John-Boy takes a job collecting rent from tenant farmers; his boss is a callous bloodsucker who refuses to pay him when he fails to get everyone’s money. Noticing that many tenants complain about the condition of their homes, John-Boy finds a way of getting his wages back and representing the plight of these exploited farmers, becoming wiser for the wear in the process. Meanwhile, Erin finds a lost fawn and keeps it as a pet. Mr. Hennesey soon arrives and, representing the law, orders that the animal be returned to the wild. When Erin, seemingly telepathically, senses the deer is in danger, she and her father stop poachers from killing it, and as a compromise, Hennesey offers to let her set in free in a wildlife refuge. After a crisis of conscience, she decides the fawn should return to the unprotected wild, where it would be a happiest.
Veteran film/TV actor Charles Tyner gets to chew plenty of scenery here as the loathsome rent collector, Graham Foster. Of course we all remember him as the steely prison guard in Cool Hand Luke and the weaselly informer in The Longest Yard (I think it’s his eyes and jowl-line). His betrayal scene in this episode is a true test of John-Boy’s pacifism; one could see anyone else cleaning this guy’s clock with a baseball bat!
Not to be outshone - another prolific actor, Matt Clark, playing WM denizen Mr. Hennesey. Equally offbeat, he lends some verisimilitude to the cast as he plays a righteous man, but one tinged with a bit of uncertainty. Clark is best remembered for his roles in Westerns and, for me at least, as the bartender in Back to the Future, Part III. He also starred in two episodes of longtime Waltons rival, Little House on the Prarie.
And speaking of Little House, we have here a classic frontier family staple – adopting a wild animal bust having to turn it loose (remember Laura Ingalls doing the same thing with a raccoon?) But here, the deer isn’t rabid, and Erin doesn’t cry nearly as much as Melissa Gilbert. This sort of delineates the differences between the two dramas: if The Waltons was a tear-jerker, Little House was a tear-yanker.