Ep.22 - The Tailspin

  Original Airdate: March 15, 1979
Writer: Claire Whittaker
Director: Walter Alzman


  Jim-Bob's grades have dropped and he threathens to join the army when he fails an eye test. Mary Ellen finally starts dating again.

Intro scene:


JimBob drives Elizabeth to school but says he is not coming with her because he is flunking out. He throws his school out of his car as he drives away.


  "Although my brother Jim Bob loved the mountain as much as the rest of us, since childhood he had dreamed of heights beyond its summit. Now, in the Spring of 1942, as those dreams appeared to be within his reach, it seemed that he was finding new energy and purpose. If we were disappointed, it was only because Jim Bob was quietly building to a crisis that would turn his life in a different direction."



Jim-Bob throws a paper airplane out the window of an upstairs bedroom. His Daddy sees it, picks it up and notices that it is a school paper with a score of “F” on it. He goes inside and calls Jim-Bob to come down. He gets to the bottom of it and learns that Jim-Bob is failing English and not doing well in his other classes. He tells Jim-Bob to ask Corabeth to tutor him in English.

At the store Corabeth has made a reading assignment chart for Jim-Bob. He arrives and Corabeth explains the difference between literature and pulp novels. She whisks him away to pick four books in order to pass English.

A soldier by the name of Charles “Chuck” W. Turner arrives at the Walton house. He nows John Curtis and Mary Ellen by name. She is taken by surprise and he admits that he knew Curt her husband when he was growing up in West Virginia. He is now stationed at Camp Rockfish and knew that he had to come by to meet her. He can’t stay but she invites him to join them for dinner. Mary Ellen has designs on introducing him to her sister Erin.

Jim-Bob and Ben drive the work truck through Charlottesville. A cop pulls them over after he catches them going through a newly installed stop sign. He discovers that Jim-Bob’s license has expired and he takes them to the court house. Jim-Bob fails the eye exam which means that his hopes of becoming a pilot are now dashed which requires perfect vision.

Chuck joins the family for spaghetti dinner. Jim-Bob hasn’t touched his food and asks to be excused from dessert. He father follows him out to the treehouse and they talk about his dreams. Back inside Mary Ellen chases away the other family members and leaves Erin and the young soldier alone with a 1000 piece picture puzzle to solve.

Elizabeth and Jim-Bob walk home from school. He is wearing sunglasses which she thinks will help to improve his eyesight. Mary Ellen pulls up in her van and tells Jim-Bob to get in she is taking him to the eye doctor. He protests but she takes him anyways. While in town Mary Ellen goes to the library. Chuck Turner sees her and sparks up a conversation. He wants to ask her to a bond rally dance in Charlottesville but Mary Ellen suggests that he ask Erin instead. He is obviously more interested in Mary Ellen then Erin but Mary Ellen is not interested in a new relationship yet. She picks hp form the doctor’s office. The doctor says he has a stigmatism that he was born with and that he needs to wear glasses. At home wears

At home Jim-Bob takes down all of his aviation photos and models planes. He takes them to Buck Vernon’s Junk shop. Buck tries to drive a tough bargain on his offer for Jim-Bob’s aviation items but is confused when Jim-Bob doesn’t put up a fight. Buck is used to Jim-Bob driving a hard fight for the best price but Jim-Bob is happy for what ever he can get for it. He no longer has and heart for his passions. Buck starts at $2.50 and ends up giving him $5 saying that he will hang on to his items for a while in case he wants them back.

Now that Jim-Bob will have to wear glasses he no longer wants to go to school. He tries to assert his stance in the kitchen with his family but John sends him off to school anyways. Later after Elizabeth gets home alone from school Corabeth arrives looking to continue Jim-Bob’s lessons but he is no where to be found. John is surprised to learn that he hasn’t been at school for a week. Elizabeth has been saying at school that he has a cold. John sends her up to her room until he has a chance to have a talk with her. As Corabeth is about to leave Jim-Bob arrives home. John begins to question Jim-Bob’s actions. Jim-Bob in return becomes upset with Corabeth and rudely berates her for sticking her nose in his business. Corabeth leaves not wanting to hear his apologies. His Daddy asks where he has been all this time. Jim-Bob admits that he has been to every recruiting office all the way to Richmond looking for one that will accept him into the Army. His Daddy tries to set him straight but come to see that maybe the bet thing for Jim-Bob is to join the Army where maybe they will teach him a thing or two. Jim-Bob says that all he has to do is sign the recruiting papers. His father grabs them out of his son’s hands and angrily signs his parental consent.

Late that night Jason find his father in his shop polishing an old telescope and worried for his son. Jason says that signing that paper for Jim-Bob shows that he trusts him to fix his own problems.

Jim-Bob prepares to go to the recruiting office to fill out the necessary paperwork. One by one he says goodbye to his family. His Daddy takes it the hardest and kicks some lumber in frustration after he leaves. On his way in to town he sees Corabeth stuck in the side of the road with a flat tire. She initially turns her back on him but accepts his help when he shows his sincerity.

Chuck arrives for his date with Erin but she has forgotten and is washing her hair in the bathroom. Mary Ellen is upset with her Erin says that maybe her sister should go with him instead as she has very little interest in Chuck anyways.

Jim-Bob finishes changing the tire for Corabeth. She says that she is not very good at mechanical things and he admits that he is not the best at literary things. She admits that she found his desire to join the air corps as very admirable. She knows what people say and think about her but she never saw herself as a store keeper’s wife. She saw herself as a ballet dancer, a tragic actress or an aristocrat’s wife traveling the world. She knows that none of those things will happen and that she will never see a place like Paris but saying a few phrases in French transports her to the Champs-Élysées. She knows that on the outside she looks like a quaint country store keeper but on the inside she keeps her dreams alive and he shouldn’t let a small thing like glasses prevent him from his dream of flying in the sky. Jim-Bob delicately thanks her with a kiss on the cheek.

Mary Ellen comes down to take Chuck on his date instead on Erin. He couldn’t be more thrilled. It seems that maybe Erin had planned the whole thing to set Mary Ellen up. The rest of the siblings are happy to see Mary Ellen go out for the first time since losing her husband.

Jim-Bob arrives home with a propeller he saw at Buck Vernon’s shop. He has decided not to join the army and plans to build an airplane instead so that he can learn to become a mechanic for the Air Corps. His father is thrilled and as Jim-Bob shows him the plans they both put on their eye glasses together.


  "Jim Bob failed English that term, but with Corabeth's help he managed to catch up in summer school. He never did excel in literature and he never flew for the Air Corps, but he hung on to his dream and one glorious day after the war the airplane that he had built on Waltons Mountain carried him briefly into the sky, and all of us were there to cheer him on."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • This is the first time we see John in the treehouse.
  • This is the first time we see Buck Vernon's junk store.

Additional Cast:



Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Corabeth), Michael and Marshall Reed (John Curtis), Kevin Geer (Chuck Turner), Barry Cahill (Buck Vernon), John Lawrence (Deputy), Jerry Hoffman (Dr. Canfield)

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