Monday, April 15, 2013

Waltons 6.22: “Grandma Comes Home”

Airdate: 3/30/78

Another homecoming: this time for Grandma. As news spreads that the hospital plans to release her, we learn that she had suffered a stroke and has lost the ability to speak and move her ride side. (Note: this is different from previous episodes, in which reasons for her hospitalization were given as an indeterminate illness). As a member of the household once again, Esther is happy and agreeable, but Zeb is troubled by the disappearance of the old acid-tongued Esther when she gladly hands him “the recipe” and appears nonplussed when he talks about other women. She herself seems agitated too, especially when everyone in the family mollycoddles her. When Zeb sneaks a peak at her journal, he sees that she had made a divine promise to be cordial and agreeable, believing the stroke was God’s punishment for her tart tongue. He finally gets her to change, by breaking his own promise to be overprotective of her, and gets the response from her he had been waiting for: her trademark line, “You old fool!”

A heartwarming, fitting way to close the Waltons’ sixth season – Grandma returning home and reuniting with the family, which occurs right at the end of he show’s first quarter, is hands down the most emotional moment of the series thus far. Equally hanky-drenching are her breakdown on the font porch with Olivia and the moment she speaks her first coherent sentence with Zeb. There’s particular resonance here with the knowledge that actress Ellen Corby suffered a stroke midway through the previous season and was incapacitated. The Waltons writers and producers could just as easily have written her off the show, but instead brought her back, constructing scenes, without her dialogue, just as emotionally driven as those written with it. Actor John Walmsley (Jason), in the book “Goodnight John-Boy,” agrees:

“In an industry where performers are considered not only replaceable but altogether disposable, Ellen’s return to the show was one of the most courageous and commendable decisions I have seen by the producers of any show.”

Corby would appear throughout the remainder of the series as well as 5 out of the 6 reunion movies. Just like her character, she refused to go anywhere anytime soon!

In addition to being Corby’s first episode back, this is also, sadly and ironically, Will Geer’s last episode, as he passed away during summer hiatus. More details under the next episode entry.

Incidentally, actress Esther Rolle also returned to her series, Good Times, after one year, for the same season (1978-79) as Corby.

Subplot: Elizabeth raises a pig for a 4H project, rebuffs an overweight boy who likes her.

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