Survival

That’s Enough History, Mr. Anders; or

When Charles Thaws Out, You’re Fucked

(a recap by Will Kaiser)

Title: Survival

Airdate: February 26, 1975

Written by John Hawkins

Story by John Hawkins and Preston Wood

Directed by William F. Claxton

SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: The Ingallses find themselves snowed in with an insane and evil U.S. marshal, a Dakota chief, and no food.

RECAP: We open on the Chonkies pulling the wagon up a road (with the cover up). 

Inside, we see Carrie, asleep, cuddling with her Dollee. 

Or actually, no, she isn’t asleep. It can be hard to tell with her.

The older girls are wearing their winter macramé. Mary is reading, and Laura is just thinking her goofy thoughts to herself.

“If I had a remembrance book . . .”

The wagon moves through hilly country, and we see a little stream with a scrim of ice. Voiceover Laura emphatically tells us it’s spring. This becomes important later. 

(I’ll wait until later to try to figure out spring of what year, so as not to distract from the story.)

Then she tells us the whole family is coming back from a trip to Mankato – just a fun trip, I guess? No reason is given.

WILL: Wouldn’t they have bad memories of Mankato at this point?

DAGNY: Why?

WILL: Um, ’cause it’s where Freddie died?

DAGNY: Oh, that? No.

Laura tells us she’s glad to be going home because she misses Jack. I wonder who dog-sat for them? I bet it was dog-lover Nels.

Previously on Little House

There isn’t a cloud in the ceiling, but we see some little white things that I think are meant to be snowflakes blowing about in the wind. (Not really possible to capture in a screenshot.)

Suddenly, three men come riding out of the woods, pretty fast, on horseback.

The third one, of course, is riding Bunny.

David Rose shifts quickly into sinister mode, so this means trouble. The cellos and basses do this sort of sliding-down-an-oiled-staircase thing as the riders approach.

Hearing the orchestra, Caroline says, “What’s wrong, Charles?” (I initially put her quote in italics, but I watched it a second time and I’m not sure that wouldn’t have been overstating it.)

“Nothin’, I’m sure,” says Charles, doing that thing where when he’s nervous he says the exact opposite of what he’s really thinking.

The riders slow as they approach the wagon. They’re led by a man with a fine mustache who introduces himself to Charles as “Jim Anders, U.S. Marshal out of Sleepy Eye.” He’s polite and fairly friendly. 

WILL: Do you think Matt Damon based his True Grit performance on this guy?

OLIVE: You know, we should watch that again.

WILL: I thought you hated that movie, because the horse dies.

OLIVE: Eh, it’s grown on me.

WILL: You should read the book, it’s great.

OLIVE: Is it full of pictures of Matt Damon?

Anders also introduces his two deputies, Hill and Curtis. Hill has a pretty fake red beard. 

“We’re chasin’ a savage,” says Anders. 

Oh dear.

So, although we’ve had other episodes that touched on race issues, this is the first one where racism is the main focus of the story. Despite being a middle-aged white mansplainer, I try to be a thoughtful person who considers things in their proper context or contexts. Call that “wokeness” if you want – I consider being “woke” a positive thing on the whole, though as with any theoretical concept (or dogma), it can be abused. 

But as I’ve pointed out before, my aim with this blog is to do a fun microanalysis of this great crazy old show, not to evaluate it from a platform of wokeness. I’m simply not smart enough to do the latter properly; plus I’m far too silly. (I encourage anybody else to do it, though.)

That said, because some Little House stories specifically tackle issues that are in the, um, orbit of wokeness, there will be times when things can’t be laughed off as easily as usual. “Survival,” grounded in real-life history for once, is an example.

Anyways, the “savage” sought by this federal posse is apparently “a renegade Sioux by the name of Jack Lame Horse.”

CHARLES: I didn’t think there were any Sioux left in these parts.

ANDERS [mildly]: Well, there won’t be, soon as we catch this’n.

CHARLES: I can’t help you. I haven’t seen him.

ANDERS: Much obliged. If I was you folks I’d start lookin’ for shelter. There’s a blizzard comin’.

CHARLES: A storm, maybe. . . . A little late in the year for a blizzard? 

ANDERS [defensively]: Well, now you call it what you want to, Mister. But that’s a blizzard wind. Both of my feet have been frostbit twice! They tell me when a bad one’s comin’. And they’re tellin’ me now. Be on the lookout for that savage, y’hear.

CHARLES: I will. What’d this Lame Horse do?

ANDERS: He got born.

Shouting “Hyah!” to indicate he thinks this was quite the zinger, Anders signals the other riders to depart, and Charles and Caroline exchange disturbed looks. 

“He calls the Indian a savage,” says Charles with contempt. Caroline says nothing; we have seen she doesn’t have the best track record on white/Indian relations.

Previously on Little House

The wind roars in the pines, but whether it’s a bad omen or simply indicates a storm is coming is unknown. 

Just kidding, it’s both

The sky darkens, and Charles shouts to Caroline, “I could cut across Parker Point, but I’m afraid to take a chance.” 

“Parker Point” has no real-life counterpart in Minnesota, so please enjoy this gif from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose instead.

My high-school idol, evil teacher’s pet Frank Lemmer

Charles and Caroline note it’s getting frightfully cold, and Charles says she should get in the back with the kids.

I don’t know where they went to film this, but the Chonkies are both puffing steam, so obviously it really was someplace chilly.

Steaming Chonkies

In the back of the wagon, Carrie has now actually fallen asleep.

I think?

It begins snowing hard, and the wagon pulls up to a rather utilitarian-looking stone house in the woods. 

Enormous mountains can be seen in the distance. 

Here’s what the actual road from Mankato to Walnut Grove looks like:

It soon becomes clear we’ve switched to the soundstage.

OLIVE: This set looks terrible. It’s like a high-school play.

“It’s like a high-school play.”

Charles goes inside the horrible structure to check it out. “The place is deserted,” he says. 

He gets them all inside. The room looks like a Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe film, with tombstone walls and a dead fireplace.

“Let me wedge that door!” Charles exclaims once they’re in. (We’ve seen him wedge things before.) 

Previously on Little House

Then he says he’s going to try to get a fire going, as the other four huddle in a pile on the floor.

“Papa!” slurps Carrie suddenly. “I want to thirst my hungry!”

OLIVE: How did people in the seventies understand Carrie without subtitles?

“How did people in the seventies understand Carrie without subtitles?”

Ignoring his hungry child, Pa says he’s going to go collect some firewood, and Ma says she’ll patch up an open window.

The Ing-GALS (I’m sorry) are soon at work making fires and the like, with Ma shouting commands.

WILL: Karen Grassle’s cold acting is good.

DAGNY: Yeah. Nasally. You know how when it’s really cold, your nose hurts and you can’t move your lips properly. That’s always how you tell a good cold actor.

ROMAN: Maybe that’s why we can’t understand Carrie?

Meanwhile, Charles chops wood. I never noticed before, he’s left-handed. 

The Chonky looks on.

ROMAN [as CHONKY]: “CHONKY SCARED!”

“CHONKY SCARED!”

Charles stands erect and peers into the wind.

Michael Landon’s cold acting isn’t bad either

Little does he know a “dark” figure is watching him from the trees.

Back at the cabin, Ma is gabbling:

MA: Ooh! Well, it’s not the work of a carpenter but it’ll keep some of the wind out! 

LAURA: It’s snowing harder, Ma!

MA: Oh! I noticed a flake or two! Ooh! Oh! That’s fine, Mary! The chimney draws very well, doesn’t it! 

ROMAN: Why is she acting like it’s this big adventure? They could die.

WILL: She must have brought the laudanum along.

She definitely did; she becomes more and more emotive:

MA: Whew! . . . We’ve got a storm! Isn’t a blizzard yet! We’ll just hope it doesn’t turn into one! 

MARY: What if it does? 

MA: Well we’ll just make due! We’ve been through cold weather before!

Suddenly the door blows open. Caroline shuts it, then begins cackling insanely. She seizes Mary and screams, “That scared me half to death!” 

Grassle’s acting in this one is actually pretty weird. This bit in particular has the feel of a mad scene in an opera, with Laura and Carrie staring in shock like the chorus.

As Charles leads Chonky back with a log for the fire, the weather worsens. 

David plays Old West serial-killer music as the mysterious man, who’s wearing a ski mask, stares at Charles from behind a tree.

WILL: So, do you think they’re setting us up to think the Indian guy is evil?

OLIVE: Yes. Then Michael Landon will educate us about our own racism.

DAGNY: It’s white mansplaining on an epic scale.

ROMAN: Just another week on Little House.

This must have been quite a common thing in the seventies. We just watched an episode of Love Boat that’s worth describing, as a sidebar. 

Scatman Crothers plays an elderly Black man who comes on the cruise. He entertains people doing a sort of hand-jive dance thing to an old-timey rap he calls “the Hambone.”

(No, Gopher, just . . . no.)

Isaac, who you may remember serves as the ship’s official Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer, is initially delighted by Crothers’s antics – even, as we have just seen, doing a “disco version” of the Hambone himself. 

But later, Isaac begins dating Vernee Watson, a beautiful young Black graduate student who naturally sees a singles cruise as the ideal environment in which to finish her thesis. 

Watson is woke AF, and tells Isaac the “Hambone” act, innocent as it seems, sanitizes and celebrates the racist Old South. She says the song is a minstrel-show relic that’s degrading to Scatman Crothers and should offend all Black people. Isaac comes to agree with her, and begins snubbing Crothers.

So, can you guess how the storyline resolves? Captain Stubing, as white, middle-aged, and authoritative as a man can get (on Love Boat, anyway), gets wind of the tension. 

He then takes the two African Americans aside and harshly lectures them on their ignorance of Black history and culture. He says in case they didn’t realize, Scatman Crothers grew up in the old days, and was once a famous baseball player besides, so they should cut him some slack, Jack. (Paraphrase.)

Realizing the horrible error of their ways, Isaac and Vernee Watson head straight to Crothers’s stateroom, where they all have a party and dance the Hambone all night long.

The title of this story, by the way, is “Isaac’s History Lesson”! Good grief.

This is all just to point out that Little House wasn’t the only show to inject White Saviorism into the race issue. Even a show as stupid as The Love Boat was doing it; and at least Little House got its conclusions right most of the time. 

White Saviorism!

Anyways, Caroline is relieved when she sees Charles return. “Chaahhles!” she shouts out the door Britishly.

Charles, who’s chopping the log, shouts back he’ll be in with the wood in a minute.

“I was worried, you were so long!” she yells, then adds, “Supper’s ready, cahn’t you eat now?” She sounds not only fake-British this time, but as stoned as can be.

Charles says he’ll be in soon and she should feed the kids without him.

Later, the girls have fallen asleep in front of a toasty fire whilst Ma and Pa sit down to their meal. Pa says grace, thanking the Lord for giving them provisions against the unexpected storm. They note they didn’t bring along any more food than they’d need for the Mankato trip.

DAGNY: They seem quite unprepared for this. What month is it?

WILL: April, maybe? It happens. Remember that April blizzard in 2018, when the neighbors yelled at me to get off the roof because a blizzard was a-coming? 

DAGNY: Yes, in Manitoba spring is even worse. More reason for them to be prepared.

Sensing similar conversations are happening all over the country, Charles explains to the audience that in Walnut Grove they’d had warm weather for a month already, so there. Caroline says maybe the storm won’t last, and he bites her head off.

Blaring brass takes us to commercial. When we come back, the Ing-Gals are sleeping, and we see Charles has made some snowshoes, though out of what, I have no idea.

Caroline wakes up and goes to sit next to Charles. Her hair is down and full and gorgeous.

She points out it’s stopped snowing, but Charles gets annoyed again and says there’s more to come. Hey, Chuck, some people don’t read the Farmer’s Almanac every night in bed, okay?

Then Caroline tries to give him some food, which he refuses. He continues to be nervous and irritable, saying he’s going out to rustle up some killable grub. 

Caroline picks up what appears to be a large cigar from the floor. Her hands shake as she holds it.

More opium?

“Hey,” says Charles, more gently. “You did say I was putting on a few pounds, you know.”

DAGNY: Hashtag fat-shaming.

WILL: A good way to defuse any tense moment.

OLIVE: Did people really talk like that back then? “Putting on a few pounds”?

WILL: I haven’t looked that one up, but no.

Anyways, Caroline snorts with laughter, and tosses the rest of her opium into the fire.

Then she rises, wraps a scarf around Charles’s head, and gives him one of her this-coupon-is-redeemable-for-one-lengthy-sex-session-when-we-have-a-little-more-privacy looks as David plays love music on the soundtrack.

Charles departs, then stomps around the forest like Frankenstein’s monster for a bit, mutilating trees so he can find his way back. These are TV “blizzard conditions,” of course, but it is true that traveling on foot in a real storm like this would be slow and dangerous. I once walked to the local store in similar weather; what was usually a ten-minute journey took me nearly an hour, and that was when I had a sidewalk and streetlights to follow.

Meanwhile, the mysterious man, who we see is sensibly dressed for the weather as well as armed, is following Charles’s tracks.

Then, Charles points his gun directly at the camera and fires!

ROMAN: Whoa! Did he just shoot us?

Back at the cabin, the Ing-Gals have scratched a hopscotch grid on the floor. The girls bicker about the rules; I have no idea how the game is played or scored, so I can’t comment on the authenticity. But it is funny that Laura defends her position by saying she’s playing “Mankato rules.”

Ha!

Ma jumps into the game, slurring Britishly again. It’s clear that, much like John Stewart, she had a secret stash of her stuff that she didn’t tell Charles about.

Back in the mysterious forest, Charles has bagged a big deer, which he’s carrying on his shoulders. It’s a buck with antlers, though in the real Minnesota, male deer lose their antlers by mid-winter.

Michael Landon peers into the storm helplessly, communicating pretty well that Charles has lost his way. He trips and falls, accidentally losing his hatchet . . . which is quickly picked up by the mystery man, to the accompaniment of “Indian drumming.”

Back at base, Ma has used the old parent dispute-solving tactic of saying let’s play something else. This time it’s Simon Says, a game of obscure origin; some say it dates to classical antiquity. Whether that’s true or not, it appears it was definitely played in the United States by the mid-Nineteenth Century

Of course everyone laughs their heads off at poor Carrie, who doesn’t understand the game. “Bubba said so,” Carrie slurps, in an eloquent pro se defense.

Then we get another amazing stunt, as, to terrifying music, Charles falls down a hill, losing deer, gun, snow shoes, and all. (The stunts on this show really are fantastically well done – it’s an underappreciated aspect of the series, I think.)

You know, the nearer your venison dinner, the more you’re slip-slidin’ away

Charles loses the will to go on and remains prostrate.

DAGNY/OLIVE/ROMAN: Oh no, Charles!

WILL: You know, we could do venison for dinner tonight.

[ROMAN and OLIVE make thumbs-down gestures.]

OLIVE: We want pizza.

Oblivious to this, Ma and the girls are having . . . lunch? “Are they eating their shoes?” asked Dagny, but no, looks like Ma’s whipped up a batch of her famous mush

Ma’s Famous Mush

She goes to the window and says “Dear God . . . protect him.”

DAGNY: She really would give her life for Charles.

WILL: Yeah. But he wouldn’t even let her give him her breakfast.

Back in the snow, the mysterious man arrives at Charles’s body. Dark has fallen, despite his accident happening two scenes ago and the mystery man being literally seconds behind him on his trail.

In the cabin, Ma and the kids are trying not to panic when there’s a knock at the door. Caroline flings it open . . . and it’s Marshal Anders, his mustaches all crusted up with ice.

He’s in bad shape, with frostbitten face, hands and feet. Caroline sort of half-drags him to the fire and tries to get his gloves and boots off.

“Inside my fly is also cold, ma’am.”

Anders asks where Charles is, and Caroline says he hasn’t come back from his food-gathering mission. “God help him,” he replies.

OLIVE: We haven’t had a good snowstorm in a while.

DAGNY: . . . It’s been summer!

WILL: Wait a couple weeks.

But surprisingly, we see Charles is also being warmed by a fire, under a shelter made from evergreen boughs. He’s been rescued by the mystery man, who’s removed his mask and, surprise, surprise, is actually the Indigenous guy!!! Or an Indigenous guy, anyways. Or is he?

DAGNY: Is he really First Nations? He looks like they’ve browned him up pretty heavily. 

Heavily browned up he might be, but the actor, Robert Tessier, was of Algonquin heritage. (I don’t feel qualified to comment on whether it’s Brownface if somebody “browns up” to look more like the public’s image of their own community.)

At any rate, Tessier wasn’t a “Sioux” (more properly called the Dakota in Minnesota), as the character’s meant to be. He apparently had a long career in film and TV, mostly playing “thugs” and other such characters (some of his roles: “Brawler,” “Crusher,” “Outlaw,” “Murderer,” “Tattoo Artist,” “Hood,” etc.). I don’t really know him from anything.

Here he is as a claw-handed villain in The Billion Dollar Threat, a James Bond ripoff TV movie

Back at the cabin, Marshal Anders is thawing out. I don’t recognize this actor, Jack Ging, from anything either, though he was on The A-Team, and also in Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me, which I remember being enjoyable, and quite shocking in places. 

Here he is on The A-Team

(And later on Little House, he’ll play Willie Oleson’s father-in-law, but that’s getting way ahead of the saga.)

Coming soon on Little House

Some incidents in his background, however, have an interesting resonance with this story. His grandparents wound up in Oklahoma after the U.S. government bought the Cherokee out of their lands there and opened it to homesteading.

WILL: . . . And it looks like he was an “Edmonton Eskimo.”

DAGNY: Oh, Canadian football?

WILL: Yah, in the 1950s. Did you know they used to be called the “Eskimos”?

DAGNY: They’re still called that.

WILL: What? I thought you said “Eskimo” was a horribly offensive term in Canada.

DAGNY: It is. Every year there are massive complaints to change the name.

And in fact, it looks like it finally happened! As of this summer just past, the team is now known as the Edmonton Elks. Not sure what Michael Landon would make of this development, but it gets the Walnut Groovy seal of approval.

Anyways, Anders says his horse “pulled off the picket line” (a picket line is apparently a rope used to “park” horses by attaching them to trees), and he went into the snow to find the animal and got lost.

Which is of course the exact same story as “Wildfire”!

Boy, that song breaks me up.

Mary and Ma are folding blankets in the background. Why even bother? Is it because they have “company”?

Mary clearly has a bad feeling about this guy, because she comes over and starts throwing shade at his blizzard navigation skills, saying she’s sure Pa won’t have gotten lost like he did. He patronizingly agrees with her.

I love Pissed-Off Mary

Out in the blizzard, the Indigenous guy has tied a rope around Charles’s waist and is now leading him through the storm. Charles falls a couple times, and the guy helps him up.

DAGNY: I can’t get past how Charles doesn’t even have a proper hat.

WILL: It’s because you actually live in a northerly climate.

DAGNY: That’s right. So does Charles. Charles Ingalls would not do a weeklong road trip in April in Minnesota without being prepared for cold weather.

WILL: You’re right, you’re right.

“I can’t get past how Charles doesn’t even have a proper hat.”

Back in the cabin, Anders now seems fully recovered, or at least enough to load his gun. Laura asks if he ever shoots people; he chuckles and says, “Not unless I have to.”

Well, he was wrong if he thought these two would be impressed by that kind of bravado. Mary in particular stares at him like he just said studying was for pantywaists.

WILL: Mary should stab him.

OLIVE: They should stab him. Stab him and eat him!

Ignoring Ma’s physical and verbal cues to avoid the topic, Laura starts asking Anders about the Indian he’s hunting. (“Is he a Pinkerton?” asked Dags.)

Anders says he’s happy to discuss the matter. In fact, he even suggests the “history” will be enlightening to the youngsters. His voice, however, is grim, and his eyes take on a mad glow as he recites his tale:

In sixty-two, the Sioux just about wiped all of us out. Folks like your ma and pa, children like you. They almost got us. . . . But we got up, and we fought . . . and we taught ’em a lesson. Well, one of their chiefs – his name was Jack Lame Horse . . . he’s the only one left. 

Laura asks what happened to the rest of the Indians. 

“They’re dead,” Anders says shortly, but not without pleasure. “Gone. Some we shot. Some we hung.”

Laura gasps in horror. Mary’s you-fucking-piece-of-shit expression does not change.

“I think that’s enough history, Mr. Anders,” says Ma drily.

Clearly realizing Caroline is a lib, he gives her a disgusted look and says, “Yes, ma’am.”

OLIVE [as ANDERS, defensively]: “We were the good guys, by the way!”

So, while Jack Lame Horse is fictional, what Anders is describing here are the events of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. I mentioned the war briefly in another recap, because the city of Mankato plays a significant role. 

The conflict still has tremendous resonance here in Minnesota today. In a nutshell, this is the story.

(As I’ve pointed out before, and as should be fairly clear by now, I am no expert in this or really any other matter, so feel free to take this summary as simply my understanding of the war and nothing more. Corrections are certainly welcome.)

In the Nineteenth Century, the U.S. government pushed the Dakota people in Minnesota farther and farther into the Minnesota River Valley, in the western part of the state. (Walnut Grove, Mankato, Sleepy Eye, and New Ulm are all in this region.) This was so white settlers could be enticed to buy property in more desirable farmland. 

This driving of Indigenous people from their lands, which of course happened all over the country (often multiple times to the same groups), was technically legal, sanctioned by treaties the Indians had little choice but to accept. In Minnesota, the relocated Dakota were “encouraged” to abandon their traditional hunter/gatherer practices and farm instead.

In 1861, that farming went very badly, and the following year the federal government failed to make payments it owed to the Dakota by the terms of the treaties. (An investigation by a Special Commissioner on Dakota Affairs found federal agents were skimming off the top to the tune of $20,000-$100,000 . . . $400,000 to $2 million in today’s money). 

Having little food stored up, and with wild game depleted by recently arrived settlers, the Dakota approached the Indian Agencies and white traders asking for credit, which was denied them. One trader allegedly said, “If they are hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung,” a comment that shocked and outraged the Dakota and was later used as justification for the war.

The Crow is to Die For!, by Dwayne Wilcox

What happened next was on August 17th, a few Dakota approached a farm in Acton, Minnesota (about 100 miles northeast of Walnut Grove). What apparently began as a “friendly shooting match” turned ugly, and ended with the Dakota shooting five white people, including a woman and a fifteen-year-old girl.  

August 18 [sic], 1862, by Dan Nelson

When they learned what had happened, the Dakota chiefs conferred, with one chief saying his band would declare war on the whites over the objections of the majority. Historians describe the parties to this schism as the “hostile Dakota” and the “friendly Dakota.”

Organized attacks by the “hostiles” commenced, with hundreds of settlers killed and many others, especially women, captured as hostages (or wives). The Governor of Minnesota organized a response, despite the demands of the Civil War meaning state forces were not at full strength. Eventually the federal government recognized the seriousness of the situation and became involved, albeit in a limited way.

The bloody conflict went on for several weeks, ending when a large group of Dakota were defeated in a battle about 35 miles north of Walnut Grove (which didn’t exist yet at the time).

The Battle of Wood Lake, by A.P. Connolly

Afterwards, captured Dakota were taken to Mankato and tried, with over 300 sentenced to death following a process that was criticized even at the time. (Henry Hastings Sibley, a former Minnesota Governor turned military commander, tried the prisoners by military tribunal rather than in civilian court, a decision later deemed illegal.)

President Lincoln was informed of the situation, and, faced with the prospect of executing hundreds of people on the one hand and enraging white Minnesota settlers on the other, commuted the sentences of all but 38. The “Dakota 38” were publicly hanged in Mankato on December 26, 1862, to this day the largest mass execution in American history.

Execution of the Thirty-Eight Sioux Indians at Mankato, Minnesota, December, 26, 1862 (artist unknown)

Lincoln’s “compromise” didn’t please many people on either side of the debate.

Non-Negotiable, by Jim Denomie

And sentiment about the war and the execution is still raw, even over 150 years later. In 2017, Minneapolis’s modern-art museum installed a full-size replica of the Mankato scaffold, created by a white artist, in its public sculpture garden. Although the art was critical of the execution, Dakota leaders had not been consulted or informed, and were horrified that a representation of a historical atrocity had been placed in a public park frequented by children, without much context or any input from the victims’ own people. (The sculpture could also be clearly seen from the busy freeway.)

After a summer of protests and international controversy, the sculpture was ultimately removed and given to the Dakota, who buried it.

Scaffold, by Sam Durant (with protest signs)

I know that’s rather a long summary, but hopefully this will add some context to Anders’s account and the discussions of the incident that will follow. 

Moving on. Suddenly there is a knock at the door! It’s the Indigenous guy, helping Charles to stand. 

“Oh, thank God!” cries Caroline; but Anders jumps to his feet and shouts “Lame Horse!” He points his pistol at Lame Horse and orders him to drop his weapons. He seems quite well recovered for a man whose gloves had to be cut off him an hour ago.

Charles protests weakly, but Anders shouts him down, then tells Caroline to get her family out of the cabin if she doesn’t want them to get shot.

Caroline ignores him and leads Charles to the fire. As for Lame Horse, whom Anders addresses as “Indian,” he obeys and disarms. 

Then Anders tells Caroline, whom he addresses as “woman,” to tie Lame Horse up. Struggling to breathe, Charles surveys this scene with shock.

WILL: Just wait, Mister. When Charles thaws out, you’re fucked.

DAGNY: Yeah. Shitkickers’ Ball.

“When Charles thaws out, you’re fucked.”

Commercial. When we come back, Anders is smugly glugging some hot beverage out of a cup whilst Charles, also quick on the mend it seems, literally pours same into frozen Jack Lame Horse’s mouth.

Caroline comes over and reassures Charles she and the girls are okay. 

CAROLINE: I was afraid he was gonna shoot you.

WILL [as CHARLES]: “Your breath smells like laudanum.”

“Your breath smells like laudanum.”

“It’s hard to believe he’s the law,” Caroline says as Charles tends to Lame Horse.

DAGNY: So Caroline has no fear of Indians anymore? 

WILL: I guess Soldat du Chene really charmed her.

Previously on Little House

Charles tells her about the lost venison, saying when there’s a lull in the storm he’ll go out and find another deer. “And if there isn’t a lull?” says Caroline. “There’s always the horses,” he replies.

OLIVE: Not the Chonkies!

ROMAN: Oh my God.

DAGNY: Spring storms here don’t last weeks on end. Why is he talking about eating the horses?

OLIVE: Yeah, what is this, Ravenous?

Later, as everyone sleeps, Lame Horse edges back to the fire and, in a nifty trick, burns through his bonds with a hot poker. Quietly grabbing his gun and knife, he skedaddles out the door.

Anders wakes instantly, and takes aim at Lame Horse through the open door. Only Charles fucking bodyslams him so he misses the shot!

Shitkickers’ Ball!

Lame Horse escapes into the blizzard, whilst Anders turns the pistol on Charles and says, “You let him go!”

WILL [as DOCTOR LOOMIS]: “I, I didn’t, I didn’t let, I didn’t let him, I didn’t let him out.”

ROMAN: Halloween II references might be a deep dive for Walnut Groovy.

Then he calls Charles a “dirty Indian-lover” and shoves him back into the cabin. 

Another commercial, then we’re back inside, with Charles staring out the window. At least he isn’t tied up.

In an interesting touch, the production team has put what I think is supposed to be ice on the wall. It looks more like birdshit, though.

Meanwhile, Mary is telling Laura that Anders hates Lame Horse out of pure bigotry, and how that’s wrong. She also has come a long way since the pilot.

The two say they pity Anders and will pray for him, clearly speaking loud enough to make him hear. Good for them.

Charles quietly says to Caroline that since the storm hasn’t let up, they’re having horse tonight!

Horses for courses

Anders then sheepishly asks for a bowl of soup, but Caroline rolls her eyes and says there’s none left. Anders says Charles shouldn’t have given any to Lame Horse. Charles gives him a shut-the-fuck-up look and says, “He earned what he got.”

Anders starts ranting about how Charles is crazy to take the side of a murderer, then basically says he’s as bad as Abe Lincoln was when he pardoned the Dakota. 

Charles doesn’t seem to take that as an insult. He says he doesn’t see why that’s any different than the peace the Union made with the South. Then he asks Anders why Lame Horse saved his life if he’s so evil. Anders says he must have had some nefarious purpose.

Then Charles says, “It’s been sixteen years since the uprising, and you’re so full of hate, you believe that.”

Did you catch that? This is the first definitive dating of a story we’ve ever had on this show! Even the pilot only implied it was set in 1870 (because that was the year carved into the mantelpiece of the Ingallses’ house in Kansas). But this new statement means there’s no question, we are now in the spring of 1878, since the war was in 1862.

Unfortunately, the last time we tried to date the saga (“Christmas at Plum Creek”), we figured that story had to be set in 1878 at the earliest, because of oblique references to the Battle of the Little Bighorn that had come in previous episodes. Since then, we’ve had six stories, which featured shirtless sleeping, crocheted hats and apple-picking (an odd trinity for sure); a garden party; winter coats; warm summery weather; heavy coats again, combined with tilling and planting; and early spring corn planting on a mass scale. In that order. 

That’s a lot to happen over a single year, not to mention a single four-month period. Plus, this timeline needs to include such longer-duration incidents as the Olesons’ separation, Doc’s courtship, the typhus outbreak, Mrs. Oleson’s appendectomy and recovery, John Stewart’s intensive rehabilitation, Alan Fudge’s two-or-three-week trip to Minneapolis, and now the Ingallses’ vacation in Mankato.   

But there’s an easy explanation for this. What Charles means is that the uprising, which happened in the late summer and early fall, happened sixteen years ago last summer. That means this summer, it’ll actually be seventeen years since the war; and so we’re in late spring of 1879.

(And in case you’re worried about Alan Fudge and Julie Cobb’s safety back in Walnut Grove, and I’ll admit I am, this late freeze won’t necessarily endanger the corn crop.)  

Anyways, Charles grimly heads out to the barn with his gun. What have they been feeding the horses, I wonder?

WILL [as FIRST CHONKY]: “OTHER CHONKY TASTE BETTER I BET!”

“OTHER CHONKY TASTE BETTER I BET!”

But he’s interrupted by Jack Lame Horse, who appears in the doorway carrying Charles’s venison!

Charles expresses his gratitude and tells him he must come back inside where it’s warm. Lame Horse silently indicates he’d rather take his chances with the weather. Can’t blame him for that.

But when Lame Horse steps out of the barn, Anders comes screaming out of the house and shoots him!

Anders starts gleefully crying, “I got him, I got him!”, an ugly sight that happily is stopped within seconds by Charles’s fist. 

Charles tells him Lame Horse only came back to bring the meat and save all their lives, like the Noble Savage Stereotype he is. Despite Anders still holding his gun, Charles makes it clear he is giving the orders from now on.

Later, we see they’ve dragged Lame Horse, who’s still alive, inside to the fire. Charles tells Caroline he was able to find the bullet and remove it. He says he thinks he’ll be okay.

OLIVE: Would Charles really have known how to get a bullet out?

WILL: Well, it is the sort of thing they had to deal with in the Old West.

OLIVE: What about the Old Upper Midwest?

Anders approaches Charles and says he’s sorry. Charles replies:

People like you have taken everything away from that man. His freedom . . . his land . . . almost his life. Don’t tell me you’re sorry, tell him.

It’s a fine speech, yet note how Charles exempts himself and his family from any responsibility on this score. Does he think the land he built the Little House on was somehow magically Indian-free?

“People like you”?

Then we cut to a shot of live deer in the snow.

DAGNY [as VOICEOVER LAURA]: “The deer thawed out, and it was still alive.”

Actually, what Voiceover Laura tells us is that they were stuck there for three weeks. Three weeks! That’s a lot of Mankato-rules hopscotch.

The storm having finally passed, and Lame Horse having recovered, the group is getting ready to depart when a voice outside calls “Hello!” Why, it’s Deputies Hill and Curtis, who apparently recovered Anders’s lost horse and are now searching for him.

Charles and Lame Horse look at Anders. Robert Tessier kind of resembles Mary Wickes.

Anders steps out and says some people sheltered him through the storm. The deputies ask if he saw any sign of Lame Horse.

Anders hesitates, then says, “No . . . and I ain’t lookin’ anymore, either.” He turns and nods to Charles, and to Lame Horse, then heads out.

OLIVE: Charles looks so proud.

ROMAN: Redeeming humanity, one middle-aged man at a time.

“Redeeming humanity, one middle-aged man at a time.”

Anders calls back to Charles that he should have believed him about that blizzard, and rides off. The Ingallses take off too, waving goodbye to Lame Horse as they go. Kissy-noise, Chonkies! Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!

STYLE WATCH: Another Pinky-less episode, though Charles does wear his Christmas shirt again.

THE VERDICT: “That one was really contemporary,” said Dagny. “Imagine Anders is a police officer.” And indeed, the series is hitting its stride at this point, with Landon’s confidence level reaching a point where he’s comfortable injecting liberal values/sanctimony (depending on your perspective) into a harrowing tale of peril and starvation on the prairie. It’s a sweet spot for the show, and we’ll hover in its glow for a good long while.

UP NEXT: To See The World

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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