With the departure of the Rev. Fordwick (John Ritter went “down at our rendezvous” to Three’s Company), Waltons Mountain needs a new minister, and they find one. Reverend Buchanan is, to quote Erin, “peachy,” and his dashing good looks set more than a few female hearts aflutter – first with Erin herself who thinks she’s ready for an older man, then with Corabeth, who’s “stimulated” by his taste in culture and knowledge of the Bible. Even John is surprised that’s he’s more of a man’s man than expected: playing cards, fishing, and… gasp!... going to the Dew Drop Inn. In fact, it’s John who talks him into staying after the pot boils over, and the community agrees to accept their new holy man, even if he is a stud muffin.
Season 6 opener looks markedly different from any Waltons episode before. With a firmly-rooted supporting cast, new hairstyles for nearly everyone (including John), and a new historical backdrop (with more WWII-era music and less score), The Waltons looks like a truly polished network production. But with more polish comes less grit; gone are the lengthy homilies, barefoot walks to school, and dinner-table squabbles; things seem to be a bit more adult now, as this episode looks less like rural Virginia and more like Peyton Place! Yes, we’re at war now, and the kids are older, but I also suspect that the show was starting to emulate those late-70s nighttime soaps (Dallas) and the slightly less-wholesome family dramas (Eight is Enough). Hmm – what would grandma think?
Speaking of the elders, grandpa is part of a promising subplot with a rug-pulling outcome: Zeb and Jim-Bob attempt to trap a chicken hawk (that John would rather shoot) so they can set it free on the other side of the mountain. After several failed attempts, they succeed. But Hamner’s narration tells us at the end that the hawk returned (presumably as a parallel to the Nazi “hawks” that had just invaded Poland) with the assumption that he will be shot, just as John had promised. Begorrah!
More time compression: we leap ahead a whole year, so now the show is definitely not the tidy “40 years ago” jump. The producers clearly wanted the season premiere to be the beginning of WWII.
Cold open features a scene not in the episode: Erin declaring to Olivia that she’s found the man of her dreams, and that she’ll marry him. A very bad freeze-to-sepia follows.