Episode 16 - The Threshold

(2 April 1981)
Writer: Scott Hamner.
Director: Herbert Hirschman.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"The post-war world was an era of innovation; we stood upon the threshold of a new age which was ruled by sudden change. Technical advancements in medicine, science and electronics had a profound effect on the way we lived and thought. None of us dreamed how deeply we would be affected by those advancements even though we were close by when it all began".


In the Boatwright office of Dean Beck, John-Boy is shown a new television. Under the condition that the school initiates a television department, an electronics company has donated the set. Although only transmitting one night a week, John-Boy believes that all universities will eventually offer TV classes. However, Beck says the college believes the new medium will not successfully compete with radio. John-Boy questions Dean Beck about securing an English professorship after exhausting funds to continue writing his novel. With all positions filled, Beck suggests he convince the Board of Trustees on the concept of television. If successful, John-Boy asks for one of the new positions. Agreeing on the arrangement, the two men laugh when they view Jim Bob accidentally poke his nose near the live camera lens.


Rose and Stanley walk along the road when Zuleika Dunbar nearly runs them down as she learns to drive her car. Later, at Ike’s store, Zuleika shows an attraction toward Stanley, asking him to help teach her to drive. Good-hearted Stanley accepts the offer, much to the chagrin of Rose, who is dismayed at Zuleika’s comment concerning her “stylish-stout” dress size.


As John-Boy moves back into the house, Ben and Jim Bob bring in a disassembled television set that Jim Bob bought from an engineering student unable to make it work. With the news, John-Boy announces he may have a Boatwright job if he can convince the Trustees about the merits of TV. That night, Rose begins her exercises, feeling jealousy from the words of Zuleika. Mary Ellen brings in the book Nine Days to a Better Figure that Rose wants to read. The next morning, the family is amazed at the small breakfast Rose is eating. Jim Bob is skipping breakfast all together, more interested in assembling his new television set.


That night, Rose patiently waits for her date with Stanley. He is late, but finally arrives unexpectedly with Zuleika. Stanley explains that while teaching her to drive, the car became stuck in mud. After changing his clothes, Zuleika then fed him fried chicken, potato salad, and a devils food cake. Stanley tries to appease Rose who is calm on the outside, but irritated inside. The next day, Rose finds Zuleika needing Jim Bob to fix her malfunctioning car for another driving lesson with Stanley. With Jim Bob away, Rose attempts to fix the car, by switching the distributor wires. Elizabeth knows boys use that trick at Halloween, prompting Rose to say that is where she learned it. The car backfires all the way down the road.


John-Boy presents Dean Beck with an original drama but is disappointed to learn that the Trustees want an academic report about how TV can change history. John-Boy is prompted to write something ‘classic’.


At supper, the family gathers for pot roast, except Rose who is fasting. When she brings a dish to the table she has a dizzy spell, explaining it as a minor adjustment to her diet. Later, Zuleika walks back to the house after her car quits. She explains to Rose that she doesn’t need her car because Stanley’s car can be used.


Jim Bob is explaining to Erin how TV works when John-Boy asks her to read a passage of his Nine Muses report. Erin only laughs at the words, with Mary Ellen doing the same as she reads another passage. Suddenly, Jim Bob is knocked to the floor as the television set explodes in front of him. They come to his aid. Jim Bob recovers and observes the damage, knowing he will have to rewire the entire set.

The next day, John-Boy presents his report to Beck, saying that each Muse represents a Boatwright department. After the costumed women perform their skits, Beck is confused about the presentation, saying it is too classy. Beck suggests that John-Boy, himself, appear on television. John-Boy reluctantly agrees.


Stanley appears in the doorway as Rose sweeps the living room floor. He explains that he never meant for Zuleika to stand in the way of their friendship. Rose uncharacteristically acts jealous, making Stanley comment about how unreasonable she sounds. Later, while making the beds, Rose becomes upset with her reaction. Erin and Elizabeth explain what diets can do to moods, when Rose collapses on the bed. They race to find help. Mary Ellen explains to Rose that she needs to regain her strength.


At Ike’s store, Mary Ellen and Erin examine the dress Rose wants to buy. They return with material bought at Charlottesville in order make Rose’s dress. In the morning, Jim Bob turns on the finished TV set, but the picture looks like a snowstorm. He decides to mount an antenna on the mountaintop. With Jason’s help and attracting a large crowd of onlookers Jim Bob hangs wire along the road. At the same time John-Boy tries to finish his speech; but John-Curtis, who wants him to read from his Simple Simon picture book, interrupts him. With inspiration from John-Curtis, John-Boy drives for his first TV appearance.


Mary Ellen, Erin, Cindy, and Elizabeth surprise Rose with the new dress. Rose is very happy, saying it is beautiful. They tell her to wear it downstairs; for another surprise. Rose finds Stanley waiting for her. Stanley tells her that she did not need to change for him because she has always been “the apple of (his) eye”. Jim Bob connects the antennae to the TV, just in time for family and friends to watch John-Boy’s speech. He tells his audience that his nephew inspired his vision of TV bringing adults and children around the world together as they watch concerts, plays, and other events; so TV can be a “celebration of life”.


Zuleika Dunbar is always wanting to be with Stanley Perkins, much to the annoyance of Rose who tries to lose weight in order to impress Stanley. When the girls make her a new dress in her size, she finds that Stanley was always more sincere about her than the frivolous Zuleika.


John-Boy (on tv) - 'My nephew John Curtis wanted to show me his new picture book, and as we turned the pages together I suddenly had a glimpse into the future, where the pictures were alive and moving and where boys and girls growing up in out-of-the-way places like the hills of Virginia could share in things they might not otherwise see, things like Opera and Ballet and Concerts and Theatre. Television will take them across the world into other lives so that for John Curtis and his generation there will be no strangers, just people who accept and understand each other. Given that potential we owe it to the future to search out the good so that television becomes a celebration of life'.


Elizabeth: John-Boy, were you nervous on television?
John-Boy: Not once I got started.
Elizabeth: Maybe you'll have your own television show one day?
John-Boy: Um, I'd like that, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: What would you call it?
John-Boy: I don't know, since I write best about this family, I guess I'd call it The Waltons. Goodnight Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Goodnight John-Boy.



Stanley Perkins has a new job in Rockfish and is living in an apartment (Zuleika’s boarding house).

In Greek myth, Muse is one of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science.

The dress at Ike’s store that Rose likes sells for sixteen dollars, ninety-five cents.


Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards), Rose Burton (Peggy Rea), John-Boy Walton (Robert Wightman), John Curtis (Michael and Marshall Reed), Cindy Walton (Leslie Winston), Stanley Perkins (William Schallert), Zuleika Dunbar (Pearl Shear), Dean Beck (Ivon Francis), Urbania (Mindy Dow), Melpomene (Colleen Casey), Erato (Karen Louis Scott), Young Boy (Jonathan Woodward).