Ashley Longworth Jr. returns – Erin, start your mooning! He’s on leave for just a few weeks, but he’s got big plans – for starters, marriage to Erin. Everyone’s elated, until he’s asked to say the blessing at the Walton’s dinner table, but can’t, on account that he’s (gasp) an atheist. This doesn’t sit well with he family, especially staunch Baptist Olivia, and so the engagement falls apart, with Ashley frequenting the Dew Drop Inn and hosting bacchanalian parties at the Baldwin mansion. Distraught Erin and John visit Ashley before he leaves, and John tells him that his war wounds will heal (the reason for his “wayward” ways), and that he’ll be on the road to salvation in no time. Earl Hamner confirms. Subplot: More growing pains from Elizabeth, who believes her new tagalong little sister is cramping her style.
Jonathan Frakes reprises his role as Ashley again, and the melodrama here is pretty standard issue. The treatment of atheists here is about as even-handed as it was in “The Genius” episode, in which a visiting nonbeliever was depicted as a gangly egghead. Here, it’s a temporary abnormality caused by the war. Rest assured, he’ll be sitting on a church pew in no time at all!