In this second of no less than four 2-hour episodes this season, the war rages ever closer to WM when two young Britons, Tess and Pip, come to say with the Baldwin sisters after their parents are apparently killed in the London Blitz. The Baldwins clearly have their hands full with two frightened children, so they enlist the therapeutic services of the Waltons to try to get the tykes to come out of their shell.
As this a double-length installment, each Walton’s member has his or her own story: Jim-Bob builds a long-wave radio to communicate with London; Erin, still distraught over the death of G.W., treads with caution in her courtship of another army man, the “expeditor” in charge of purchasing desks in a lucrative account with John; Ben works for Ike to enforce the Civil Defense drills, and bears witness to a midnight mugging of Verdie Wilson for her charity money; lonely Mary Ellen defiantly moves into a hole-in-the-wall near Curtis’s army base just to be closer to him; Jason volunteers for basic training and discovers he’s a musician, not a soldier; Elizabeth is frustrated over Tess and Pip’s social withdrawal; and Olivia is just going through a general spiritual malaise as she sees the war inching ever closer to the peace of the Walton homestead.
Earl Hamner in the intro tells us that this will be a different sort of Christmas story, and it is quite unlike previous holiday episodes (although it bears more than a slight resemblance to Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks). With no snow (until the end), no usual mirth and merriment (until the end), and a generally sedate mood throughout (even at the end), this episode feels more foreboding than celebratory – nicely encapsulated by Zeb’s answer to Elizabeth’s query, “What was your favorite Christmas?” His response? “Next year’s.”
Speaking of nice speeches, John delivers one to Jason on the nature of dehumanization in war. Now it’s no All Quiet on the Western Front, but I rather liked his viewpoint that one should retain his tenderness and decency, otherwise there’d be nothing to fight for. Looking back on the Waltons’ war years, it’s interesting to note how patriotism and nostalgia for the 40’s are subtly tinged with the antiwar sentiments of a post-Vietnam consciousness – this episode aired only two years after the end of that war.
Hamner’s conclusion informs us that this would be the last Christmas that the entire Walton clan would spend together. Hmmmm.
By and large, some well-observed dramatic moments, but much of this does seem a bit protracted, and often more than a bit soapy. Oh, and that signal, from 3,000 miles away, on Jim-Bob’s homemade radio does come in awfully clear!
This episode originally aired at a special time, on 12/5/77, which was a Monday. The next episode aired three days later on its regular timeslot of Thursday. It must have been a special holiday presentation.