The Voice of Tinker Jones

Reverend Alden: Prince of Liars

(a recap by Will Kaiser)

TITLE: The Voice of Tinker Jones

AIRDATE: December 4, 1974

Written by Tony Kayden and Michael Russnow

Directed by Leo Penn

SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: The Walnut Grovesters go to war with each other over whether to put up a church bell. A local hearing-impaired man schemes with schoolkids to solve the problem by destroying every toy in town.

RECAP: Our main guest star this week is Chuck McCann, a performer I’m not too familiar with whose specialty seems to have been children’s entertainment and (curiously, considering he does not speak in this episode) cartoon voices.

Chuck McCann

We get to him right away, as a wagon festooned with cookware rattles down the lane towards the Little House. 

(Fans will know there’s also a very special uncredited guest in this one, but I’ll wait to see if my family recognizes him first. This time I had my kids Roman and Olive with me. Dags was working on something quite important instead.)

Laura is sitting on a fence, eating some sort of open-faced sandwich whilst feeding an important new character: Bunny the horse! 

I was going to say we haven’t seen Bunny before, but according to the Little House fan wiki she’s the foal from the pilot, which I thought was long since sold (or eaten). My apologies. It can be hard keeping up with this stuff.

I should say I assume this is Bunny. She isn’t addressed by name in this episode, and doesn’t get anything to do; but it looks like her.

The approaching wagon is driven by a lumpy-ish middle-aged man in dungarees. The funny thing is, if you look closely, BUNNY IS ALSO PULLING HIS WAGON!!!

Note the face “star” on the horse on the right

Anyways, the man waves to Laura; she smiles and waves back, then jumps down and runs to the house, shouting “Mr. Tinker’s here!”

A word about “tinkers.” I knew the term, mostly from folk songs, but my understanding of it was fuzzy. Apparently in the old days, it referred to people who wandered and made their living repairing and selling metal goods like frying pans. Today it’s considered offensive, especially in the British Isles, because it’s used as a derogatory term for homeless people generally and for some groups specifically.

Given the pots and pans, this guy is apparently a “tinker” in the classical sense, but I’ll try to avoid the word. It won’t be easy, given most of the other characters address him by it . . . like the Ingalls girls, who now come running back out screaming it at him.

But Caroline follows them out, and she addresses him as “Mr. Jones,” so that’s good enough for me. Mr. Jones gets down from his wagon, and, when Caroline asks how he is, gestures to the sun and smiles. He apparently can neither hear nor speak, but he reads lips well.

Charles comes out too. Jones has either made or repaired a copper pot for them, for which he charges them 35 cents ($7 in today’s money – probably a repair job). Caroline happily says it’s cheaper than the Mercantile. If it’s new, it certainly is. A single piece of copper cookware these days can cost hundreds of dollars, if you get something nice.

Before departing, Jones gives each girl a toy animal as a present: horses for Laura and Mary and a fish for Carrie. (“Laura should fall over a log and break them,” said Roman.)

“Laura should fall over a log and break them.”

Either we’re all going mad, or I think we’re actually starting to be able to tell the Greenbush twins apart. From what I understand, (Rachel) Lindsay was the primary Carrie (Carrie One), and Sidney was the backup (Carrie Two).

We all agreed this is Carrie Two here.

The principals all lay it on pretty thick telling Jones how wonderful he is. 

WILL: Charles really wears that pink shirt every day?

ROMAN: Yeah, Pinky can’t smell the greatest at this point.

“Pinky can’t smell the greatest at this point.”

Anyways, the family then heads inside and discusses Jones’s history, which is mysterious. He’s apparently known for making toys and giving them as gifts to all the area kids. The scene’s not interesting, but at the end there’s a hilarious moment where Carrie whispers to Charles what sounds like “You forgot to rub my fishy.” Michael Landon breaks character, says, “I did? Well, we’ll take care of that right now,” smiles at somebody off camera and giggles. It’s basically a blooper they decided was too good to leave out. I love it.

That week at church, Reverend Alden is praying away, but a rubbery-faced man in the front row has fallen asleep. Aldi gently wakes him with a tap on the shoulder. Across the aisle, Willie gapes at this until Nels turns his head away. Heh. Willie’s the greatest.

It’s standing room only at the service this week. Unusually, there are a lot of kids there. (“There’s a very famous person in today’s episode,” I said. “See if you can figure out who it is.”) Jones hangs out in the back, in Dumb Abel’s preferred spot.

Rev. Alden wraps it up and asks a Mrs. Kennedy to take the kids outside for Sunday school while he talks to the grown-up parishioners. She must be the mom of Christy, Kid Hideous and Cassie Not-Laura . . . though I don’t see Cassie, and according to my new three-strikes policy, that means she’s probably dead.

The Rev says he’s happy to be back in Walnut Grove, noting for the (TV) audience that he only conducts services there once a month. He says he recently discussed the parish with “his superior in Mankato.” A specific denomination for this church is not mentioned on the show, but Alden was a real person, and a Congregationalist in real life. He appears as minister and friend to the Ingallses in On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake

The real Reverend Alden

In real life he also later became an “Indian agent” for the federal government in the Dakota Territory. In this capacity, he was exposed in a scandal that made it to the pages of The New York Times in 1878.

It’s worth going over the allegations in detail, as they’re pretty brief. Apparently he stole $50 ($1,000 in today’s money), and collected a government paycheck for his wife, claiming she was working for him as a clerk when in reality she wasn’t even in the Territory. In his work, he was so disliked by the Indigenous people that they threatened to kill him and called him “the prince of liars.” 

It’s probably good the show didn’t go into this stuff . . . though on the other hand, Reverend Alden: Prince of Liars has a nice ring as a spinoff title, doesn’ it?

Thanks Alexander

Anyways, the reason I bring up the denomination is a) to show not everybody in Minnesota is Lutheran, contrary to what certain creepy, handsy blowhards might suggest; and b) to point out Congregational churches are administered locally, so there wouldn’t have been any “superior in Mankato” for Alden to report to. (Maybe this is the beginning of his campaign of lies!)

The actual Congregational church in Walnut Grove

Well, back to the story. Rev. Alden says the Walnut Grove church lacks a bell, and he’d like the congregation to pool its resources to buy one. Everybody starts fantasizing about getting a huge one like they have in St. Paul, which if you can believe this story was known for really huge bells at the time.

St. Paul’s Church of the Assumption, built 1874 (and it’s still there)

Mrs. Oleson rises and says not to worry, she and Nels will donate the bell.

WILL: She doesn’t even discuss this with Nels beforehand.

OLIVE: I know. She’s the only woman in town who has a say in what her family does.

WILL: You’re right. Interesting it’s depicted as a negative thing. 

These days it looks like having a bell like that made would run between $650 and $1,400. 

It strikes me the Olesons are depicted as having bottomless resources, but they run a general store in a town that has like fifteen people. Can they really be that rich? I think this supports my theory it’s gotta be family money on Harriet’s side. Explains why she wouldn’t bother discussing it with Nels, too.

Mrs. Oleson goes on to say they’d like a plaque noting the Oleson family as the donors. But an angry-looking red-haired man who must be Mr. Kennedy, Kid Hideous’s father, stands up next and argues that nobody’s name belongs on the House of God. 

Then the rubbery-faced man jumps up and basically says it would be ridiculous not to take advantage of the Olesons’ generosity. He implies if they accept, they’d get a much nicer bell than if they all chipped in 50 cents or a dollar ($10-$20). 

Kennedy does what several members of my extended family are known for; that is, attacks his challenger, hard, on matters that have nothing to do with the situation at hand. It is a terrible rhetorical technique and I hope you are never subjected to it. 

Kennedy screams at Rubberface that he skips services, and sleeps through the ones he does attend. Rev. Alden tries to take control of the discussion.

ROMAN: I’ve got it. 

WILL: Got what?

ROMAN: The famous person. It’s him. . . . Mr. Kennedy was the priest in Orca!

WILL: Oh my God, yes, but that isn’t the “famous person” I meant.

“Mr. Kennedy was the priest in Orca!”

Outside, Mrs. Kennedy has just finished telling the kids a Bible story, but we don’t find out which one. She talks a bit like Pee-Wee Herman when he pretends to be a woman in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

The adults all come storming out of the church. Maybe it’s just me, but the next bit has kind of a loose, semi-improvised (or under-rehearsed) feel to it, with several of the cast stepping on each other’s lines. 

Rubberface reiterates to Rev. Alden that the bell’s a great idea. Miss Beadle and Mr. Hanson concur. Aldi shakes Jones’s hand and says “You never miss a service.” They’ve gotta be fucking with us at this point, right? Because obviously we’ve never seen him before (and never will again).

They’ve gotta be fucking with us at this point, right?

In the schoolyard, Kennedy starts screaming at Rubberface once more. We learn the latter is Hans Dorfman, owner of the blacksmith shop, whom we actually met for a split second in “A Harvest of Friends.” Kennedy screams they might as well change the name of the town to “Olesonville,” and says “Oleson’s not going to run my religion!”

Now look. This is just ridiculous. I know Mrs. Oleson always has to be the villain, but seriously, her request is not unreasonable at all. I’ve worked at foundations most of my adult life, and some donors make far kookier requests. (I could tell you stories that would curl your hair, in fact.) 

Not only that, in real life a charitable organization would bend over backwards to acknowledge a gift like that. (In fact, there is a seat at our local indie cinema with our family’s name on it, because we contributed some money when they were doing a renovation. We certainly didn’t ask for it.)

Finally, there’s no way the poor folk of Walnut Grove, who can’t even afford to replace broken doll heads, would be clamoring to pay for the bell themselves if there’s an option to get it for free! 

Anyways, meanwhile Nels is bragging about the size of the bell they’ll get, which seems out of character. Miss Beadle says the bell will be useful for her on school days, too, but Mrs. Oleson starts squawking absurdly that it would be “sacrilegious” to use it for any purpose but church. “Come along, Nels!” she says in disgust while Beadle protests feebly. 

Once they’ve gone, Mr. Hanson smoothes the Bead’s ruffled feathers with some grampaw-ish humor. He’s a real flirt at times. I suppose Doc’s not there so he doesn’t have to worry about making him jealous.

The Ingallses climb into their wagon and take off. I notice Charles has changed out of “Pinky” and into another shirt.

You don’t think the characters can hear us, do you?

Jones is left alone to wander the schoolyard. I think Rev. Alden’s buggy is actually Doc Baker’s “physician’s phaeton.”

Previously on Little House

After the break, we see Alden is visiting Charles and Caroline at the Little House. (Charles is back in Pinky again.)

Aldi is asking their advice on the situation (well, Charles’s advice, anyway). He says he’s been making the rounds to gauge people’s opinions, visiting the Olesons, “the Nelsons,” “Mr. Tyler” and Rubberface Dorfler. We’ve never met the Nelsons, but they babysat Carrie while Caroline was teaching school a couple weeks ago. I have no idea who Mr. Tyler is.

Rev. Alden also says he talked to “Mr. Kennedy at the blacksmith shop.” Wait a minute, Dorfler and Kennedy work together? That sheds a new light on the antagonism between them. I’ve had some coworkers over the years I’d sure like to tell off in a neutral setting. Well, theirs can’t be a fun workplace environment.  

Then he shares what the dire consequences will be if the gift is refused: The Olesons will go to church somewhere else. This has gotta be an empty threat, since, as Charles notes, the nearest church is in Springfield, 25 miles away. Besides, who the hell cares? 

Springfield, Minnesota, on a typical snowy October day

Aldi says Mr. Tyler, whoever he may be, has joined the Kennedy faction. He jokes that these two gentlemen used language to him that he can’t repeat in front of Caroline. Like, if she wasn’t there he’d just be throwing F-bombs?

He goes on to say the whole town has taken sides on the question, with a fifty-fifty split, and everyone says if they don’t get their way they’ll stop going to church. My elder daughter Amelia, who doesn’t watch Little House, passed through at this moment.

WILL: We’re supposed to believe people would actually leave the church over this?

AMELIA: They could all just renounce religion and become atheists.

WILL: . . . Whatever, Mr. Edwards

[WILL, OLIVE and ROMAN laugh.]

But honestly, they’re rural Nineteenth-Century American Christians. They’re not going to stop going to church. This is an exceptionally stupid problem, even for this show, and having Rev. Alden talk about it for five minutes straight doesn’t make it any more believable.

I will say, though, Alden has mellowed considerably since the early episodes where all he did was rant about drinkers and church-skippers. The three of them are sitting there chatting quite comfortably together, and Aldi seems quite relaxed and groovy. 

But maybe that’s where he’s gone wrong. Maybe what he needs to do is simply say, “What’s the worse option here, Kennedy? Not getting your way on this? Or boiling in the Lake of Burning Sulfur for all eternity?” That’s how my church when I was a kid would have handled it, anyways. 

Alden goes out to his buggy, and confides to Charles that this conflict will probably cost him his job one way or the other. Charles doesn’t like this, mentioning that on the weeks Aldi can’t make it, services are instead run by “the elders” (and that they’re no good). I was wondering about this, but don’t find the explanation too helpful. What “elders”?

Then Rev. Alden takes off, addressing his horse as “Jehoshaphat.” I didn’t really know anything about King Jehoshaphat, and at a glance his role in the Bible isn’t too interesting. He was apparently horrified when another king killed his own son in a human sacrifice, so he must have been a decent sort of chap. And I’m sure Michael Landon would approve of this photo:

So, the next day (possibly), Charles stops by the Kennedy place to announce they’re having another meeting about the bell that night. Kennedy just screams at him and chops wood crazily.

Cut to the meeting, which Charles is running. (He’s changed back out of Pinky again.) He tells everyone a spirit of compromise is all that’s needed to resolve this challenge. (“Charles lives in a fantasy world,” said Olive. “He thinks he can just stand up there and be the dad of the whole town.”)

“Charles lives in a fantasy world.”

Rubberface Dorfler says he’s in favor of the bell for like the fifth time. Kennedy stands up and screams the same old stuff again too. “That’s not the point!” says Nels. “That is the point!” yells Miss Beadle. I’m surprised she’s taken such a strong partisan stance on this. But then, she probably does hate Mrs. Oleson more than anybody else in town. Except Caroline.

Kennedy screams they might as well let Mrs. Oleson preach the sermon while they’re at it. (Women in the ministry, I know, unthinkable.) Mrs. Oleson shrieks that Kennedy is a “measly man” and stomps out, towing Nels behind her like a baby raccoon on a leash. Mr. Hanson shouts about Kennedy’s rudeness. Rubberface Dorfler asks (again) why they would ever pay for a bell when they could get one for free. Hanson rounds on him and asks if they needed a new church building, would he expect that for free too? Then Kennedy pounces on Hanson, screaming of course it wouldn’t be for free – not as long as Hanson’s mill could make money selling building materials! He is a nasty shit. Enraged, Hanson says no one in the town contributes more than he does (and I believe that).

As for Doc, he must be out delivering a baby.

Charles tries to call the crowd to order, asking them to keep their comments relevant to the matter of the bell. “Oh, why don’t we forget that bleeding bell?” screams Kennedy. I think even in America this would have been considered a strong curse word in the Nineteenth Century. I remember learning it was blasphemous to boot, as it’s a reference to the blood of Christ, but I guess that’s not so

“Show of hands!” screams Kennedy suddenly. “For what?” yells Mr. Hanson. Although Kennedy is the only person with his hand raised, he screams, “That’s it, Ingalls, the meeting’s adjourned!”

Everyone exits, arguing, once again leaving Jones behind with an agonized look on his face.

Back home, Charles lights up a big fat pipe and complains to his family about the meeting. He compares it to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, suggesting again that we’re in 1876 or later.

The Battle of Greasy Grass (as it’s known amongst Native people), by Allan Mardon

Mary asks if there won’t be church anymore, and Laura says, “I was beginning to like Sunday school, even if they did repeat a lot of the stories Mary and I already knew!” I’m sorry, but these two are complete drips through the entire episode. Tony Kayden and Michael Russnow have no idea how to write for kids.

Pa says if matters don’t improve, they’ll just do church at home like they did on the frontier. (Plus, we’ve seen in the past he’s a little loosey-goosey about church attendance anyways.)

Caroline indicates her approval of this plan by saying nothing.

Cut back to the church, or rather the school. All the kids walk out, rather slowly. Nice to see little Hieronymus Quincy Fusspot from last week is back again. At least, I think it might be him.

While I was putting together this recap, I asked Dags for her opinion. 

WILL: Are these two the same kid?

DAGNY: I don’t think so. The second one’s got freckles, and bags under his eyes.

WILL: I thought maybe that was just the difference between his indoor and outdoor makeup. From a distance they look exactly the same.

DAGNY: It’s possible.

WILL: Or maybe it’s two different actors, but playing the same character!

DAGNY: Yeah, I’m sure they thought it was essential to recast the little fussbudget kid right away.

H. Quincy Fusspot One
H. Quincy Fusspot Two

[UPDATE: Later this season, in “Family Quarrel,” H. Quincy Fusspot Two will be revealed not to be be H. Quincy Fusspot at all, but rather somebody different altogether. Walnut Groovy regrets the error.]

Coming soon on Little House: The two Fusspots

Absent are Not-Joni Mitchell, the Midsommar Kid, and two of the Nondescript Helens. I think at this point we can assume poor Olga succumbed to the sprained ankle that’s kept her out of school the past couple weeks.

RIP, Olga Nordstrom

Additionally, there is a little brown-haired girl we’ve never seen . . . and also a tall teenage boy with blond hair.

On the playground, Laura and Mary approach Christy and the two remaining Nondescript Helens and suggest playing Uncle John. Christy says their fathers have forbidden them to play with the Ingalls kids “because of what your father said about the bell.” This is quite weird, since Charles was actually about the only person not to yell at anybody at the meeting. Well, the only person except Jones, of course!

The factions shake out this way: Nellie, Cloud City Princess Leia and the new brown-haired girl are Team Bell. 

Team Bell

Sixties girl group Christy and The Nondescript Helens are Team No-Bell.

Team No-Bell

And Laura and Mary are Team Why Can’t We All Get Along. 

Team Why Can’t We All Get Along

None of the boys, interestingly, seem to have taken political positions. 

Team Boy

Through this scene, my kids have been making guesses about who the famous person is, but they can’t get it, so I paused it here. 

Olive and Roman couldn’t guess it, so we called Dagny over, who recognized him right away. It’s Sean Penn.

Sean Penn (not a joke)

Leo Penn, who directed this one as well as “Ma’s Holiday,” and Eileen Ryan, who plays Mrs. Kennedy, are his parents.

The Ryan-Penn family

Anyways, the fun was spoiled because none of our kids has ever seen a Sean Penn movie. Not even Shanghai Surprise!

Later, Pa and the girls are pulling the fish trap he made in “The Love of Johnny Johnson” out of the creek. Laura asks, “Why is everybody mad at Reverend Alden?” I’d point out Christy never said anything about Rev. Alden, she said everyone was mad at Charles. 

Charles talks in generalities for a while about how stupid adults can be. 

Then we’re back in the church listening to Aldi again, so I guess that means this story has unfolded over the course of a whole month. The congregation consists of just the Ingallses, the Olesons, Jones, Mrs. Foster, and a gray-haired dude we’ve seen a few times now. 

The gray-haired dude has a mustache, but is not to be confused with Mustache Man

Mustache Man
Gray-Haired Dude

We previously saw the Gray-Haired Dude at Parents’ Day, at Maddie Elder’s funeral, and at Mr. Edwards’s first church service, and usually with a woman who isn’t with him now. Are these mayhap the celebrated Nelsons?

“The Nelsons”?

Either way, Rev. Alden announces the hymn: “Ring the Bells of Heaven.” Wow, Rev, on the nose much? But at least it’s not an anachronism this time.

Here’s a truly godawful rendition of it:

After the service, Rev. Alden tells the Ingallses the whole thing’s his fault for suggesting the bell in the first place, and says he’ll step down. (“This is idiocy!” I screamed.) Charles says if he’s done, their family will just do their own Sunday morning service at home from now on. Alden asks if he can join them for one in a couple weeks, which is kind of sweet.

They say goodbye . . . and we see Jones has been creepily lurking around the side of the church the whole time. (“I thought it was Busby!” said Roman.) I’m not sure what from their conversation he managed to pick up, considering he can’t hear. 

“I thought it was Busby!”

After the commercial break, we’re back at the Kennedy house, which we get a good look at for the first time. It’s nice: smaller, but done in quite the same style as the Little House.

The Ingallses drive by, but Caroline has Charles pull over. She says she wants to talk to Mrs. Kennedy in the hopes of settling this thing. Charles, having seen how well Caroline’s persuasion worked with Amy Hearn, is skeptical, but of course he’s not going to stop her from trying. And as we shall see in a moment, while Charles may seem paternalistic to us, we need to be grading him on a curve.

Ma and the girls get out and she says to them “You can say hello to Christy and Sandy.” (Sandy is Kid Hideous.) So yup, this confirms the third Kennedy sibling, Cassie, must be dead. Maybe that explains some things about their parents’ behavior, actually. 

RIP, Cassie (Not Laura) Kennedy

But Mrs. Kennedy has literally said not one word to Caroline before their meeting is cut short by the arrival of her husband. He immediately starts screaming at Caroline about how here he “rules the roost” and how it doesn’t matter what the hell his wife thinks so they should just give up the plans they were making behind his back. (Such an ugly, stupid man.)

Mrs. Kennedy closes her eyes as if in physical pain while he’s speaking; I’d say it’s likely he beats her.

Kennedy screams he’s heard enough talk about the “damn bell,” and Caroline, offended by his language, leaves in contempt. Mrs. Kennedy puts her hands to her head as if it’s going to explode (but it doesn’t).

I won’t mention Scanners again this time

I will say, as horrible as Kennedy the character is, the actor, Wayne Heffley, does a wonderful job making us hate him.

Ma and the girls come marching home. Charles asks how it went, but they ignore him. Caroline looks furious rather than defeated. Good for her.

They head inside, where Carrie has been left alone (???).

It’s Carrie One again, I think.

Caroline explodes and tells Charles the whole story. She says she didn’t really care about the outcome before, but now she wants to see to it they get the bell, just to spite Kennedy. This is very true to her character. 

But then we get another weird (and wonderful) almost-blooper. Charles shouts, “Amen! You’re terrible!” and does his maniacal giggle. Then as they both crack up, he adds, “You should not wear your hat in the house!” Because although Caroline has put her apron on, she forgot to take her church bonnet off – and from the way they’re both laughing their heads off, I bet Karen Grassle forgot for real. 

But little do they know, that afternoon Mary and Laura have a secret rendezvous with the Kennedy kids in a field. They head to Jones’s house – I wouldn’t think he would have one, actually, but he does.

All the kids in town (more or less) are gathered around Jones, watching as he puts the finishing touches on a toy sheep he’s made. He gives it to Christy as a present.

Then Laura suggests playing a game called “Run, Sheep, Run.” Nellie says the kids can’t risk being spotted by their warring factions of parents. Like Christy did before, she blames Charles for causing the problem somehow. The Ingalls and Kennedy kids jump into the fray, yelling at and threatening each other.

Jones brings down his mallet on his workbench and does a pantomime with some tin soldiers. Mary, who’s used to translating Carrie’s incomprehensible gibberish, serves as interpreter. She says Jones is upset because the kids are acting as badly as their parents.

Then Jones snatches up a sheet of tin and starts drawing on it. Long story short, he’s decided to make a bell so it becomes a non-issue for the town. Nellie threatens to tell, but Laura somewhat improbably talks her out of it.

Suddenly Voiceover Laura returns and tells us the kids helped Jones all week with his idea. Jones indicates what he wants them to do by drawing pictograms. Doctor Who fans may be reminded of the insane soldier reproducing prehistoric cave drawings on the walls of his cell in “Doctor Who and the Silurians.” 

Or they may not.

Anyways, there follows a montage of the kids sneaking around town collecting bits of scrap metal. At one point the Gray-Haired Dude who may be Mr. Nelson drives by in a wagon.

Voiceover Laura tells us the kids “worked every day before and after school” on the bell project. What they told their parents, I don’t know.

That Friday, Jones fires up the kiln (or whatever it is) to, in the words of Dumb Abel, “cook it to make it hard.” There’s quite a big fire inside; Roman thought maybe it was a special effect, but I think it’s real.

The kids all start throwing the tin buckets and other metal shit into the kiln. But there isn’t enough, so Jones gets his precious hand-made figures and toys and throws them in too. The kids say they’ll all go get their own toys to throw in as well. 

No way some of those monsters would give their toys up. Nellie would orchestrate a scheme to push him into the fire like Hansel and Gretel. 

Art by Gustaf Tenggren

But for some reason, only Willie complains.

Jones stirs the cauldron, and we get some (borderline-obscene) shots of the burbling metal. 


It would be funny if Jones tripped, fell in face-first, and ended up like Viserys Targaryen, or Destro.

Well, long story short, they make the bell. 

Meanwhile at the Little House, Caroline has just baked some bread, which Charles digs into rather than waiting for it to cool. “He’s like a child sometimes,” said Olive.

“He’s like a child sometimes.”

Back at Jones’s, the bell is ready to unmold. I highly doubt it would set fully in just a couple hours. It isn’t a cheesecake.

That night (it’s Saturday), Jones strings the bell up at the church. The next morning, all the people of Walnut Grove come out to the sound of it ringing. Reverend Alden, driving his buggy, hears it too, though what he’s doing in town I don’t know, since it’s only a week since he last preached, and besides, he said he was quitting.

All the Walnut Grovesters jump in their wagons and go to investigate. This includes the Gray-Haired Dude – and I think we can use the info provided in this sequence to confirm his identity now.

He’s driving a wagon carrying himself, Mrs. Foster, Luke (Cloud City Princess Leia’s brother), and Sean Penn. Now, at first, yes, this does seem like a random grab bag of characters. But in fact, it all comes together if you consider the following remarkable scenario.

The Gray-Haired Dude is Mr. Nelson. His wife, who accompanied him in all his previous scenes, was Mrs. Nelson. These were the kind people who babysat Carrie in “School Mom.” 

But tragically, Mrs. Nelson was killed in the same accident that claimed the life of Cassie Kennedy. (The Nelson buggy overturned on top of Cassie, you see.) 

Luke and Cloud City Princess Leia are the Nelson children. (Leia is still alive, but stayed home this morning with a sprained ankle.) Sean Penn is a visiting cousin. 

As for why Mrs. Foster is with them, well, obviously, she is a widow . . . and Mr. Nelson is now courting her. Not one to miss an opportunity, he swung by her house this morning to invite her to come check out what’s making the noise with them.

I’m quite proud of that, actually.

Everyone pulls up to the church in their wagons. It occurs to me we never see any horseshit on this show.

The kids explain to their stupid parents that Jones made the bell. Aldi cries, and Mr. Hanson tousles Mean Harry Baker’s hair.

Told you he was Doc’s illegitimate son.

Even Mrs. Oleson and Kennedy smile and join in the lovefest. The moral of the story: It doesn’t matter if you’re an egomaniac or a wife-beater, everyone gets to bathe in the sunny grace of Little House on the Prairie.


STYLE WATCH: Charles appears to go commando again.

THE VERDICT: You either like this kind of Little House story or you don’t. It’s a little sweet, preachy, and dumb for my taste. The central conflict is completely unconvincing, which is a forgivable sin, but it’s also boring, which isn’t.

Then again, Aldi’s relationship with the Ingallses is deepened, Kennedy makes a vividly hateable villain, and of course we can’t forget the quasi-bloopers. It ain’t all bad. 

UP NEXT: The Award

Published by willkaiser

I live in the Upper Midwest. My name's not really Will Kaiser, but he and I have essentially the same personality.

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