The Waltons: Season 1, Episode 21

The Scholar (22 Feb. 1973)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama, Family, Romance
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 46 users  
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When Verdie Grant learns her daughter is graduating from college, she feels embarrassed by the fact that she never learned to read or write. She asks John-Boy to teach her, on the condition that he keeps it a secret.



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Episode credited cast:
Olivia Walton (as Miss Michael Learned)
Erin Walton (as Mary Elizabeth McDonough)
Eric Scott ...
David W. Harper ...
Jim-Bob Walton (as David Harper)
Earl Hamner Jr. ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kerry MacLane ...
Henry Wagaman


When Verdie Grant learns her daughter is graduating from college, she feels embarrassed by the fact that she never learned to read or write. She asks John-Boy to teach her, on the condition that he keeps it a secret.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Family | Romance




Release Date:

22 February 1973 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


John McGreevey, whose contributed many scripts to this series, was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for this episode. See more »


Narrator: [narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] When I was growing up on Waltons Mountain, the Great Depression touched our lives in many ways. Jobs were scarce, new clothes were rare, food was simple and mostly homegrown. What we had, we shared. My father taught us by his quiet practice that sharing was our first duty and happiest privilege and on one occasion I had the opportunity to share an unforgettable experience with a lady who was trying to hide a secret.
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User Reviews

John-Boy the teacher
14 February 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Here we focus on the one semi-regular black character the Waltons knew, Verdie Grant. We first see her delivering a dress she made for Miss Hunter. The schoolteacher has clipped an article to give to her that might be of interest to Verdie's daughter, about to graduate college. Verdie behaves a bit awkwardly, but the reason isn't clear until the next scene, where Verdie's sister is speaking to her about hiding her inability to read and write.

Meanwhile, Olivia and Esther are taking a bus to Richmond for a wedding. We hear mention of Olivia having a sister, which stands out from almost all the rest of the series. Just after they leave, Erin reveals that she has a really sore throat and the doctor orders surgery for her tonsils to be removed.

Verdie is brought in to be a practical nurse for Erin for a few days. This allows her to be in the house while John-Boy is trying to help Elizabeth learn to write. John-Boy asks her to pretend to be another student to learn alongside Elizabeth. Verdie happily goes along, thinking this will help her without anyone knowing.

Thanks to her sister, Verdie realizes she can't keep up the act, so she directly asks John-Boy to teach her, making him promise to keep it quiet. He does so, but Elizabeth happens to see him teaching her.

Later, Elizabeth fibs to Miss Hunter, saying she couldn't do her homework because John-Boy was using her books to teach Mrs. Grant. Trying only to help, Miss Hunter wants to give Verdie some other materials to help her, and is surprised to find Verdie upset.

Verdie chews out John-Boy for breaking his agreement with her, thinking he is condescending to her because she is black, wondering if he has made her a laughingstock among his friends.

In the minor plot, Erin has decided she loves getting all sorts of attention, so she stays in her sick bed long after she needs to, until Olivia returns and teaches her a lesson.

What made this a powerful episode were the scenes of John-Boy teaching, beginning with the first one where he spoke to her about the magical wand that can be used to write words that make people laugh, cry, feel love, and more. Later, the joy on Verdie's face as she was learning, thinking how proud she would be to sign a hotel register or order from a menu were others scenes that made this a wonderful episode.

Verdie could be described as a "middle-aged, black woman." I match only the first two words, but putting myself in her place as she was learning something important definitely made my eyes water. Her anger when she felt betrayed was quite understandable, as was John-Boy's reaction. I started this review giving this episode 9 stars, but by now I realize it truly deserves a 10, the second episode in a row for this splendid first season that gets a 10 from me.

If you agree that only a small percentage of episodes deserve that top rating, I'll say that over the entire series, the last couple of seasons help make up for so many high scores in the initial season.

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