Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Waltons 6.14: “The Rumor”

Airdate: 1/5/78

Mrs. Brimmer’s brother-in-law, Willie, arrives with his family at Waltons Mountain direct from Germany, which had just invaded Norway and Denmark. John happily offers him work at the mill and suggests an old abandoned cabin for his family to stay at, but local tongues start a-wagging, and before long a rumor, unintentionally promulgated by upstart journalist Elizabeth, spreads that Willie is a German spy sending messages back home via Jim-Bob’s short wave radio. Ultimately, an angry posse headed by the most suspicious one of all, Buck Vernon, arrives at the mill and demands that John turn over the spy. Naturally John refuses, and Willie finds solace in his friendship with the one individual who does not buckle to the lynch-mob mentality.

Another timely offering but this episode is almost the exact flip-side to Waltons 1.9, “The Ceremony,” in which a Jewish family finds refuge on Waltons Mountain only to face bigotry and suspicion from a few narrow minds. For being such a rural town in Virginia, Waltons Mountain sometimes feels like a microcosm of the world at large! Of course, not so small considering the show was number 15 in the Neilsons the previous season.

The finger-pointing paranoia theme, especially in times of war, is of course age old, but given fresh circulation in McCarthyist allegories (consider The Twilight Zone’s “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”). Another example, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, feels akin to this episode as both outbreaks of hysteria are inadvertently started by young girls (Abigail in The Crucible, Elizabeth here).

In the subplot an old dog, Sam, hangs around the Waltons house; despite Elizabeth’s desire to take him in, Zeb advises her to let him go where he wants to go and die in a peaceful place. Zeb’s last meditative look at the dog sure feels like foreshadowing to me. Did the writers know something we don’t?

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