Episode 4 - The Baptism

(14 October 1976)
Writer: Andy White.
Director: Ralph Waite.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"We were a religious people on Waltons Mountain, the church was the center of our social as well as our spiritual lives. Each year there would come a great religious revival when each of us would be called upon to examine our conscience and to receive salvation. It was a time of joyous reunion, of intense religious fervor and was looked forward to with great anticipation by everyone, except my father".


Olivia exits Ike’s store, followed by Ike, the Baldwin sisters, and then John. The banner over Ike’s store announces “Baptist Church Annual All Day Revival Meeting Come Early Sunday”. Rev. Fordwick drives up and is informed that an important preacher is staying at the Thomas Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. Jim Bob walks by, wonders what is going on, is told about the preacher, and walks on with more parts for the car he is building. Matt Fordwick exits to announce that Rev. Ezekiel L. Henshaw will conduct their revival next Sunday followed by the baptisms on the next Sunday. Olivia looks over to John, as does Matt. The reverend asks if John will join them in the revival services. John won’t make a commitment. Olivia looks on disappointed.


Jim Bob finds a peacock on a branch of a tree and watches it from the ground. At supper the family eat and talk about the revival and baptism. The children talk about whether they will be baptized or not. Olivia wants all of her family with her in heaven. John reminds that all the children have the right to make up their own minds. Ben announces that Yancy and he are going coon hunting. John and Olivia disagree about how the children should pursue their religion.


While working in the shed, John-Boy and Mary Ellen hear a screech in the barn. The family investigates and finds Jim Bob and the peacock. He wants to keep the bird in order to see it fly. At the bus stop, Rev. Fordwick waits for Rev. Henshaw, and welcomes him when the bus arrives. Henshaw wants to know where the jail is located, and where the center of sin is located. Matt mentions the roadhouse, the Dew Drop Inn, on Route 29. Fordwick drives him to the roadhouse. At the Dew Drop, Cissy sits on Yancy’s lap while Ben and Yancy’s dog, Tiger, sit quietly at the table. Ben talks with another barmaid, by the name of Texas. Suddenly, the door opens and in walks the two reverends. The crowd is hushed when Henshaw introduces himself, and invites them all to the revival. Several walk out the back door. Matt walks over to Ben, and asks him what he is doing here. Fordwick tells Ben to return home and tell his parents what has happened.


Yancy drives too fast toward the Walton house and drives into the chicken coop. Yancy explains to John what happened at the Dew Drop, that the Bible-pounders came in looking for sinners. After hearing the story, Olivia insists that Ben come to the revival meeting. Olivia watches a storm come up from her bedroom window, and wonders to John how she fits into the divine plan of the universe. She continues to try to save John’s soul after all of these years. John rushes out to cover the timber. As Olivia peaks through the window, watching John cover the wood when lightning strikes where he is standing. Ben and John-Boy pick up their unconscious father and take him inside. He eventually becomes conscious with the family gathered around him. He doesn’t remember what happened, but says he is fine. Olivia looks on in amazement and relief. She thinks that the Lord might have been telling him something. He says that he can’t work tomorrow because the lumber is wet, so he agrees to go to the revival.


The revival begins with the choir singing Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus. The family sings along, even John. The Baldwin sisters enter as they sing. Rev. Fordwick introduces Rev. Henshaw who begins with calming words, but as the storm clouds gather, he begins to yell and shout at the congregation of all the consequences that are surely to befall the world. He asks for the sinners to come forth and to confess their sins to him. Corabeth is the first to come forward, followed by a woman, a man, and then Mary Ellen. John watches the spectacle. Outside, Yancy carries a mess of fish, trying to get out of the rainstorm. He seeks shelter inside the church, watching from the rear of the church. Henshaw directs his words to Ben and other young people who have turned from the church. Ben quickly comes forward. Yancy is confronted with Henshaw’s description of “a land of milk and honey” or “the devil’s pitchfork in the dens of hell”. He also comes forward. John continues to listen, but finally turns his back and leaves the church. Olivia follows him outside.


John says that he will not be shouted at, and walks home in the rain. Olivia watches as he leaves. Back home John-Boy and Olivia sit on the sofa, while John chops wood. They discuss the events leading up to John walking out of the church. John-Boy talks with his father. John says the last thing he wants to do is to hurt his wife. He feels like a hypocrite when he goes to church with the family. John-Boy says he has been in the middle of it all of his life, and the worst part is when they fight about it.


Jim Bob and Elizabeth discuss Rover, Jim Bob’s new name for his peacock. The family eats “the first corn of the season”. John says it tastes the sweetest. Elizabeth asks Ben if he is going to get baptized. Jason thinks Ben has a lot of guilt. But, Ben says he has no need to be baptized and may not because his Daddy was never baptized. Olivia talks with Ben alone because she is worried that something is wrong. Ben needs more time to think about it.


Jim Bob takes Rover outside. John-Boy says that a man outside of Westham responded to the ad in the paper. The man says that if the peacock wants to stay, then they can keep him because the peacock has always had a wild streak in him. Jim Bob frees the peacock to see if it will stay or not. The peacock flies to the tree house, seemingly ready to stay around.


That night, John asks if Olivia is ready for bed. She is concerned about Ben who is being pulled this way and that. John admits that he is one of the things pulling him the wrong way. Olivia agrees. In the morning, John-Boy awakens his parents, but Olivia finds John has already gone. The congregation sings Shall We Gather at the River? as the baptism takes place along the shore of Druscilla’s Pond. Ben decides to become baptized, as does Yancy, Mary Ellen, and Corabeth.


John remains at home. After the ceremony, Olivia talks with John. He tells her that he has been thinking about his life. He feels that he has lived basically an honest life and doesn’t know why being dunked in water will help him. He is concerned about his relationship with her. Olivia says that maybe he is a “seeker”, someone different from others. She still loves him, but says maybe he’ll be baptized next year. He laughs, “You never stop.”


"Each year revival time would come and go. My father never was baptised, but that did not keep him from worshiping his God as he saw fit, and being, at least to his friends and to his family, the most godly of men".


Jim Bob, who is trying to build himself a car out of spare parts, finds a peacock which he calls Rover who roosts in the tree-house.


[peacock crows]
Grandma: Good Lord! That peacock again.
John: Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Yes sir?
John: I want that racket stopped.
Jim Bob: I don't know how to shut him up.
John: You think of somethin'.
[peacock crows]
Ben: Now where are you goin'?
Jim Bob: Guess I'll have to sleep in the tree-house, so Rover won't be lonesome.
Elizabeth: Goodnight, Jim Bob.
Ben: Goodnight Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Goodnight everybody.
[peacock screams]
Grandma: Good Lord!



Rover, the peacock, joins the family as Jim Bob’s pet.

John was named after John the Baptist.

The choir sings “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” at the beginning of the revival, whose lyrics can be found at: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/t/standufj.htm.

The congregation sings “Shall We Gather at the River?” at Druscilla’s Pond during the baptism, whose lyrics can be found at: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/w/swgatriv.htm.


Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson); Rev. Matt Fordwick (John Ritter); Yancy Tucker (Robert Donner); Sissy Walker (Cissy Wellman). Rev. Ezekiel L. Henshaw (John Karlen); Woman Convert (Judy Motulsky); Texas (Ellen Nickles).