Saturday, July 23, 2011

Waltons 2.7: The Prize

Airdate: 10/25/73

Oscar Cockrell, an old flame of Olivia’s, visits the Waltons’ homestead. Despite his wealth and political aspirations, he’s unhappy with his life and current marriage, eyeing covetously the personal fulfillment now enjoyed by his ex-sweetheart. His visit also sparks John Boy’s speculations of how life would be different had Oscar been his father.

Meanwhile, the Waltons eagerly await the Jefferson County Fair, as Olivia plans to enter her raspberry cake, Grandma her 3-year in the making patchwork quilt, and Ben a swine for the greasy pig catching contest. All come out winners, even Oscar, for the galvanizing, populist speech he delivers for his state legislature candidacy.

Recurrent supporting cast member Peter Donat is aptly cast as Olivia’s former love as he was married to Michael Learned from 1956 to 1972 (a year before this episode aired). From the setup, one would expect the show to focus on a lingering attraction between the two, but it wisely (and appropriately) avoids this and settles for a more comfortable Waltonesque theme: if things were different, would they be better? Any Waltons fan worth his salt knows the answer: no!

The state fair is a fun omnibus story, allowing for a patchwork (no pun intended) of family vignettes, interesting if none-too-subtle historical references, and a pig catching scene that would never survive PETA scrutiny. Oh, and an odd message: Olivia wins for a cake made of rye whiskey icing, and the Baldwin sisters for jelly made from “the recipe.” There you have it – to win a food contest in the South, liquor it up!

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