‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Recalls ‘Beautiful Moment’ in ‘The Thanksgiving Story’

[Showbiz Cheat Sheet] ‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Recalls ‘Beautiful Moment’ in ‘The Thanksgiving Story’

There’s nothing like Thanksgiving on the mountain. Over its original nine-season run on CBS, The Waltons aired several episodes that touched on the holiday, but only one full-fledged Thanksgiving-focused special. The Waltons: The Thanksgiving Story was a 2-hour, super-sized episode that saw the close-knit family dealing with various challenges leading up to the celebratory meal, including John-Boy’s (Richard Thomas) life-threatening head injury and another family’s offer to adopt Jason (Jon Walmsley). 

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The Thanksgiving Story was filled with major moments. But a scene where John Walton (Ralph Waite) and his wife Olivia (Michael Learned) get into a fight was particularly memorable for Mary Ellen Walton actor Judy Norton, she shared in a video posted to her YouTube channel.

Jason gets a job making moonshine in ‘The Waltons: The Thanksgiving Story’

‘The Waltons’ | CBS Photo Archive

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Much of The Thanksgiving Story focuses on John-Boy, who is waiting for news about his application to the university when he suffers a head injury in a sawmill accident. He ends up in the hospital and has to have surgery. That complicates his plan to sit for an exam that could lead to a much-needed scholarship that will allow him to continue his education. 

In a subplot, Jason gets a job helping the Baldwin sisters make their moonshine. They’re so taken with the boy that they offer to adopt him. John politely refuses, but the incident leads to a conflict between him and Olivia, who is unaware that Jason has been working for the sisters.   

John and Oliva have a rare argument in this episode of ‘The Waltons’ 

Michael Learned as Olivia Walton and Ralph Waite as John Walton on ‘The Waltons’ | CBS Photo Archive

While there’s never any question that John and Olivia would let one of their children be adopted by another family, the incident with Jason still sparks a disagreement between the couple. 

John and Olivia “didn’t fight a lot on the show,” Norton said in the 2021 video. But the rare moment of conflict between the two helped make an important point, she explained.  

“I love that it showed the realism that there’s going to be times, in the best of families, in the most loving of families, people aren’t going to get along,” Norton said. “And in this case, John and Olivia just see this from opposite sides. And she’s not willing to give in and he’s trying really hard to get her to see the other point. But he understands her points as well. And they kind of fight it out but also they both, because they love each other so much, they find common ground. And they find a way past it.”

“That was a really beautiful moment and I think a really good example for all of us to just continue to talk and communicate and find a way past those differences,” she added. 

Judy Norton also recalled her character’s Thanksgiving episode story  

Thank you to The Waltons for 10 years of laughter, tears, and hope throughout the years on INSP. The Waltons A Thanksgiving Story, November 24th at 7a ET. pic.twitter.com/vZ7XXUhWyQ— INSP (@insp_tv) October 28, 2022

RELATED: ‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Had ‘The Biggest Crush’ on John-Boy Walton Actor Richard Thomas When They First Met

In the video, Norton also recalled what Mary Ellen was up to in The Waltons Thanksgiving episode. 

“I had a lot of fun with my storyline, auditioning for Pocohantas,” she said. Mary Ellen is stressed because her rival, Martha Rose (Cindy Eilbacher) “has the money to get this custom-made costume. And I’m all worried that she’s going to get the role because her costume is so cool.” But in the end, Mary Ellen wins the part. 

“It’s always interesting as an actor to be acting and then pretending to act,” Norton said. Eilbacher was in a particularly challenging situation, as she had “to do a bad audition and act badly.” Meanwhile, Norton had “to pick a delivery that was an acceptable level of being a decent actress to get the role.”

“I enjoyed that,” she said.  

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