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.