Is this the only Andy Griffith Show episode to use flashbacks?
Matlock deployed the storytelling device frequently, but Mayberry was more about living in the moment.
One thing that fans of The Andy Griffith Show appreciate is that Mayberry was a town that was completely of its time, a place where everyone seemed to be living in the moment.
As a storytelling device, we typically only hear about the past when Andy, Barney or Aunt Bee recall a stray fact here or there.
Flashbacks were rarely used on the show. "Three Wishes for Opie" is the only episode we can think of where nearly the entire episode is told through flashbacks.
In "Three Wishes for Opie," the flashbacks are distinguished from modern-day Mayberry by having the screen go wavy while Andy narrates the past.
This is not an unusual way to visually signal to viewers that we’re going into the past, but on The Andy Griffith Show, it must’ve come as a surprise and possibly even a delight to fans who were not used to watching entire histories play out.
On Andy Griffith’s later series, Matlock, flashbacks were a popular device. Fans know that any time Ben Matlock had a flashback about his dad, Griffith played that father figure, too.
Matlock also has the distinction of being the first-ever long-running drama to weave in clips of previous episodes as flashbacks.
So, we know it’s not that Andy Griffith himself had any rules about not using flashbacks on his shows, and we must assume that quite simply, The Andy Griffith Show liked living in the moment more than dwelling on the past.
There is a rumor that MeTV fans have spread in the comments, though, insisting there was a banned episode of The Andy Griffith Show that used a flashback to show how Opie’s mother died.
On the show, this fact is always kept vague, so fans have never been sure exactly what happened to Andy Taylor’s first wife.
"In one of the earliest episodes, there is a flashback to when Andy was married and his wife is brutally murdered by a wandering maniac that escaped from the mental hospital in Mount Pilot," a MeTV commenter called Chucklehead wrote. "After the murderer escapes, Andy vows to never let such a thing happen again in Mayberry and becomes a law officer. I believe this episode was later removed from syndication because of the violent content."
Most other commenters called Chucklehead’s bluff, but at least one commenter shared the memory – or else is in on Chucklehead’s warped joke.
"The reason I so vividly remember that episode is because Pat Boone portrayed the maniacal murderer from Mt. Pilot," wrote a MeTV commenter called Thortwell.
We could not find anything in the TV archives to verify this rumor.
That means "Three Wishes for Opie" remains the rare episode of The Andy Griffith Show to employ flashbacks.
Can you think of other episodes with flashbacks?