Ep.13 - The Conscience

  Original Airdate: January 4, 1979
Writer: Michael McGreevey
Director: Gwen Arner


  Jason struggles with his decision to enlist or become a contienscious objector. Jim-Bob gets a tattoo and immediately regrets his decision.

Intro scene:


Ben gets into a fight outside of the Dew Drop Inn after a couple of trouble makers call Jason a yellow belly chicken.


  "The weeks that followed the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor affected our family deeply. It was a time of great anxiety and uncertainty and like all Americans we wanted to contribute to the war effort as best we could. My brother Jason was particularly troubled during this time, he wanted to serve his country but doubts of conscience forced him to face one of the most difficult decisions of his life."



Jason is paid a visit by Billy, an old friend he made while training with the National Guard, who tries to convince him to join the army. Jason is not sure. He’d like to finish his college studies.

Jason stops by the store for gas and sees that Ike and Corabeth have added John-Boy’s name to the plaque of local service men.

Jim-Bob stops by the recruiting office in Rockfish hoping that he can qualify but the recruiter tells him to come back on his birthday when he is of age. He then sees a tattoo artist set up outside on the street and looks over the designs and sees one that he likes with wings.

At home the boys that about their thoughts of joining the war. Jim-Bob scratches his shoulder where his has gotten his tattoo. Jason leaves and talks to Mary Ellen about his feelings.

The next day Erin walks in to the boys bedroom and sees Jim-Bob admiring his Air Corps tattoo. Erin thinks it’s revolting and that none of the nice girls are gonna like it.

Mary Ellen finds Jason out for a walk and they sit to look at the mountain view and talk about his feelings. Jason says that he has been taught his whole life to not kill and it’s not just words for him. She says that he can become a conscientious objector but he is concerned about what everyone will think and call him a coward.

Jason goes to the recruiting office to ask question and get more information about serving as a conscientious objector. The recruiter reluctantly gives him the papers but warns him of the difficult path it will be for him and his family. Just as he prepares to leave two eager young men enter the office and overhear Jason’s conversation.

Mary Ellen and Mama fold laundry n the living room. Jason comes downstairs and announces that he is off to play music at the Dew Drop Inn. Ben chases after him and is shocked to have found the conscientious objector pamphlet in his bedroom. Their Daddy intervenes and says that Jason needs to take his time in making his decision. Olivia asks John what he believes to be the right decision. He goes outside to the porch to think and she follows after him. They talk but she leaves him in his thoughts on the porch.

Ben shows up at the Dew Drop Inn and overhears the two trouble makers making fun of Jason having seen him at the recruiting office. Ben stands up to them to defend his brother’s name but they call him “Shorty” and knock him to the ground. He chases them outside and Jason follows after them to find Ben on the ground once again. They give Jason a bloody lip and knock him to the ground calling him “yellow”.

The next morning Jim-Bob enlists Erin’s help to scrub off the tattoo on his arm with nail polish remover and other cleaners but it has no effect. Jason come downstairs and shocks his mother with his fat lip. He asks what her thoughts are about his decision. She says it’s the same as the very first Mother that watched her son go off to war. She wants him safe but also to be okay with his decisions. He wants to talk to his Daddy and get his opinion.

Jim-Bob goes down to Ike’s for a solution to remove the tattoo. Ike almost sells him some acid until he realizes how Jim-Bob plans to use it. He then makes some suggestions that an old friend of his tried to remove a tattoo but they didn’t work either.

Elizabeth and Jim-Bob do their homework at the kitchen table. She smells something funny like sour milk. Jim-Bob runs up to his room to get some privacy from Elizabeth’s suspicions.

John and Ben finally come home from Charlottesville and Jason asks to speak to his Daddy. They go to the Mill’s office. Jason reminds him of how he felt when he did bayonet drills with the Guard. He says that he always made himself scarce when they had to slaughter animals to put food on the table. His father reminds him that all the Walton men stood up to the challenge when the time came. He tells him that they live on fought for land. That his Grandfather fought in the Spanish-American war and that their relatives fought on both sides of the Civil War. He knows that his son will do the right thing when the time comes. Jason decides get up early and go up on the mountain to think.

Erin helps Jim-Bob to wrap a piece on raw liver over his tattoo in the bathroom. Elizabeth continues to be suspicious of Jim-Bob and wonders what he and Erin were up to.

When Jason returns to the house there is a call from his friend Billy Streeter who is checking to see if Jason is ready to join the Army. Jason snaps at feeling pressured to make a decision. Ben then makes Jason an offer. He suggests that Jason take over his position at the Mill and Ben will take his place and join the Marines. Jason reefuses to make such a bargain.

Jason gets up early and walks up the mountain. He spends time alone to think and he visits his Grandfather’s grave. He hears the voices of everyone’s opinions cloud his mind as he struggles to reach a decision.

The next morning Elizabeth sees the bandages and raw meet on his arm and screams. His parents run in and Jim-Bob has to confess his mistake to his mother.

Ben drives up the mountain offers Jason an apology and a ride home. When they get home Jason tells his family that they stopped in Rockfish first. He returned the Objector pamphlet and then enlisted. He says that his decision was based on his love for his family and country and that he has to protect them. He tells his Mama that he can graduate first before reporting for duty. His Mama is glad that he is okay with his decision.


  "Jason had searched his soul and found an inner strength that would help him enter a new phase of his life. Jim Bob's tattoo remained on his arm, a symbol of his youthful lack of judgment as well as his commendable ambition. It is to this day a topic which amuses everyone - except my mother."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • John-Boy has joined the military as a reporter for the newspaper Stars and Stripes.
  • Ike has added John Walton, Jr. to his honor roll along with the names John B. Lewell, Russell R. Williams, and Howard K. Wilson.
  • This episode is written by actor Michael McGreevey who guest starred in "The Braggart" (s2-ep08) and whose father wrote many episodes of The Waltons.

Additional Cast:



Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Corabeth Godsey), Hal Bokar (Sgt. Gates), David Hunt Stafford (Lieutenant Billy Streeter), Sean Michael Rice (Bert), Wayne Northrop (Jeb), Edwin Owens (Drill Sergeant)

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