When Marilla Cuthbert dies, Rachel Lynde must cope with her friend's passing and the full responsibility of taking care of the Keith twins. Mr. Harrison continues a long time feud with Rachel and bids to purchase Green Gables.
Writer: Heather Conkie
Director: George Bloomfield
Special Guest Stars: Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe and Patricia Hamilton as Rachel Lynde
With: Bruce Boa as John Harrison
Original CBC Airdate: April 5, 1992
Original Disney Airdate: June 15, 1992
After Davey runs away from school, he is brought back to Green Gables by the grouchy Mr. Harrison, a next door neighbor who plays a sort of Scrooge character.
Davey finds Marilla passed out in the barn and informs Rachel. Soon afterwards, Marilla dies of heart failure, leaving her long time friend Rachel devasted. Rachel is further devastated when she is notified that there was no will and that Green Gables property belongs to Marilla's next of kin, the MacNiel's of Newbrunswick.
Mr. Harrison attempts to purchase Green Gables, which causes Rachel to do everything in her power to save the property. In a crazy scheme, Felix and Davey dismantle Green Gables in order to unsuccessfully drive away buyers.
Gilbert Blythe returns to Avonlea for Marilla's funeral and is soon helping Rachel attempt to keep Green Gables. Gilbert encourages the town to pool together money to help Rachel buy Green Gables, but Mr. Harrison purchases the property before they can make a bid.
The MacNiels inform Rachel that they will find suitable housing for the Keith twins, which cause Davey and Dora to run away. For some reason, Sara and Felix begin a high speed chase by carriage to catch Davey and Dora, who are running on foot.
Harrison is riding on the same road and must swerve to avoid the twins, causing him to fly from his carriage. After the accident, an injured Harrison meets with Davey and realizes that Davey will have to move away if Rachel loses Green Gables.
Supposably from his concern for Davey or perhaps loneliness (and he really must have been lonely!), Harrison allows Rachel to remain at Green Gables and even asks her to play cribbage with him in an unbelievable ending reminiscent of Rachel's more believable reconciliation with Alexander Abraham's (1.3: Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's).
Either you liked the effects with virtual Marilla or you didn't. I didn't care for the effects or find them that believable. A message could have simply been delivered notifying Rachel that Marilla had died while visiting relatives.
I also didn't like the way they used sound bites and clips from other episodes to fill in for Marilla's conversations. If you're a fan of the later seasons and haven't seen the first two seasons, you might not care; but as a fan from the beginning, I fondly remember Marilla giving advice about the consequences of telling lies to Sara in 1.4: The Materializing of Duncan and I feel cheated when I see this same exact footage recycled for this episode.
Furthermore, they also rehashed the ending of the Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's with her unbelievable reconciliation with Mr. Harrison. I can see Harrison feeling sympathy for Davey Keith, but I can't see him turning sympathetic toward Rachel Lynde.
Gilbert Blythe could also have been built more as a conquering hero, rather than being unsuccessful at saving Green Gables.
Isn't Davey like a modern day 'Dennis the Menace?
Isn't Mr. Harrison worse than 'Mr. Wilson?'
Is Addy McNiel related to the McNiels of New Brunswick?
"I always wanted to be the first to go, and was prepared; but not Marilla. She wouldn't hear a word about it. Not even when I could have gotten her a sale on a coffin, two for the price of one." -Rachel Lynde
"They're going to split us up because you got the house. I wish you was dead Mr. Harrison." -Davey Keith
Sap Meter: 0
(1) Colleen Dewhurst died of cancer on August 22, 1991 at the age of 67. A legendary stage and movie actress, Colleen was one of the few actresses to resume her role from the 'Anne of Green Gables' mini-series in Road to Avonlea. Colleen also played with Jackie Burrough's in the suspense thriller 'The Dead Zone' (1982).
(2) Colleen Dewhurst was originally scheduled to appear in a third season Avonlea episode, but after her untimely death, the script was scrapped and re-written for this tribute episode.
(3) The original title of this episode was "Where There's A Will."
(4) Kevin Sullivan addressed the sensitive nature of this episode in a 1992 article for the Montreal Gazette titled "Electronic wizardry keeps Dewhurst in the picture for Road to Avonlea finale":
"We wanted to be able to deal with the character legitimately. We had to be up front. We didn't want to have her constantly off in the fields, milking the cows every time we'd cut to Rachel at Green Gables. Also, we wanted to, as ridiculous as it sounds, kind of mourn Marilla and Colleen. We got flooded with letters when Colleen passed away. And I think the audience felt a great loss when the news came out. I think this handles it in a very gentle, tasteful way. It's very low key, but it's very moving."
(5) The footage of Colleen for 'Old Friends, Old Wounds' was taken from her appearances in 'Anne of Green Gables,' 'Anne of Avonlea' and her role as Hepzibah in 'Lantern Hill.' The footage of Hepzibah had to be modified to change her hair from grey to brown.
(6) Jonathan Crombie was discovered by casting director Diane Polley, the late mother of Sarah Polley, while he was singing on stage in a school play. Polley and Anne Tait (the casting director for Road to Avonlea) auditioned Jonathan for the 'Anne of Green Gables' mini-series where he won the role of Gilbert Blythe. Crombie died in April 2015 from a brain hemorrage at age 48.
The tribute could have been better without the virtual Marilla effects.