Episode 2 - The Genius

(18 September 1975)
Writer: Robert Weverka.
Director: Harry Harris.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"In those trying years of the Depression the achievements of any Walton family member were a source of pride for all of us. But the visit to our home of an extraordinary young man gave us all a new, and perhaps more balanced perspective in our views toward academic brilliance. It happened on a weekend when we were getting ready for a church bazaar".


The kids rush home after smelling English toffee coming out of the kitchen. Jim Bob calls Grandma “Granny” much to Esther’s displeasure. She thinks it makes her sound “old”. Olivia tells the children that they can’t eat the candy, because it is being sold at the church bazaar on Sunday. Ben doesn’t think it makes much sense to buy back their candy. Mary Ellen is out selling bazaar tickets. Erin is acting in the lead role of Joan of Arc in the play being performed. She has persuaded Jason to play Captain Baudricourt, but he isn’t too happy about the “old, dumb play”.


At Boatwright College, John-Boy is asked by Dean Beck’s secretary Miss Forester to wait outside his office. After another student leaves, John-Boy is asked to enter. Dean Beck warmly greets John-Boy, finding out that his father has taken a job in Norfolk. John-Boy learns that he is barely passing physics, and Dean Beck would like to see an “A” because his scholarship is up for review. Beck thinks that John-Boy could be helped with the student in the outer office: Lyle Thomason, who is sixteen years old, a sophomore, and most likely will graduate in less than a year. In exchange for this help, Beck asks John-Boy if he will take Thomason home for the weekend and help him with a problem that will soon become obvious. John-Boy agrees to help.


On the drive home, John-Boy tells Lyle that he needs to stop at the local general mercantile store to pick up chocolate and sugar. Lyle doesn’t speak much, but does say he is from Emporia and has been doing scientific studies in Chemistry. At the store, John-Boy introduces Lyle to Ike and Corabeth. He asks Ike for five packages of cooking chocolate and ten pounds of sugar so Esther can make her, as Corabeth says, “rightfully famous” fudge. Ike calls Corabeth “sugar plum”. Corabeth is making divinity from a Doe Hill recipe. Lyle won’t play Ike’s game of chance because he thinks the slot machine is set up against winning. Ike remembers just last week Easy Jackson winning the jackpot, and John-Boy remembers that last summer Miss Emily won the jackpot twice in one afternoon. Lyle calculates in his head that for every ten dollars input into the machine, it will only return eight dollars, seventy-five cents. He thinks it is a fraudulent misrepresentation if they don’t inform their customers about the statistics. As they walk out, Corabeth wants Ike to confront about what Lyle said. Ike isn’t sure whether they were called “cheaters” or not. John-Boy realizes that Lyle has few social graces.


At home, John-Boy introduces Lyle to Grandpa who jokes to them about stewed prunes. Lyle doesn’t understand the pun. Erin is practicing the play with Jason, Ben, and Jim Bob on the front porch, when John-Boy introduces them to Lyle. In the kitchen, he is introduced to Grandma, Olivia, Mary Ellen, and Elizabeth. In John-Boy’s bedroom, Lyle explains vector analysis to John-Boy, and solves a physics problem involving the Pythagorean Theorem that John-Boy doesn’t understand. Lyle glanced through the book a few years ago, and remembered the problem. John-Boy is amazed at the boy’s talents, and goes to the barn for the cot (for him to sleep on that weekend). Outside, Grandpa wonders how Beck wants John-Boy to help with the boy (who doesn’t talk very much). John-Boy thinks he looks like a “Martian” staring out of those glasses.


At supper (of hot dogs and corn bread), Grandma says the blessing, but Lyle doesn’t join in. Lyle tells the family that he has no brothers or sisters, and his father is a former blacksmith who lost his shop in 1932. He was sent to the University of Virginia when five year old for psychometric tests (evaluation for mental capacities), then went to a special school in Chicago for ten years, only going home two or three days each year. Even at Boatwright College Lyle says he doesn’t go home much because his parents can’t read or write. He also tells then that he has a photographic memory. Grandpa says he used to know a man who had a “phonographic” memory: he couldn’t ever forget a song once he heard it on the Victrola. The boys speak the language of the play as they ask for more food to eat. When Olivia invites Lyle to church and the bazaar on Sunday, Lyle says he doesn’t go to church, and is not a Christian. He says that primitive peoples manufacture beliefs and gods, but those beliefs hinder scientific thought. Grandma is angry at what he says, saying that he is calling them all stupid.


Ben and Jim Bob try to get a radio crystal set to work. Lyle walks up to say that the antennae needs to be higher and that it is not connected properly. Lyle connects the short antennae to the metal bedsprings, and explains the concept of a radio, much to the annoyance of the boys. They silently leave. Lyle tests the radio by himself. Grandpa and John-Boy work at the mill while discussing Lyle. John-Boy can sense that Lyle knows how he rubs people the wrong way. Grandpa asks John-Boy to try on the armor he made for Erin’s play. John-Boy sees Lyle going over to see Mary Ellen, who is watering the plants in the garden. John-Boy thinks that Lyle has a crush on her. Lyle clumsily talks with her about how hydroponic turnips were grown at the Chicago’s World Fair. Mary Ellen quickly tires of his facts and figures and sprays him with water from the hose. Lyle says, “You got me all wet!” and Mary Ellen responds, “The evidence would seem to indicate that!” Grandpa and John-Boy laugh at the sight. As Lyle approaches the house to change his clothes, Grandma coldly stares at him. Lyle watches as Erin tries to explain the story behind Joan of Arc but the boys only laugh. She finally leaves in frustration. Lyle runs upstairs. Lyle asks John-Boy, when he walks in, why Mary Ellen sprayed him with water. John-Boy thinks that she likes him. Lyle finds her emotions and actions to be illogical, and he tries to scientifically explain it. John-Boy says that there is more to life than logic, like having fun. Lyle says that in primitive cultures, they think love and feelings make one go crazy, so they arrange marriages, a much more logical way to do things. John-Boy asks him if these primitive peoples are the same ones that manufacture gods?


At supper, Mary Ellen says they’ve already sold ten dollars worth of tickets, and the baked goods should bring about twenty-five dollars. Lyle tells them that exchanging goods is illogical and that just giving the church money would be more practical. Olivia patiently explains to him that the money is going to the Claytons, whose father is out of work, and whose mother is expecting her seventh child. Lyle says that rewarding people for having more babies that they can’t support is not logical. Grandpa says the family is a respected family in town.


At the bazaar, John-Boy announces the beanbag throw, three throws for five cents to win a balloon. Grandpa stands over the pastries, while Grandma and Olivia sell the fudge and candies. Corabeth asks Grandpa if that is Maude Gormley’s coconut cream pie. Zeb says yes, that’s it’s priced at thirty-five cents, but will sell it special to her for fifty cents. Corabeth agrees because it is for a good cause. The Baldwin sisters tell Olivia and Grandma that Dr. McIver’s says they should reduce their intake of candies, so they buy two pounds of fudge and two pounds of divinity. Erin looks for Jason who is hiding from her, not wanting to act in the play. Ike buys fudge from Olivia for forty cents. Erin tells her mother that Jason is missing. Olivia asks Grandpa to find Jason. John-Boy suggests that they ask Lyle to perform in place of Jason, and Mary Ellen asks him. But, he refuses. John-Boy tries to convince him, knowing he could memorize the part in five minutes. John-Boy tells him that he’s made a fool of himself, showing everybody that he doesn’t care about anybody on the Mountain. John-Boy says that maybe he’s smart enough so he doesn’t need anybody, but with that attitude he will very likely live a very lonely life. In spite of that, John-Boy thinks that underneath Lyle is a likeable guy. Lyle thinks of what he is told.


Mary Ellen makes the announcement that the play is about to start with a visiting actor from Emporia, Virginia: Lyle Thomason. The crowd gathers for the performance. Ben begins the play by introducing Captain Baudricourt (Lyle). Lyle hesitates initially but gradually feels comfortable with his new part. Erin enters the stage and Joan of Arc and Captain Baudricourt begin their interaction. At the end of the first scene, Lyle enjoys the applause of the audience.


During supper, Grandma says that the Baldwin sisters bought four of Mary Breckenridge’s pies, and then gave them back to be resold. Mary Ellen said they took in forty-eight dollars. Zeb bought two pounds of fudge. They laugh about the sword breaking off during the play. Jason says the Lyle was much better then he would have been. Lyle thanks everybody for letting him be a houseguest. He shows his affection for all by pouring a glass of water on top of Mary Ellen’s head. The family laughs.


"Lyle Thomason came back to stay with us several more times, and we enjoyed his visits very much. He did indeed prove to be a decent, kind, and very likable human being. But what pleased us even more, was that after that weekend, Lyle spent almost all of his free time visiting his own parents".


Jim Bob: I'm glad I don't have a photographic memory!
Elizabeth: Why wouldn't you like to have one, Jim Bob?
Jim Bob: There are a lot of things I'd like to forget, like my grade in Civics.
Grandpa: I knew a fellow once had a phonographic memory!
Grandma: Old man now, that wasn't funny the first time you told it.
Grandpa: Then why are you laughing Esther?
Jim Bob: Why are you laughing, Grandma?
Grandma: Oh Zebulun you stop that, now don't do that!
Elizabeth: What's he doing, Grandma?
Grandma: Oh my Lord he's tickling me, stop it now this minute or I'll go sleep on the sofa!
Grandpa: Goodnight old darling!
Grandma: Hm hm, goodnight.



John Walton is away, working in Norfolk, Virginia.

Information about Joan of Arc and Captain Baudricourt can be found at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1431joantrial.html.

Lyle Thomason is from Emporia, Virginia. In real life Emporia, Virginia, a town of about 6,000 people, is located south of Richmond, Virginia at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 58. Information about the city of Emporia can be found at: http://www.ci.emporia.va.us/.


Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Emily and Miss Mamie Baldwin (Mary Jackson and Helen Kleeb); Lyle Thomason (Dennis Kort); Dean Beck (George D. Wallace); Little Girl (Alexis Jacks); Secretary, Miss Forrester (Kim O’Brien); Student (Tim Haldeman).