Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waltons 4.2: “The Genius”

Airdate: 9/18/75
John-Boy needs an A in Physics, and so he lets a 16-year-old whiz kid stay with him and his family for the weekend. The boy, Lyle Thomason, is a certified genius but utterly incompetent when it comes to human interaction and social skills. In no time at all, he calculates the chance of winning Ike Godsey’s slot machine, calling him a cheat in the process, and insults the Waltons at dinner when he equates faith in God with lack of intelligence. Aware of this, Lyle enlists John-Boy’s help, especially after Mary Ellen sprays him with water out of frustration at his egg-headedness. Finally, at the church bazaar, and after an earful from John-Boy, Lyle steps in as a last-minute replacement in Erin’s play about Joan of Arc, and the egghead starts to come out of his shell (sorry!).

Easily one of my favorite episodes, dealing with one of my favorite topics: the conflict between reason and emotion. Dennis Kort is pitch-perfect as Lyle; his introvertedness is as credible as it is frustrating, and his bewilderment of humanity in nearly every scene is a great reservoir for us – don’t we all wrestle, at one time or another, with the whole people thing? So many movies have explored this, many through the allegory of science-fiction (computers, aliens), but none have done it simpler, and more emotional, than this episode. Congrats to writer Robert Weverka, who also imbued the script with credible physics factoids to round out the central character.

Nice score during opening of church bazaar scene, reminiscent of Randy Newman’s Americana work.

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