Another rough holiday for the Waltons! In this two-hour episode, John Boy is struck in the head by a pulley belt at the sawmill, and he gradually suffers from blurred vision and difficulty with balance and motor skills. Fine timing, especially when he is about to take a scholarship exam for a major college and is expecting a Thanksgiving visit from his girlfriend, Jenny. When he finally sees the doctor, he is told he may have a blood clot pressing against his optic nerve, and must undergo a risky observation else face the possibility of blindness or even death. John-Boy pulls through, but is persistent in retaking the exam, against the admonitions of his doctor and family – not only does he pass, but also makes it home for the big family repast.
The other stories: Jason goes to work for the Baldwin Sisters, helping to make the “recipe”; he wisely only tells his father, but when the sisters call on Olivia to ask her permission to adopt the boy (so the “recipe” has a male heir), her fire and Baptist brimstone erupts and she terminates all goings on between Jason and the Baldwins, whiskey-related or otherwise. Ben wants to be the one who shoots a turkey for the feast – solo, but when he flubs a shot, Grandpa saves him from embarrassment by allowing him to buy one instead; and Mary Ellen gets the plum role of Pochahontas for the school Thanksgiving play.
Well, they spent Easter praying for Olivia’s recovery from Polio, now the Waltons are having another blast doing the same for John-Boy’s head injury. (I’d be worried if I were John come Christmas.) Philip Leacock, the director of the episode, was nominated for an Emmy for Best Director, and Joanna Lee won an Emmy for best teleplay. Some great support here from semi-regulars John Ritter as Rev. Fordwick and Mariclare Costello as Miss Hunter, the teacher who inspires John-Boy to retake his test. Sian Barbara Allen also returns as John-Boy’s love interest (she was previously featured a few shows back in “The Odyssey), and she and Thomas really do have a palpable chemistry together. He most likely agreed; the two actors dated for several years in the early seventies.
Who says The Waltons wasn’t educational? Homespun Lesson #1: How to run a real ham smokehouse!