Monday, December 22, 2008

The Lord Is My Shepherd, Part 2 (Season 1, Episode 14)

The little house is dark and quiet, except for Laura writing a letter. She had mean thoughts that caused or contributed to little Freddie's death, but she knows how to make it better. After placing her note on the mantel and petting Jack, Laura leaves the house.

In the morning, Pa wakes Ma with: "It's Monday and I'm starving!" She's probably still grieving, because wasn't the little guy's funeral, like, yesterday? So you *may* wanna lay off. Just sayin'. But we know Charles Ingalls is never gonna lay off, and I'm never gonna really get angry about it. Damn your handsome face, Pa Ingalls!

The family thinks Laura is outside doing chores until Ma spots the note.

Pa questions the "mean thoughts" part of the letter, but luckily they still have Mary around to cry and tattle.

Ever notice how Pa always seems to viciously interrogate Mary? It happened in the Mr. Edward's Homecoming episode: "What did you LEARN IN SUNDAY SCHOOL??" And The Racoon. Mary did an identical cry when the raccoon bit Jack (and Laura). Mary lets it all out about how Laura felt like the new baby was taking her place as Pa's favourite.

In town, Pa borrows a horse from Hans Dorfler. What the hell was wrong with his own horses? Unless he just doesn't want Edwards's lard body taking a ride. Or else he knows in advance that the horses are gonna be climbing a mountain like no mountain the prairies have ever seen...

Pa and Edwards take off, traveling through field and fountain, moor and mountain looking for Laura.

Meanwhile, Laura has spotted the spot that is the closest to God.

After Laura climbs up the mountain, she outlines her deal to God. God had a son, maybe he wants a girl, too. Laura will go be with Him, and Freddie can come back to be with Pa. She covers herself with her coat, and lays down to wait for God's answer.

She is soon disturbed by the voice of Jonathan.

Jonathan starts talking about his generically referenced friend, Him. Laura figures out eventually that he's talking about God. Jonathan knows God. OMG.

Pa and Edwards keep looking. Jonathan makes an engraved cross for Laura.

After that, Jonathan is oddly eager for Laura to take a bath. I'm sure it's meant innocently, but the whole ear-scrubbing thing made me uncomfortable when I was 10, and it makes me uncomfortable now. "Rub 'em! Yeah, rub 'em! Rub 'em HARD!"

Laura rubs a little too vigorously, I guess, because her cross necklace comes off and floats down the river. She starts freaking out, but Jonathan knows the art of child distraction and gives her a hurt bird to take care of.

Pa and Edwards have returned to the little house to get provisions for an overnight search. Carrie asks if Laura went away with her brother. Ma runs from the room in tears... to the other room 4.5 feet away.

At night, Laura tells Jonathan that she wants to switch places with her dead brother, and she is seriously ready to die. . He tells her that everyone has mean thoughts. Laura says: "Not my ma and pa." Say what?

Ma has certainly had mean thoughts about Mrs. Oleson, probably daily. And Mr. Oleson, when she thought he was ripping Mary off. And she constantly hates Mr. Edwards.

And PA! Pa was pretty mean about Johnny Johnson's interest in Mary. And that was verbal! I don't even wanna know what else he was thinking! What about Pa and the guy who repo'd the oxen? Or Pa and, like, EVERYONE in Walnut Grove because of the church bell? Pa was definitely thinking mean shit about all of those jerks. Oh, and Olga's dad who wouldn't let Pa fix her shoe, so Pa fought him... jeez, Laura, don't be so naive. Your parents get diabolically angry ALL THE FRIGGIN' TIME.

Pa and Edwards are still looking. Pa stops to fill the canteens and Laura's missing cross washes up at his feet.

Upon realizing what he's holding, Pa yells: "EDWARDS!" at top volume times a million, even though Edwards is only 7 steps away.

Laura thinks God has forsaken her and that she needs to go higher to get even closer to God. Jonathan suggests building a bonfire. God's not gonna be able to miss it when the entire mountain turns into what Smokey the Bear has been warning everyone about.

The smoke catches Edwards's attention, and they take off toward the mountain.

The horses make REALLY good time. Friggin' 'roid horses or something. I guess Hans Dorfler is the go-to guy for stuff like that. It's still daylight when they reach Laura, who is praying on a rock cliff. She spots them before they see her, and she runs away to hide. She wants an answer from God before Pa finds her.

Jonathan explains that things are just as God wants. Pa runs up the last hill to where Laura is.

Even Edwards is losing it in the background. During the reunion, Jonathan disappeared. The only trace of him is the sturdy shelter he's constructed on the mountaintop and the cross he made, which lead Pa to Laura.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Lord Is My Shepherd, Part 1 (Season 1, Episode 13)

Pa bugs Ma for not eating and being too thin. Well, enjoy it now, Chuck, cuz it ain't gonna last. Ma is - how would they say it back then? - with child.

Charles needs make sure that everyone in Walnut Grove knows how excited he is about the baby. And by 'baby', I mean the boy male son that Caroline is certainly carrying. Charles also prepares for the baby by constructing the world's biggest crib. Where the hell is that gonna fit in the little house?

The more apparent it becomes that Pa really really really wants a boy this time, the more Laura tries to compensate for, like, not being a boy. She beat Johnny Johnson at some old-fashioned recess game and he called her a tomboy! That's almost like being a boy. Yeah, except not. Sorry, Laura. You fail.

Nine months pass at warp speed, until one morning after Ma sends the girls off to school. She holds her stomach joyously and tells Pa to send for the mid-widow Grace Snider.

Later in the day, the girls and Pa wait in the loft, while Ma and Grace work on the birthing. Then, suddenly - a baby's cry! It's the boy that Pa wanted!

The girls peek around the quilt door to see the new baby.

Already Laura is less excited than the others. Carrie says: "Carrie's dolly!" but Pa shoots that idea down quickly and sternly: "No, Carrie. That is my son. Charles Ingalls, Jr."

The baby will be baptized on Sunday, Pa tells Nels Oleson at the mercantile, while completely ignoring Laura's exhibition of flour-sack carrying strength. Pay attention, Pa, cuz I'm pretty sure that's something a boy would do. To make matters worse, Nels starts going on about how awesome a son is. Yeah, like he would know. Willie, ha! Everything a man could want? Keep wishing, Nels. And jeez, Laura is right there! Make her feel like shit, why don't ya?

It's baptism day, and the church has a celebratory picnic. Harriet Oleson approaches Ma, pretending to want a look at the baby... but REALLY wanting to dis' Ma. Four kids now, eh? Country wives are kinda like brood mares. Harriet says,"In my case, Nellie and Willie are more than enough." Ma snarkily agrees. Burn!

Mr. Edwards buys popcorn for the girls to celebrate their new brother. He's started calling the baby 'Freddie', for his middle name, Frederick. Ma hates it.

Doc Baker comes by to check on Freddie. He's not gaining weight. It's probably something to do with Ma's milk, so he gives her some other stuff to try. Ma pays him in eggs, which she feels silly doing because Doc Baker gave them the chickens. Continuity for the win!

Laura comes home from school and shows Pa a map of Walnut Grove that she made. But OMG - Freddie is drinking from a bottle! Can't miss that. Pa immediately runs into the bedroom, ignoring the hell out of Laura. Laura walks away sadly, rejected, and tosses her map into Plum Creek.

That night Mary prays for God to make Freddie strong. And Laura kind of doesn't. Mary threatens to tattle to Ma and Pa that Laura didn't pray for Freddie. Yeah, well, Laura prayed for a sister and God didn't listen, so now she don't even care.

Doc Baker comes back to the house with bad news. Freddie still isn't gaining weight. He's seen it before and there's nothing he can do.

Sometimes a country doctor feels so useless! The Ingallses just cannot depend on this guy when it comes to babies. Good thing Mary and Laura were born out of state. Ma and Pa leave the girls with Grace Snider, and take Freddie to Mankato. Freddie dies in the hospital, and Ma and Pa return home alone. Mary cries, and Laura runs off, and I bet this whole scene is pretty awkward for Grace Snider.

Next Sunday, the family attends church. It's time for another Alden sermon: "It isn't enough to say 'I'm sorry, Lord', and then continue your sins until the following Sunday." But you can work together with the Lord and all things will be possible. "Remember I said ALL THINGS."

Laura has been wracked with guilt over not praying for Freddie, so she stays after church to talk to the Rev. She has a question. Alden is pleased that Laura paid attention to his sermon, because so many people don't. Yeah, get over it, Alden. Stop scaring the child. Laura wants to know how to get a miracle. Well, "The closer you are to God, the more likely he is to listen."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Award (Season 1, Episode 12)

'What is this titular "award"?' is a question I'm sure anyone reading this will be asking herself. Lemme fill you in, Miss-Beadle-Brings-Da-Damn-Drama style:

And it's not even abridged! Q: So, how does one get in on possibly winning this award? A: A very comprehensive test will take place in three weeks. The student with the best grade will be awarded this very fine dictionary.

Mary starts studying like a child obsessed. She even borrows a classy-looking American history textbook from Miss Beadle's personal collection. Day and night, Mary studies. One Friday evening, Mary's lamplight annoys Laura late into the night. Mary pretends to go to bed, only to sneak out to the barn to keep reading after Laura falls back to sleep.

What's Rule #1 of being an Ingalls kid? Come on, guys, chime in. No, not "cash on the barrel", but that's a good one. No matches. That's right!

Mary falls asleep, slumping sideways over Miss Beadle's fancy book. She stretches her legs and - oh no! She's kicked over the lantern! Fire everywhere!

Ma runs outside to get the animals out of the barn, while Mary and Laura bring buckets of water. Once the crisis is handled, Mary confesses that it's her fault that the barn caught fire.

Ma's heard enough. Mary can forget that examination! She is to tell Miss Beadle that she won't be participating tomorrow at school. I don't remember Laura ever being so lippy - maybe it's because Pa's in Mankato on official Hansen mill business and she thinks she can get away with it - but she starts heckling Ma because "tomorrow is Saturday".

In the morning, Mary rakes up the burnt hay - and finds Miss Beadle's history book, burnt to death, under the rubble! OH NO!

After church on Sunday, Ma stays to talk to the Rev. She lost her temper with Mary. And she NEVER loses her temper. She regrets saying that Mary can't take the examination. Rev Alden uses his manipulative authority to convince Ma that, yeah, Mary coulda died. But she didn't. By being alive, she can still be punished! Punish-ment! Punish-ment! Alden's kinda psycho. He's sure that if Ma took back the punishment, then she would be a joke to her children for the rest of forever and they'd never take her seriously again. Cuzz Alden watches a lot of Supernanny.

Monday morning Mary is still depressed about the test. Laura takes her into the mercantile to split a penny's worth of licorice. Laura still owes Mary half a penny from when Mary bought the slate pencil on the first day of school. Continuity!

Nels Oleson has a HELP WANTED sign up. Nellie can't help out in the store until after the test. I thought Nellie just heckled poor customers and ate jawbreakers whenever she was in the shop. I don't call that working. Oh well. Mary wants the job, and Nels agrees as long as Ma says it's all right.

It's OK by Ma, so Mary starts work the next day after school. Miss Beadle comes in for a pound of white sugar, and starts harassing Mary. Like threateningly: "When do you study? When do you find time to study? You haven't answered my question yet." Mary starts using her work time to read the schoolbooks for sale in the mercantile.

Mary plans to disobey Ma and take the test, so she can avoid telling the Bead that her history book got cremated. By the time the test is over, Mary will have her mercantile money and be able to buy a new copy.

Now it's montage time! Mary works, and does chores, and studies in an endless cycle of time. Mary gets paid the day before the test and buys the history book to replace Miss Beadle's. Ma finds Mary's leftover 50¢ piece from the mercantile, and, unaware that Mary had already spent $1 on the textbook, thinks that Nels Oleson is running some kind of rip-off operation.

It's also test day. Mary is at rest, like a test-taking machine, while Laura badgers her: "Aren't you coming?" as the non-test-taking students leave the classroom.

Ma decides to take the eggs into town to sell at the mercantile, and slip some derogatory remarks about Nels's cheapskate character in at the same time. Nels doesn't take the bait, which he easily could have. If I were him, I would called for Harriet and had her lay Ma out with a hard right hand, but whatev.

After leaving the mercantile, Ma notices Laura sitting on the school steps while the other kids enjoy recess. She asks where Mary is, and Laura tells her. Ma storms up the stairs. Ma, no. This will embarrass Mary in front of all the smart, promising kids in the class! It's gonna be hard enough on her when she needs to get glasses soon! Don't make it worse!

Ma looks into the classroom, unnoticed, and sees Mary writing on her test paper. She quietly leaves, saying nothing to Laura as she passes her on the way out.

So, the test has been graded, and Miss Beadle is about to announce the winner. Here's the deal: like 20 girls took the test. And one guy. Who won the very fine dictionary, pictured at the top of this post? Arnold whoever. Niiiice. Mary runs from the classroom.

Miss Beadle tells Laura to stay after class. She drives Laura home in her buggy. Ma comes out to meet them. Miss Beadle shows Ma Mary's test, which is a note to Miss Beadle saying that she can't take the test. Aw, Ma is so proud. But - where is Mary?

Laura watches Carrie at home, while Ma looks for Mary. She finds her in a field, and they run toward each other and hug.

That's kinda cheesy, even for Little House on the Prairie.

And, to make up for no Pa in this one, here's a delicious picture:


Friday, October 31, 2008

The Voice of Tinker Jones (Season 1, Episode 11)

The most PADDED episode yet opens with a deaf guy (pictured above) showing up at the little house in his tinker wagon. I guess Ma had special-ordered a copper pot, and now it's come in. Ma and Pa talk to the guy as though he's gonna suddenly start hearing, like just repeating stuff. "It's good craftsmanship... craftsmanship... craftsmanship."

Tinker Jones has a special no-charge gift for each of the girls: horse figurines for Mary and Laura, and when Carrie makes the surliest chubby baby face (and it's actually kinda cute, I think... Oy! I'm scaring myself. Maybe I need to do a Little House marathon of annoying Carrie episodes to put my mind straight), Tinker Jones gives her a little fishie.

Apparently the Rev Alden is still only visiting Walnut Grove monthly. Mr. Dorfler is sleeping in the first pew, so Alden assaults him to wake him up.

Alden talks his scary bible talk, then moves on to trying to extort a church bell from the citizens of Hero Township. Harriet Oleson immediately offers a donation of a bell, and a plaque dedicating it in her name.

Mr. Kennedy, father of Mary's friend Christy, steps up to say that because it is, you know, the house of the lord and all that, that one person's name shouldn't be on the church. Dorfler feels entitled to an opinion: let the Olesons donate the jeezly bell. They know quality. It would be a wicked bell, for certain.

Kennedy responds in an angry manner, and a major throwdown is narrowly avoided only because they're still inside the church walls. Alden will not allow any misbehaviour.

As the townspeople exit the church, Alden tells the Tinker how nice it is that he never misses a service. Well, they must be those Sleepy Eye services, because no way has this guy been here before. It's, like, 10 episodes into the series, and I seriously can't figure out how the writers were still coming up with original fake backstories for new characters every single week. And they do it for 10 years!!

So, no arguing in the church, but outside is FAIR GAME. Dorfler and Kennedy get waaaayyy into it. Kennedy: "Oleson's not gonna run my religion, I tell you!" Dorfler: "It's a plaque! You don't even have to look at it!"

Miss Beadle would enjoy having a bell for school purposes. Yeah, Bead, you REALLY wish. That's sacrilegious-ish. Harriet gathers her family and leaves the conversation in disgust.

Later, the Rev pays a visit to Charles. Obviously any social problem can only be solved with the help of Charles Ingalls. The townspeople are choosing sides! The Olesons have threatened to attend a different church if their offer is rejected! Alden wants what's best, but doesn't know what to do!

Pa calls a meeting to discuss the bell. There's a little gem of a scene where Pa goes to Kennedy's, who is chopping wood, and tells him about the meeting. He doesn't want to attend because he will never to agree to an Oleson bell. Or "We don' wan' no Oleson bay-ell!!" as he puts it.

Pa officiates the meeting, which quickly descends into craziness. Kennedy can't "keep a civil tongue". The Olesons storm out... well, Harriet does. Nels just goes along. Hansen tells everyone to keep it down in the house of the lord, then starts yelling like a lunatic. It goes so poorly that people are going to write to Alden's superior to have him removed. Which seems like a giant, ridiculous leap, even for the tools of Hero Township.

Even the children get involved. Some of the schoolgirls aren't allowed to play with Mary and Laura anymore because of what Charles said about the bell.

The next church service has only 10 worshipers, and 5 of them are freakin' Ingallses! Rev Alden visits the Ingalls family at home, and Charles tells him that they will do their own thing at home from now on.

So, it's war in Walnut Grove.

And it's also a 20 minute "Tinker Jones Makes a Bell" montage. He gathers up all the toys he's given to children during his visits. Kids steal pots from their parents. Scrap metal is burgled from all over the town. The melted metal fills a bell mold, while the kids poorly act the state of amazement. "Oooooh!" "Pretty!" "Wow!"

This bell is The Voice of Tinker Jones telling everyone to get over themselves. The town is happy again. And no one had to pay anything... other than the money they're going to have to spend to replace all the metal goods their kids stole. So, Tinker Jones wins. And we never see him again... ever!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Racoon (Season 1, Episode 10)

Laura owns a beautiful porcelain doll named possibly "Janet". Maybe "Janice". No subtitles, so I'm on my own to decide. It doesn't matter, cuz that thing's getting busted to bits forthwith, when Laura accidentally falls on her while playing catch with Mary.

As much as I dislike the expression, I think this is what "throwing like a girl" looks like. What the hell is Mary doing? The ball is in her left hand, by the way. The one that's waayyyy sideways behind her head. WTF?

That night, Pa tries to put the doll's head back together. There's no way, and he can't spare the cash to replace it.

Mary visits the mercantile and finds out that a new doll costs $1.20. Luckily she finds something better on the way home from school: a baby raccoon (and episode title be damned, I'm spelling it with two Cs!). She brings it home as a gift for Laura. Seriously, can Mary do anything right?

Laura loves the raccoon. She names him Jasper and makes plans to have him sleep in her bed.

When Pa gets home, he puts his foot down. That's a wild animal with no place being in the house. Pa tells her to turn him loose in the woods. But he's just a baby! Pa wouldn't leave Carrie alone in the woods, would he?

Pa changes his mind, and says that the girls can keep Jasper until he's big enough to hold his own in the woods. He's not allowed in the house, though. That's rule #1. God, these Ingallses have gone from meddling in the lives of the human inhabitants of Walnut Grove, to getting all up in the animals' business too.

The girls, dressed in their winter duds, are going to take Jasper to school to show off some of the tricks he's learned.

The schoolchildren marvel as Jasper eats an egg, while Miss Beadle assigns the homework. The kids bumrush Jasper and he snarls at them viciously.

On Sunday when the family is at church, Jasper wreaks havoc at home. He chases the chickens, then decides to B & E the little house. He better not make a mess in there, so help me God.

Jack goes ballistic outside until the Ingalls family gets home. They enter the house to find... a mess. Oh shit.

Pa puts Jasper in a burlap bag and drives him to the woods to release him. By the time Pa gets back to the little house, Jasper is already there. Pa relents and decides to build Jasper a cage, so he can live in the barn.

Jack still hates Jasper's guts. Mary has to hold Jack back when Laura opens the cage to feed the raccoon. Jasper lashes out and bites Laura, escapes the cage, tussles with Jack and bites him, then runs away. Laura makes Mary promise not to tell, and they just pretend that Jasper ran off. Mary sucks, so she spills it to Pa a few hours later that Jasper bit Jack.

That night, "Jasper" comes back to attack the chickens. It's all action when Pa leaps from bed, shirtless, to run to the barn. The raccoon is up in the loft. It jumps at Pa, and Pa stabs it repeatedly with a pitchfork.

Pa finds that the raccoon was rabid. He ties Jack in the barn. When Mary comes out to do chores in the AM, she starts to untie Jack. Pa tells her no, Jack may have rabies.

Mary does her best first cry telling Pa that Jasper bit Laura, too.

Ma and Pa take Laura to Doc Baker. It will take 3 weeks to a month to find out if Laura is affected. If Jack develops symptoms in the next week or so, then Laura probably will too. There is no treatment.

Laura stays in bed day after day. If Laura's rabid, why the hell is Mary still sharing a bed with her?

Jack starts jumping and barking in the barn. Pa preps his gun. Jeez, Pa. Jack's probably just upset because he's not used to being tied up. Pa goes to the barn, and Jasper is on the ledge doing his "cover the eyes" trick that Laura taught him. So, Jack has a last minute pardon. There were two raccoons: Jasper, and the one that attacked the chickens. Laura isn't sick, and the Ingalls family learns an important lesson about wild animals.

Oh, and: we never have to see Jasper again.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

School Mom (Season 1, Episode 9)

Miss Beadle innocently locks up the schoolhouse, while her horse and buggy sit benignly in the foreground. But disaster strikes! As Miss Beadle situates herself into the buggy, the children's horseplay spooks the real horse, causing it to bolt!

Doing her own stunts!

The Bead will be out of teaching commission for a while with a sprained ankle. Doc Baker insists that she stay home from school. Um, whatever. I'm pretty sure that crutches have existed since the beginning of leg injuries. Anyway, it seemed like a good reason for the school board (Doc Baker, Hansen, and the Olesons) to offer Ma the sub job, and hence we have "School Mom".

Ma isn't sure about taking the job, but Harriet Oleson is up to her old bitchery, speculating that Ma will show favouritism for her own daughters in the classroom. That's enough to convince Ma that she has to prove Mrs. Oleson wrong.

The next morning, Nellie and Willie are gossiping. They think Mrs. Ingalls doesn't know the new teaching methods and isn't fit to be a teacher. Ok, for starters, what the hell kind of grade A education do they think they're getting from Beadle? And what kind of kids - then, now, or EVER - give a shit about how qualified their teacher is? Particularly back then. Half the class missed 5 months of school every haying season, or whatever the hell crops they used to grow.

Ma convinces the kids to give her a chance by hitting a ball with the stick.

In the classroom, it's reading lesson time. Ma picks Abel McKay. All the asshole kids in the class start teeheeing in anticipation. Like seriously, the entire class giggling their 5 year old asses off. He hasn't even READ anything yet. Wait for him to screw up, then heckle him with specificity based on his errors. That's how you do it. Punks! Abel runs from the school in humiliation.

Ma feels like a failure. She visits Miss Beadle to get advice. Beadizzle says that Abel isn't "backwards", he just never comes to school. The rest of the conversation - who cares? Where did Miss Beadle, a single schoolteacher, get all this great stuff? She got way nicer shit than - well, the Ingalls family, for one. But also me! Her stuff is way nicer than my shit. And check out that pile of cookies on the left!!! Curtains! Flowers! Doilies! How high maintenance was Miss Beadle that she required such luxuries?!

That night, Ma tells Pa about the situation. Mary and Laura aren't too concerned: it's only "Dumb" Abel. Harsh! Ma threatens the girls with a gobful of soap, and Pa sends them into the house.

The only way to fix the situation is to go to Abel McKay's place and talk to him. Ma meets the father first. The guy is obsessed with savvy. He is a major fan of the savvy. All a man truly needs in life is savvy. Abel's special talent is working with clay. Ma convinces him that if he can do that then he can learn.

Ma plans to get the whole class in on it. They will ALL help Abel to learn. Over the next few days, Ma conducts some very basic lessons to include Abel and not make him feel like such a stupidass.

But Mrs. Oleson is once again up to her old bitchery and busts into the classroom. She bashes Abel and disses Ma for babying him at the expense of the other children's education. Ma is all controlled anger and intact dignity.

The kids don't know the meanings of the words on the board, and Ma doesn't think Mrs. Oleson does either. Ma dismisses school, then quits.

That evening, the school board shows up at the little house, begging Ma to continue teaching. There are conflicting reports. Ma uses an analogy to explain the situation. She asks Hansen to imagine that he is working in the mill making flour when someone comes in to the grinding room. Hansen cannot imagine it: "I do not allow anyone in the grinding room while I am working. It is a rule", but goes along with the scenario anyway. This uninvited person throws a rock into the millstones and screws everything up. What does Hansen do? His reaction is to toss the person into the street by the collar and ass of their pants. Well, Ma's a lady and Mrs. Oleson's twice her size, so that wasn't a legitimate option. Maybe if Abel woulda stuck around to help.

Hansen accuses Harriet: "You interfered" and asks Ma to come back. Ma can't. She's lost the pupil who needed her the most.

That night, Pa tells Ma that he'd heard that school will continue as planned - with Mrs. Oleson as the teacher! Well, if that doesn't convince Ma to go back...

When Caroline takes the eggs to the mercantile in the morning, she sees Harriet haplessly ringing the school bell. Yeah, Nellie and Willie kinda let it slip that she was going to be teaching. Hence, no students.

On the way back to the little house, Ma meets Abel. He's shaped letters A to F out of clay to give to Ma. They talk about how Ma felt she wasn't fit as a teacher and Abel felt he wasn't fit as a student, and they both agree that maybe they don't suck as much as they thought they did.

Unreal as it is, Miss Beadle's sprain still isn't healed, and there's enough time for Ma to go back to teaching. And even Abel returns and makes some major headway learning geography. ("The capital of the United States is Washington, DC, but New York has more peop - population.")

Miss Beadle is fina-freaking-lly ready to get back to her job, and Abel reads a thank you letter to Ma, while the class applauds. No more drama.

And we'll never see (optional moniker: "Dumb") Abel McKay again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ma's Holiday (Season 1, Episode 8)

Pa and the kids are sitting at the table, looking shifty. Ma says they look like they have something up their sleeves, but I think they look like a bunch of creeps. Pa's taking Ma on a holiday to Mankato. He even calls it a "second honeymoon".

It's all planned. The Widow Snider will watch the children, but oh no! When Pa goes to pick her up, she has a sore throat. At home, Ma is all dressed up and giving the girls a bunch of last-minute instructions. It's going to be so hard for Pa to tell her she can't go... but wait! I hear something... is that - "Old Dan Tucker"?

Mr. Edwards, you are in the right place at the possible worst time. The girls beg him to stay with them so Ma can have her holiday, and he pretty much says he will. He's laid off from the mill and needs something to do.

So, Ma and Pa leave in the buggy, trusting Edwards to watch the girls. Which, like, what? Is that even intelligent?

At dinner, Mr. Edwards tells some story about being trapped under a tree and being rescued by Indians, who named him "Sitting Bull". Yeah, this frickin' story sounds like sitting bull to me. Carrie is fussy, so Edwards tells her, "Open up yer face". I gotta admit: I love Mr. Edwards. Old out-of-shape, uncouth, sauce-lovin', Old Dan Tucker singin' bastard. And he rocks a full beard.

That night, after Carrie is tucked in, the girls want a bedtime story. Edwards says no, and no backtalk. Laura convinces him to listen to their prayers and kiss them goodnight before he's had enough, now get in the goddamn loft, girls.

We catch up with Ma and Pa, who are camping out. Ma sits straight up, nightmare-style, and screams: "THE EGGS!" Pa makes her agree to not worry about the kids anymore.

Carrie's crying wakes up Mr. Edwards, who gets up to tend to her wearing, like, a onesie long john sleeping outfit. Carrie is hungry, so Edwizzle dishes up some leftovers. When he goes to feed her, she's back to sleep again. Edwards's thwartment is emphasized with a lighthearted woodwind instrumental of Old Dan Tucker.

A bunch o' stuff happens, like Ma and Pa dine in a restaurant and joke about the portion sizes. And Mr. Edwards does laundry, shoots a rattler, and makes supper. Rattler soup is grody, btw.

At bedtime, Laura wants Edwards to read a story to Carrie. Which he obviously can't. Both of you know he canna read a word.

The next day, Ma and Pa shop for souvenirs. Ma tries on a bonnet in a store run by a kindly shopkeeper who tends a lady who is mentally ill from grief. She spends her days looking for her children, who are dead, but she can't accept it because she wasn't at home the day they died. Ma's high strung as hell about it, and leaves without buying anything.

That night, Mary and Laura are tucked in bed when they realize they didn't gather the eggs! OMG, Ma's worst nightmare has come true! It's a pouring storm out there, but they illegally light a lantern (no matches!) and go out to the coop. They wake up Mr. Edwards and he thinks it's chicken thieves. He gets his shotgun ready. Mary and Laura sneak back in, and Edwards shoots a hole through the ceiling.

Let's take a minute to talk about Carrie. Carrie sucks. Carrie is a frickin' tool. But in this episode Carrie is actually decent. Looking at this, you wouldn't think Carrie would become a walking prop who only spoke every 5 or so episodes, usually to say she wet her skirts or something. God, sometimes Laura would be so annoyed with Carrie it almost seemed like real life. Like Melissa Gilbert actually had a beef with the Greenbush twins that day. But I'll get more into that later on.

So, the next day Edwards has to fix the ceiling hole, but Carrie is hiding or lost. The second, more ominous verse of Old Dan plays, but it's not fooling me. Nothing's going to happen to Carrie. We're not that lucky. Edwards finds her and nails her dress to the roof so he can keep an eye on her while he works.

In Mankato, Ma and Pa go to some fiendish - I don't even know - puppet show, where the children whine at the mother for leaving. But she doesn't care and she has to live her own life. Ok, whatever. It really gets to Ma and she runs out crying. And that spells the end of Ma and Pa Ingalls's second honeymoon in Mankato.

Laura is selling eggs at the mercantile when she spots Pa's buggy in the distance. She asks Nels to stall them. She runs home, and the girls clean up quickly. Ma, Pa, and the kids have a happy reunion, and Pa lies to Mr. Edwards about having had a good trip. When really it was three nights of Caroline having nervous breakdowns every 14 seconds, and not the hot prairie sex he had obviously planned. Yeah, good times.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Town Party Country Party (Season 1, Episode 7)

Laura and some other girls are running a 4 X to-the-post relay, but not gimpy Olga. She sits alone until it's time for class, and then it takes her half the day to walk up the stairs to the classroom.

The next day it's Nellie's birthday party, and all the girls in school are invited. As Mary and Laura get ready, they have to shine their shoes. Complete the phrase: "Shoes should shine like a..."? Laura guesses "Christmas penny". Wrong! The answer is "Sunday smile" and Ma is VERY firm about it.

The girls arrive at Nellie's, where Nellie tosses their gifts aside. How rude! Willie and some of the girls are playing with an ark toy set (just kidding, they're obviously only watching Willie play with it) on the floor of the magnificent living room, with the nicest furniture of any furniture in any house in Walnut Grove.

"And there's two of everything. Except for the giraffe because Nellie hid it on me 'cause she knew it was my favourite," says Willie, accentuating every word to the freaking max. I have never heard delivery like that. The cadence is killer.

Nellie has a new doll, but no one can touch it or play with it. As she shows it to her guests, Laura touches the dress. Nellie pulls it away quickly and part of the trim is ripped. Nellie goes nuts and pushes Laura over. "Pa can fix it. He's finer'n most with a needle," Laura offers, but Mrs. Oleson rudely tells Laura off and makes all the kids go outside.

Laura twisted her ankle when Nellie pushed her, so she sits with Olga while the other girls run around. After the party, Olga lies to her father and says that she played with all the girls, but he sees through it. He just doesn't want her to get hurt by being left out.

Ma suggests that Mary and Laura could have a party. Laura is home from school because she can't walk on her ankle yet, but Mary invites all their school chums. Olga says that Nellie is poor because she has no happiness inside. She's a philosopher. I wish she would have stuck around. I love how sweet and soft-spoken she is.

That evening, Pa is shoeing Patty, the horse. Her leg is bowed, so she wears a special shoe. Laura asks Pa, "What makes cripples?" He doesn't know. Laura mentions that Olga walked on a plank outside of Hansen's and she didn't limp at all, which gives Pa an idea...

Charles visits Olga's pa and grandmother. Her pa won't let Charles fix her shoe so she can walk better. Later on, at the little house, Olga and her grandmother show up with a shoe for Pa to work on.

The day of the party, Pa reveals the shoe he rigged up. It's basically a platform shoe. When she puts it on, she can walk across the floor of the little house no problem. While the family watches proudly and happily, Olga hugs Pa. I'm such a sap for stuff like this. Can someone pass me the Kleenex?

The other party guests arrive, and Mary shows them the loft. One of the girls: "This is the kind Miss Beadle wears!" The bottle of lemon verbena, Laura's pretty much only possession. The girls go outside and play some tomboy game with running around bases. Olga is so awesome with her shoe that she beats Nellie, who becomes irritable and vindictive.

After the game, Nellie suggests - oooh, that bitch! - that they take off their shoes to wade in the creek. How evil can one kid be? In the water, Laura scares Nellie with a giant crab and Nellie falls facedown into the cruddy looking part of the creek.

Back at Olga's, her father has done some footwear examination and found her extra pair to be missing. Now he's onto the scheme! He shows up at the Ingalls's with the intention to knock Chuck's block off. Pa is working, unsuspecting, in the barn, when a shadow darkens the doorway. The Russian (even though he's, like, Dutch) Terminator says: "Ingalls. I told you not to meddle."

The two men engage in some choking and eye-gouging, until they are interrupted by the sound of children's laughter. The kids are playing tag, Olga included. Her pa stops trying to kill Charles. He is moved beyond words.

The party ends with Nellie giving a crazy outburst speech to warn Pa about the killer crab in the creek, followed by a curtsy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

If I Should Wake Before I Die (Season 1, Episode 6)

At the Ingalls's, an old woman is playing what I called a "lap harp", but later found out was an autoharp. Ma, Mary, Laura, and Carrie are singing along to Go Tell Aunt Rhody. In that song, the goose dies. Laura is very sensitive about it and doesn't want to sing about death. I hear that: I hated The Cat Came Back when I was little. Even though that's not death, just animal cruelty. I think I used to cry at school if we had to sing it. That's a sick song.

Elsewhere in Walnut Grove, Pa and an old lady called Miss Amy are decorating a living room with construction paper chains. The occasion is an 80th birthday party for Miss Maddie, who is being distracted from her upcoming surprise party by having the Ingalls children pretend to care about the autoharp. Slick.

Miss Maddie and Miss Amy are widow rooommates. Maddie is a Kentucky Presbytarian; Amy is Catholic and not from Kentucky, but somehow they get along. A sad news letter comes for Miss Maddie. Her daughter and grandchildren aren't going to be able to attend her birthday. Instead of partying alone, Miss Maddie dies in her chair.

At Miss Maddie's funeral, Laura says how unfair it is that people can miss your birthday but not your funeral. These girls are so profound sometimes. Of course, this sparks an idea in Miss Amy's brain to fake her own death so that her children, including her son Andy who went to war 15 years ago and hasn't been seen since, will come to her funeral, but - HA! - she won't really be dead and then they'll have to visit with her.

In the meantime, Pa orchestrates a plan to invite Miss Amy over every Sunday and make the girls visit her after school... and before school... and pretty much constantly. They can even miss school, just so this old lady won't be lonely and depressed.

Miss Amy reveals her scheme to Doc Baker and Pa, who immediately say they won't have any part of it. She convinces them like suckers with some crap about 'you'd do for my corpse, but not for me'.

Pa contacts, I dunno, the Makato diocese to find a Catholic priest to come officiate the "wake". The father comes to the little house to find out about Amy, but Ma and Pa can't lie to him. Miss Amy, who is listening from the other room, comes out and poses as an old friend of Amy's. She takes the father for a walk outside. Ma, Pa, and the kids think she's confessing and start hardcore munching on all the food Ma's been preparing for the wake for the last three days. Whoops! Turns out that Amy seriously told the priest all the good stuff about herself. Has she no shame?!

To remind you what era we're dealing with here, Doc Baker and Nels Oleson have a conversation on the front steps of the mercantile about the introduction of paper money. Doc Baker prefers silver dollars. Nels, who never gets paid in chickens, says money's money and has no preference.

So, the wake takes place, all of Miss Amy's children show up, she reveals herself from under a black veil, it's a jolly reunion, Pa is verklempt, and a-fiddlin' he will go. It's a right party from here to the end credits. And we'll never see Miss Amy again... for realz this time :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Love of Johnny Johnson (Season 1, Ep. 5)

We open on Laura, momentarily mesmerized by the new boy, before she snaps out of it to engage in some proper tomboy hat-stealing. New boy Johnny Johnson compliments Laura on her running. She's pretty good... for a girl. Oh, Johnny Johnson, in 2008, your pills would be destroyed in my feminist fist.

Willie Oleson also hates Johnny Johnson, mainly because he looks like a scarecrow in somebody's garden. I dunno about all that, but he's not my style of dreamboat, fo' sho'. Check out the reactions of the students when Johnny Johnson arrives in class.

Laura likes him, though, so she invites him to walk home with her and Mary. They pause for some rock-throwing, which Mary sucks at. Johnny (I wanna keep calling him Johnny Johnson - maybe I will) encourages Mary by telling her "you never know when you'll have to hit a varmint". That is pretty good motivation when you're living in the sticks.

Laura is head over heel for Johnny Johnson. She asks Ma if Ma and Pa were in love from the very start. Well, this Johnny Johnson is no Pa, I can tell you that. He's downright homely compared to Pa. Pa is a good looking man. Johnny Johnson is a scarecrow. It's been confirmed by independent sources.

The next day at school, Mary wins the class spelling bee, impressing Johnny Johnson. The next afternoon, he shows up at the little house, which sends Laura running to the loft to spit-smooth her hair in the mirror before coming down to see why he's there. Unfortunately, he only wants Mary to tutor him, and wants nothing to do with little Laura.

The next day, Laura comes up with an elaborate scheme of falling into the creek first thing in the morning, soaking her dress. Uh oh, now she's gonna have to wear her Sunday dress and ribbons and look all pretty for Johnny Johnson. Ma shows up at school during lunch hour to talk to Miss Beadle. "Boystruck... Johnny Johnson?" Ma whispers to Miss Beadle. Haha, I love concerned Ma.

That night at home, Laura tells Mary straight up how lame it is that instead of Mary sticking up for herself against the schoolyard boys, she yells and makes a scene so Johnny will take notice. I guess this is as far as 1870s sister-fights go: "You're two-faced, Mary Ingalls... shut up!!" But that's far enough. Ma won't hear any of it, and Laura runs to the loft.

Ma follows her and tells her that growing up is painful and all that. Well, it's about to get worse. The next day at school, Johnny asks Laura to meet him at the sweetheart tree after class. Of course, this gets Laura's hopes up... until Johnny reveals his olden days graffiti.

Mary is outraged. She doesn't even like him! Mary even gets MEAN, saying that poor, unattractive Johnny does look like a scarecrow and calling him a numbskull. Now Pa's concerned, because Johnny's 15 years old. Fifteen year old boys and his little daughters? Pa don't think so. Sadly for us, Pa doesn't get his pinwheeling fists in action, as much as I would have enjoyed it.

Laura learns to get over her heartache, with a little talk from Pa to help. He tells her, "Someday you'll have lots of beaux, sweet thing." Which isn't even really true, but whatev.

"Oh, Pa." And we never [EDIT: 'rarely'] have to see Johnny Johnson again.