‘The Waltons’ Cast Members Discuss Their Thoughts on the Iconic ‘Burnout’ Episode

by Matthew Wilson

“The Waltons” may have been a TV show. But the various cast members felt very real emotions when they watched their TV house burn down. In a January virtual reunion, several of the cast reflected on the iconic and infamous “Burnout” episode.

After four seasons on the show, the cast had grown accustomed to their TV home. The set was where they brought to life The Waltons and their various adventures. It was a place that Richard Thomas as John-Boy worked on his novel, where John and Olivia Walton raised their kids. And the entire dwelling went up in smoke during one tense episode.

“It was very very upsetting to watch that,” Michael Learned said of the episode. “The fire was very upsetting.”

The episode was the only episode in which actor Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth, cried on the show. She was overwhelmed by the emotion of the episode and the flames. Fellow actor Richard Thomas agreed that he didn’t have to make any imaginative leaps as an actor. With real flames and a real loss, Thomas easily inhabited the role of his character.

“I remember standing there in the driveway watching our home go up in flames,” Thomas said. “There was no imaginative leap at all. It was absolutely immediate. There was no gap between what I was looking at and my feelings for the home and everybody. It was very strong.”

‘The Waltons’ House Burned Down

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom behind the scenes. Eric Scott, who played Ben, remembered the episode as a lot of fun as well. He enjoyed learning the technical aspects of how they were going to create a scene. He also got to stay up to midnight, which was a joy as a kid.

“I don’t know if you remember but they brought in pipes that had flames coming out,” Scott said. “Almost like a fireplace. They put them around all the frames of the doors. And I remember they had to take our nightshirts and get them fire retardant. They changed the whole set inside and took off a lot of the wallpaper and painted it and stuff.”

Learned thanked Scott for helping her during the episode. She said he always brought joy and enthusiasm to the set, which was much needed during such a heavy episode.

“You were wonderful Eric, you made days that were difficult for me easy,” Learned said. “You made us laugh, you were always in a good mood. I can’t ever remember you sulking or being in any way difficult.”

The episode ended up attracting a number of visitors to watch as “The Waltons” house went up in flames. The episode ended up being one of the most remembered from the show.