Episode 11 - The Abdication

(20 November 1975)
Teleplay: Matt Robinson & Paul West.
Story: Matt Robinson.
Director: Harvey S. Laidman.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"A different sound, an unfamiliar shape, or shadow instantly alerts the creatures of the wild. Growing up on Waltons Mountain, seldom traveling far from the place where we were born we came to share this immediate awareness of something different, something new. It seems now in recollection that one of the milestone events of my 19th year followed the appearance in our community of something decidedly different, something none of us had ever seen before".


The family rides in the truck while another vehicle with “Long Island Studios” painted on the side drives past Ike’s store as John-Boy rides up to the store on Old Blue. John-Boy finds inside that Ike has no mail for him, and that Ike is making sandwiches for a movie company making a movie nearby with Sylvia Marsh and Gordon Farrell. Todd Clarke tells Ike that A.J. Covington gives him his regards. When John-Boy introduces himself, he says the A.J. also said to give his regards to him. Todd says the A.J. wrote the story that the movie is based on. Todd places some things on the company’s credit and leaves. Ike says that the man had a funny accent. When John-Boy says it was “English” Ike doesn’t quite understand.


John-Boy rides home to tell the family the exciting news. He finds Jim Bob and Elizabeth trying to rope Myrtle the goat, with everyone else inside the house listening to some King on the radio. John-Boy runs into the house but the family is more interested in the London radio report on Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson, an American lady from Baltimore. The announcer says that the relationship is “the talk of the House of Commons, and the scandal of the House of Lords”. Grandpa says that the “Baltimore lady is upsetting the apple cart”. Mary Ellen says the relationship is the love affair of all time, and he will have to give up the throne. Grandpa says that she’s a “red barn-burner”, meaning she is a “red-hot cookie”.


After Grandma turns off the radio, John-Boy says he had something interesting to say, but no one is interested. The children crowd around him, wondering what he is talking about. John-Boy says something about A.J. Covington being back on the Mountain, “him writing a story for a movie”, and “it being filmed around here”. The children are all ears now, especially when John-Boy says that they are filming at the Tabor place and around the Rockfish River, and that Sylvia Marsh is starring in the movie. The girls yell about the news. Grandma is upset that the world is going crazy, but Grandpa says that they are lucky to be going along for the ride.


Later in the girls bedroom, Elizabeth finds Mary Ellen gazing on the star, saying that Grandpa believes that there are stories in the stars. Mary Ellen relates her story about a little girl that dreamed she’d become an actress, marry a rich man and have lots of diamonds, and even become a big-time baseball player, but decided to become a nurse instead. Elizabeth wonders if it is sad being an adult, and Mary Ellen says you wonder if you are making the right choices. Mary Ellen thinks she is waiting for her prince, but Erin doesn’t think she’ll find him around here.


John-Boy writes in his journal, “I look forward to seeing A.J. Covington again. I guess he’s found the big story he was always looking for. My feeling, of course, always was that A.J. himself was the big story. Perhaps he’s made that discovery for himself. Alot of people have influenced my writing, but it was A.J. Covington who first taught me to write about what is memorable and significant in the lives of ordinary people.


Grandpa, John, and John-Boy watch from the mill as A.J. and Todd Clarke drive up to the house. A.J. is warmly welcomed back by the men, and Todd is introduced to Grandpa and John, and later to Erin and Mary Ellen. A.J. says that the movie company needs lumber from John. Todd goes with John to fill the order, and A.J. goes inside the house with John-Boy to tell the family about all of his adventures.


A.J. is staying at Mrs. Brimmer’s boarding house. While in his room A.J. asks John-Boy to take him to the old Tabor place before the movie company ruins it with all of their equipment. In front of the house, A.J. says it is the most peaceful place in the whole world. Both remember a story that A.J. wrote about the house. Although A.J. once wanted to live in the house, he has now “tasted” New York City and he is changed by it, for better or worse. After supper, John-Boy returns home later to tell John and Olivia about his experiences with A.J. He tells them that A.J. makes $150 a week, but Grandma thinks that amount can’t be correct. Grandpa says that for that amount of money he would “crawl bare-naked through a rattlesnake farm”.


Todd comes in the house to ask John if they could have additional lumber delivered tomorrow. John agrees with his request. Todd also asks John if he could take Mary Ellen to Ike’s store for a soda. John says he’ll leave the decision to Mary Ellen, who says she will go with him. She and Erin run upstairs to get ready. Todd asks if they can use their goat as “set dressing”. John, John-Boy, and Grandpa can’t believe he wants to use their goat, especially when there are so many good-looking men in the family. Mary Ellen promises she will be sensible about Todd, but is obviously excited about her date. Todd tells the family that special arrangements have been made so the family can watch the filming of the movie. Mary Ellen comes downstairs looking absolutely lovely.


The next day the movie company is set up at the Tabor house, while the Walton family sits in the background. Soon, John, John-Boy, Grandpa, Ben, and Jason drive up with the lumber order. A.J. takes John-Boy over to see the operations. Jason says we are only the “common folks” and Grandpa hushes everybody. Olivia is sitting on the front porch, doing nothing. Grandma thinks she is sick. Olivia says she feels like sitting on a beautiful day, and Grandma joins her but hopes nobody from the church sees them. Ike drives his motorcycle to the Walton house with their mail and day-old paper. He makes small talk and says, “Toodley-do”. After he leaves, Olivia asks Grandma if she could imagine being married to a man who says, “toodley-do”. Grandma says, “Nope!” Grandma tells Olivia that there is a newspaper story about the King, who says that he is in love with Wallace Simpson, and plans to marry her (although she is already married). Olivia says that he’ll have to give up the throne. Grandma says the newspaper uses the word “abdicate”.


Mary Ellen and Erin ask Todd about how the actors’ rehearse. Todd remarks that Sylvia Marsh is difficult to get along with. A.J. tells John that in the upcoming scene the lead character Luke will tell his wife Nancy why he wants to stay in their mountain home. The locals, because of the words the actors use, like hoppytoad, think the dramatic scene is funny. The director, Martin Walters, stops the scene, asking A.J. why the crowd is giggling at the serious scene. John-Boy tells A.J. and the director that the words would never be used around here. A.J. asks John-Boy to look at the script, and John-Boy suggests using “My Daddy and my Grandpa cut this little farm from out of the Blue Ridge timbers with their bare hands.” instead of what A.J. had originally used. Todd tells Mary Ellen that John-Boy is making his presence known to the director. John-Boy makes changed to the script as the actors wait around. A.J. and the director like his changes and, the new script is given to the actors. The new scene is performed, and the crowd intensely listens to the dramatic words spoken. Farrell and Marsh congratulate John-Boy on the rewrites, saying he captured their acting styles. The director asks John-Boy if he can rewrite the script for tomorrow.


Todd and Mary Ellen sit on the front porch talking about Todd’s dream to be a director, and Mary Ellen’s dream to be a nurse. Todd asks that if she ever goes to New York City, he’d like her to look him up. John-Boy drives up to the house, announcing he is rewriting tomorrow’s script. Mary Ellen wonders about A.J., who is the writer. John-Boy pores over his work as Olivia comes into his room. He says, “I’m rolling”, and Olivia agrees to bring him a sandwich. The family relaxes in the living room, trying to see who can touch their hands to the floor while standing up. Grandpa says he could, if he wanted to, but doesn’t want to. The kids yell out, “Grandpa is a fake”. In response, Grandma get up and touches her palms to the floor, both front and back. The children are impressed. John-Boy comes down, disturbed by the commotion. Olivia wonders why John-Boy is doing A.J.’s work. Mary Ellen says that if John-Boy does a good job, he’ll get discovered as a writer, and could go to New York City.


The next day the director tells John-Boy that his rewrites are great. He asks if John-Boy will continue with the script back in the New York City. John-Boy says that is a big step, and will need to think about it and talk with his family. Walters says he’ll drop by the house this afternoon. John is shocked at what is happening to him. Ben and Jason are working on the truck when John-Boy drives up. John-Boy tells Grandpa that he may be going to New York City. Grandma exclaims, “What! He wouldn’t be safe with all that sin and traffic!” John-Boy asks his Momma what he should do but Olivia says that she can’t trust her judgment, and that he’s on his on. She tells him to talk to his Daddy. John tells John-Boy that he’ll have to give up his schooling. John-Boy isn’t sure he wants to give up his education, and leave the family. John says that it is difficult for him to take the movie business seriously.


John-Boy visits A.J. in his room, wanting advice on whether he should take the New York writing job. A.J. says he’ll be writing for the movie business, if that is what he wants. John-Boy says he’ll like working with him, but A.J. tells him that he was fired this morning. John-Boy thinks it is a terrible thing, but A.J. says that it makes perfect sense because a better man came along. Mrs. Brimmer comes in to say that the King of England has just announced that he has abdicated the throne. A.J. tells her that he has something in common with the King: unemployment. The family silently listens to the radio as Edward makes his announcement to give up the throne.


John-Boy tells the director that he won’t be taking the writing job, saying that A.J. wrote a good story. When Walters calls John-Boy a valuable commodity, John-Boy says he doesn’t like being called a commodity. John-Boy takes Wallace to the Tabor place, because Wallace wants to rehire A.J. They find A.J. leaning up against the fence in front of the house. He is saying goodbye to a “lost love”. He enters the car, and they leave.


"Twice A.J.Covington came into our lives on Waltons Mountain and twice he wandered on. The visit of the movie company had made almost as much history in our small community as the abdication of Edward VIII made on the world. Unlike Edward, my abdication from writing for the screen was a temporary one".


John-Boy: Goodnight Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Goodnight John-Boy. I'm glad you're going to stay.
John-Boy: So am I. Goodnight Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen: Goodnight Duke of Windsor. Too bad about your throne.
Grandpa: That Wallace Simpson must be some cutie!
Grandma: I hear she dyes her hair.
Grandpa: That gossip is not home grown....
John: Grow quiet, please.
Olivia: Goodnight everybody.



Information on King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson can be found at: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1987 and http://www.members.aol.com/LeonardIngrams/theroyalconnect.html.

The episode occurred during the fall, most likely during the month of December, of 1936 because Edward VIII abdicated the throne on December 11, 1936, which occurred during near the end of the episode.

David Huddleston played A.J. Covington first in season 1, episode 11 The Literary Man. Huddleston played Sheriff Ep Bridges in The Homecoming.

John-Boy is nineteen years old.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe); A.J. (“Andy”) Covington (George Dzundza); Todd Clarke (Stephen Collins); Gordon Farrell (Brian Avery); Sylvia Marsh (Ellin Gorky); Martin Walters (James Karen); The Announcer (Walker Edminston).