Livy misses her husband terribly, now that is working hard as head of a co-op and must be away for long stretches of time. On Jason’s advice, John invites his wife to come with on his next trip to Virginia Beach, and she obliges, so long as she can stop and see her Aunt Kay… and get him to see a doctor. The prognosis for him is simply to take it easy; for Olivia, not so great: she is in the early stages of tuberculosis, and must stay at a sanitarium for an indeterminate amount of time.
With her eye on starring in the pilot for the 1980 CBS series Nurse, and “exhausted after doing this show 12 hours a day, five days a week for seven years,” actress Michael Learned essentially exits the series at this point (although she would make guest appearances in the last two seasons and star in the reunion movies)– the latest in a long string of cast changes in the Waltons’ later years. This, perhaps, is the biggest shakeup of them all; even People magazine devoted a cover story to it, calling her “the last bulwark of a closely bound cast.” Henceforth, the show’s writers will introduce new characters and start to focus more on town life (as set up in “The Boosters”). It also didn’t help ratings much when ABC slated HUGE hit Mork and Mindy against The Waltons at the top of this season.
As drama, this is a sad and touching episode, but it does sort of come from out of nowhere. To be fair, when Learned asked the writers to write her out of the series, what could they do – have her enlist in the army? A smart, and credible, move, and it does cast some light on the sorrow and separation caused by such a frightful disease, up until they developed a vaccination for it in the 1940s.
Subplot: Jim Bob practices the accordion, and sucks at it – but he does pull off a sweet goodbye song for Olivia.