Episode 2 - The Pledge


(4 December 1980)
Writer: Kathleen Hite.
Director: Lawrence Dobkin.
Music: Alexander Courage

 

"In those last months of the war, though death and destruction continued, it was possible for the first time to think of a world at peace. There would then be the small personal wars to be reckoned with, such as my sister Mary Ellen's adversary role with life, always heading into it, never conforming to its patterns. She was wife, mother, widow, nurse, and not any or all of these things together brought her peace of mind. Something within her still fought, still searched. And for those of us overseas, even though the war was winding down, it was far from over".

 

John-Boy is observing a battle when an exploding tank suddenly ends the conflict. Soon afterwards, a G.I. delivers John-Boyís new Paris assignment and a letter from Mary Ellen. She writes about being confused as to her direction in life, only knowing she has an empty feeling. On Waltonís Mountain, Mary Ellen visits Sweet Billy. Though he is out of breath he reads to her from the book Mary Ellen gave him.

 

Rose, Cindy, Erin, and Elizabeth discuss Jasonís upcoming twenty-fourth birthday.

 

Mary Ellen visits Ronie, Sweet Billyís sister, asking her about her brotherís health. Later, she finds Sweet Billy sprawled on the porch, with a rapid heartbeat. Mary Ellen attempts to convince him to visit a doctor, but Sweet Billy refuses. Mary Ellen feels useless, able to help only so much as a nurse. Later, John tells his daughter that she has always wanted more, never feeling satisfied. Suddenly, Sweet Billy rides up, in desperate need for medical attention. John and Mary Ellen drive him to the Charlottesville hospital. The doctor is perplexed with his symptoms, and before he can help, Sweet Billy dies. Later, Rose hears Ronie ride up to the house, and then hears John and Mary Ellen return. Mary Ellen tells Ronie the bad news. She asks for her brother to be buried next to her babies.

 

The Baldwin sisters celebrate the delivery of another check from the bank with a drink or two from Papaís vintage 1925 Recipe. As they toast, the sisters talk about Jasonís birthday. Being like a member of the family, they decide to send him a jar of the Recipe.

 

At Sweet Billyís funeral, Ronie speaks about his abilities. Mary Ellen reads from the book he was learning to read from.

 

At Ikeís store, a soldier wonders where he could find the older woman that always waits on him. When Ike summons Corabeth she refuses to wait on him until he says he needs her sophisticated tastes in order to select a present for his girlfriend.

 

Over breakfast, John attempts to eat the gingerbread reserved for Jasonís birthday. Elizabeth is unsure how to deliver the gingerbread to Jason in France. John indicates that Lt. Whipple, who is sweet on Erin, could help. Erin knows he will only agree if she accepts a date with him. Mary Ellen and John Curtis enter the kitchen where Mary Ellen announces that she has decided to become a doctor. John is unsure whether her decision is a wise one, especially regards the upbringing of her son.

 

At Ikeís store, Miss Mamie and Miss Emily try to mail their package to Jason. However, Ike informs the ladies that it is illegal to deliver the Recipe through the mail. Mary Ellen says Erin could persuade Lt. Whipple to deliver it through the military mail.

 

Mary Ellen talks with Dr. Holliston about her decision to study medicine after feeling helpless to diagnose Sweet Billyís illness. He is uncertain whether the university will allow a woman to become a doctor. That night, John finds Mary Ellen pouring over old pre-med books.

 

Ben shows a picture of his daughter to Charlie and tells him how his wife misses him. Jason surprises John-Boy, and John-Boy returns the surprise with a bottle of wine for his birthday. They drink over French wine and gingerbread cake, and later Jason brings out the Recipe.

 

At Boatwright University, Mary Ellen consults with Dean of Admissions, J.R. Clifford. He advises her not to pursue the pre-med curriculum, saying priority will be given to the boys returning from the war. He flatly refuses to enroll her. Mary Ellen returns to the house in time to give John Curtis a bath. She tells John she was refused admission. Rose tells John that she welcomes the chance to take care of another child. Elizabeth enters Mary Ellenís bedroom as John Curtis is put to bed. Elizabeth remembers that her oldest sister always went her own way. She doesnít think she should give up her dream.

 

Corabeth prepares a cake for the soldier, a surprise birthday present. When he enters the store, he confesses the perfume he bought earlier was really for his mother. Corabeth confesses the cake was a recipe from his mother; she only followed the instructions.

 

Mary Ellen visits Ronie who begs her not to quit her passion to become a doctor. She tells Mary Ellen not to quit; comparing how fighting weeds is a never-ending battle. Mary Ellen is reinvigorated in her pursuit.

 

At Boatwright, Mary Ellen enters with John Curtis to show the dean that she has changed some of her classes. The curriculum is still noticeably pre-med. Mary Ellen tells the dean that the hill people need a doctor and if she must she will return with them to show how they depend on her for medical help. He finally agrees to admit her. Mary Ellen is overcome with relief.

 

"In many ways everyone was right. The road ahead for Mary Ellen was hard and discouraging, in all ways tough and challenging. Just right for Mary Ellen who knew how to bounce off walls, fall on her face, and survive to fight another day. It was her private war, and in time even our father came to agree she'd win".

 

Elizabeth: Mary Ellen? I was just thinking how much money I'll save with a doctor in the family.
Mary Ellen: You better take care of yourself Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: You wouldn't charge your own sister?
Mary Ellen: I've got four years of pre-med and three years of med school, I'll be an intern four years or so and then there's a residency.
Elizabeth: I'll take care of myself. Goodnight Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen: Goodnight Elizabeth!

 

Notes:

Jason will be twenty-four years old in three weeks.

 

Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards), Cindy Walton (Leslie Winston), John Curtis (Michael and Marshall Reed), Virginia Walton (Claire and Elizabeth Schoene), Rose Burton (Peggy Rea), John-Boy Walton (Robert Wightman), Drew Cutler (Tony Becker), Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Sweet Billy Cotter (Richard Lineback), Ronie Cotter (Ellen Geer), Dr. Holliston (Bucklind Beery), Dean Clifford (Dennis Robertson), Sgt. Carey (Dick Christie), Charley (Chip Frye), Young G.I. (Laurence Lau), Man at Grave (Robert Telford).