Everybody Likes a Sad Story
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: Haunted House
Airdate: October 8, 1975
Written by Ray Goldrup, John Hawkins and B.W. Sandefur
Story by Ray Goldrup
Directed by Victor French
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Having already befriended the second-scariest guy in town, Laura now targets the first. She’s extra that way.
RECAP: We open on Mrs. Oleson pretending to wash a window, but she forgot to use any water.
This window is filthy; but she sees something through it.
It’s a someone, actually: a mysterious man walking down the thoroughfare.
We know he’s mysterious because, well, because the words “Haunted House” pop up over his image, and because David Rose suddenly gives us eerie music like you might hear on an old record where Peter Cushing reads the stories of Lovecraft, or something.
Mrs. O continues to stare, and we see he’s not really all that mysterious-looking – a bit raggedy, perhaps?
She then turns and flaps through the Mercantile, gobbling like a turkey that she’s seen “that Amos Pike!”
As any nice neighbor would, she tells her children to stay away from Pike because he’s “a maniac.”
(I wondered if the term was used like that at the time, but apparently it’s meant “a madman” since at least the Eighteenth Century.)
The tall, thin, looming figure of Mr. Pike appears in the window to what sounds like history’s scariest arrangement of “Summertime.”
We see for the first time that Laura’s also in the store.
In addition to wearing a hat and long coat, Pike also has a long beard and carries a large club-like walking stick. He enters and Mrs. O goes scurrying away.
Nels, rather nervously I must say, tells Pike the item he ordered is in. You’d think Nels the professional shopkeeper wouldn’t be influenced by the rubbish gossip of people like, well, Harriet. But even he seems spooked.
We see a flyer on a shelf saying the Women’s League is hosting a “Saturday sociable.”
We don’t see Pike’s face, which of course adds to the “mystery.” Not having caught who played him in the opening credits I half-expected him to turn around and be Vincent Price or somebody.
Either that or hideously deformed! After all, this really is the inaugural Little House on the Prairie Halloween Special.
Well, without a word, Pike hands Nels a shopping list.
As Nels is filling the order, the camera shows a close-up of the Women’s League flyer with more horror music, which seems . . . well, odd.
Nellie and Willie peer at Pike through a crack in the doorway. Like their parents, they both have blue eyes, I notice.
We now do catch a glimpse of Pike’s face, and he’s neither Vincent Price nor deformed. He looks a bit like Ron Moody in Oliver!, in fact.
OLIVE: He’s like the least intimidating dude. He’s wearing a soft fuzzy coat, for crying out loud.
Actually, the actor is John Anderson, who might have the longest resume of any guest star so far, but I only recognize him from one thing.
It’s a biggie, though . . . he’s the chatty, suspicious car salesman at the beginning of Psycho!
Pike, again wordlessly, shoves an envelope of bills at Nels – exact change to the penny. (Which seems unlikely, given Mrs. Oleson resets things’ prices on a daily basis for reasons known only to herself.)
Pike shuffles out, and Harriet sneaks back in to say “He’s disgusting!” and then snatch the cash out of Nels’s hands.
To “Summertime,” again, Pike stomps home to an ill-kept Grey Gardens–style mansion.
(Beautiful; but this is actually my favorite rendition of the song:)
Others before me have noted the house is the same building that’ll serve as the blind school (as well as other properties) later in the series.
Interestingly, we follow Pike inside, which, while the music remains scary, suggests he isn’t a totally evil character.
The house is very “Fall of the House of Usher,” with cobwebs all over everything, the dining room table with dishes on it, garbage strewn about, and the like.
(If you think that’s scary, you should see our house, ha ha! I’ve been staring at the same growing spiderweb since I started this blog; my housekeeping has deteriorated a bit since I began.)
We also see there’s an oil painting of a dark-haired beauty on the wall.
Pike opens the special delivery from the Mercantile . . . and it’s a mechanical dancer under a glass dome.
He winds it up, and it dances to a famous gavotte (famous amongst violin students, anyway) by Jean-Baptiste Lully, a master of the early French Baroque. (Authorship disputed.)
Because this is a very self-indulgent blog, I’ll share my favorite piece by Lully – the chaconne from Phaëton (it really doesn’t properly start till about a minute in):
Pike approaches a mirror, muttering, “You shoulda stayed with me,” and we see the woman from the painting has appeared in the flesh behind him, twirling Stevie Nicks-style to the music.
WILL: This is what people did for kicks before internet pornography.
ROMAN: Just looked in the mirror and went insane?
Being a ghost (spoilers), the dancer won’t get much to say in this episode, but the actor, Lisa Lyon, has a very interesting backstory. She was a model who went on to become a bodybuilder and who was photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe and Helmut Newton.
Mapplethorpe liked her so much, he published a book of photos called Lady, Lisa Lyon.
Many of her pictures, though not really explicit, would be hard to share on a 7+ blog like this; but here’s a safe-ish one from the Mapplethorpe series:
Addressing the woman in the mirror as “Lilly,” Pike continues muttering, veering suddenly between tender expressions of love and angry recriminations. So maybe he really is a maniac after all.
Lilly disappears as Pike says, “Don’t go.”
In a transition that’s a bit on the nose, we then cut to Laura examining a spiderweb out in the wild and marveling at its beauty. She wonders if it could play music, Aeolian-harp-style.
OLIVE: What? No it couldn’t.
Her reverie is spoiled by the arrival of Nellie, Willie and a Nondescript Helen. For the record, we’ve never seen this particular Helen before . . . but she is without question a Nondescript Helen.
Laura screams at the interlopers to shut up, at first I assumed because it would disturb the spider at her weaving. But no, Laura’s apparently trying to catch a rabbit. For pets or meat is not yet clear.
Nellie and Willie snarl they’ve contributed both box and carrot to said rabbit-catching scheme, so they can do whatever the fuck they like. And we do see there is some kind of trap they’ve all erected.
I don’t think they’re going to have much luck. You gotta be pretty quick to catch a rabbit in a trap, and even then they get away sometimes.
Nellie, sounding Canadian again, tells Laura that she may like spiders, but she bets she’s scared of the Pike spookhouse. She and her brother helpfully inform Laura that Mr. Pike, who lives there, is a maniac and a murderer.
Nellie utters then the sort of strange truism children sometimes do, which is that if you touch a “maniac’s” house, you’re protected from his evil.
Laura says it’s not true, and Willie says, “Yes it is! Just like a ladybug!”
(There’s a lot of folklore around ladybugs – which supposedly got their name because of their spiritual association with the Virgin Mary. Willie is perhaps referring to the notion they are generally a sign of good luck.)
On the subject of insects, Nondescript Helen, who really doesn’t have any reason for being in this story, appears to accidentally eat a bug in this scene. (“I think she did it on purpose,” said Roman.)
Laura says if that’s the case, they should go touch the house, but Nellie counters that Mrs. O has forbidden it. “Besides,” she adds, “Willie and I have touched it lots of times.” She coldly prods Laura to go on and do it.
Laura, never one to refuse a dare unless there’s a REALLY good reason, says she will do it.
Once she’s gone, Stupid Willie says he doesn’t remember touching the house, and Nellie says boy, you really are a stupid fucking idiot, aren’t you. (Paraphrase.)
Well, Laura approaches the big scary house. You know, I grew up in the country, and we had a similar decrepit “spookhouse” not more than a mile from our place.
My sister and I once actually talked to the lady who lived there, who had been disfigured in a terrible baking accident years before (it’s a long story), and we found unfortunately she was just a normal person.
We used to fantasize about her dying and leaving us the house so we could host Halloween parties in it. That’s how cruel and dumb kids in the country, and I suppose everywhere, can be. (I’m sorry to say my sister and I were as much a Nellie and Willie as we were a Mary and Laura.)
Anyways, Laura approaches the spookhouse to the accompaniment of very scary music on the slide whistle.
We see some of the windows are boarded over. (Why?)
Laura reaches up to touch the porch, when there’s a scary noise. We don’t know what causes it, but Laura goes a-runnin’.
When she returns to the Nellie-Willie-Helen group (why would she even hang out with these fuckheads?), they begin mocking her for not going all the way. They’re far enough away that I think she could plausibly say she had touched it without their having any way to know, but of course she tells the truth.
Then, claiming she has overdue chores at home, Laura says she must go.
Nellie, Willie and Helen scream taunts at her.
Back at the Little House, the family is eating fried chicken. We never actually see Ma cooking on the stove she got for Christmas, do we? I once went to a historical farm in July, and a lady in full Nineteenth-Century costume was frying chicken on a wood stove in the kitchen of a much larger house than the Ingallses’, and the heat was UNBELIEVABLE.
(And if you’ll excuse me, I have a little fried chicken waiting for me for my own supper.)
Ah, thank you. At dinner, Laura asks if Amos Pike is really “a maniac.”
Ma and Pa wave this idea away. Laura says Pike looks scary, and then Pa does a sort of Popeye voice and says, “Well maybe I’ll look scary when I get as old as he is!”
Pa goes on to tell them Pike is one of the oldest residents in the region, having built his house “long before the first settlers came here.”
(If by “here” he means Walnut Grove, I guess this means “long” before 1870, according to this.)
Anyways, Pa says just leave Mr. Pike alone, he isn’t hurting anybody.
Then we cut to Laura and Mary’s loft apartment, where Laura is brushing her hair and Mary is reading Prairie Teen Vogue.
Laura tells Mary she’s planning to steal a piece of wood from the Pike property on Saturday. She says “everybody knows” Amos Pike comes to town on Saturdays without fail, so it’s a fool-proof plan.
Mary, perhaps annoyed at having had nothing to do for two stories straight now, tells Laura she’s an idiot and she should just suck it up and take Nellie’s teasing.
Oh, like you did, Four-Eyes?
We then cut immediately to Laura stepping up onto Pike’s porch.
Stupidly, she’s brought Jack along, and he immediately chases a magically-appearing cat into the house through a window.
OLIVE: Why would she bring Jack?
WILL: So this could happen.
Laura opens the front door and is stunned by how crappily kept the place is.
WILL: What is that stuff on the stairs? Do you see that black stuff? What is it, like, duct tape?
DAGNY: It’s the shadow of the staircase itself, duh.
Anyways, the door behind Laura closes on its own. (It’s never explained how.)
Laura wanders around the house and into a surprisingly nice (and surprisingly well-lit) bedroom.
There she finds the Lully music box, winds it up, and starts doing her own Stevie-ish twirling.
Meanwhile, we see Pike is stumping back to the house, but Laura still stares at the dancer as if hypnotized. She’s even humming along to the tune, sort of. (“This one is scary,” said Olive.)
Laura eventually comes to her senses and collects Jack, just as Pike starts up the front steps.
She and Jack hide, but when Pike comes in, Jack bolts, breaking a vase in the process.
Pike finds Laura and stands over her in his soft brown welcoming coat.
He accuses her of stealing, which she did actually plan to do.
He then kicks her out and tells her never to come back. Laura reacts to this I must say fairly lenient outcome by sassing Pike back before running off.
That night at the Little House, Pa steps outside for a smoke. Laura follows him and, apparently having confessed earlier, apologizes for not listening to him. Pa, the big softy, says, “Everybody disobeys once in a while.”
(I haven’t been tracking it, but it does seem to me the girls’ disobediences and bad judgment calls are on the increase. And boy oh boy, just wait till “The Gift.”)
Laura says she feels guilty about sassing Pike. Pa says, “I’m sure he’s forgotten about it by now.”
I don’t know about that. Two years ago, a little girl on our street told me I “look weird,” and I still hold it against her.
Well, Laura says she wants to go apologize and Pa says she can. I don’t get it. Charles basically encourages her to hang out with every middle-aged loner, loser and creepster in southwest Minnesota.
Back at the Pike manse, the old man is muttering to Lisa Lyon in the mirror again, in re her coming back to him someday.
He talks like Walter Brennan, and, now that we can see him more clearly, looks like the “It’s” guy from Monty Python.
Pike looks away, then looks in the mirror again, and for a moment it sure does feel like we’re in for a “My Ellen” situation, as now Laura is standing behind him in it. (Apparently she let herself in – nice, kid.)
But Mr. Pike is not quite as deluded as Eloise Taylor in that story. He recognizes that Laura is real, and turns around.
Laura apologizes for sassing him yesterday, and he says, “Nobody as’t ya!” (Everybody’s going a little bit Popeye this week, it seems.)
Laura, who apparently was standing there long enough to get the gist of Pike’s situation, says he’s nicer to the painting than he is to real people.
Perhaps surprised that he was talking out loud, Pike orders Laura not to tell the Grovesters that he’s cuckoo (although they already think that, so I don’t see what the risk is).
Forgetting she’s there to apologize for sassing, Laura starts in at it again, saying Lisa Lyon will think he’s cuckoo when she gets back for letting the house go like he has.
Suddenly embarrassed, Pike says he’s been meaning to clean it up, but Laura interrupts him, saying, “Meaning won’t make it fit for woolly bears!” (That’s one I’ll need to remember.)
Pike calls her a “snippety-snap,” which she absolutely is.
Once again channeling Little Orphan Annie, Laura says together they can make this dump shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. (Paraphrase.)
Laura points out the woman’s bedroom is the only place in the house that’s clean. Pike starts to yell at her about going in there, but she shrugs him off. She asks who the lady is, and he says “Miss Lilly Baldwin.”
And before he knows it, he’s getting the full Laura Ingalls treatment as she orders him to take the rugs outside and give them a good beating. He calls her a snippety-snap again; but obeys.
As they clean, Laura makes conversation, asking if he’s really as mean as everybody says. Pike says he’s not mean, he just wants to protect his and Miss Lilly’s property.
Eventually it comes out that Lilly went away to the city years ago, and never returned.
When Pike starts to do his pissed-off Yosemite Sam act again, Laura changes the subject.
Pike and Laura hear the familiar sound of the Chonkies stomping the turf, and we see Pa is driving out to the house.
(We also see a bit too much of one of the Chonkies, but nobody wants a picture of that, and, you know, 7+.)
Pike tells Charles Laura is a meddling snippety-snap and slams the door.
Pa says he guesses she got that message, but she just laughs and says, “That’s just the way he is. He really likes me.”
(She’s right of course; I had an uncle just like him, in fact.)
Charles looks at her with wonder; and I suppose now is as good a time as any to track Laura’s old-man best friends so far.
- Mr. Edwards (The Pilot, “Mr. Edward’s [sic] Homecoming,” “Ma’s Holiday,” etc.). The OG OMB (Old-Man Bestie), Laura knew he was cooler than Mary or Ma way back in Kansas when the first thing he did was teach her to spit. Since then, the two have conspired to seduce Grace Snider and to prevent anyone from learning they shot holes in the roof while Ma and Pa were out of town. We can assume many more such adventures are to come.
2. Nels (“Ma’s Holiday,” “Christmas at Plum Creek”). As a serious contender for Nicest Guy in Walnut Grove, Nels is sort of everybody’s best friend in a way, but we’ve seen him recognize and respect Laura’s intelligence more than once. We might question the ethics of the Bunny sales deal he brokers, but it’s clear he considers Laura an equal negotiator. Plus he did stall Ma and Pa for her without question when she asked him to in “Ma’s Holiday.”
3. Jones (“The Voice of Tinker Jones”). The youngster of the bunch, probably, he nevertheless is old enough, relative to Laura, to qualify for this select group. Arguably Mary is closer friends with him than Laura, though, given she differs from her moronic schoolmates in that she actually tries to figure out what he’s saying.
4. “Jonathan” (“The Lord is My Shepherd,” Part Two). This is the point in the series where we first sense Laura’s interest in middle- to late-middle-aged men is a little strange. Despite the fact he makes her take baths in front of him and force-feeds her porridge, Laura quickly declares “Jonathan” to be her “best friend” (together with Jack and Mr. Edwards). I suppose if he is actually an angel, as the story hints, it explains why she feels comfortable with him in spite of his decidedly creepy tendencies.
5. Will O’Hara (“Circus Man”). Without question the worst of this group, he uses his fake-Irish “charm” to sell Laura bullshit by the crockload, and only stops when Pa threatens to kick his ass. Then he reveals his deception (and the poor child’s ignorance) to her in the most devastating way possible. He and Pa, weirdly, make amends at the end of his story, but Laura’s ultimate assessment of their “friendship” remains unknown.
6. Ebenezer Sprague (“Ebenezer Sprague”). Perhaps missing “Jonathan,” Laura pounces on this poor guy the minute he arrives in town, and forces him into a best-friend relationship based solely on a shared interest in fishing. As somebody who’s not really cruel but rather a little developmentally different, Sprague benefits the most from this friendship, and finds Laura does in fact (to Olive’s disgust) teach him to be a better person.
But back to the story. Before we know it, Laura is back at the Pike place again, and the two are working hard at cleaning.
Laura finishes polishing a mirror and makes a face into it – which makes Pike smile.
She then announces that Pa is taking her on a trip to Mankato for a few days. She says Miss Beadle has given it her blessing, saying, “Geography is important, and the best way to learn it is to see it.” (Seems an unlikely sentiment from a hardass like the Bead, but who knows. Laura is a decent student.)
A better question is why Pa is bringing her to Mankato in the first place. It’s likely we’re now in the fall of 1879, and we know the whole family took a vacation to the metropolis earlier that year.
In the past, we have seen Charles invite Caroline along on a work trip to the city – but that was because he wanted to get laid.
I really doubt Pa would take Laura, alone, to such a cesspool of vice as Mankato without a good reason, but they leave that a mystery. Though I suppose Charles is quite gregarious by nature, and maybe the company of his favorite child (sorry, Four-Eyes) is reason enough for him.
Pike tells Laura he’s been to Mankato, and that in fact it is where he “met and married Miss Lilly.” This is the first we learn of their marriage – it’s interesting that when he first talked to Laura about her he called her “Lilly Baldwin.”
He goes on to tell Laura that Lilly was an actress who eventually left Hero Township for the theatrical life in Mankato. (I know actor’s preferred these days, but we’re in the Nineteenth Century at the moment, people.)
Pike says Lilly was known for tragic roles and a beautiful voice. Laura says she doesn’t like sad entertainments (and we know she doesn’t, if her reaction to “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” is any indication).
Pike says Laura’s being stupid, everybody likes a sad story. Which is true, in my view. (I mean, not that Laura’s stupid, but that everybody likes a sad story.)
The two of them have a nice moment, with Pike remembering Miss Lilly. He tells Laura how he was a rabid fan who bought front-row seats for all of Lilly’s performances.
Actually, he basically stalked her.
Then, he says, he took the logical next step of courtship; that is, moving 80 miles away and building a house.
When he returned to Mankato, he proposed to Miss Lilly and she accepted.
But Pike says his new wife became depressed living in the country, and returned to the stage.
Laura smiles at her new friend, obviously convinced these red flags show he’s a lovable romantic.
Our elder daughter, Amelia, who you may recall is not a Little House watcher, passed through at this point.
AMELIA [referring to PIKE]: Is that David Letterman?
Then we cut to Pa and Laura in the wagon, traveling up Mankato-way. Laura asks him about the play he and Ma saw there!
If you remember, this was a play called Abandoned Daughters, and it caused Caroline to have such a breakdown that Charles had to drag her from the theater.
Laura suspects Miss Lilly was in that show; and wouldn’t it be a hoot if she was?
But Pa says he suspects the portrait is a Dorian Gray-type situation and Lilly’s probably as old as Pike herself now.
Laura says if it’s true love she’ll come back to Walnut Grove, but Pa scoffs. He says once a certain amount of time has passed, no one gives a shit about anything anymore.
Then, when they arrive in Mankato, Pa lets Laura go off for a walk, on her own! This seems unwise, given Charles knows what a haven this specific place is for evil and danger.
(Then again, maybe Edwards didn’t give him the full story about Mankato’s seedy underside after “To See the World.” Actually, it makes sense he didn’t, unless he felt like getting an earful of Chuck that day.)
Anyways, Pa lets her go. And despite having no idea where she’s going, Laura takes twenty steps, almost gets run over by a wagon, and then walks directly into the precise location of her destination.
It’s the town theater, and in an amusing touch we see the poster for Abandoned Daughters among the props and signage behind the scenes.
Amidst it all is a little mustached guy who looks like a mad scientist crossbred Jim Croce with Gordon Lightfoot to create a race of super-folksingers.
(He’s played by Steffen Zacharias and called “Jamie Dent” in the credits.)
Laura comes in, and the guy assumes she’s come to audition.
But Laura says no, she’s actually looking for a Miss Lilly Baldwin.
The man says he remembers her well, but when Laura asks some follow-ups he gently tells her Miss Lilly died decades ago in a cholera outbreak.
“You must be mistaken,” Laura says with blunt stupidity.
But the man reassures her he knows what he’s talking about, and she walks out, stunned.
Later, Pa can tell something’s wrong . . . maybe because she’s PLAYING WITH A KNIFE?
Once again, we learn Laura gave Pa an update off-screen.
Laura is worried about Mr. Pike’s feelings, but Pa couldn’t really be bothered to care. He says death is a reality, but suggests religion can offer some comfort. He goes on to outline a flexible approach to religion; viz., it doesn’t strictly matter what you believe as long as you believe in something, and that God is on everybody’s side whether they’re really pious or not.
Well, that’s about it for the trip to Mankato. We never find out why Charles invited Laura along.
Because suddenly we’re back at Pike Place, with Laura walking up the steps glumly.
Once she enters, though, she’s delighted to see Mr. Pike has put out some fresh ferns and tasteful statuary.
Pike calls out to her in greeting, and when he appears she sees he’s actually gotten dressed in nice clothes.
He even does a little dance whilst showing off how tidy everything is.
Of course, the first thing Stupid Laura does is tell him his wife’s dead. Or she starts to – but Pike is too upset by the topic to even listen.
Like somebody with an addiction, Pike flees to Lilly’s bedroom and sets the music box playing again.
Laura follows him, where we see he’s actually got a collection of these music boxes, and he’s starting them all playing, saying “She loves music!” and will be so happy when she comes home to see them.
Picking up the one we saw him purchase, he says, “I found this one just last week!” Which, given they’ve restored the entire giant house AND Laura’s taken a trip to Mankato and back since that happened, is I think the kind of thing that should have been caught by the writers.
Laura presses on, but Pike shouts her down, saying she’s lying – just like the doctor who originally told him the news.
(He doesn’t say if it was Dr. Mayo who told him. It probably wasn’t Dr. Mixter.)
Pike says he believes Lilly just wanted to leave him, and the whole thing was a deception so she could be free of him.
It’s really quite heartbreaking. He loved her so much, he’d rather believe she rejected him than that she’s dead.
How many people would choose the reverse? We discussed this amongst our family, and not everybody agreed, but I think, selfishly, I would rather imagine a former lover was dead than that they rejected me. My vanity, I suppose.
Laura begins crying, understanding what’s happened.
She continues trying to talk to the old man, but he suddenly shouts at her to get out and go away forever.
And Laura runs.
Back at the Little House, Pa gets home. Mary and Carrie are at the table, with Carrie slurping that she’s drawing a picture of Jack.
Pa provides us with the delightful news that Amy Hearn is still alive. He says Ma has just gone out to visit her. He says Amy will “talk a leg off a table.”
Actually, given Caroline’s about to cut her own leg off, this is maybe just foreshadowing.
Pa asks where Laura is, and Mary says she’s in the barn. Mary says she’s been miserable ever since Amos Pike broke up with her.
WILL: Mary doesn’t have much of a part in this one.
DAGNY: No, she’s basically there to catch people up if they had a piano lesson or something and missed the first half.
Carrie looks right at the camera at the end of this scene.
Pa goes out to the barn, where he finds Laura up in the hayloft.
DAGNY: Does she jump? Is this her suicide scene?
WILL: I haven’t read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s biography recently, but I don’t think so.
She tells him it’s been two weeks since the blowup with Mr. Pike, and she’s worried about him.
Pa wisely says Pike’s feelings about the whole business are likely so strong, Laura can’t blame herself for anything that’s happened.
Laura says she knows that, but she feels terrible for shattering his illusion of the way things were. This is really a surprisingly sophisticated episode.
Pa blathers that “nothing bad ever comes from the heart” and similar such rubbish.
Laura says it’s difficult for her to understand – how Pike is pretending Lilly’s alive.
Pa says he doesn’t understand either.
Laura says only God can help Pike now. (I’m not a religious person, but this indeed is a thing faith can offer: a way to make sense of tragedy.)
Laura whips open the Bible she’s been holding and reads John 11:25.
Charles and Laura agree believing in such things would be helpful to Pike in this situation.
How is this going to end, I wonder? Is Charles going to go yell at Pike the way he did with Mr. Sprague?
WILL: It’s interesting Charles has so little interest in fixing Pike himself.
DAGNY: That’s because Laura will fix him. They’re essentially the same person, with one of them or the other messing with every single person in town.
Well, one day, I suppose, Laura and Mary are walking home from school.
DAGNY: Mary’s getting tall.
WILL: Yeah, they’re both starting to look older, aren’t they?
Laura makes a side trip into the Pike yard, where she monkeys about with a couple books or something.
She leaves one behind, but when she sees Mr. Pike coming out onto his porch, she runs away.
OLIVE: What did she leave? A note saying “GET OVER IT”?
WILL: No, it’s her Bible.
DAGNY: Is he going to come to church with her? Tell me that’s not how this ends.
WILL: It isn’t.
WILL: Not exactly.
Then we see Pike sitting in the bedroom, listening to the music box play and flipping through Laura’s book.
He looks into the mirror, where he sees Lisa Lyon dancing again, but she disappears and the music stops.
DAGNY: She should come crashing through the mirror.
WILL: Yeah, like Poltergeist III.
DAGNY: That isn’t going to happen, is it?
WILL: No. Not exactly.
Well, once again to a suggestion of “Summertime” in the score (?), Pike goes outside and kneels down at the edge of the property . . . at Lilly’s grave. He weeps.
(Actually, duh, I’ve finally figured out that “Summertime” and the Lully gavotte have very similar opening melodies, and that’s why the tune keeps popping up in the score. You probably already knew that. It only took me watching it four times to realize it.)
Anyways, we cannot see the year Lilly died, but she was born in 1832, which would put her only in her late forties if she were still alive during this story; but since Lisa Lyon was 22 when this was filmed, I think we can assume she’s been dead twenty years or more.
(Not to shit on a story I really like, but I will point out that Lilly isn’t characterized at all, and a similar tale about an elderly woman’s lost love is pretty hard for me to imagine. Maybe that says something about me, too.)
Cut to Willie, Nellie and their new handmaiden Nondescript Helen marching through the woods bitching at each other.
They happen upon Laura and start daring her to go up to the spookhouse again. I find it a little hard to swallow they wouldn’t have gotten wind of her activities there somehow.
They start tirelessly chanting “Laura is a scaredy-cat.”
But Laura ignores them, and instead notices Pike has put the mechanical dancer where she left the book.
(It looks an awful lot like the log where Mary left her glasses, but never mind.)
Laura picks it up and walks straight into the house, astonishing her tormentors.
She finds Pike looking out the window.
DAGNY: You know why he looks like David Letterman? I mean, besides the beard and the lanky body.
DAGNY: It’s because his pants aren’t as high-waisted as all the other men on this show.
WILL: . . . That makes him look like David Letterman?
He thanks her for trying to help him, and admits he blames himself for her death because he brought her to this unhappy place; and it’s been more than he could bear.
He says “She got sick, and I couldn’t make her well.” It’s not really clear if his story about her going back to Mankato is true at all, or if she simply died of cholera (and/or a broken heart?) at home and the rest was a fabrication. (Jamie Dent’s comments to Laura allow for either interpretation.)
Pike asks Laura to help him believe they’ll be together again someday, and she holds his head and strokes his hair while he cries.
DAGNY: A grown man shouldn’t put his head on a girl’s chest like that.
WILL: Oh, hush, you’re ruining it.
Laura comes out of the house and sees the other kids hiding behind a log. A beetle crawls over it.
ROMAN: More bugs for Helen.
WILL: Nah, that’s the same bug, it just now escaped from her mouth.
The other kids come running up. Laura stares intensely at them and says the maniac wants to see Nellie. “What!” Nellie replies.
Willie too, Laura says.
The Oleson kids look up and see Pike himself, staring even more intensely from a window.
The rotten kids take off running to more absurd slide-whistle music. Laura turns to the window and she and Pike wink at each other.
Then she yells “See ya Sunday!” (“Oh my God, of course,” said Dagny.)
And that’s it, Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!
STYLE WATCH: Pike wears some fancy red suspenders. Charles appears to go commando again.
THE VERDICT: This one breaks my heart. It differs from a lot of Little House offerings in being not just sentimental, but genuinely sad. It’s very nicely done, and Melissa Gilbert shines. Probably the goodest Old-Man Bestie story so far.
UP NEXT: The Spring Dance