This is one of the dumbest episodes of the series. I hated it. I thought it was lame the way Heath's mother and father came together. Victoria's "did he really love me" and, near the end "yes he did" was downright stupid. I felt they could have done a better job with to explain why Tom Barkley cheated on his wife. It would have been better had the man been shown to have feet of clay than "Mr. Perfect
The Barkley family is celebrating the unveiling of a statue of their father in Stockton, and Victoria wants one of her sons to wear their father's boots to the ceremony. To Victoria's sedated chagrin, Heath is the only one with paws petite enough to squeeze into Senor Barkely's waders. But Heath is not so sure he's ready to don his pa's footwear. After all, the man fathered him and then abandoned him and his mother. Meanwhile, Victoria is struggling with a racket of emotions and questions surrounding her deceased husband's infidelity. When Heath can't answer her, she takes a little trip to dusty, deserted Strawberry, where Heath grew up, in order to satisfy her troubled mind.
This particular story has some strong undercurrents running through it, including the internal devastation racking Victoria, the mystery surrounding her husband's relationship, and the sinister secrets hidden in Strawberry. The potential of the episode is squelched a bit by some confusion and credibility. First, there appear to be only five people left in the entire town, and three of those are the ones key to Victoria's fact hunt. Secondly, the close friend of Heath's mother Leah (named Rachel, for added confusion) has died recently and her death is shrouded in mystery. However, the reason her assailants did her in is never clearly explained. Moreover, there seems to be a contradiction in what Heath's mother knew, what she told him, etc. because in the first episode, Heath says that his mother never talked of his father; in this episode, it seems he heard about him on numerous occasions.
The ending seemed a little too tidy as well. That a gunman, hidden from view but with a clear shot with a rifle, just happens to miss unsuspecting Heath and Victoria in broad daylight in their buggy - is not likely. Likewise, Victoria seems satisfied with her late husband's letter to Leah that his infidelity was not so bad after all.
All the talk about love - did he love her? Did she love him? Did he ever love Victoria? Can she still love him? It gets a little annoying. But score extra for the scintillating performance by Heath's conniving auntie, the marvelous Jeanne Cooper.
We're three episods in, and it's time to see what "Mother" is made of. Victoria takes the reigns (literally) and drives her buggy to the soon-to-be ghost town of Strawberry, the mining town where her husband Tom met Heath's mother. Here she finds a small cast of characters dominated by Martha Simmons, a blousy woman who manages to be attractive enough to manipulate the two men who want her--her husband Matt and a ne'er do well gunfighter, Phelps, who evidently has nothing better to do than wait until Martha gets sick of hubby.
The mystery that Victoria is trying to solve is whether Tom actually loved Leah and whether he knew about his illegitimate son Heath. The key seems to lie with Hannah, an elderly woman whose memories meander maddeningly, much like the story itself. Victoria's dubious danger comes mostly from Martha, whose failed scheme to shake her down lead to an assassination attempt. It seems the Simmons are responsible for the death of another character we never see on screen, or something along that line. Regardless of how many times I've seen it, I have to admit the actual backstory of 'Boots With My Father's Name' doesn't leave much of a footprint.
This episode is notable for the strong re-introduction of Victoria Barkley, establishing her as a woman with a will who can alternately serve as an appealing heroine or victim. Barbara Stanwyck dominates nearly every scene, facing off strongly against Jeanne Cooper, an actress who will later leave much the same sort of estrogen-charged legacy on the small screen, playing one of daytime TV's most formidable matriarchs, Kay Chancellor.
The title refers to the boys' Cinderella-ish attempt to fit their father's evidently tiny boots on their own manly feet. Early on we learn that Heath is the only one who is able to wear the boots, but the abandoned Barkley brother isn't too high on the idea. After he rides to Victoria's rescue in Strawberry and learns his pop never knew about his existence, Heath is free to change his mind. Unfortunately he and Victoria have already missed the big unveiling of Stockton's Tom Barkley statue, which, by the way, we never see again in the 100+ episodes to come.
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