their baby. When he learns that Kirby and Jeff plan to divorce, he proposes. In episode 75, Kirby accepts his proposal. Adam confesses to Blake that he raped Kirby, who is disgusted by his son. Kirby is diagnosed with eclampsia and must be hospitalized. She suffers from seizures and convulsions and doctors are forced to operate. In episode 77, Adam is distressed to learn that their baby girl has not survived. He gently tells Kirby, devastating her.
Stunned with grief, Adam apologizes to Blake and Alexis for the pain that he's caused them. He and Kirby decide to proceed with their wedding plans. However, Adam is crushed when, in the season finale, Kirby breaks off their engagement and moves to Paris
Adam causes great concern when he unwillingly is duped by Sammy Jo, his former sister-in-law into helping her kidnap her son, his nephew, Danny. Steven's wife Claudia sympathizes with Adam and encourages him to re-kidnap the child back, mollifying the situation.
Adam is also called upon to defend Alexis against charges that she murdered Mark Jennings. Adam and Dex are able to identify Congressman Neal McVane as the killer, and Alexis is acquitted. During this time, Adam mourns the death of his sister Fallon and discovers that he has another sister, Amanda.
Adam also grows closer to Claudia, and steps in to comfort her when her marriage to Steven falls apart. Despite Blakes admonition not to become romantically involved with Claudia, he invites her to accompany him to Amanda's wedding to Prince Michael of Moldavia. Adam promises Blake that he'll end the relationship after the wedding, which is interrupted by a terrorist attack.
After surviving the terrorist attack on Amanda's wedding, Adam proposes to Claudia in episode 121. After they elope in episode 123, a furious Blake disowns Adam and cuts him out of his will. Meanwhile, Claudia pressures Adam to help her acquire an oil well from Blake that she believes is rightfully hers. Adam takes advantage of Blake's health problems to trick him into signing a Power of Attorney.
Adam is also working with Denver-Carrington on a pipeline project with Colby Enterprises. When he travels to California for a meeting, he encounters his sister Fallon who is alive and suffering from amnesia. Fallon becomes hysterical upon meeting Adam, and accuses him of raping her. Jeff is ready to believe her accusation, but upon further counseling, Fallon realizes that her unresolved conflict over her sexual attraction to Adam when they first met was what triggered her mental breakdown and subsequent disappearance and amnesia.
As part of his work on the pipeline, Adam attempts to bribe State Senator Bart Fallmont. When Fallmont refuses the bribe, Adam investigates and learns that he is a closeted gay man. Adam leaks stories to the press that Bart is sleeping with Steven, which infuriates his family but ultimately causes Bart to resign, effectively ending opposition to his pipeline deal.
Claudia has been increasingly obsessed with regaining an oil well from Blake. When Adam cannot help her, she reveals to Blake that Adam took advantage of his illness. Later that night, in the season finale (episode 148) Claudia accidentally sets fire to her hotel room while Adam drowns his sorrows at the hotel bar.
Adam escapes the hotel fire, but is devastated to learn that Claudia has perished in the blaze.
Adam, working for Alexis at ColbyCo, attempts to seduce his father's assistant Dana Waring. Dana is furious when she learns Adam has used her, but he convinces her that his feelings for her are true. In episode 165, Adam proposes. Dana accepts, although in episode 166, it is revealed that Dana has a secret which she fears could come between them.
In episode 167, Neal McVane is released from prison. He tells Adam that, while in prison, he learned that the real Adam Carrington baby died during the kidnapping - that he is a fraud. He also claims to have evidence. McVane begins blackmailing Adam. Adam, who has recently reconciled with Blake, is panicked that he will lose everything. Adam feeds McVane insider trading information but his depression causes him to drink heavily. In episode 170, Adam is arrested for DUI. Blake vows to learn what is causing Adam's troubles. In episode 174, Adam confesses to Blake and Alexis that he has learned he is not their son. Adam plans to leave Denver with Dana, but Blake convinces him not to go. In episode 176, the season finale, Adam and Dana are married. Just prior to the wedding, Blake and Alexis present a stunned and grateful Adam with adoption papers - regardless of what McVane says, they consider him to be their son, faults and all. Later in the 1988 episode "The Scandal" McVane leads Adam to the source of the story about Adam actually being Michael Torrance. Adam discovers that it was fabricated, and that he really is Blake and Alexis' son.
On their honeymoon, Adam tells Dana that he wants to start a family. He grows suspicious when Dana keeps avoiding the subject. He follows Dana to her doctor and is crushed to learn that Dana is unable to have children. They decide to hire a surrogate mother, and in episode 181 meet Karen Atkinson. After she becomes pregnant, Adam showers Karen with presents and affection making Dana feel excluded.
Meanwhile, Adam finds himself in conflict with his mother's new husband, Sean Rowan. Sean is hell-bent on destroying all the Carringtons. Sean blackmails Dana who must eventually confess her secret to Adam. Dana cannot have children due to a botched abortion during high school. What's more, Dana was a student at Adam's high school in Billings. One night during a drunken blackout, the shy and mousy Dana slept with Adam who has no memory of the incident. She was obsessed with him which is what ultimately led her to Denver last year. Adam is stunned by the news and reacts badly, accusing her of killing his child. Adam turns to Karen for comfort. Eventually, Adam forgives Dana and threatens to kill Sean if he hurts Dana again.
Undaunted, Sean pays Karen's ex-husband, Jessie, to reconcile with her, throwing the surrogacy into question. Adam attempts to bribe him to leave town, but Sean forces Jessie to stay. After the baby is born in episode 194, Karen tells Adam that she and Jessie want to keep the baby. During the trial, Alexis reveals that Sean bribed Karen and Jessie. Dana sympathizes with Karen and states that Karen is the rightful mother. Adam moves out of their bedroom.
Just before the end of the trial, the baby is kidnapped. Adam is the primary suspect, but he and Steven discover that Sean is the kidnapper and are able to rescue the baby. In the season finale, custody is awarded to Karen and Jessie.
A drunk and depressed Adam alienates his family. Dana leaves Adam and moves away from Denver. Adam continues his manipulative ways, attempting to double-cross Jeff on their pipeline work by sleeping with Steven's former secretary, Claire. He also seduces Virginia, Krystle's cousin, and learns of her mysterious past with Dex. Adam learns that Virginia was a prostitute and humiliates her into leaving Denver. When Dex learns of Adam's actions, they come to blows. Dex tells Blake about Adam's behavior causing a rift between father and son.
Adam also flirts with Joanna, Sable Colby's vice-president of mergers and acquisitions, in an attempt to help his mother with a vendetta against Sable. Blake eventually fires Adam who returns to ColbyCo, and offers Joanna a job when Sable fires her. Adam assists Alexis in investigating a mysterious mine on the Carrington property, where a 20-year-old dead body was recently found. Adam discovers a witness who claims he saw Blake put the body in the mine. Adam passes this information to Blake, and then finds the witness dead just moments after seeing Blake leave the witnesses apartment. Blake accuses Adam of setting him up, but Adam insists that something more nefarious is going on. As the mystery deepens, Adam and Alexis learn that the mine holds stolen Nazi treasure and artwork.
Out of spite, Adam has photographs of Jeff and his supposed-sister, Monica, doctored to look like they are sharing a romantic moment. In the chaos that follows, Alexis reveals that Monica is not Jeff's sister and only his cousin as before.
In the final episode of the series, Adam taunts Dex when he learns that Sable is pregnant with his child. The men fight while Alexis, Sable, and Monica watch in horror. When Dex turns his back, Adam rushes him. Dex falls backward into Alexis, sending them both crashing through a railing falling off a second-story balcony.
Three years after the final episode, Adam is still working for Alexis, having sold out Denver-Carrington to a foreign cartel while Blake was in jail. After Blake's release and subsequent recontrol of his company, Adam and Blake are reconciled once again. In addition, a remorseful Adam is reunited with Kirby.