Family Quarrel

Harriet the Suffragette

(a recap by Will Kaiser)

Title: Family Quarrel

Airdate: January 15, 1975

Written by Ward Hawkins

Directed by William F. Claxton

SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Nels moves out on Harriet, and she and Caroline become friends. Mary and Laura hug Nellie and Willie. Nels has a stupid dog for some reason.

RECAP: Happy 1975! We open on an unusual shot of the Feed and Seed, viewed from the steps of the Mercantile. A “swinging seventies” arrangement of the theme signals this story will be light-hearted.

In theory, that is. But in actuality, we get a hint of raw emotion right off the bat. For whom do we see crossing the thoroughfare but Mrs. Foster . . . arm in arm with a man! 

They’re pretty far from the camera, and I can’t make out his face. But it isn’t Mr. Nelson The Gray-Haired Dude, and it certainly isn’t Nels, and it doesn’t appear to be The Studly Bearded Stranger, unless he’s shaved since his last appearance. It looks like it could be Nels’s Christmastime flunky Carl.

This digitally enhanced closeup doesn’t tell us much.

I can hear you, reader, asking, “How does this qualify as rawly emotional? Mrs. Foster has a different lover every week!” And this is certainly true. 

But Mrs. F and her new beau aren’t even out of the frame when along comes her broken-hearted former paramour, The Gray-Haired Dude, driving his wagon right behind them! 

Fortunately, The Dude controls his emotions and doesn’t run the lovers down in Walnut Grove’s first road-rage incident. No, instead, just like a real Minnesotan, he suppresses his feelings, and seethes silently behind an expressionless mask.

Our story proper begins with the appearance of Nels on the porch, accompanied by a big bloodhound

Nels leaves the hound there and returns to the store. Inside, Mrs. Oleson is complaining to herself about the dog – apparently a recent acquisition. The two of them annoy each other by cluttering their respective workspaces.

Then there’s a bizarre moment as we hear a weird short scream on the soundtrack while Harriet is talking. It kind of sounds like a monkey or parrot shrieking. I think possibly it’s a loud sneeze from somebody off-camera that they weren’t able to edit out.

Hard to describe in words, of course, but it happens at 2:02 while Mrs. Oleson is saying “barking and digging holes,” if you want to look it up yourself. 

Harriet goes into the back room, complaining the entire time, and while she’s gone Nels grabs a medicine bottle off the counter and chugs from it!

We’re not even three minutes in, but we’re off to quite the wacky start. 

Harriet starts screaming from the other room about Nels’s obsessive fishing habit and failure to put his gear away. We’ve not seen Nels do any fishing to this point (or even mention any), and I’m not sure we ever do again.

Nels, who’s wearing a very bright white shirt today, puts his hand to his lightbulb-shaped head in the classic migraine-sufferer’s pose. 

Harriet comes back into the main room, literally elbows Nels aside, and says, “Who do you think you’re fooling with the cough medicine?” Nels protests that he has a cough, but Harriet huffs that he just drinks it for the alcohol. (Given what we’ve seen so far this season, I bet it’s stronger even than that.)

Nellie and Willie come running in, shoving each other and stampeding for the candy. “Get out of that candy!” Nels screams. He is much less calm throughout this story than we’re used to seeing.

Harriet steps in dismissively and overrules him. I know a few families who also parent like this.

Nels grabs his head again, but he perks up at once when Caroline appears in the door. He greets her warmly, shouting to be sure Harriet hears . . . which makes me wonder if the latter is aware of his secret crush after all. 

Mrs. Oleson starts going through Caroline’s basket of eggs, crabbily noting the eggs look “different” this time, and accusing her of keeping “the good ones” for herself. Caroline proudly says she’s brought the Olesons “the best,” “as always.” 

I don’t know what she means, exactly. Is there that much of a difference in quality between eggs? We know Caroline carefully candles every one (since she talks about it all the time), but I suppose there’s the whole double-yolk business, plus size I guess could also be a factor. But I think we can conclude Mrs. O’s just cranky.

Whatever the reason, Mrs. Oleson says she won’t be paying the usual price today. “There’s nothing wrong with those eggs,” says Nels, slowly approaching the counter. Harriet says she’ll be the judge of that.

“Judge?” says Nels. “You’re not the judge of anything. You want to know what you are? I’m going to tell you what you are. You are a mean, nasty-tempered woman!”

Mrs. Oleson squawks, and Caroline gets a holy-shit look on her face.

Then Nels adds, hilariously: “It would be better off for this whole town if you were locked up in a cage and fed with a stick!”

Stunned, Harriet calls him “a spiteful mouse.” Nels replies he’s finally going to teach her “who wears the pants in this family.” We know from later episodes that Nels sometimes beats the children, so it’s unclear where this is going next.

But Nels only declares he’s taking over the egg-buying duties, effective immediately. Harriet responds by smashing the basket of eggs over his head.

Okay, so we’re still only five minutes in, but already we can tell people will be behaving bizarrely in this one. “Family Quarrel,” like many of the comedy episodes, isn’t really all that good, and yet it’s a guilty pleasure for fans because of its focus on beloved secondary characters, and because several characters (and not just the Olesons) behave in ways far outside the norm for them.

Harriet storms off. Nels turns to Caroline and asks with as much dignity as possible how much he owes her. When I was in high school, my friend John once pantsed me in front of a girl I had a crush on (and after I’d been in the pool, ugh). So I know a bit how Nels must feel.

John and I are still friends, though. He’s a hardcore Little House fan, so naturally I forgave him.

Anyways, now we cut to Charles in the common room, screaming with laughter at Caroline’s account of what happened. 

Caroline is (somewhat surprisingly) distressed that the Olesons’ marriage is publicly failing. Charles says Nels and Mrs. Oleson “have been building up to a falling out for years.” It’s been pointed out elsewhere that if it’s the Ingallses’ first year in Walnut Grove, Charles couldn’t speak to this. But I took his comment more in the sense of “Everyone knows their marriage has been failing for years.” (And besides, as we discussed last week, the “fact” that they’ve been in Minnesota for less than a year at this point is unlikely.)

Caroline feels personally responsible for triggering the incident. Charles tries to be sympathetic . . . but cracks up laughing again immediately and begs her to tell the story once more.

We cut to the interior of the Oleson home, night. Nels is reading in the parlor whilst Harriet does needlepoint or whatever in the dining room. The bassoons in the orchestra register comic unhappiness.

Nellie and Willie pass through and politely say goodnight to each parent. 

Addressing his wife as “Mrs. Oleson,” Nels requests permission to speak.

Harriet’s permission granted, he says he wants to avoid such public scenes in the future – for the sake of the kids, the store, and their reputation in town. 

Harriet says she agrees, and Nels makes the mistake of assuming this means they’ve made up. A fool’s assumption, in other words.

He says he’s “glad it’s over,” and acknowledges speaking out of turn, even if the things he said “were true.” This is in the same vein as Anne’s “apology” in Anne of Green Gables (only not as funny):

I’m a dreadfully wicked and ungrateful girl, and I deserve to be punished and cast out by respectable people forever. It was very wicked of me to fly into a temper because you told me the truth. It was the truth; every word you said was true. My hair is red and I’m freckled and skinny and ugly. What I said to you was true, too, but I shouldn’t have said it.

Harriet asks him for clarification. He says she’s a picky nag. She says that’s not true, and he says, “Yes it is. You’re a nag.”

Of course I love Mrs. Oleson and Nels; but there are a couple things about this scene that perplex. First of all, we’ve seen enough of this pair to know nagging isn’t really Mrs. O’s problem. She’s imperious, conceited, vain, suspicious, cynical, greedy, stingy, a cheat, condescending, self-aggrandizing, snobbish, and she spoils her kids terribly. She can be astonishingly cruel at times (poor Dumb Abel!). But we haven’t really seen her do any nagging. 

In fact, she hasn’t needed to. She has Nels so well-trained that he automatically does what she wants, without prompting.

There is an element of sexism too. As I’ve noted in . . . well, practically every episode, this series promotes a patriarchal order that, while historically accurate, is served up with such relish, you’d never think it was anything but the universe’s perfect ideal in the showrunners’ view. 

Mrs. Oleson, time and again, is the only woman character on the show who challenges this way of doing things. As a result, she’s villainized . . . despite being confident, shrewd, sophisticated, and possessing a far better head for business than Nels could dream of. Nels, on the other hand, is caricatured as weak and woman-dominated – a terrible sin – and their marriage is played for laughs. 

And of course, they’re contrasted with Charles and Caroline, who are presented, very convincingly, as a happy, loving, fun and natural couple, whose every moment together provides them mutual joy. And by coincidence, they just happen to accept the male-dominated order of things.

Look, I found a fun picture by an artist called GadgetGal of the four of them as young merpeople. 

Actually, there is one other female character on the show who approaches life as independently as Mrs. Oleson: Laura!

Dagny is visiting family in Canada this week (for the first time in two years!), but she’s seen this one before, and we talked about how Laura and Mrs. O have this in common. 

WILL: It’s funny, they both refuse to accept that men are inherently superior . . . but Laura is presented as imaginative, independent, a free spirit. And Mrs. Oleson – 

DAGNY: – is presented as a bitch. And with Laura, we’re only allowed to find it likeable because she’s a kid. We’re supposed to think, “Oh, well, she’s like this now, but when she grows up and gets married, she’ll get in line.” And she does.

I agree. Anyways.

Here Mrs. O sits up straight, calls Nels “a cheap excuse for a man,” “lazy,” “cowardly,” “sniveling,” and a “stubborn jackass,” then rises and marches from the room.

Now, we all know, Nels is not lazy.

Meanwhile, at the Little House, our idealized happy couple is lying in bed. Charles is reading The Home Mechanic  (published 1897) again.

Caroline turns over and says, “Would you mind if I asked Mrs. Oleson to let Nellie and Willie spend a few days with us?”

What. The actual. Fuck. 

Okay, I can accept that for some reason, probably religious, Caroline has an interest in keeping the Olesons together. But I cannot accept that, knowing what Mrs. Oleson’s personality is like; knowing that she and Mrs. Oleson hate each other; knowing Laura and Mary hate Nellie even more; and most of all, knowing what Nellie and Willie are like from teaching them herself in school; that Caroline would do anything but run away screaming if this proposal were presented to her – much less raise it herself!  

Almost as unbelievable is that Charles doesn’t run screaming either, but simply says “I don’t mind.” I get the sense this script was maybe one of the first written, before the relationships between the characters had been fully fleshed out. 

“Nellie Oleson? In our fucking HOUSE?”

The two turn out the light and say goodnight . . . only to have Charles start cackling helplessly again thinking of Nels with the eggs on his head.

I don’t want you to think I don’t love them.

The next day, to an imitation of the Dragnet theme in the orchestra, we see Nels in his jacket and hat departing the mercantile. He’s carrying a suitcase and his fishing gear and walking the bloodhound.

Mrs. Foster pauses to give him a look as he goes.

“Ah, Nels, the sensual delights we might have known.”
Previously on Little House

On a little footbridge I never really noticed before, he passes Mary and Laura in their crocheted hats, so we must be at the tail end of winter in this story.

Nels ignores them and stomps straight over to the Post Office, which we see for the first time (?) also rents rooms. 

Later, Mary and Laura come racing home with news that Nels has been left home or been kicked out.

“Hold on, hold on a minute,” says Pa, and then gently but firmly reprimands the girls for spreading gossip. Just kidding, he actually is like, TELL ME MORE!

“Carrie’s hair looks nice,” said Olive.

The girls go up to do their homework, whilst Caroline and Charles discuss this development. There must have been some problem with the sound in this scene, because both of them are rather clumsily redubbed.

Then we see Nels and the dog, which doesn’t seem to have a name, walking across the footbridge again to what sounds like the march part of the Dragnet theme arranged for high-school band. Mr. Hanson greets him in the road, but Nels blows him off.

Nels arrives at the Mercantile, closely followed by Mrs. Foster yet again. She is omnipresent this week.

And yet again, Mrs. F is arm in arm with the man who’s possibly Carl the flunky.

Mrs. Oleson comes into the salesroom. I had assumed this was later the same day Nels left, but the store’s closed and she’s fixing her hair, suggesting it’s the following morning already.  

Hair-riet

Harriet lets Nels in, and without a word to each other they get down to work.

Outside, a (relatively) huge crowd gathers.

After once again bumping rudely into each other, Nels and Harriet open the store. First in the door is Mrs. Foster, followed by her new lover, who we see is not Carl the flunky at all, but somebody we’ve never seen before (I think) who looks a bit like Neil Diamond.

[UPDATE: I actually think we have seen this guy before. I think he was this mustache-wearing chappie in “A Harvest of Friends” (not to be confused with Mustache Man):

Previously on Little House

Then we get a truly nasty shock. Because the next person to come into the store appears to be Mrs. Nelson. That’s right: THE DEAD WIFE OF MR. NELSON THE GRAY-HAIRED DUDE!

Previously on Little House

And she is most definitely followed by Carl the flunky.

Now, I know some more sensitive readers may have shrieked or even passed out at this extraordinary revelation. But when you come to, rest assured there’s actually a quite simple explanation. I’ll get to it in a bit.

Anyways, Charles and Caroline are there as well.

Almost at once, Nels becomes overwhelmed and rushes into the storeroom to collect himself. He doesn’t seem to have brought the laudanum with him, though.

“Good morning, Mr. Ingalls,” says Mrs. Foster in her honeyed voice. Oh my God, Charles, get as far away as you can from this maneater, fast!

Whoa, here she comes

Turning on his Michael Landon super-senses, Charles detects Nels in the storeroom and makes a beeline for him. Nels says he’s ashamed to have everybody in town aware of his family problems. Ever the professional, he also tells Charles there’s a delay on the “cultivator” he ordered. 

A vintage cultivator

Notably, in this scene Charles and Nels address each other by their Christian names for what I think is the first time. Which is kind of nice. 

Plus Nels picks up Carrie and talks to her – very in keeping with what we saw at Amy Hearn’s wake when he took her out on the dance floor.

Meanwhile, Caroline is making a piddly five-cent purchase of a fancy string or something at the counter. Mrs. O’s voice breaks as she conducts the transaction. 

Then, in my favorite moment of the episode, Caroline says, “You’ve been working so hard. . . . I was wondering if maybe Nellie and Willie could come out and stay with us for a day or so to . . . to give you a chance . . . um . . . to catch your breath.”

Now, this show has sort of trained us to expect Mrs. Oleson will be insulted at this suggestion. Instead, she looks at Caroline for a moment in disbelief . . . then touches her hand in gratitude, stammers, politely declines and rushes to offer to help Mrs. Foster. 

Caroline is disappointed, but clearly aware a breakthrough has happened here. She steps outside and gives Charles a report.

We cut to the exterior of the church. From within, we can hear the congregation singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

Here’s Mahalia Jackson singing the hell out of it:

“Onward, Christian Soldiers,” was written in 1871 by Sir Arthur Sullivan, of “Gilbert and” fame.

Sir Arthur Sullivan

We’re big G&S fans in our house. Well, some of us are.

Inside the church, we see another wonderful cross section of the Walnut Grove citizenry.

Today’s crowd includes the Ingallses, the Olesons (sitting separately), Mr. Hanson and Doc (also sitting separately – lovers’ spats galore this week?) . . . 

. . . H. Quincy Fusspot and his family (the dad of which looks like Johnny Cash) . . . 

. . . and Mrs. Foster and her brand new lover Not-Neil Diamond.

I also have to point out I’m realizing the kid I identified as H. Quincy in “The Voice of Tinker Jones” wasn’t really him . . . since here he’s sitting directly behind the actual one.

Finally, in the back row we have The Gray-Haired Dude . . .

. . . and near the front, we have the woman who’s identical to the Dude’s dead wife, Mrs. Nelson.

But as I suggested earlier, this is rather easily explained. Identical is the key word: For this is not the late Mrs. Nelson at all, but rather her identical twin sister. And I think it’s a reasonable guess that this sister is actually Mrs. Johnson (Johnny’s aunt?), for whom Charles carved the cupboard in “The Lord is My Shepherd,” Part One. 

What isn’t so easily explained is that there’s at least one male voice singing harmony during the hymn, which we’ve never had before. Even Reverend Alden comments on it!

But I suppose if you’ve got both Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash impersonators in attendance, that’s not so surprising either.

You can tell by their partners’ expressions it was them.

The Rev dismisses the parishioners, and it becomes clear he’s about to do some couples counseling with the Olesons.

WILL: What percent chance is there of him helping them?

ROMAN: Zero, given his track record.

Aldi blah-blahs at them for a while, quite nicely, of course. The only really interesting thing is what he doesn’t say. He begins to remind them of their vows to “honor and obey” each other, but then stops short and leaves out the obey.

Rev. Alden makes them stand up, hold hands, and stare at each other as “Oh Promise Me” starts playing sappily on the soundtrack. It wasn’t written until 1887, but it’s pretty close. 

Interestingly, the song also features in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries:

Of course, the Rev’s scheme doesn’t work. Staring at each other only makes the Olesons start screaming again, and they storm out.  

Aldi turns Tevye all of a sudden, looking up to God and shrugging.

Outside, Nellie and Willie are waiting, as is Nels’s dog. (He couldn’t leave him at the rooming house for an hour?)

Nels speaks briefly to the dog, addressing him by name in a low voice; the IMDb TV subtitler thought it was “Alfie,” but to me it sounds like “Happy” (which is funnier . . . so it probably isn’t right).

Then he takes the animal and marches away, past the Ingallses and the Baker-Hansons. (In another cute touch, Doc is giving Laura a piggyback ride.)

After the commercial break, Mr. Hanson and Doc are hanging out at the mill. Hanson asks a worker to try to finish a job by 4:00. He addresses the man as “Joe,” though it’s quite clearly Nels’s former flunky Carl, who helped deliver Caroline’s stove on Christmas Eve

But that’s no problem. Obviously, Carl’s regular job is at the mill, and the delivery gig was part-time, to earn a little extra at the holidays, just like Mary did at Ma Whipple’s sweatshop. 

Previously on Little House

It also would explain why Charles is on such friendly terms with him.

Previously on Little House

As for “Joe,” well, Hanson’s getting a little older, and we’ve seen before he’s loose with people’s names and nicknames. (Remember, he also calls Charles “Charlie.”)

Anyways, Doc Baker makes a pompous speech about how he can figure out the Olesons’ problems, saying as “a healer of some skill and repute” (tell that to Freddie, Doc), he understands psychology. 

He has his arm wrapped affectionately around Hanson’s shoulders as they walk around the yard, so any quarrel the two seemed to be having at church must have been a flight of fancy on my part. I am a little prone to them.

They do make a fun couple, though, don’t they?

And in fact, now we get a ludicrous subplot practically out of La Cage aux Folles/The Birdcage. Doc proposes that Mr. Hanson pretend to be wooing Mrs. Oleson to make Nels jealous.

“Are you serious, Hiram?”

This is a variation on the lemon verbena gambit from “Mr. Edward’s [sic] Homecoming.” 

Previously on Little House

Moreover, Doc understands the power of jealousy himself, given how upset he gets when Mr. Hanson flirts with Miss Beadle. 

Previously on Little House

Now, it seems pretty obvious everybody in town knows Mr. Hanson and Doc are a couple. But Mrs. O has blinders on in a number of ways. Remember, she thought Nels’s laudanum was merely alcohol (see above). As smart as she is, there are some gaps in her knowledge of the world and its ways. 

Well, Mr. Hanson shows his enthusiasm for this idea by yelling Nej du!” multiple times. I guess this confirms he is a Swede, not a Norwegian. (Makes sense, since Karl Swenson’s parents were Swedish immigrants.)

Doc says if Lars refuses to go along with this plan, he’ll be sorry. Hanson gets quite upset at this, and it seems clear Doc’s threatening to withhold sex. 

OLIVE: You can’t put that in the blog!

WILL: Sure I can, it’s my blog.

But Doc does eventually give some other story about how if the Mercantile closes it’ll be bad for the town and could even ruin Hanson’s business. (Probably this is just a cover in case Carl has overheard.)

So, next thing we see is Mr. Hanson, again with Doc’s arm draped over his shoulders, dressed in a suit and carrying some tea roses or something through town.

Doc says he knows Nels is “out at the Birch place” today, so Lars will have full access to Mrs. O. Well, not that kind of access.

Previously on Little House

Back at the Little House, Mary and Laura are peeling a bunch of fresh apples at the table. So I guess it’s not winter or spring at all, but fall again already?

Pa says he’s planting an apple tree seedling himself, so next year they won’t have to get their apples from “the Johnsons” (see above) anymore. (Looks like seedlings usually take at least six years to bear fruit, but because Walnut Grove is situated on a time rift I’m sure this won’t be a problem for them.)

Previously on Little House

Anyways, you can tell the two Melissas don’t know the first thing about peeling with knives.

I can’t do it either, but my mom is a master. We once went on a tour of a historic estate, and when we visited the kitchen, the guide pointed to a bucket of potatoes and a paring knife and said to her as a joke, “Now, would you peel these please while I’m talking?” He turned his back, and when he looked again a minute later, she had done the whole bunch perfectly.

Speaking of jokes, we get another Highlights-level one here:

LAURA: Some of these got worms in ’em.

PA: Well, worms won’t hurt you.

MARY: Whole worms won’t . . . but I don’t like the half-worms!

Haw haw. And of course Laura makes an already bad joke worse by immediately explaining it.

LAURA: Then you know you ate the other half!

I get that they’re kids, but there’s never a good reason for fictional children to behave exactly as idiotically as real ones. This show sometimes is a lesson in how not to do humor properly.

Ma comes in wearing her red shawl. The girls greet her warmly, but all she says is “Hm!”

Now that’s funny. Ha!

Then she says “Men!” and sends the girls out of the house. She picks up an apple and a knife, but she doesn’t know what to do with them either.

She proceeds to tell Charles about the Baker-Hansons’ stupid Birdcage scheme, which apparently has backfired royally. Mrs. Oleson reacted to Mr. Hanson’s overtures by throwing flour at him (so I guess she did know about him and Doc), right in front of Mrs. Kennedy and “Mrs. Whitworth.”

Caroline says Mrs. O is taking Nellie and Willie and “going back east for good.” This is reminiscent of when Harriet threatened to leave the church if they didn’t accept her gift of a bell. Why would anyone care? Nels is the only one anybody likes anyway.

People often wonder if the Olesons were real (plus Alison Arngrim wrote in her memoir that the second-most-asked question she gets, after “What was Michael Landon like?”, is “What was the lady who played Mrs. Oleson like?”).

The Olesons were inspired by a real family, the Owenses, who did run the Mercantile in Walnut Grove. The parents were named William and Margaret, not Nels and Harriet, but the kids really were called Nellie and Willie. 

The real-life Laura feuded with the real-life Nellie, as well as with two other girls who were all turned into the composite “Nellie Oleson” character in On the Banks of Plum Creek. (Apparently Laura Ingalls Wilder changed the real-life Nellie’s surname to protect her privacy if the stories ever became famous. Not the most opaque alias in history, but oh well. At least Laura didn’t work in witness protection. ) 

There’s no indication the other Owenses were as wacky and fun as the TV Olesons, unfortunately.

The “real Olesons”: Clockwise from bottom right, Margaret Owens (Harriet), William Owens, Sr. (Nels), William Owens, Jr. (Willie), Nellie Owens (Nellie), and Frank Owens (an adopted son not featured on the show). No Nancy.

Well, now we come to what might be the most improbable thread in a story that’s full of them. Laura and Mary are lying in bed, worrying about Nellie and Willie’s feelings.

You heard me right.

Well, to be fair, Laura’s not as concerned about them as Mary is.

The next morning, Mary and Laura meet Nellie and Willie on the steps of the Mercantile. They slowly and sadly walk to school, Mary’s arm around Nellie, talking about how much they’ll miss each other! 

I am not shitting you.

Laura even tries to put her arm around Willie, but he shoves her away.

At least one character’s behaving normally this week.

That night, Mrs. Oleson and the kids are having dinner. Have you noticed they’re always eating ham?

Mrs. O is remote and forlorn. Having no appetite, Nellie and Willie excuse themselves politely. 

Meanwhile, at the rooming house, Nels’s dog Alfie/Happy contentedly lolls his tongue out while Nels sadly pets him.

Later, at the mill, Nels is apparently buying a big steamer trunk from Mr. Hanson. Hanson refuses to charge anything for it, but Nels insists. The trunk is for Harriet to use to leave town; Nels says, “She can’t come in here herself after . . . after what happened.”  

Ha!

Mr. Hanson blames himself for the crisis, saying Mrs. Oleson would be staying “if I didn’t did what I did.” Boy, everybody in Walnut Grove sure likes to claim responsibility for everyone else’s actions and decisions. I can tell you in the real Minnesota today, no one gives a shit if anyone leaves town, much less blames themselves for people doing so (even when they should).

Nevertheless, Mr. Hanson will not take Nels’s money. Nice guy as always.

Back at the Little House, Caroline and Charles are talking about the Olesons again. Charles says for fourteen years, the family was doing fine, and Nels didn’t mind Mrs. O “being the boss, kind of running things. Even nagging him a little.” (Whatever.)

Charles goes on to say their current problem is completely Mrs. Oleson’s fault, because this time “she went too far, and she did it in front of witnesses.” He goes on to say despite the public nature of this dispute, it really doesn’t mean anything significant. 

As the survivor of a divorce myself, and a witness to many others, I think it’s quite dangerous to dismiss what couples are going through in a situation like this, even if it seems the “whole thing is playing out in public.” But people often do, of course.

Charles The Father explains it all

Anyways, Charles says they should keep trying, and Caroline says, “Goodness knows I’ll do anything I can.”

Do you think it’s possible Mrs. Oleson WROTE this episode?

Then we cut to Caroline at the Olesons’ house, giving Mrs. Oleson the petit point or whatever she’s been working on recently as a going-away present. Touched, Mrs. O thanks her, and for the first time addresses her as “Caroline.”

Which, as everybody who watches this show knows, she pronounces as “Caroline” (rhymes with “mighty fine”) when everybody else in town says “Caroline” (rhymes with “original sin”). This must be a deliberate choice on the part of Katherine MacGregor, to still keep these two at something of a distance from each other.

I also say “Caroline” (mighty fine), for whatever that’s worth.

Mrs. Oleson again struggles to find the words to thank Caroline, but manages to do so, simply and sincerely. She’s touched because she knows their relationship has at times been “difficult,” and Caroline agrees.

Then Caroline uses reverse psychology, telling Mrs. O she’s wise to leave Nels, because he’s mousy, lazy and a bad businessman. She goes on to make absolutely preposterous statements about Nels looking “disreputable” (does she when he doesn’t have a tie on?) and smelling bad because he fishes so much. 

Of course Mrs. Oleson takes the bait. She defends him briefly, then just sort of dissolves into a reverie where she reminisces about what good times they used to have. Katherine MacGregor plays this speech like it’s Ibsen.  

Outdoors, Charles is talking with Nels whilst eating crackers or chips or something with his mouth wide open.

Their conversation is an echo of the ones their wives just had, and is quite tiresome.

Inside, Mrs. Oleson is still soliloquizing. It’s a self-serious scene, but I have to say, MacGregor is really trying to humanize the character before our very eyes. And with some success! Mrs. O isn’t always well treated by the writers, but she’s always well served by the actor, who turns her from a caricature into a loveable demidevil. Not a small feat.

And outside, Charles is ludicrously manspreading.

Nels comes to the conclusion that he really does love Harriet after all. “I know,” says Charles simply. This exchange clearly inspired the famous Han/Leia goodbye in The Empire Strikes Back.

Nels marches back to the Mercantile and tearfully yet manfully declares his love. Mrs. O reciprocates.

In a postscriptum, Charles drops Caroline off at the Mercantile sometime later. Mrs. Foster is skulking in the shadows as usual.

Nels and Harriet are bickering about pricing eggs again, so we know they haven’t changed that much. Blah blah blah, stupid stupid stupid.

Caroline comes back out to find Pa bouncing Carrie on his knee in the wagon, and going “Ride like a gentleman, ride like a gentleman!”

They play “Oh Promise Me” one more time in the orchestra, and we see the bloodhound fleeing the Mercantile, I guess for good.

Haw haw

I’m right with you, Alfie/Happy. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!

STYLE WATCH: Mrs. Oleson wears an elaborate ostrich-feather hat to church.

Charles appears to go commando again.

THE VERDICT: “Pretty silly for the first season,” said Olive, and it is. (More than a little sexist, too.) But fans will find it entertaining enough for all that; we certainly did.

There’s really no reason for the bloodhound to be in it, though.

UP NEXT: Doctor’s Lady

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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