In the episode, Thanksgiving approaches, and John-Boy is alive after a plane crash. John and Olivia go to see him in the hospital, and find him in a coma. They stay with him through the whole episode, talking and reading to him in an attempt to wake him up. It’s only when John and Olivia are preparing for Thanksgiving around John-Boy’s bedside, that he finally moves, reaching to take their hands.
Judy Norton shared behind the scenes information on the episode, like the fact that the hospital building was used every time they needed an official-looking building on “The Waltons.” She explains, “It was used for Boatwright University, for Mary Ellen’s nursing school, when the Waltons went to Jefferson County, to the courthouse […] they would simply change the signage, do a little bit of change with the foliage, and there we go, a new location.”
“The Waiting” was also the first look at the new John-Boy; Richard Thomas left “The Waltons” in season 5, and there was no John-Boy for quite some time. This season 8 episode was the first time there was a John-Boy in nearly three seasons.
Norton explains why the show brought the character back. She says, “John-Boy was the viewpoint from with the entire series was told. So when Earl Hamner created the series, it was meant to be told from the perspective of his life as a young man, talking about his family.”
She says that, in her opinion, the executives felt that bringing back John-Boy would add to the series. They then recast the character.
‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Discusses Ralph Waite’s Passion
Judy Norton described another moment from the episode that touched her. John Walton Sr. yells at the doctors, claiming that no one checks on John-Boy. Norton mentions that John goes on a rant at the doctors. That the scene reminded her of Ralph Waite’s own passion for helping people.
“In watching this scene,” she says, “It reminded me of Ralph in real life; and how passionate Ralph was about the things that were important to him. How he did not back down from speaking his mind and defending his position when he felt something was important. And quite often, most of the time, it was on behalf of someone else. Or someones else, a group, or people he felt deserved to be defended or helped in some way.”