John-Boy is excited to meet Porter Sims, a writer for the WPA’s new series of state guidebooks, and show him around Waltons Mountain to give him a taste of the local color of rural Virginia. Grandma is none too pleased to host a government official, and Grandpa seems to be steering him away from his true area of interest: the history behind the Baldwin sisters’ old mansion. When Sims goes to visit the sisters (and sample the recipe), he asks to see their father’s notes and documents. What he finds causes one sister, Miss Mamie, to collapse from shock: that their father housed Union soldiers during the Civil War and was arrested for treason. John-Boy is aghast at the disclosure, and asks Sims to leave, despite the fact that he knows a journalist’s true duty is to get to the truth, no matter whom it hurts. Before the reporter leaves, however, he makes one last revelation: that their father took in both Union and Confederate soldiers, and letters from the survivors reveal his compassion for humanity.
This one finally focuses more on the Baldwin sisters and the history behind their antique abode. As a setpiece, it’s certainly opulent (the bedroom looks like something out of a Victorian-era oil painting), and it’s great to get away from the Waltons house for a while. Richard McKenzie adds some nice subtle touches with his irascible but down-to-earth Porter Sims – a veteran of a boatload of TV/movie work, I associate him most strongly with the role of Archie’s brother in two episodes of All in the Family, which was CBS’s other big hit from the early/mid 70s.