The Waltons: Season 8, Episode 17

The Prodigals (17 Jan. 1980)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | Family | Romance
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 11 users  
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Jeffrey and Josh steal from Ike's store. Josh gets caught. Ben decides to enlist in the service even though he is exempt due to working at the mill.

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Title: The Prodigals (17 Jan 1980)

The Prodigals (17 Jan 1980) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
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Mary Ellen Walton (as Judy Norton-Taylor)
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Eric Scott ...
David W. Harper ...
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Ronnie Claire Edwards ...
Earl Hamner Jr. ...
Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
James Bond III ...
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Jeffrey Burton (as Keith Mitchell)
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Deputy Sheriff
Christopher Metas ...
Private
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Jeffrey and Josh steal from Ike's store. Josh gets caught. Ben decides to enlist in the service even though he is exempt due to working at the mill.

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Drama | Family | Romance

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17 January 1980 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Narrator: [narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] As my grandfather used to say, "everybody looks at the world through his own knothole". My brothers and sisters and I, and the two cousins who came to live with us, were all brought up in the same house and in pretty much the same way. But the world looked a little bit different to each of us, and there was a day, a beautiful, bright, sunny day, but it looked very bleak to my brother, Ben, and even bleaker to my cousin, Jeffrey.
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Why men like Ben wanted to join the service
13 January 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

My headline reveals the main reason why I think this was a very fine episode of the series, and, based on the comparatively low ratings here, underrated by the viewers.

The plot that was most interesting was the one about Ben's frustrations at being left at home, not, in his mind, doing much to help win the war, while it seemed like every person of age he knew was in one branch or another helping their country in the war effort.

The background is that Ben's work at the lumber mill was deemed important to the war effort, as most of the work during this time was building things for the military to use. Thus, Ben was deferred from the draft.

To us folks of today, it is easy to just picture any young man delighted to not have to go off to fight against people who were trying to kill him. We can say, "Ben has no reasons to feel ashamed of not fighting--the government says his work at the mill is important." This episode does a fine job of explaining why the character--and so many people in real life at the time--did sign up to be in the military anyhow even when the government said they didn't have to. We saw Ben, much as he hated to leave his wife and newborn daughter, deeply believing that he needed to do more than build desks and things at the family sawmill.

The series had delved into these feelings of Ben's in prior episodes, without resolution. This show provided more understanding of his feelings and resolved the issue--leading to other dramatic moments involving this decision.

The other plot involved young Jeffrey and Josh Foster getting involved with some servicemen in a game of craps outside Godsey's. As they just won their second bet--for a whole $1.20--Ike came out and broke up the game, taking all the money on the ground to give to the war effort, in the name of refreshments for the Canteen at his rec hall. Josh and Jeffrey ducked away without Ike seeing them. The soldiers allowed Ike to take all the money, since they wouldn't have to worry about the M.P.s, but Josh and Jeffrey wanted their money back.

The boys planned to talk to Ike that evening, after he had cooled off. But his store was closed and he wasn't around. He had collected the money in a hat, that they now saw on the counter inside the store window.

Planning only to take what they felt was theirs--the $1.20, they climbed into an open window only to learn the hat was now empty. They pushed the lever on the cash register and with a bag full of money were about to take their $1.20 out when Ike and Corabeth returned. The boys raced for the window, escaping--with the bag of money still in Jeffrey's hand.

Only Josh was spotted escaping. He denied everything at first, then admitted to being involved to his mother. Jeffrey ,fearful of being caught, hid the money in a place where, it wound up, he was later unable to readily get it back.

The plot involving the boys worked for me because there was no intention to take anything they didn't feel was theirs. Had they planned on taking all of Ike's money, that would have dramatically changed things. It also would have ruined the notion that they were good boys overall had they concocted some elaborate lie to avoid being blamed for the break-in.

While not a Waltons' classic, this was a very good episode overall.


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