Ep.2 - The Vigil

  Original Airdate: September 30, 1976
Writer: Kathleen Hite
Director: Harry Harris



When Grandma's appendix bursts Mary Ellen misinterprets the signs as intestinal flu which results in serious consequences for both her and Grandma.

Erin begins a new job as a phone operator for Fanny Tatum.


  "I remember so well the carefree designated crossroads of my life, the points where one could stop and thoughtfully consider which road to take. But there were those other particles of time in which decisions were made more quickly and in one snap judgment irrevocable forces were set into motion. I especially recall such a time affecting my grandmother, and my sister Mary Ellen."



Grandma goes out to feed the chickens but is struck by a sudden pain that causes her much concern. Jim-Bob naively approaches her with a comical remark but Grandma sends him on his way choosing to ignore the significance of her pain. Olivia is surprised to see the dishes not cleaned up in the kitchen but when Grandma arrives from the chicken coop she goes about her business and avoids addressing her concerns with Olivia.

John-Boy is visiting with Doc Vance as he prepares to move away to a job in the city. He is not able to afford his practice in the country when all his customers can afford to pay is with food or shingles for the roof. He can't afford to pay his taxes or other costs. He shows John-Boy a number of articles about rural doctors relocating to the city.

Erin trains with Fanny Tatum to become a part time phone operator. Fanny has her practice with the head of the volunteer fire department but he isn't too happy about being called when it's not an emergency. She successfully connects a new caller to their desired number. Fanny wants her to fill in after schools and for half a day on Saturdays.

At home John-Boy discusses Doc Vance’s situation with the adults. Grandma seems quite perturbed with the topic and retired to her room. She is struck again with another pain.

Later John-Boy looks through medical books to find the Hippocratic Oath which he plans to quote in an article for his paper. He suggest to Mary Ellen that they need a young single Doctor in their area who is looking for experience and doesn't need as much money. She has someone in mind who might just fit the bill.

They go to see see David Spencer at the University Hospital. They tell him about the need for Doctors in the country. He likes the idea of learning from Doctor Vance to continue his eduction. Mary Ellen and David seem quite smitten with each other.

The children charge into the kitchen tossing a ball around as Grandma prepares to set the table. The commotion triggers her pain again and she drops to the bench. Mary Ellen asks about her symptoms and assumes that she may have caught the intestinal flu that had been spreading around. The children take her to rest in her bedroom. Later Grandpa and John check in on her as Mary Ellen monitors her condition. They are pleased to have a nurse in the family.

John-Boy prints copies of his newspaper. He asks Ben how it looks but Ben is more interested in the ads that pay for John-Boy’s paper than for the articles themselves. John-Boy has written a plea to entice the community to pay for their medical bills. He drops off a copy for Doc Vance to read and in turn is late getting Erin to her new job at the switchboard. Miss Tatum gives her quite the earful about promptness and responsibility.

Grandma continues to deteriorate and when they can't locate Doc Vance the decision is made to take her to the hospital. John goes to Ike's and calls Erin at the switchboard to send for Sheriff Bridges. When she can't find him by phone she runs out the door leaving the switchboard unattended and sees him at the other end of the street. She runs to catch him and they race off in his car to the Walton home. Esther is taken to the hospital. When Erin returns to her job she finds Fanny frantically dealing with all the impatient customers waiting to be connected to their number. Miss Tatum doesn't want to hear Erin’s excuses or reasons but softens when she learns how distraught Erin is over the condition of her Grandmother.

The adults waiter the hospital for the results and David Spencer approaches to inform Grandpa that they may need his permission to operate. Eventually Doc Vance arrives after Fanny Tatum tracks down his whereabouts. Mary Ellen is quite surprised by the turn of events as she still believes that it is the stomach flu.

The children and John-Boy decide that they can no longer wait at Ike's store for a phone call and they drive to the hospital. David Spencer scolds Mary Ellen for not being qualified to diagnose her Grandmother. She has acute appendicitis which has burst and the toxins have spread into her body.

Grandpa passes by the chapel and hears Mary Ellen crying and praying inside. He tries to comfort her. Each member of the family struggles in their own way to pass the time while they wait for Esther to come out of surgery. Doc Vance gives Mary Ellen the same scolding as David Spencer had for diagnosing her grandmother when it wasn't her place. He tells her that her grandmother has requested her for a visit in her recovery room. Mary Ellen sheepishly enters but her Grandmother is the one asking for forgiveness stating that it was wrong for her to ask Mary Ellen for knowledge she didn't have. She says that she is so proud of her and will be even more proud when she has become a qualified nurse.


  "Our grandmother recovered to live long good years with us, and Dr. Vance decided to remain on Walton's Mountain. People there who had always appreciated him began to show it by paying him with money when they could. Mary Ellen stayed in nursing, where she surely belonged, to learn all the things she had to learn."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • David Spencer, an intern at the University of Virginia hospital makes his first appearance.
  • Mary Ellen is now studing to be a nurse.
  • John-Boy is still using his walking cane.

Additional Cast:


Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Robert Merritt Woods (David Spencer), Sheila Allen (Fanny Tatum), Victor Izay (Dr. Vance), Dee Carroll (Mrs. Vance), John Crawford (Sheriff Bridges)


Music from this episode:

Theme heard while John-Boy prints his newspapers


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