Miss Michael Learned who portrayed Olivia Walton left the show following episode 185 which was in the middle of the 8th season. This episode also happened be the Thanksgiving Day telecast. Whether or not her leaving was her choice, the studios, or was mutual, I can only speculate. One thing I do know for a certain is that following her departure, Miss Learned assumed a role in the short-lived CBS series Nurse which ran 25 epsiodes over 2 seasons from April 1981 to May 1982, which coincidentally she won her fourth emmy for! The Waltons final first-run episode aired in the spring of 1981. This means that there are a few overlapping episodes for Nurse and The Waltons.
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