Ep.18 - The Burnout

  Original Airdate: January 22, 1976 - 2 Hour Episode
Writer: John McGreevey
Director: Harry Harris


  The members of the Walton family are separated from each other after their home is consumed by fire.


  "As with most families everywhere, on Walton's Mountain we were faced with all kinds of troubles large and small, some growing out of personal weaknesses, others thrust on us by our changing world. Mostly when troubles struck we drew together, united against the common enemy, and came out of the struggle closer than before. But one year my family suffered a loss which rather than bringing us closer together, scattered us and threatened to destroy the fabric of our lives."



Grandpa keeps walking off and leaving his electric heating pad on that he uses for his aches and pains. The children make fun off Jim-Bob who has taken an interest in collecting girl’s hair ribbons. They also bother Jason who is busy practicing the piano. Elizabeth is upset that a butterfly she has caught in a jar has died. She is quite distraught at the loss of things she cares about.

John-Boy is called into Professor Park’s office who wants to share the first 50 pages of his novel with a publisher who is interested in discovery new talent. The Ruffner Brothers have published Hawthorne, Thoreau and Melville, John-Boy is excited by the chance to submit his work. The family is quite surprised to learn that John-Boy has taking up pipe smoking and watch as he lights his pipe for the first time in the living room.

John stops off at Ike’s to pick up some supplies after having made another payment on the mortgage. He learns from Ike that Corabeth has become quite adept at decorating around the store. Ike offers to lend Corabeth to him if he needs help doing upgrades around his home.

Elizabeth is going through a phase of worry. She is fearful of change and loss. When Jim-Bob brings her a butterfly he caught she asks him to release it before it becomes harmed. She clings to her Raggedy-Ann doll knowing that it never changes. That night she becomes distraught by her thoughts and can’t find rest. John-Boy hears her after bedtime and tucks her back into her bed. In the process he sets his pipe down on a side table in the hallway which falls to the floor on the carpet. Meanwhile Grandpa leaves the electric space heater on in the bathroom after taking an extra long bath.

Later that night the family awakes to discover that the house has caught on fire and they work to save their possessions and fight the flames. The children through their clothes out their windows and John-Boy gathers up his journals. Erin becomes overwhelmed by smoke when she stays too long in her room while trying to save her best dress. John-Boy stops to save her when she falls in the hallway. In doing so he is unable to save his novel which go up in flames.

After the family has gathered out front of their home men from the community arrive to keep the whole house from burning down. The next morning John says that they will need to replace the entire 2nd floor, including the old wiring and plumbing. Both John-Boy and especially Grandpa feel guilty that their actions may have caused the fire.

Professor Parks tells John-Boy that many famous authors have lost the first version of their most famous novels before they were rewritten and published.

Erin has been wearing the same humble, drab grey dress since the fire. She blames her vanity for trying to save her best dress as the cause of John-Boy losing his novel. She chooses to wear the modest dress for atonement. Elizabeth finds her burned doll in the pile of rubble and feels nothing for its loss.

The children set up cots in the old carnival tent but when a thunderstorm arrives they run for shelter in the barn with their parents.

John decides to have the family split up and placed with family and friends until their home is rebuilt. Erin and Jim-Bob are place with Reverend and Rosemary Fordwich. Jason stays in the Judge's old bedroom at the Baldwin sister’s. He is surprised at how large the room is and that it has his own bathroom.

Grandma and Grandpa board at Flossie Brimmer’s. They meet Zuleika Dunbar who is a fellow boarder. Grandpa hits off quite the friendship with Zuleika much to Grandma’s displeasure.

Ben stays with Yancy Tucker and discovers that the rules are quite lax in his home. The farm animals sleep in the house as well and the chickens even lay eggs in the dresser drawers. Mary-Ellen is excited to stay with Doc Vance and Mady’s She wants to help out in the Doctor’s office. Elizabeth is placed with Ike and Corabeth.

Olivia is quite concerned that she has become so detached. John-Boy sleeps in the barn but finds it difficult to work on rewriting his novel.

Part 2

The family finds it difficult to adjust to their new situation. The Baldwin sisters bring Jason breakfast in bed and insist that he use their car for his music classes and work. Rev. Fordwich finds Jim-Bob’s collection of hair ribbons. He admonishes him for not respecting the dignity of the school girls he took them from.

While cleaning up the damage on the second floor. John-Boy finds his pipe in the hallway and John finds the space heater that Grandpa left in the bathroom still plugged in. He throws it down in frustration.

Ben ends up missing school due to the rough conditions of living at Yancy’s. Mary-Ellen causes a rift between her and Mrs. Vance when she makes multiple changes in the doctor’s office to improve efficiency.

John-Boy stops by to see his Grandparents at Mrs. Brimmer’s. Grandpa asks if John had found the cause of the fire. John-Boy tells him that they found the heater in the bathroom but he then shows him the pipe he found that was still lit where he left it in the hallway.

The Reverend asks Jim-Bob to return the ribbons to the girls he took them from and perform an act of kindness and support to each of them. Erin is still feeling shame for her vanity. As penance she decides that she wants to preach humility. The men make good progress on rebuilding the upstairs.

The children come home for a Sunday visit but Olivia feels that they are no longer functioning as a family. As John-Boy struggles to write, he talks to his father and Professor Parks about his struggles. Each offer perspective that gets him back on track.

Finally the repairs are finished and the family returns back home. Jason gives each of the Baldwin sisters a kiss who certainly show signs of grief at the loss of his company. As they prepare to leave Mrs. Brimmer's Boarding house Grandpa is quite beside himself when he watches Zuleika turn her attention from him to a new gentleman border.

Elizabeth is still distant upon her return home and goes missing after dinner. John-Boy finds her in the treehouse where she plans to stay the night. She says that whenever she loves something it dies. She does’t want to care about anyone anymore. John-Boy tells her that they are all afraid to lose the people they care about but that is a part of life. He brings her back to the house where she finally embraces the love of her family.


  "After the ordeal of the fire and separation my family seemed to have a new awareness of life's unpredictability, and out of that awareness came a new and largely unspoken tenderness. Open caring, whatever the circumstances, was our shared strength and consolation."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:


Additional Cast:


Paul Jenkins (Professor Parks), Pearl Shear (Zuleika Dunbar), Nora Marlowe (Mrs. Brimmer), Victor Izay (Dr. Vance), Robert Donner (Yancy Tucker), Dee Carroll (Mady Vance), Loutz H. Gage (The Man From Wilkes Barre)


Music from this episode:

Jason practises his scales on the Baldwin sisters' piano. They ask if he will join Emily on the recorder in a rendition of "Listen to the Mockingbird"
Theme music as Jason says goodbye to the Baldwin sisters



Promotional Stills


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