"Waltons Mountain is as old as the earth itself. For countless centuries it has quietly shouldered the sky above the land on which our family settled, built and flourished. Through all its seasons, through all the great and small events of our lives the mountain was changeless, as fixed and as permanent as the glittering stars above. And then there was an evening in the 1930s which started all of us wondering how fixed or permanent anything is, - even a star".
The adults sit on the porch at the end of the day while the kids play in the front yard. Grandpa says they used to call dusk “in the glooming”. Going inside Elizabeth finds Ben studying for a spelling bee. Ben desires to win after noticing the prizes the other children have previously won. John-Boy is writing in his room: “I promised myself I would write at least a thousand words in this tablet every day. The trouble is if I spend too much time up here away from everybody I don’t really have anything to write about.”
Outside Jim Bob and Elizabeth see the first star of the evening, and the children make a wish. John-Boy walks out on the porch in time to see a “falling star” race across the sky and land near the Baldwin house. Grandpa seems to be experiencing pain at the same time he observes the star falling. Esther wonders what is wrong with her husband. Zeb says there can’t be anything wrong with a man who has lived as long as he has lived.
John and John-Boy drive to the Baldwin house to find a meteorite has crashed through their roof and landed in the middle of the Recipe room. The sisters describe their terrifying but exhilarating experience. Miss Emily believes the star is a sign from their late Papa. The ladies decide to share a little of the Recipe on this special occasion. Soon other neighbors arrive to look at the fallen star.
Back home Ben tells John-Boy that he made a wish on that star, then asks his brother if he can see it. John-Boy promises to take him to the Baldwin house when he repairs their roof. John tells his wife and parents what happened to the Baldwin sisters. Grandma thinks it’s terrible that the two old ladies make bootleg whiskey. John says the sisters don’t think it’s wrong, believing the Recipe is just a cordial. Grandpa acts strangely, prompting Grandma to help him to bed. Olivia thinks they should call Doc Shackleford and John decides they may call him in the morning.
At school Melanie loses at the fourth-grade spelling bee, leaving only Ben and Nancy to compete. After school Olivia asks the children to quietly play outside because Grandpa is not feeling well. John-Boy takes the kids to the Baldwin house to see the star. When arriving they are confronted by Polonius Baldwin, the sister’s cousin from Richmond. The Baldwin sisters, upon seeing the children, happily usher them inside the house. As the children stare at the star, Polonius inspects the Recipe machine. Ben touches the star as he makes a wish. Elizabeth doesn’t touch it, wanting to give Ben all the luck.
At the house, Doc Shackleford thinks Zeb had a chest spasm. But Zeb believes he had a sign, like his father did when he saw a falling star and died the next morning. Doc thinks Zeb is too vigorous of a man to be laid low by a sign. Doc Shackleford tells the family that Zeb is physically fit, but believes that a falling star means death to him because of his chest pain. In the morning the children want to stay home, worried about Grandpa. Grandma finds that Zeb has not eaten his breakfast, telling him that she is going to “think you alive”. John comes into his father’s bedroom trying to brighten his mood. Grandpa asks that he be buried next to the old, white oak that stands by itself along the Sangamon River.
Ben and Nancy continue the spelling bee. John-Boy is repairing the Baldwin’s roof when he is introduced to Colonel Henderson, supposedly a public relations genius and friend to Cousin Polonius. Inside the two men see little profit in the star, but hatch a scheme to sell the Recipe after Henderson says the cordial is “the best sour mash” he’s ever tasted. Cousin Polonius tell Miss Mamie and Miss Emily that the star was a warning sign from their Papa indicating that it is wrong for them to manufacture and sell the Recipe. The sisters are heartbroken at the news. Polonius says it is his duty to save the sisters from the devil’s work by removing the machine and to turn the room into a shrine honoring their Papa.
Elizabeth tries to comfort Ben after he and Nancy both incorrectly spell the same word. Ben doesn’t think he will win the contest. John-Boy tells the adults why the Baldwin sisters are upset. John says everybody is associating evil with the star, but he feels it has a meaning of good. John-Boy writes in his journal: “I wish I could make up my mind what the star falling means to me, or even whether it has a meaning. Couldn’t it be something as natural as green leaves turning red in the fall, or water freezing to ice in the winter, melting in the spring. I only wish Grandpa could see it that way.” Later Ben enters John-Boy’s bedroom, unable to sleep. He decides to practice for the spelling bee rather than to rely on the star’s luck. John-Boy is impressed with his younger brother’s common sense.
John visits the Baldwin ladies where the sisters reminisce about the good times they had with the Recipe. They tell John that Polonius and the Colonel have left to secure a truck in order to remove their Recipe machine. John asks them if he might borrow the star and they agree.
Back home John shows Grandpa the star saying it looks like “burnt-up old coal, a clinker”. John then tells Grandpa what Polonius is trying to do. Grandpa doesn’t like the dishonest man. Grandpa decides to get out of bed and help the Baldwin sisters, much to the delight of the family.
As the Colonel and Polonius dismantle the machine, Grandpa and John enter the room. Grandpa says the star didn’t destroy anything, in fact it avoided all the valuable items in the room, including the Recipe machine. The sisters are delighted at this point-of-view.
Grandpa also informs the two men that he spoke with the Sheriff, whereupon the men gracefully say they have appointments at the capitol. The sisters offer Grandpa and John some of the 1925 and 1927 batch of the Recipe in celebration.
Later Grandpa and John relate what happened to the women. The kids return from school to inform them that Ben won the spelling bee. The adults admire the award and John places it at the center of the other awards. Olivia looks on with pride.
"It was not every day that a star fell on Waltons Mountain, but nearly every day brought some small miracle - the beauty of the turning seasons, the wonder of growth, and the constant revelation of all that lies in the human heart. Over it all loomed the unfailing love of our mother and father, more constant than the stars in their courses".
What holds the stars up in the sky?
Jim Bob: They're stuck up there on something.
Elizabeth: What makes them fall?
Jim Bob: Oh they burn out like electric light bulbs.
Elizabeth: How come you're so much smarter than me?
Jim Bob: I'm older.
Elizabeth: Goodnight, Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Goodnight Elizabeth.
Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin’s Cousin Polonius ‘P.K.’ Baldwin is from Richmond, Virginia.
Doc Shackleford is the second doctor appearing in the series.
Colonel Tecumseh Henderson is from the Blue Grass Henderson’s.
Ben is in the fourth-grade.
Zeb’s father died from a heart attack the morning after seeing a shooting star.
Along with Ben’s first place award in the spelling bee, John-Boy won for writing, Mary Ellen for racing, Jason for second-place playing his harmonica, Erin for sewing, Jim Bob for the funniest Halloween costume, and Elizabeth for learning Bible verses.
Nancy, Ben’s competitor in the spelling bee, also appeared in the episode The Lie (season three, episode fifteen) where she is the daughter of a very strict parent, Eustace Madden, and a mother who left when she was a baby.
Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford), Miss Rosemary Hunter (Mariclare Costello), Polonius ‘P.K.’ Baldwin (Iggie Wolfington), Colonel Tecumseh Henderson (Jack Collines), Doc Shackleford (Brian Morrow), Nancy Madden (Cindy Fisher), Mark (Peter Haas), Melanie (Jill Giraldi).
(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)