Well, this isn't the story I was expecting. I thought perhaps we'd have something focused on John-boy's writing career or personal life. Instead, we end up with half the cast stuck in a mine and the other half blaming each other up top.
Don't get me wrong, the producers have clearly put a lot of effort into this. There are no fewer than fifteen recurring characters, and they've created a whole alternate universe in which Jefferson County is going through a (presumably very short) depression while the rest of America booms. The first half is basically the story of John-boy's homecoming, showing him first in New York, then bumping into friends and neighbours as he wends his way home.
I did enjoy the scenes in New York. John-boy looks very at home in the city, and the office clobber suits him. I'm glad they didn't clad him in dungarees the moment he got back. I'd like to have heard a bit more about his new life but, instead, the plot has him try to fix the town's employment woes, and the story begins to head south.
The stuff about the mine makes little sense. If it only closed due to a lack of labour, then why did it not reopen once the workforce became available again? You'd think somebody before John-boy would at least have asked the question. Also, in six whole seasons, no-one has ever mentioned there being a mine in the village. It must be very close, as folk can hear the alarm from inside their houses. Despite this, it's a good setting and I did like the old steam engine.
Of course, with an abandoned mineshaft in play, you know there's going to be a mishap at some point. Even so, I didn't expect so many to be trapped underground. The director tries hard to create a sense of panic, but it doesn't really work, and to be truthful, some of the acting is pretty lame. Did anybody notice that one of the miners was the bloke who installed the Waltons' landline a few weeks back? Clearly, that job didn't work out too well.
Erin seems less pleased to see John-boy than the others, presumably because she suspects her brother will find out about her secret childminding job. She's right, of course, though it's never explained why the job is such a big secret. I can only assume we'll find out later.
My favourite moment comes when John-boy runs across the yard and pulls on the steam whistle to raise the alarm. There's an almost identical scene featuring Clay-boy in Spencer's Mountain. Now, that's continuity!