The Waltons

Season 4 Episode 18

The Burnout (1)

Aired Thursday 8:00 PM Jan 22, 1976 on CBS
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Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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8.4
out of 10
Average
52 votes
  • The Heater or the Pipe?

    9.0
    Another season, another feature-length episode. It goes without saying that having the house burn down provides a pretty dramatic plot. How they must wish they hadn't used 'The Fire' as an episode title already. The blaze itself is fairly well staged, though as always, there's far too little smoke. I didn't expect to see John-boy's novel going up in flames, nor Elizabeth's doll, so definite points for those. I also like that we never learn the cause of the fire. Was it Zeb with the heater in the bathroom? Was it John-boy with the pipe on the landing? Better not delve too deeply.

    The scene in the tent is hilarious. Loving Mary Ellen's umbrella! What rotten luck though: all those late-night shots of the house and it's never raining in a single one. Then, as soon as they camp in the garden, down comes the lightning. Life just isn't fair.

    The most interesting twist comes after the blaze, when the Waltons are scattered amongst their friends and neighbours. Elizabeth is sent to the Godseys, Jim Bob and Erin to the Fordwicks, Ben to Yancy Tucker, Mary Ellen to Dr Vance, Jason to the Baldwins and Zeb and Esther to Flossie Brimmer. This sets up some wonderful contrasts: Jason gets to stay in Judge Baldwin's old room, with breakfast in bed and his own bathroom, while Ben sleeps in a shack with pets and poultry crawling all over him.

    Less impressive is some of the strange behaviour they show. I mean, I get that the writers want to give the impression of a family growing apart and dealing with disaster, but the reactions are a little too extreme. For instance, Elizabeth switches off her emotions and decides she will never be close to anyone again. Not very likely for a ten year-old. Erin, meanwhile, blames everything on her vanity and starts dressing like a nun. If you want a laugh, though, be sure to check out the scene where Mamie Baldwin is playing the recorder to one of Jason's songs. It's so bizarre, I can't really put it into words; you'll just have to watch it for yourself.

    The last word, however, has to go to Flossie's lodger, Zuleika Dunbar. The way she flirts so mercilessly with Zeb is simply hilarious, as is the horror on Esther's face. Funniest thing I've seen in a long, long while.

    Pick of the bunch: Zuleika Dunbar (Pearl Shear)

    Alternate title: The Fire

    Score: 9.2