Hey, fans of The Waltons. Do you remember that time John Boy was shot during a standoff with federal law enforcement?
Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on the show, didn’t recall the scene until she rewatched an episode called The Conflict, which served as the season three premiere in 1974. Norton, each week, looks back at an episode of The Waltons as part of her online show.
“Little spoiler here,” Norton said. “John Boy gets shot. I had totally forgotten about that in the episode and all of the sudden, boom, he’s down. My brother got shot. Why did I not remember this? Probably because he was OK.”
Episode Was Atypical for Waltons
The Conflict didn’t follow a typical Waltons story line. After all, there was violence. But this episode of The Waltons dealt with a wide variety of issues. There was a familiar theme of family loyalty. There were lessons on civic responsibility. And there also was frustration of having a home seized by the government in the name of progress.
The Conflict aired Sept. 12, 1974. The Waltons was a must-see viewing as the third season premiered. The show ended the 1973-74 season as the second most-watched show in the United States, behind only All in the Family and ahead of other hits like Sanford and Son and M*A*S*H.
The Waltons, as a show, could calm a country roiled in turmoil. The season three premiere came a month after President Richard Nixon resigned because of the Watergate scandal.
So why not have an episode that explores the idea of whether the government takes adequate care of its citizens.
The Conflict centered on another side of the Waltons family. The government planned to evict Grandpa Walton’s sister-in-law, Martha Corrine, from her long-time home on Waltons Mountain. The government was buying her property to build a highway.
The Waltons Episode Involved Other Side of Family
The Waltons received a visit from that side of the family. They were told family loyalty is everything. It was time to stand with Martha Corrine and her kids. So there was a standoff at Martha Corrine’s home. Somehow, John Boy was shot.
“It was quite an intense moment,” Norton said. “Grand Pa realizes the potential consequences of this escalating violence. And he shuts everything down and realizes he certainly never intended for John Boy to be injured and potentially killed. So it is a turning point, and ultimately, Martha Corrine is convinced the best thing to do is concede.”
Norton Said TV Dad Would’ve Been Great in Politics
During the episode, Martha Corrine wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. And John Walton addressed state leaders. Norton said the episode revealed how good Ralph Waite, who played John Walton, could’ve been as a leader.
“It reminded me in real life that Ralph did have very strong convictions and did run for office,” Norton said of her Waltons dad. “And I felt it was a shame he never had the opportunity to actually serve because he had a real call to help people and to defend people and be a voice for change.
She added: “There was a point in time, I don’t know where it started, but it was going around ‘if John Walton ran for president, he’d win. The way Ralph portrayed John Walton, I would’ve voted for him.”