The Love of Willie Oleson; or
She’s My Cherry Pie
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: The Spring Dance
Airdate: October 29, 1975
Written by Gerry Day
Directed by William F. Claxton
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Laura fakes a love affair with Willie to get a boy’s attention. Meanwhile, Grace Snider does the exact same thing. (Well, not with Willie.)
Plus, Mr. Edwards makes an APPLE SANDWICH.
RECAP: The 1975 World Series, which aired on NBC, now over, Little House returns after a two-week break and plunges us into a completely different season: spring!
If “Haunted House” was set in the fall of 1879, we have now skipped winter altogether and landed in not just a new year but a new decade: the 1880s. (Don’t get too comfy with this line of thinking, though.)
By now we’re aware when nobody can think how to start an episode, they just open the school doors and have the kids run down the steps. Today it happens yet again.
They go by kind of fast this time, but I think I caught Not-Quincy Fusspot, Not-Joni Mitchell, Sweet Colleen, Nellie, Willie, one Ambiguously Ethnic Kid (AEK) (but not the other), two or three Nondescript Helens, Lice-Infested Arnold Lundstrom, Mary, the Kid with Very Red Hair, Cloud City Princess Leia’s brother Luke, and Not-Albert.
There are some absences, but no deaths as far as I can tell. (Johnny Johnson has been missing for a while now, but since Laura mentioned fishing with him in “Four Eyes” he must still be knocking about somewhere.)
Laura stays behind in the schoolhouse, watching a blond-haired boy erase the board.
DAGNY: Oh my God, is this the apple-boob episode?
WILL: No, it is not the apple-boob episode.
We see this one was written by Gerry Day, who also wrote the two Johnny Johnson stories.
Laura goes to get her golden bonnet, staring at the boy the whole time.
I wonder sometimes how they decided the sequence of episodes. It seems strange to have two Laura stories in a row, though I guess we saw the same thing with Caroline the first season.
When making mixtapes in the nineties, I would avoid having two similar selections in a row; but of course mixtape logic hadn’t yet permeated the culture at this time.
Well, Laura hasn’t even properly left when she sticks her head back in to stare at the boy some more. I guess Gerry Day was their go-to for Laura love stories.
Laura steps outside, and sees Mary, glasses-less, chatting with Lice-Infested Arnold.
We know that since she glimpsed Miss Beadle in lascivious embrace with her dandy, Mary’s sexuality has awakened.
So, it isn’t a total surprise to see her flirting, though we might question her choice. (And will, in a bit.)
Meanwhile, Laura’s boy is banging erasers outside. Whether this is a punishment, a privilege, or the Bead just rotates students to do this task is unknown.
As if we needed it, we get confirmation Laura has the hots for this kid, whom she addresses as Henry, because she pretends not to have seen Mary and goes to ask him where she is.
Readers of a certain age may remember the actor, Clay O’Brien, from The Apple Dumpling Gang. (I do, vaguely.)
Laura compliments the kid on his eraser-banging skills, which is a very bad opening by anyone’s standards.
But the kid doesn’t recognize the lunacy of her comment, saying it just takes practice to master the activity.
Then Laura makes an odd analogy between eraser-banging and dancing.
The kid doesn’t think much of the comparison and pushes off. Mary calls for Laura to join her.
DAGNY: Look, Laura’s so sweaty her dress is wet.
ROMAN: Must have been a warm spring that year.
Passing the mill, the girls yell hello to Mr. Edwards. Caroline and Carrie emerge from the Post Office, followed by Grace Snider, who immediately locks up.
Businesses close early in Walnut Grove, don’t they?
Mary comes galumphing over. She breathlessly tells Ma she’s been asked to “the spring dance.”
You’ll recall in a previous recap we tried to guess which schoolboy Mary would date if she had to. Roman said Dumb Abel was probably her best bet, but he’s away at college now. (Dumb Abel, that is, not Roman.)
Since Mary was flirting with Lice-Infested Arnold, we might assume he asked her. But Arnold would be a strange match for Mary, given a) he is her despised academic rival; b) he enthusiastically joined the crowd of Mary-haters a few weeks ago; and c) he has lice.
And anyways, Mary says the kid who asked her is named not Arnold Lundstrom but “Bert Miller,” a name we’ve not yet heard. Who is this Bert? Until we have it confirmed, I would say there are three likely possibilities.
- Cloud City Princess Leia’s brother Luke. Son of the Gray-Haired Dude, brother to Leia and the Midsommar Kid (the latter adoptively), and cousin to Sean Penn. He’s the right age, tall, and, unlike his sister, we’ve never seen him engage in nasty behavior (though he did pal around with Mean Harry Baker in the early days). I don’t sense he’s the brightest, which Mary surely would count as a mark against him; still, a contender.
2. The Kid With Very Red Hair. This kid seems smart, and he’s also community-minded, given how he raised the alarm when Charles found Alan Fudge’s crow-pecked carcass. He knows how to handle a horse, and (since Johnny Johnson’s disappearance and Sandy Kennedy’s death) is the only surviving member of the Red-Headed League’s school chapter (and so presumably its president). He might be a bit young for Mary, and is kind of a nerd, though. Probably more the secret admirer-type than someone brave enough to ask Miss Blue Eyes out.
3. Vorg the Alien. Sometimes seen in the company of his female (?) counterpart Shirna. These ice-blond humanoids are clearly scouts for an extraterrestrial force of some kind; whether their intentions are hostile or simply scientific isn’t known.
“Bert Miller” seems as good an alias as any for an alien imposter to use.
We’ve seen Vorg participate in town activities far more often than Shirna, so it’s possible he’s enjoying being “human.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn he had “gone native” a bit, à la Scarlett Johanssen in Under the Skin.
Or Frank N. Furter in Rocky Horror!
Inter-species relationships didn’t result in a good outcomes for either of these characters, so Vorg might be wise to avoid dating humans. And it won’t be too difficult at the moment, since he isn’t in this episode.
Laura comes over next, and Grace asks her what’s the matter.
Laura then makes this preposterous speech:
Well, I’ve been thinking. Well, you can hear fairy tales and stories, and you never really know how tragical things are unless you really feel them for yourself. Now I know how Cinderella felt when nobody asked her to the ball!
Idiocy in any context, obviously. But particularly in this community, where actual tragedies occur something like every two weeks, I think you’d be more careful about using terms like “tragical.”
But rather than saying, “When your brother died, that was ‘tragical’; this is merely disappointing,” Ma comforts her.
Laura says, “The only two wallflowers at the spring dance are going to be ol’ Nellie Oleson and me.”
(I looked up wallflower and it seems the term was used in this sense at least as long ago as the 1820s.)
Grace leans forward suddenly and says she’ll also be a wallflower at the dance.
DAGNY: Isn’t the dance just for kids?
WILL: No, it isn’t, but that was my first thought too.
DAGNY: I guess that would be weird for the period.
WILL: Yeah, I think it would. I remember my middle-school dance.
DAGNY: Oh yeah?
WILL: Yeah. The older girls made fun of my clothes, and I remember I was shocked they played “Kiss Me Deadly” because she says “I didn’t get laid.”
DAGNY: And did you get laid?
WILL: Um, no.
Grace goes on to complain that Mr. Edwards hasn’t asked her to the dance yet.
Now, since we previously calculated that “Mr. Edward’s [sic] Homecoming” couldn’t have taken place later than 1875, that means Grace and Mr. Ed have probably been dating for about five years at this point, in Little House Universe Time (LHUT) anyways. That’s a long while.
And indeed, Grace says she expects a repeat of “last year,” when Mr. Edwards stayed oblivious of the dance and of Grace’s desire to attend.
Irritated at Grace horning in on her problem, Laura changes the subject back to herself.
Oddly, Carrie seems to have disappeared by this point, but nobody notices.
[UPDATE: Mary took her.]
Anyways, Laura says only two boys have been left dateless. How would she know that? And is she counting very small children like Not-Quincy Fusspot?
The boys she’s referring to are Willie and Henry – and we learn Henry’s last name is Henderson.
ROMAN: “Henry Henderson”? Like “Johnny Johnson”?
DAGNY: Oh my God, are you serious? That is so lazy.
WILL: It’s the same writer, too.
ROMAN: Lazy, Gerry Day, lazy.
WILL: Oh, very nice, Romesly.
ROMAN: Thank you, Stepfather.
DAGNY: Did Gerry Day just submit the same script using every letter of the alphabet for the love interest?
Just when you think the conversation couldn’t get more absurd, Ma says, “I’m surprised Willie hasn’t asked anybody.”
First, Jonathan Gilbert was eight years old at the time of this episode; not exactly the typical age for commencing dating life.
Second, it’s an established fact he hates people generally, and girls in particular.
Third, everybody hates him as well! Which Laura does immediately point out.
Henry Henderson, on the other hand, “doesn’t even talk to girls.”
Caroline changes the subject back to Grace, saying she shouldn’t put up with Mr. Edwards’s shit. Since you set these two up in the first place, Ma, one might say you’re to blame.
WILL: Caroline’s pretty locked and loaded in this one.
DAGNY: I was noticing that.
ROMAN: What’s wrong with you two? Every episode!
Grace says it would take “a bolt from the blue” to change Mr. Ed’s ways. This expression did exist at the time, though its origins are contentious. People seem to disagree whether “bolt” refers to a lightning strike or a shot from a crossbow. Even Parade magazine know-it-all Marilyn Vos Savant bickered with a reader about it in 2014.
Anyways, Caroline says all Grace needs to do is make Mr. Edwards jealous.
DAGNY: Every single person in this family is a meddler except Mary.
WILL: Yeah. Well, she’s got her own issues.
Grace says that would be hard to pull off, since “Isaiah’s the only suitor I’ve had since my husband passed on.”
Yes, this is the first mention of Mr. Edwards’s given name! Most readers will know Mr. Ed is in fact a character in three of the Little House books, but fans debate whether he was based on a real person (or persons) or was wholly invented by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We never learn his Christian name in the literature.
Anyways, Caroline says Grace need only invent a rival to make Mr. Ed jealous. Yes, it’s the lemon verbena scheme in reverse . . . as Ma herself acknowledges, saying, “Turnabout is fair play.” (An Eighteenth-Century expression.)
Caroline then says, “Why, if I had waited for Charles to make the first move, I might be a spinster today.” Hey, spinsters ain’t got it so bad, Ma.
Caroline tells Grace she “started making sheep’s eyes at another boy” to attract Charles’s interest. (Making sheep’s eyes had appeared in print by this time.)
Then she says, “Desperate situations call for desperate measures,” which is from ancient Greece. You know, I’ll never finish this recap if half the script is clichés I need to check for anachronisms. (Though to be fair, they’re five for five so far.)
While Ma is talking, Laura gets a sort of aha look on her face. Now, Laura played a role in the lemon-verbena gambit herself and is one of the most devious people in town, so she really shouldn’t need somebody else to suggest this scheme in my opinion.
That night in bed, Laura says, “Mary, can I ask you a question?”
Still flying high from her Bert Miller developments, Mary rolls over to chat instead of telling her sister to shut the fuck up.
DAGNY: Wow, that’s a first.
Laura asks how to impress boys. Instead of telling the truth and saying, “Be naturally beautiful,” Mary says Laura should talk to them about things they’re good at. (Something we’ve never seen Mary do, I’d point out.)
And boy oh boy, this is ramping up to be an excruciating retread of “The Love of Johnny Johnson” so far.
Next, we see Laura and Willie and Henry Henderson playing marbles in front of the school. Laura bites Willie’s head off for talking whilst Henry is playing, and slathers the latter with ridiculous compliments like “Oh my, I wish I could shoot like that!”
Willie, who is a good emotional stand-in for the audience in this one, says “I’m not playing anymore” in disgust and leaves.
Laura ignores him, and says to Henry she loves playing marbles, fishing, and doing other alleged boy things.
Again, an exact repeat of the Johnny Johnson trajectory. However, while Johnny was a deluded moron, he was genuinely fond of Laura as a person even at the beginning. Henry doesn’t even look at her.
Laura rather pathetically alternates between sharing fishing lore and complimenting Henry on how good he is at playing marbles and running. She then changes the subject to dancing, and Henry heads for the hills.
Next we see Laura and Mary walking home.
DAGNY: Where the fuck are they?
WILL: This is supposed to be between Walnut Grove and their house.
DAGNY: What? You’ve gotta be kidding. You can see down the mountainside!
Cut to the Mercantile, with Mr. Edwards arriving and asking Nels for some tobacky. Grace is simultaneously shopping, it turns out.
Mr. Edwards says to Nels, “I missed you at the poker game last night.” I guess with his card-sharp buddy Ben Slick having relocated to Walnut Grove, Mr. E is now organizing nefarious activities after dark.
Mrs. Oleson, who’s helping Grace, spits poison at Edwards from afar.
Hilariously, Mr. Edwards walks over to the giant cheese wheel we see from time to time and helps himself to a slice.
Mrs. O is showing some dark cloth to Grace; but Grace says she’d like something more colorful.
WILL: Why does Mrs. Oleson always try to sell the cheap cloth to people?
DAGNY: She saves it for the rich customers.
WILL: Who? You think Ebenezer Sprague buys a lot of yard goods?
DAGNY: Nah, but that dressmaker.
ROMAN: Yeah, the Whip!
DAGNY: Yeah, her. She’s Harriet’s big corporate client.
Grace grabs some blue cloth and asks Mr. Edwards if he thinks it would be appropriate for the spring dance.
Mr. Edwards says he likes the blue, comparing it to the color of Cattail Lake. He turns to Nels and recommends the fishing “up there.” (Remember, Nels is a closet fisherman.)
He then shares a story, apparently sourced from Mr. Hanson, in which a husband tells his chattering wife to shut up. (Hanson is skeptical of heterosexual unions.)
The smile runs away from Grace’s face, whilst Mrs. Oleson mutters “Disgusting man.”
Then Mr. Edwards says he has a question for Grace, but it’s only if he can have the cloth scraps when she’s finished her dress to make a kite for Laura.
Mr. Edwards, who also seems to have a charge account at the Mercantile, as hard as that is to believe (God bless you, Nels), departs.
ROMAN: I can’t believe it – a Mr. Edwards scene without “Old Dan Tucker”?
(Don’t you worry, “ODT” fans, every other scene for the rest of the episode does feature the song.)
Cut to school, where Laura is doing math on the board. I doubt school in those days was really like this, where the teacher gives pop quizzes, every three or four episodes makes somebody do a multiplication problem, and nothing more.
Henry Henderson is there, and we also see a girl who looks like Linda Hunt.
Laura looks over at Henry Henderson, and oh wow, even Voiceover Laura wants him.
“I kept thinking about what Ma had said,” Voiceover Laura blathers, “about how she’d made sheep’s eyes at some boy to make Pa jealous. But who was there to make Henry Henderson jealous with?”
Laura’s eyes scan the classroom, landing on, you guessed it – Willie.
(Now I will just note here, up front, that Melissa and Jonathan Gilbert were siblings, rather than making gag/barf noises every time the two touch, hug, kiss, etc.)
Willie notices Laura staring, and makes a hideous face at her.
Meanwhile, Grace is pissed about the dance as she arrives at the Post Office. “If only there was somebody else – anybody else!” she says; when who should walk in but Doc Baker.
DAGNY: She’s so desperate, she’s going after the gay guy.
Long story short, Grace pretends to faint and Doc, who’s still wearing the nice short hairstyle he had in the baseball story, ministers to her needs. He says she needs an immediate check-up.
Incidentally, we notice a wall calendar identifying today as the fifteenth of the month. By my calculations that makes it March, April, or May 15th, 1880? Probably March or April, since later characters debate whether winter’s over or not. (SPOILER ALERT!!!)
We then get a bizarre sight as Mr. Edwards, apparently on his lunch break, rips an apple apart with his bare hands and makes a sandwich out of it!
ROMAN: Move over, Steve Jobs. It’s the first Apple product.
But Mr. Ed becomes distracted when Grace and Doc come out of the Post Office. Seeing Edwards, Grace swoons again, and Doc catches her.
Mr. Ed stares as Doc walks Grace around the side of the building.
DAGNY: Whoo, they’re going in Grace’s back room!
WILL: Well, I think Doc’s office is in the Post Office.
It’s true. The building serves triple duty: as Post Office, doctor’s office, and hotel.
Back at school, Nellie is chasing after Henry now, trying to entertain him with riddles.
Meanwhile, under a tree, Laura is trying to give Willie all her best marbles, which he for some reason refuses.
We soon learn the reason, as Laura explains she wants Willie to pretend to be her “beau,” in exchange for the marbles.
Willie, having learned the art of the deal from his mother, makes a counteroffer.
After a hilarious back and forth, Laura grudgingly accepts, and so they find themselves walking hand-in-hand across the schoolyard. As they near Henry, Laura loudly says she and Willie have a date at the sweetheart tree, and then kisses Willie!
Henry makes an evil face and stomps away.
DAGNY: Is Henry in love with Willie?
After the commercial break, we see Mr. Edwards working at the mill.
Now is as good a time as any to note that people say David Prowse is in this episode, uncredited, playing a “Sawmill Foreman.” David Prowse is of course best known for playing the Minotaur in “The Time Monster,” a Doctor Who story from 1972.
Oh, and he also played Darth Vader in Star Wars three times.
Both the IMDb and the Little House on the Prairie Wiki list him amongst the “Spring Dance” cast . . . but, like others before me, I can’t find him in the episode at all.
I do think there’s a pretty simple explanation, though. (A real one this time!)
Prowse did bear a facial resemblance to Carl C. Pitti, better known to readers of this blog as fan favorite Carl the Flunky.
(Pitti was a Bonanza veteran who appeared in many Western TV shows and movies, including High Plains Drifter.)
I don’t know who first made the Pitti/Prowse misidentification, or why they singled out this episode when it’s at least the eighth time Carl the F has appeared on the show so far.
But it’s a pretty easy myth to debunk. First, Prowse was a six-foot-six-inch bodybuilder, and Pitti . . . well, wasn’t. (I don’t know how tall he actually was, but here he is next to Victor French, who was 6’1”, in this very episode.)
Furthermore, Prowse was aged just forty in 1975, while Pitti was nearly sixty. (Prowse would in fact look more like Pitti as he got older.)
Judge for yourself: Here is Prowse rather improbably having his ass handed to him by Edward Woodward in the Callan movie in 1974.
I know this is a disappointment to sci-fi fans. I’m disappointed too. But if there’s one thing Walnut Groovy is committed to, it’s getting to the truth.
Mr. Edwards sees Grace walk around the Post Office and go in through Doc Baker’s door.
WILL: Pretty soon every single woman in the Upper Midwest’s going to have taken a crack at Doc.
DAGNY: It’s those livery lips, they’re irresistible.
Charles arrives just in time to catch Edwards staring.
DAGNY: Oh my God, I don’t think we’ve ever had such a late first appearance by Charles.
Doc steps out and calls over to Charles. Charles heads over after giving Mr. Ed a hilariously unappreciated pat on the stomach.
DAGNY: Mr. Edwards looks thin in this one.
Edwards keeps fooling around to the point where Carl yells at him. It takes a lot to piss Carl off, as we’ve seen. You can even call him by the wrong name.
Charles comes back and says he forgot Doc asked him to make a hat-stand.
Meanwhile, Grace and Doc come out chit-chatting together, whilst Mr. Ed spies from behind a log.
WILL: He and Mr. Hanson should conspire to break Grace and Doc up.
Speaking of Mr. Hanson, where the hell is he? He never turns up in this story, not even at the dance. (I know, I know, Mankato.)
All this is accompanied by more “Old Dan Tucker,” of course. Dagny hated the “ODT” variations in “Mr. Edward’s [sic] Homecoming” so much she put that story dead last in her Season One rankings, but I think David Rose’s music here is pretty clever.
Grace heads back into the Post Office (they should really install a secret passage like the one in Deadwood); and Mr. Ed goes AWOL from work to follow her.
They briefly discuss the weather in springtime, which Mr. E describes as “changeable as a woman in front of a hat-store window.”
Sexist, yes, but having endured Miss Mimi’s hat shenanigans in Mankato you can see why he feels this way.
GRACE: You know, you predicted this weather last winter. I was very impressed!
ROMAN: What, because he predicted spring?
But no, apparently Edwards noticed some cracked tree bark and predicted a warm spring – an actual folk belief, according to Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore for Garden and Trail, by Jerry Mack Johnson.
Then Mr. Edwards quite rudely asks why she’s been spending so much time in Doc’s office. Grace says she’s feeling just fine, thank you for asking.
EDWARDS: You mean he ain’t doctorin’ ya?
DAGNY [as GRACE]: “Well, he gave me a full pelvic exam, if that’s what you mean.”
Edwards, again rudely, tells Grace he noticed Doc getting handsy with her in the thoroughfare and storms out.
DAGNY: He should shoot Doc.
WILL: That would be a tragical twist all right.
Meanwhile, Laura is stalking Willie in the privy . . . and this is about the time we realize this is actually a pretty funny episode.
When he comes out, Laura manhandles him and tells him he’s been doing a terrible job pretending to love her.
Despite both of them acknowledging they have sweaty palms (hee), they rush back to school holding hands.
All the kids head up the stairs after recess, and we notice Mary is again talking to Lice-Infested Arnold.
The other AEK is now back too, as are a couple more Nondescript Helens.
But then we cut to the Little House at night. Mary, with her glasses on now, and Laura are both reading.
Then we get another hilarious moment. (Yeah, this episode is beginning to hook me.)
Laura says she’s got a Sunday school quiz coming up, and Pa says he’ll give her some Bible trivia questions to help her prepare.
What I like about this exchange is how Michael Landon, for all his fame a somewhat underappreciated actor, gets this shit-eating grin on his face, just like all dads do when they stop listening to what people are saying because they’ve thought of a good Dad Joke.
Pa says, “Where do they mention baseball in the Bible?” No one knows, so he says, “Very first line, book of Genesis: ‘In the Big Inning.’”
WILL: Oh my God! Meta humor on Little House?
The Ing-Gals give this the eye-rolling reception it deserves.
Not content to stop there, Pa says you can tell from the Bible what time of day God created Adam: “Just before Eve.”
He and Aldi should collaborate on a Biblical edition of Jokes for the Privy.
This time the Ing-Gals don’t even roll their eyes, they just stare.
Pa laughs at his own joke, repeats the punchline in case that’s why they aren’t laughing, then says “I’m gonna go outside and smoke my pipe.”
Laura follows him to ask his advice about her situation. She mentions Ma told her how she tricked him into asking her out when they began courting.
“Women’s wiles,” Pa says – though when Ebenezer Sprague described Caroline with the exact same words he hit the roof.
Then he hands down this chestnut from his manly heights:
PA: Women that sow the seeds of jealousy sometimes reap a lot more than they bargain for.
DAGNY: Don’t fear the reaper, Laura.
Laura rather funnily counters this sexist remark with what’s no doubt another Charles-ism:
LAURA: I guess – but any crop’s better than no crop at all.
Pa bursts out laughing. Great chemistry between the two of them. At times this show kind of seems like a little miracle, doesn’t it?
And speaking of great chemistry, we now get a close-up of Caroline’s hand reaching into a bowl of . . .
DAGNY: And look how they focus on her wedding ring. That’s practically pornographic by Little House standards.
But she and Charles don’t seem in super-sexy moods, actually. They’re both reading, and Charles complains the popcorn isn’t salty enough.
“You should have said something before you ate it all,” Caroline says dryly.
Charles admits it was his turn to go get more salt. They eat popcorn in bed so often they have salt turns?
Then he does his crazy giggle. Caroline says, “I didn’t realize Silas Marner was funny.”
Charles says it isn’t, he’s just laughing at Mr. Edwards for having “some silly idea in his head that something’s going on between Grace and Dr. Baker.”
DAGNY: So Charles just plays dumb in this one?
ROMAN: No, he just is dumb in this one.
When we come back, Laura is at the lake trying to teach Willie to fish, but she keeps screaming that he isn’t doing it right.
DAGNY: It’s Amelia and her boyfriend. . . . Don’t put that in!
Henry Henderson comes clomping out of the woods. “Why, it’s Henry Henderson!” Laura exclaims. She seems to think this is something people love to hear, but I’m not sure it is.
Henry is more impressed by the string of fish he sees Laura’s caught. But just when the conversation starts going places, Willie tells Henry to fuck off, this is their spot.
Henry says he has every right to be there, and Willie sasses back, “Two is company, three is a crowd, and four and five is nine.”
(Yes, “two’s company” was around back then. Three’s Company wasn’t yet, though.)
Henry stares and huffs, whilst Laura tries again to change the subject to dancing; but they’re interrupted when Laura gets a bite. She loses the fish, leading Henry to bluntly criticize her technique.
WILL: This kid’s an ass.
DAGNY: He is. But Laura likes guys who are dinks like this. Almanzo, anyone?
God knows why, Laura decides this would be a good time to have Willie kiss her.
“What?” Willie says. “I’ll throw up!”
But she pushes him to do it, then literally pushes him over when he does do it.
“If you didn’t want him to kiss you, you shouldn’t hold his hand all the time,” interjects Henry in a rather ugly tone. Laura shoots back that it’s proper to ask a lady for a kiss.
DAGNY: Consent, even in the seventies!
Willie tries to say he was just following orders, but Laura knocks him over again.
Disgusted by these antics, and one can’t really blame him, Henry departs.
But first he pauses to sneer “Willie Oleson – son of a gun!” I’m not sure exactly what he means by this, but it is funny.
The history of “son of a gun” is also interesting – I’m not sure it would have been used in this sense (as a minced version of “son of a bitch”) during this time period, though it did exist (as a synonym for bastard).
Cut to Doc Baker arriving in his phaeton (driven by Bunny, whom we haven’t seen in a while) at the Little House.
Doc finds Charles at the barn and says he’s come to see “how you’re doin’ with that hat rack.”
I realize every man in town wears a hat, but Doc’s urgency around this purchase seems extreme.
Caroline spies from around the corner, then suddenly rushes away.
Charles brings out the hatstand, which Doc loves.
“You do some fancy carvin’!” Doc says. “Well, so do you, Doc,” Charles replies.
Then Doc says “Nordstrom wants an early crop of corn.” Presumably he’s not referring to the department store, but rather to the insanely overprotective Jon Nordstrom, Olga’s dad, whom we last met in “Town Party Country Party.”
This raises the question: If the Nordstroms are still around, where the fuck has Olga been? Dead, I suppose.
Doc says Mr. Nordstrom is worried a cold snap is coming, and Charles says to watch for buds on the hickory trees (which we do have here in Minnesota) before planting.
Honest to God, this is the most weather smalltalk we’ve had so far on this show.
Charles says he doesn’t want payment from Doc, just a discount next time they need medical treatment. We hear chickens clucking in the background during this conversation, so I don’t know why Charles doesn’t just behead one and hand the spurting corpse to Doc as payment.
Suddenly Caroline comes running from the house, crying “Doctor!”
She’s doing her flail run, which we haven’t had in a while.
And she’s carrying a bunch of flowers, which she says are for Grace. Doc takes off, and Charles tells Caroline he’s figured out her scheme.
On the road to town, Doc inexplicably stops the phaeton to talk to Laura and Willie. He compliments Laura on the fish she caught. Laura replies “The biggest one got away,” then actually repeats it, just to show how intent this show can be on ruining any comedy present in its scripts.
Doc drops the flowers off at the Post Office, where he’s observed by Mr. Ed. Grace makes a big show of accepting them and asks Doc if he’s finished “the Dickens book” she lent him.
Doc says he has and will return it after he has “dinner at Hanson’s” that night. So apparently things are back on between the two men, as we surmised previously.
Whilst leaving, Doc bangs the door into Mr. Edwards, causing him to (allegedly) swaller his tobacky.
Then Grace flirtatiously invites Mr. Ed over for a piece of cherry pie at her place. “Never could resist your cherry pie,” he flirts back.
DAGNY: See Roman, there are at least five things I could have said there but didn’t.
Cut to Grace getting her book back from Doc Baker. It’s A Tale of Two Cities (published 1859).
Grace says she’s been having problems with her eyes, and whilst Doc is touching her face, Mr. Edwards passes by the window singing “Old Dan Tucker.”
Edwards sees their silhouettes on the shade and bursts in yelling.
“Isaiah, you’re early!” Grace cries, to which Mr. Edwards responds, “What, you got this worked out like a railroad timetable?”
Edwards makes a huge ass of himself and runs out.
We cut to Mr. Nelson the Gray-Haired Dude, accompanied by Ben Slick this time, driving a wagon through town.
Mary and Laura come traipsing along, with Laura saying she’s made some pear-butter sandwiches, Henry’s favorite.
And yet, at lunchtime, Laura finds Willie has stolen her lunch and eaten all the sandwiches.
During this scene, we see Nellie sitting on a bench with her legs crossed, which makes her look sly despite having not much to do in this episode.
It is funny, given Nellie wants to date Henry herself, that she doesn’t work to expose Laura’s scheme, isn’t it? Surely she must know about it. But I suppose it would require a double episode to factor her in properly.
Nellie appears to be sitting next to a dark-haired adult woman. I’ve no idea who she is. Why would any woman in her right mind come to school just to eat lunch with Nellie Oleson?
Anyways, Laura runs over to scream at Willie about the sandwiches. He responds, “You don’t have to worry about Henry anymore – I’m going to do just what you asked,” and then embraces her.
Henry comes near, and Laura yells she’s got some cinnamon and sugar if he’d like some. Willie sees this as his cue to leap up and kiss Laura, who shoves him down again.
Henry, still nauseated by these two, exits, followed by Laura.
Willie hollers after her that he’ll happily take her to the dance, considering she’s paying him.
Commercial. That night, we find the regular “Go the Fuck to Sleep” scene writer has returned, as Laura sits up brooding and Mary turns over in bed to yell at her.
Mary says if she’s going to be so depressed about the dance, she might as well go with Willie.
Laura goes down to talk to Ma, who’s making another of her rag rugs. Where does she put them all? We don’t get a good look at the floors in the Little House, but I can’t remember seeing a single rug when we do catch a glimpse.
Pa’s there too, reading The Home Mechanic again.
Laura says she’s depressed at not having a date. Ma whispers Britishly, “Maybe somebody will invite you tomorrow.”
Laura goes back up, and Caroline and Charles discuss how Ma’s jealousy stratagem isn’t working out for Laura or Grace.
CAROLINE: I wish I’d kept out of the whole thing.
DAGNY: It’s the Ingalls line that gets said at the three-quarter mark of every episode.
Charles rather acidly says, “Well, Caroline, you know it’s impossible for a woman not to give advice on how to snare a man, even if it’s wrong.”
We all shook our heads at this, coming as it does from the biggest fucking meddler of them all.
Then they discuss what actually happened at the beginning of their own courtship. Charles reminds Caroline her scheme to make him jealous didn’t really work then either, and she wound up asking him to the dance.
WILL: She revised her own history.
DAGNY: Dames. Am I right?
At the end of his sexist lecture, he and Caroline agree there’s no better approach than “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” (A phrase that goes back to the Middle Ages at least – you’ve got to hand it to Gerry, I haven’t caught a single anachronism in the script yet.)
Then of course the two giggle together, this show’s trademark way of indicating sexism is no big deal.
Then we cut to Caroline, Grace and Laura having milk and cookies in a fancy room – at Grace’s house?
Caroline is blathering about memory, and says she forgot to tell them the end of her story about attracting Charles. She then advises them to just go ask the menfolk to the dance themselves.
Grace skedaddles over to the mill to find Mr. Edwards. Charles says he was there a few minutes ago, and Grace says, “He’s been all over town ‘just a few minutes ago’!”
WILL: I’m not sure I would use the expression “all over town” if my town was a single intersection with five buildings.
DAGNY: Oh, sure you would. It’s like when you lose your phone and you say you’ve looked everywhere. You haven’t really looked “everywhere,” but you still say it.
Then Grace says Charles should tell Mr. Edwards she’s got a package for him at the Post Office.
DAGNY: Is it her wrapped in Saran Wrap?
Grace leaves . . . and Mr. Ed immediately emerges from where he was hiding around the corner.
Charles indicates he’s pathetic to be hiding from her, so Edwards reluctantly heads to the Post Office. Grace gives him a whole cherry pie, saying the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. (Another win for Gerry.)
Mr. Edwards responds with an ugly racist joke, saying Grace collects hearts “the way Geronimo collects scalps.”
DAGNY: Oh my God! What does Grace see in him? Doesn’t it make you wonder what her first husband was like?
WILL: It does, a bit.
Grace yells at him and explains the whole stupid thing, then asks him to the dance. He accepts, saying, “Never could resist yer cherry pie.”
Then he kisses her quickly and scampers away.
Then we see school has dismissed. Mary is tromping down the thoroughfare yelling at Laura to keep up.
Laura breaks from the trail, followed closely behind by Willie.
One last thing to note, David Rose gives us a new love theme in this one, which sounds a bit like the “Who Am I Anyway?” passage in A Chorus Line – the stage version of which, interestingly, had just come out in the summer of 1975.
Laura turns around and screams at Willie to fuck off already, the deal’s over.
Henry and Luke come walking by, but Luke, possibly having seen Laura and Willie ahead, then chooses a different path, leaving Henry alone.
WILL: A bear should come crashing through the brush and eat him.
Willie rather brilliantly says he’ll leave Laura alone, all right . . . for two additional marbles.
DAGNY: It’s Tom from Succession. That’s the playbook he used, he must be a Little House fan.
Laura gives in. As Henry passes, she tries to ask him out, but he says he saw her giving Willie marbles and wants nothing to do with them.
Frustrated, Laura pushes Willie into the lake, which conveniently they happen to be passing. We’ve gotten to the point where knocking Willie over is just a stress reliever for her.
Then she chases Henry down and explains all. Somewhat improbably, he is delighted by her story and accepts her invitation to the dance.
Finally, with less than two minutes to go, it’s the big night!
A string trio is (fakely?) playing a waltz, and the dancing couples consist of:
Laura and Henry:
Not-Albert and Nondescript Helen:
Carrie and the Midsommar Kid (her real-life brother):
Doc and the Bead:
Mrs. Foster and yet another new paramour (this one looks to be wearing a wig):
Nels and Harriet:
Mary and Lice-Infested Arnold/Bert:
Mr. Edwards and Grace:
Nellie and Willie:
Nondescript Helen and an equally nondescript boy:
Mustache Man and a pleasant-looking woman we’ve (possibly?) never seen before:
Nondescript Helen and the Kid with Very Red Hair:
. . . and Not-Linda Hunt and another nondescript boy:
Additionally, on the sidelines we see Sweet Colleen and an Ambiguously Ethnic Kid (both sitting alone) . . .
. . . Nondescript Helen and Not-Joni Mitchell (gossiping in party dresses) . . .
. . . the Gray-Haired Dude and Ben Slick (chit-chatting with a tall blond man who also isn’t David Prowse) . . .
. . . and Charles and Caroline.
Caroline says, “Charles, don’t you want to dance?” He smirks and says, “Caroline, I was just waiting for you to ask me.”
There’s some tomfoolery, as Nels steps on Harriet’s foot, and as Mr. Edwards drags Grace crazily around the room rather than dancing in time to the music.
DAGNY: I guess we can assume Victor French didn’t direct this one?
WILL: No, it was Claxton. Why?
DAGNY: Because there’s no way anyone could act this stupid and command a set at the same time.
The orchestra turns the waltz into the Little House theme, and whew, that’s it. A lot to notice this time, wasn’t there? Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!
ROMAN: Hey look, this one’s rated thirteen-plus, not seven-plus!
WILL: What? Why?
DAGNY: It’s all the cherry pie references.
STYLE WATCH: Grace Snider has a new dress, as do a number of the schoolgirls. Henry wears a string tie.
And Charles appears to go commando again.
THE VERDICT: This one surprised me with its charms. Against all odds, Gerry Davis delivers a witty script that might have more actual jokes than any other so far. It’s a terrific Willie story too.
UP NEXT: Remember Me: Part One