Road to Avonlea: Aunt Hetty’s Ordeal

aunt hetty's ordeal

“I wanna say something to my teacher, Ms. King. You was the first one who ever tried to help me in my life, Ms. King. You got me to go to school. You learn me how to chew ten times so I won’t burp. If it wasn’t for you, I would know nothin’ about learnin’, about getting an education. I may wreck your King’s English, so I’ll say my thanks the only way I know.”

Episode Summary: When Hetty finds out that Muriel Stacy (Marilyn Lightstone) has just become superintendent and is visiting Avonlea, she decides that she must go to the cannery and convince one of the boys to attend school in order to prove that she’s just as good an educator. She is able to get Gus Pike to attend classes. For the next few days, Hetty is able to gain Gus’s trust; however, she also discourages Gus from fooling around and playing his fiddle. When Hetty injures herself in the shower, Muriel Stacy decides to act as Hetty’s substitute teacher. With Lieutenant Governor’s Reception coming up, everyone hopes Gus Pike will play his fiddle for the Lieutenant. However, when the night comes, Gus Pike ends up dedicating his performance to Hetty King. He plays his theme for the audience, earning the crowd’s cheers, and bringing Hetty to grateful tears.

Directed by Stuart Gillard, Written by Marlene Matthews, Music by John Welsman

avonlea gus violin

My Grade: This is the first episode written by Marlene Matthews; and it really showcases why Matthews will end up becoming one of the most important, if not most important, writer for the rest of the series. While season two saw a rise in “action/adventure,” I think season two also showed a rise in heartfelt moments. Season one was filled with sentimentality, but none of the season’s moments reached as deep and honest as Hetty crying over Gus’s dedication. It’s one of the greatest moments in the show’s history, and it’s beautifully played by both Michael Mahonen and Jackie Burroughs.

It’s also interesting how this was originally supposed to be Gus’s final appearance. Mahonen was initially brought in for two episodes. This episode and “How Kissing Was Discovered” really introduced us to the two most important relationships Gus Pike will maintain for the rest of the series: Felicity and Aunt Hetty. However, this episode had such an air of finality, that I could totally see it as Gus’s “swan song.” I’m obviously glad it wasn’t, but this would be a great short arc for any character. Anyway, it goes without saying that this episode is classic Avonlea amazingness. (A)

aunt hetty's ordeal

Spotlight Performance: Again, that final scene with Hetty spouting some eye water is the character’s most honest moment thus far. Hetty can be sort of…well, she is who she is. But she loves to teach. She’s certainly not doing it for the money. Education is important to her; and seeing a student change before her eyes and show such gratitude is absolutely touching. So this episode proved that the late Jackie Burroughs was one of the best Canadian actresses.

Favorite Scene: I’ve already mentioned it a billion times: obviously, it’s that last scene. However…elephant in the room! Michael Mahonen is clearly pretending to play the violin in that scene. They (director, sound mixer, anyone) could have done a better job matching Gus’s violin strokes with the music. Every time I watch that scene, it takes me out a bit, but I’m immediately captivated again.

avonlea stretches

Final Thoughts: This was the first episode written by Marlene Matthews. She will continue writing episodes for the show until the very end (literally). She also wrote the very first episode of Kevin Sullivan’s other series Wind at My Back, and wrote Sullivan’s miniseries By Way of the Stars. She also worked on the teen drama Ready or Not and, most notably, created Emily of New Moon, which is also based on an LM Montgomery book series. Unlike Avonlea, Emily of New Moon was primarily shot on Prince Edward Island.

This is also the first appearance of Marilyn Lightstone as Muriel Stacy. She played this character in the first two Anne movies. I like Muriel Stacy because she’s all daring and progressive. After one more appearance later this season, she’ll become a more recurring character from the fifth season on. She starred in one of Kevin Sullivan’s first features, The Wild Pony. Earlier, she had a starring role in the Oscar nominated feature Lies My Father Told Me during the mid 70’s.

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