Ezekiel Henshaw, a fire and brimstone evangelist, arrives at Waltons Mountain to lead the annual revival meeting and baptism. Both he and Rev. Fordwick spot Ben at the Dew Drop Inn, and immediately alert Olivia, who is embarrassed at her son’s transgressions and urges him to be baptized. This exacerbates the rift between she and John, who was never a deeply religious man, seldom went to church and was never baptized. Coaxed into going to see Ezekiel’s revival, he walks out, resentful of being yelled at, and makes himself scarce at the baptism as well, although Ben, to his mother’s delight, does “get dunked” and accepts Jesus as his savior.
Olivia and Grandma’s staunch baptism is again explored in this episode, along with John’s skepticism of religion as well. Both sides are given fair treatment, although it got me speculating whether a show like The Waltons could ever be produced today (for network broadcast) because of the way it makes religion such as central topic. Unlikely, I think – TV is different, attitudes toward religion are different, the world is different.
Actor John Karlen is quite effective as Ezekiel (think Johnathan Edwards), although his role is not really the dramatic crux of the episode.