Road to Avonlea Review: The Materializing of Duncan McTavish

avonlea duncan mctavish

“Don’t believe everything you see girls, and only half of what you hear.” – Sara

Episode Summary: Feeling left out and alienated by all her married and widowed friends, the eternally single Marilla Cuthbert reveals to the knitting circle that she had a serious romance a long time ago with a beau named Duncan McTavish; however, this is all a lie. Marilla finds herself in a dilemma when an out-of-town salesman named Duncan McTavish (Tom Peacock) comes to Avonlea, causing the whole town to stir, including Marilla’s best friend Rachel Lynde. In the end, annoyed with how gossipy a small town like Avonlea can be, Duncan agrees to validate Marilla’s lie by publicly taking her for a carriage ride after church.

Directed by Don McBrearty, Written by Heather Conkie, Music by Hagood Hardy

My Grade: Throughout the series, there are handful of episodes that I can truly call perfect. This is, in my opinion, the first perfect episode of the series. Most fans who watch the show (including me) would love to live in a place like Avonlea, where everyone knows everyone. However, living in a small town like Avonlea means that your life is an open book. There’s very little privacy, and gossip and idle chat can carry like waves of an ocean. I can completely understand Marilla’s desire to fit in like the rest of the women. It would be silly to think that Marilla didn’t have some regrets about never getting married. I like this episode because it’s a deeper examination of Marilla, without Anne of GreenGables and without her brother Matthew. I also just think this episode is very funny, particularly any scene having to do with Mrs. Potts (Maja Ardal). And I remember being so invested in this story when I first watched the series four years ago. A nice dose of humor with a sweet scene in the end makes this episode a winner in my book. (A+)

avonlea marilla

Spotlight Performance: Obviously, this honor goes to Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert. I would even say this is Dewhurst’s best performance as Marilla (or maybe second to when she tries to console Anne after Matthew’s Death in the first Anne miniseries). Even small moments like Marilla’s face when Sara first tells her that Duncan McTavish is in town are wonderful.

avonlea marilla

Favorite Scene: It’s hard to choose one for an episode this good…I suppose I really like the “knitting group” scene where Marilla first tells the lie. It’s just so well scripted. I like how Marilla has all the women in the palm of her hand. However, Marilla comparing living with Rachel to having a viper bite her bosom is a close second.

avonlea girls

Final Thoughts: I have a few actually. One interesting tidbit, courtesy of the official site, is that this was the very first episode to be shot, due to Colleen Dewhurst’s busy schedule. So, this episode (and the quarantine episode before this) was shot before the pilot…which technically means Don McBrearty was the show’s first director, which is appropriate considering how important he was to the show’s success during the first five seasons. This also means Heather Conkie wrote the script for the first episode to be shot, which, again, is appropriate since she’s awesome and most of the episodes she wrote for the series were as well.

I sort of wrote this for my review of the first episode (I “striked through” it since I found out that Conkie didn’t write the series premiere), but I think Conkie is one of the best television screenwriters ever, Canadian or American, particularly for children and family television. From Heartland to Flash Forward to Dark Oracle to those Devine Entertainment specials to most definitely the greatest episode 7th Heaven ever produced, Conkie is an inspiration for me, and I will continue to sing her praises for reviews to come.

This episode was also scored by Hagood Hardy, who also scored many other episodes during the first two seasons, including “The Journey Begins.” He also scored both Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, and a prominent score motif used in those movies is used in this episode as well (most notably the end). Unfortunately, Hardy passed away to lymphoma in 1997.

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