Episode 20 - The Heartbreaker

(17 February 1977)
Writer: Seth Freeman.
Director: Ralph Waite.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"On Waltons Mountain the marriage vows once pledged usually remained in force until the contract was ended by the death of one of the partners. Divorce was a taboo word spoken in whispers. And then one day a young woman who had left her husband appeared on the mountain with serious consequences for my brother, Jason".


The Rockfish bus station has Curt, Mary Ellen, Erin, Jim Bob, and Elizabeth awaiting for Curt’s sister to arrive. Vanessa steps off the bus bringing news that she has left her husband because of being bored with life in a coal town. With their guest settled in, Curt and Mary Ellen leave to see patients. While alone in the house Jason stops by and meets Vanessa. She tells Jason that she wants to be a singer. Jason tells her he plays piano and sings at the Dew Drop Inn. It is obvious that Vanessa and Jason are interested in each other, even though Vanessa is still married.


Ben and John-Boy discuss why the circulation of the paper is not growing. Ben remarks that people know what is going on before it is written. To spark reader interest Ben suggests that John-Boy place excerpts of his manuscript into the paper. John-Boy decides to insert a story about Grandpa into the paper.


A friendship has developed between Vanessa and Jason based on their musical interests. While at Jason’s secret place, he states that, “To be good at something, like singing, you have to be willing to try different things, to explore what you can do. You have to be willing to be terrible!” Love also forms between the two as they share a kiss. They later spend the day practicing the song “I’ll Fly Away”. When they audition for Thelma at the Dew Drop Inn, she loves the sound of the duo and Vanessa is invited to sing with Jason.


Curt confronts Vanessa wondering if she can be happy on Waltons Mountain. He worries that Jason might get hurt if she decides to leave. Vanessa tells her brother she was not given all the talents he was given, but she “knows how to take them”. Olivia is also afraid that Jason will be hurt. She does not like the idea that Vanessa takes her marriage vows so lightly and tells Jason, “taking people so lightly - that can’t be right”. Olivia wants Jason to take the relationship slowly, but Jason admits that he is ‘past slowly’.


After composing a love song to Vanessa he softly sings to her “Vanessa’s Song”. She  is overwhelmed by the gift Jason has given her. Later, she sings the song at the Dew Drop Inn while Jason accompany’s her on the guitar. While singing, Country Joe Martin, a regional singer, and his manager, Lou Rhymer, loudly barge into the bar stopping their song. The two men announce they spent two weeks singing in Chicago, just played Richmond, and are on their way to the Grand Old Opry. Jason and Vanessa finish their performance to loud applause from the travelers.


Curt talks with Jason about his sister whom he loves but realizes is not an easy person and has always been very restless and full of discontent. Jason loves her spirit and admits he loves her. But while walking home Jason has a fight with Vanessa. She has forgotten their date making Jason mad when he says, “We had an arrangement!” Vanessa responds, “Jason, you don’t own me. I am not your personal property!” While helping deliver the Chronicle, Jason observes Vanessa and Country Joe drive to a hotel. Jason is despondent when he confides in his father. John remembers when Jason adopted a mallard duck. He fed the duck until it flew away. It was natural for the duck to leave - like Vanessa.


The family read the newspaper excerpt from John-Boy’s novel. Grandpa reads the article out loud but does not know what to make of the phrase, “relying on vast resources of vulpine cunning”. He looks up ‘vulpine’ in the dictionary and concludes it means double-dealing and deceitful. Grandpa is offended after believing John-Boy has called him a liar in print. When Grandpa confronts John-Boy, the young writer admits vulpine does mean ‘conniving’ in one sense of the word but also means ‘smart’. John-Boy recounts the story when Grandpa fooled a rival lumber company into sending their wood down a dangerous river. John-Boy tells Grandpa he ‘outfoxed’ them with natural intelligence. After reconsidering his grandson’s words, Grandpa tells John-Boy not to change a word of the book.


Jason is looking lovelorn as he sings a depressing sounding song. When Vanessa walks in Jason says he saw her walk into the hotel with Martin. Vanessa did not mean to hurt him but must do what it takes to further her career. She is leaving to tour with Country Joe Martin, feeling he can help her with her career. She says she hates what she is doing but is driven to do something with her life.


"At 20, it's hard to believe that time heals most pain, even that of a badly wounded heart. But time did work its wonders and as each day passed the hurt in Jason's eyes showed less and less, until finally it wasn't there at all".


Elizabeth: 'Night Mama!
Olivia: 'Night Elizabeth 'night Erin.
Olivia: Erin asleep already?
Erin: No I was just thinkin'.
Olivia: About what?
Erin: Jason.
Ben: About what a fool he is!
John: Alright, that's enough now go to sleep.
Jason (outside, sitting on the swing): I guess I have to admit - I was kind of naive.
Grandpa: I'll have to teach you how to be more vulpine!
John: Come on everybody let's go to sleep!
(Grandpa chuckles).



Grandpa’s favorite spring vegetables are mustard and turnip greens.

Curt and Mary Ellen Willard’s house address number is ‘301’.

Vanessa’s husband name is Taylor.

The words to “Vanessa’s Song” is:

There’s a place up on the mountains,

where I go to be alone.

And I bring you here my darlin’,

to share my love with you alone.


Red birds flyin’ through the valley.

Crickets singin’ in the dew.

Rivers rollin’ through the valley.

They all know my love for you.


They all know my love for you.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Corabeth Godsay (Ronnie Claire Edwards); Vanessa (Linda Purl); Country Joe Martin (Victor Arnold); Thelma (Dorothy Shay); Lou Rhymer (J.S. Johnson); Curtis Willard (Tom Bower); Horace Brimley (A. Wilford Brimley); Man on bus (Llynn Storer); J.D. Waters (Paul Weaver)