Olivia wistfully waits for the air mail carrier to fly over Walton’s Mountain like clockwork – but the whole family rushes out to a nearby pasture where the pilot must make an emergency landing, the result of a broken oil line. The pilot, Todd Cooper, stirs everyone’s imagination, except Grandma’s, who accurately senses he has some secrets. It turns out he had left his pregnant wife in Washington when he felt having a child would “trap” him and keep him from his dreams of barnstorming in air shows; only John Walton can talk some sense into him, making him realize the joys of fatherhood don’t have to interfere with life – it is life.
Meanwhile Olivia is having a midlife crisis, looking forward to her birthday like it’s a dentist appointment. But the kids have presents aplenty for her: John builds her a mirror, Jason sings a song, and John-Boy recites a poem, but perhaps the greatest gift is delivered by Todd, who takes her up in his airplane, and helps her realize her lifelong dream of soaring above the clouds.
Olivia’s subtle discontent is once again explored here (echoing “The Bicycle” from season one); this time, it’s an airplane that sets free her spirit. Hmmm… it seems to be modes of transportation that does it. Perhaps in season three we can look forward to her liberation via a steam locomotive.
Todd is played by Paul Michael Glaser of Starsky and Hutch fame. I liked the story here but miscalled the “secret”; I thought Todd was a widower and lost his wife in an aviation accident. Well, this plot is far less tragic, and allows for the standard heart-to-heart between ________ (choose guest star) and ___________ (choose Walton family member). It’s the best psychotherapy money can buy!
Notes: 1) Excellent piano score complements this episode.
2) During one conversation, we learn that in addition to running a lumber mill, John also cuts railroad ties, supplies paper for a pulp factory, and cuts firewood.