Thursday, April 11, 2013

Waltons 6.18: “The Family Tree”

Airdate: 2/9/78

Verdie Wilson, having just lost her father, is starting to feel “adrift” when she can’t trace her family history beyond her parents. Enlisting Jason’s help, she does some detective work to discover her genealogy, despite her husband’s warnings that the further back she goes, the uglier it could get. She discovers that her grandfather was born a slave on the plantation currently owned by a bitter, possessive old woman. When Zeb talks some sense into her, she allows Jason and Verdie access to her attic, where they discover color sketches of the entire antebellum family, including Verdie’s grandfather, as a baby, and his father, wearing the African talisman that incited Verdie’s curiosity in the first place.

Another Verdie Wilson-centered episode is clearly inspired by the Roots phenomenon of the previous year (complete with finale in which Verdie vows to “cross the ocean” to find even deeper roots). Given the changing roles of African-Americans and the topic of race on television, some of the material seems a bit dated (including he most awkward scene: a discussion between Jason and Verdie in which they speculate that in previous times, he could buy and sell her), but props to the show for even entertaining the subject matter for the third time this season.

Speaking of contemporary issues: Elizabeth lies about her age in a pen-pal correspondence with a soldier stationed at Fort Lee, and even sends him Erin’s picture. When the soldier arrives, it’s all for the best as the family invites him to a sit-down supper just like he had before being deployed, but this subplot has haunting current-day parallels given the number of tragedies resulting from identity lies in chat room, text and email conversations. Who knew then the way this episode could take on a totally different tenor in 2012?

PS: This is on the Waltons Wki by anonymous:
I was intrigued to read that Lynn Hamilton actually visited her ancestral home of Africa some time ago, to try to understand just how her family had come to America and the conditions that they endured when they were first taken as slaves to the Slave Castle.

(Lynn Hamilton plays Verdie Wilson.) If true, this is true devotion to a role!

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