Road to Avonlea Review: Incident at Vernon River

avonlea incident

Episode Summary: Against his better judgement, Felix secretly “borrows” his father’s rifle in order to hunt for bison, which he would sell to the White Sands Hotel. However, while hunting with Izzy and Morgan Pettibone, he accidentally shoots Digger. Lucky for the King family, Arthur Pettibone is home from veterinarian school and is able to help heal Digger from the bullet. Arthur also meets Felicity, thus a love triangle between those two and Gus is born.

Directed by F. Harvey Frost, Written by Rick Drew, Music by John Welsman

My Grade: This is a very solid episode for the series. I like how reflective the second half of the episode is. We got a devastating climax (Felix shooting Digger), and then the latter half episode really allowed the characters to reflect on what happened and what can be done to help Digger. However, if we have to put this episode in the “Felix inadvertently hurts an animal he really cares about” camp, then it’s certainly not as strong as “Felix and Blackie.” I can’t help but compare the two episodes. (B+)

avonlea pettibone

Spotlight Performance: Like with “Felix and Blackie,” we get strong performances from Zachary Bennett and Cedric Smith. However, once again, I’m all for David Fox. Clive Pettibone is such a good addition to the cast. This is the first episode we meet Mr. Pettibone’s son, Arthur. And, obviously, there’s some tension between father and son. It probably has to do with the fact that Mr. Pettibone chose the Army over staying home with Arthur and his mother when he was younger. Arthur has some lingering resentment. We’ll certainly witness it for the rest of the series run. But at least the two are on common ground by the end of the episode.

Favorite Scene: Strangely enough, there’s a scene that takes place after Felix has spent the night sleeping next to a wounded Felix. It’s morning, and sensing his father coming into the room, he rushes to the stairs. And then Alec comes in, looks at Digger, and then he slowly walks to his rifle case, takes a rifle out and walks out of the room. It’s a slow burn of a scene that’s filled with tension. We know why Alec takes the rifle. We know what he’s considering doing. It’s a devastating, yet simple, scene that illustrates the quiet tone of this episode. I didn’t appreciate this scene until just now.

avonlea love triangle

Final Thoughts: So, there are a couple big nuggets of information. First…this is the very first episode to not feature Sara Stanley (Sarah Polley). Hetty and Olivia also don’t make an appearance, but those two characters have been absent from episodes before. One could say that this episode was sort of a test. With Polley having less and less interest in being on this series, could the show survive without Sara?Obviously, the answer is yes. While the show started out as being about the relationships between Sara and special guest characters, the show has evolved beyond that. There’s plenty of time to discuss what Avonlea looks like without Sara. And Sara still plays a big role in season 4. But, even if Sara was in this episode, I can’t imagine her having much of a role. And that’s to the episode’s credit. I don’t completely miss Sara right now (season 5 is a different story).

And two…Avonlea won its first Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program with this episode. It’s obviously nice that the show won this Emmy. It probably should have won every year it was nominated. It’s just weird because…this isn’t the best episode of the season. I don’t know who could have made the decision to submit this episode for consideration. Since, the Emmys are American, I’m assuming that Disney had a bigger say in the decision. Still…it always baffles me a bit. I suppose TPTB thought they could win with an episode that focuses mostly on the kids (and is male-skewing). Anyway, I consider this an achievement for the show as a whole, not just this one episode. But, facts are facts.

This is the first episode written by Rick Drew. He’s written for plenty of children’s television series, including Danger Bay, Goosebumps, and the Zixx series. He was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his work on RL Stine’s The Haunting Hour. This is also the first appearance of Zachary Ansley, who plays Arthur. Before Avonlea, he appeared in movies such as Princes in Exile, Cowboys Don’t Cry, and The Journey of Natty Gann. He also had a recurring role in The X Files as Billy Miles. He has not appeared on screen since 2002. He is currently a lawyer.


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