John-Boy wins a newspaper contest and the grand prize: an all-expense paid trip to Lakehurst, NJ, to witness the arrival of a German, hydrogen-fuelled airship named the Hindenburg (you might have heard of it). John-Boy is uber-excited to go – everything goes as planned until (spoiler alert) the Hindenburg explodes, turning euphoria to carnage in mere seconds. When John-Boy returns to Waltons Mountain, his trauma over witnessing the incident gives him severe writer’s block, curable only with a woodcutting-induced fulmination of vivid memories… and emotions.
Side story: Curt isn’t getting enough alone time with Mary Ellen, until Olivia suggests the ol’ geranium trick (oh come on, you know it).
A rare intersection of story and history here as John-Boy plays Forrest Gump and sees history in the making – or at least stock footage of it. In fact, these scenes are nearly undone by how obvious it is that the actors are merely reacting to rear-projected newsreel footage. Now I know the Waltons crew had a limited budget, but c’mon, this really is Ed Wood time. Maybe 70s TV audiences were less media savvy, I don’t know.
Cheap effects aside, some good acting here, although the slow-motion tree chopping scene was a bit freaky. Splintered family is now Grandma and Mary Ellen-less. Thank goodness for holidays!