‘The Waltons’: Erin Actress Mary McDonough Revealed Her Favorite Episode, Features John Ritter

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Brian Putnam/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Mary McDonough holds one episode from her time on “The Waltons” quite close to her heart. It involves actor John Ritter.

In a 2011 interview with HollywoodChicago.com, McDonough, who played Erin Walton on the CBS family drama, said she loved an episode called “The Burnout.”

“It was about pyrotechnics, working at night, the family house burning down and the kids splitting up,” she said.

“I had to go live with the preacher and his wife, played by John Ritter and Mariclaire Costello, and I became very ‘churchy,'” McDonough said. “I pulled my hair back and wore sack gray clothes. It is my favorite.”

Ritter Plays ‘The Waltons’ Role Before ‘Three’s Company’

“The Burnout,” which aired during the show’s fourth season, centers around John-Boy smoking a pipe and Grandpa Walton leaving the heater on.

That’s a mixture for a fire in the Walton home. John-Boy was played by Richard Thomas and Grandpa Walton was played by Will Geer.

Ritter played Rev. Matthew Fordwick and Costello played his wife, Rosemary. Ritter would play this role but would leave to find fame and fortune on ABC’s “Three’s Company.” He, obviously, played Jack Tripper on the sitcom, which is definitely different from his religious role on “The Waltons.”

Sadly, Ritter died on Sept. 11, 2003, at 54 years old. Geer died on April 22, 1978, at 76 years old.

Cast Members Offer Opinions About ‘The Burnout’ Episode

“The Burnout” remains one episode that many cast members hold strong opinions about.

“It was very very upsetting to watch that,” Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton, said. “The fire was very upsetting.”

“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.”

Eric Scott, who played Ben Walton, remembered the episode as a lot of fun. Scott said he enjoyed learning the technical aspects of a scene. Oh yes, he also stayed up past midnight…a joy for a kid at his age.

“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.”