The Gift

The Grifters; or

The Wheels of Evil

(a recap by Will Kaiser)

Title: The Gift

Airdate: December 17, 1975

Written by Rocci Chatfield

Directed by William F. Claxton

SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Laura gets entangled in history’s first pyramid scheme, steamrolls Mary, and pretends Caroline is dead.

RECAP: 

DAGNY: You know, I realized today Walnut Groovy is very meta.

WILL: You mean, because it’s a blog about a show, but we’re characters in the blog?

DAGNY: No, because it’s looking back on a fifty-year-old show that was looking back a hundred years before that. 

WILL: I see.

DAGNY: And it’s a written blog, which is a format nobody likes anymore. And it’s a TV recap, and THOSE haven’t been popular in like fifteen years. The posts are really long, which is crazy when everybody just wants five-second TikToks. And you make your memes on MICROSOFT PAINT, for God’s sake! It’s like everything about it is antiquated and obsolete, more so than I even realized.

WILL: Wow, you make it sound very . . . depressing.

On that encouraging note, let’s begin. During the theme song, we see that almost everybody from “The Town” is in this one.

WILL: Don’t get too excited, though. Some of them don’t even speak.

ROMAN: Aw, I was excited.

WILL: Get used to disappointment, kid.

We open on a long shot of the church from a high angle. We know it’s church today rather than school, because it’s surrounded by wagons and horses. 

WILL: Is that just a regular cloud, or is it a jet trail?

DAGNY: Jet trail, definitely.

As the camera starts to creep closer, we see this was written by somebody called Rocci Chatfield. She’s just the fourth woman screenwriter we’ve had on the show (not counting mere story contributors). I’m not sure how she pronounced it. (“Rochee”? “Rocky”?) 

Rocci Chatfield

She was best known as a writer of that classic Twentieth-Century art form, the soap opera. She wrote for Falcon Crest and Knots Landing, and contributed practically a whole season’s worth of scripts for Days of Our Lives in 1979.

Although we grew up in different countries, Dags and I both watched Days as kids and teenagers. (1979 was a little before our time, though.)

We both aged out of Days at about the time Marlena got possessed by the devil in the 1990s. 

Marlena (Diedre Hall), possessed by the devil in 1994

This past year, we were visiting my sister for Thanksgiving. (My sister also watched Days and is a huge Little House fan to boot; she’s sure to be a guest commentator here one of these days.) 

The day after the holiday, we were flipping around on TV and happened upon Days, which is one of the few daytime soaps still running.

The three of us were astonished to find Marlena was still possessed. It was literally as if we had missed nothing over the past twenty years. Apparently she had had the devil in her the whole time, but was now experiencing a flare-up. That happens, I suppose.

Marlena (Diedre Hall), possessed by the devil in 2021

It was surprisingly easy to explain things to the kids, since the cast was still almost exactly the same and the plot was picking up right where we left off. 

But they couldn’t understand the concept – not of demonic possession, but rather of the daytime soap format, with its ants-stuck-in-honey pace, low production values, endless dialogue, and weirdly preserved-looking young/old cast. 

Nice spats, Marlena

I suppose soap operas are one of those cultural cornerstones that will soon be lost forever, like VCRs, turtle soup and Scottish Gaelic. A pity.

Anyways, Claxton is back as director.

And just when you thought the camera was scratching at the front door to go inside, it suddenly careens left. There’s a really quite huge group of kids sitting around a prim young woman we’ve never seen before.

She’s identified in the credits as “Miss Ames,” and at first I thought she was played by Leslie Landon, but she isn’t. 

Miss Ames
Leslie Landon (Miss Plum)

The real actor, Heather Totten, wasn’t in much else, though she did do a TV movie called Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic which looks fantastic. (The plot is a doozy. And it stars Linda Blair, Larry Hagman, William Daniels, Michael Lerner, Mark Hamill and M. Emmet Walsh!)

Well, apparently this is Sunday-school class, which consists of Laura, Mary, Nellie, Willie (who’s back in his Edgar Allan Poe costume from the first season – I’m surprised it still fits), Cloud City Princess Leia, at least four Nondescript Helens, Not-Joni Mitchell, Sweet Colleen, Not-Linda Hunt, Not-Quincy Fusspot, and an Ambiguously Ethnic Kid.

Strangely, one of the Nondescript Helens is brand-new, and yet is wearing Not-Joni Mitchell’s party dress from “The Spring Dance.”

Previously on Little House

But I suppose it’s possible Mrs. Whipple’s sweatshop grinds out the latest styles in mass quantities, so we’ll let that pass.

Anyways, Miss Ames passes around the collection can.

ROMAN: Cloud City Princess Leia looks like Greta Thunberg today.

Mary says in previous weeks they’ve managed to collect $1.56 (about $43 in today’s money). 

Miss Ames tells the home audience the purpose of these collections is so the class can buy Reverend Alden a birthday present. I was wondering. I don’t recall my own Sunday-school classes ever collecting money.

Nellie and Willie refuse to contribute, saying they’ll get the Rev their own, better present. In the background, Not-Joni Mitchell rolls her eyes three or four times whilst Nellie is talking.

Gotta love Not-Joni

Then Nellie says, “Mary, you’re Treasurer. What are you going to buy for Reverend Alden?”

DAGNY: Treasurer? I know we didn’t have one of those in Sunday school.

Treasurer?

Mary says there hasn’t been a vote on that yet. She must also be class Parliamentarian.

Some of the boys in the group make completely idiotic suggestions, but Mary says, “I thought we could get him a new Bible.”

Then suddenly, Cloud City Princess Leia speaks!

“Hey,” she says in this very strange robot voice. “That’s a good idea.”

(By “robot voice,” I mean a soft mild Commander Data voice, not a ranting hysterical Dalek voice.)

“Moved and seconded!” cries Miss Ames. My God, she runs a tight ship.

Then Miss Ames says since Mary’s the Treasurer, naturally she should be the one to take the money and then order and deliver the present. This despite the fact that she, Miss Ames, is an adult, and Mary is twelve years old.

Cloud City Princess Leia says Alden’s birthday is “five weeks from today – same as my mom’s!” Which is sad, since we previously deduced her mother is dead.

A tragic anniversary

(Incidentally, Cindy Moore, who plays Leia, is credited in this story as “Cissy,” despite the fact that the character was called “Rosemary” in “Town Party Country Party.”)

Then Miss Ames makes all the kids swear to secrecy.

DAGNY: They can’t even tell their parents? Why not?

WILL: There are parts of this one so stupid you won’t believe it. Buckle up.

After class, Nellie, Leia and a random boy all give Mary unsolicited advice on choosing a good Bible.

On the way home, the Chonkywagon passes Carl the Flunky, who’s all dressed up and has a younger blonde woman on his arm.

!

Probably his daughter, though. And yes, then we see her reach out to take Not-Linda Hunt’s hand, so I bet this is daughter, mom and Grandpa Carl.

What the Ingallses are talking about is not important, but interestingly David Rose gives us the laid-back melody of “Drinkin’ Jack” once again.

In the Mercantile, Mrs. Oleson is correcting Nels’s math and laying out a pile of crocheted blankets that Dagny could easily produce in a single day. (She’s a whiz with the stuff.)

Nellie and Willie come in. Willie tries to grab candy, and when Nels says no, Harriet immediately overrules him. Nels gives his wife and son a look of hatred.

Nellie is holding a big catalog and says she’s found a very fancy Bible to give the Rev for his birthday. 

Nellie says the asking price was originally $12 ($330!).

WILL: That must be some special edition.

ROMAN: Probably includes the full Blu-ray set of the Bible.

But Nellie quickly points out it’s been marked down to $3 ($82.50). That still seems like an awful lot.

Nels says fancy gold lettering and the like don’t make any difference to God.

A Lutheran?

Nels says they should just put their lot in with the others to get him a present, but Nellie says the class will pick something stupid. It’s not really dwelt upon, but it is a very nasty touch to have Nellie scheming to buy him the same present as the other kids, only better. 

Nasty

Then Willie goes for the candy again, Nels screams at him again, and Harriet overrules Nels again.

ROMAN: Is this the one where Nels has his psychotic break?

That night, in their loft, Laura and Mary are also looking at a catalog, presumably the same one. Looking closely at the page, you can see it’s the one they used in “The Racoon [sic]” – the 1896 Sears Roebuck catalog.

Previously on Little House

Mary finds a Bible for the right price. But Laura’s mind is captivated, for some unknown reason, by fantasies of the same gilded edition Nellie is planning to get.

She flips around in the catalog, and comes upon a page advertising “Dr. Briskin’s Homeopathic Remedies,” which can be purchased in bulk and resold to your friends and neighbors.

DAGNY: Oh, Laura, it’s a pyramid scheme! This must be the first example of multi-level marketing in history.

(And indeed, it looks multi-level marketing probably didn’t exist yet in Nineteenth-Century America.)

Laura jumps onto the bed with the catalog and tries to convince Mary they should invest the gift money instead . . . in Dr. Briskin’s! Then they’ll make enough money to buy the fancier Bible.

Even though the inside of the book is from the Sears catalog, now we can see the cover, and it seems to read “Mrs. West’s Squatter’s Store Mail Order Catalogue and Buyer’s Guide.” (As far as I can tell, not a real thing.)

Laura reads a hilarious list of diseases ostensibly cured by Dr. Briskin’s: “worm fever, face-ache, influenza, croup, dropsy. . . .”

(“Worm fever” is apparently “a fever or enteritis during which worms were passed in the feces.” I know you were wondering.)

After a commercial break, the whole family sits in the common room chit-chatting over breakfast. Pa is talking about how Mr. Edwards is dissatisfied with the quality of Minnesota’s watermelon crop and is going to start growing them himself.

WILL: Just like that kid who grows the giant pumpkins in Manitoba.

Milan Lukes, the Pumpkin Prince of Manitoba

Pa says Mr. Ed is planting five acres’ worth of them, and Ma, who seems totally out of it again (confirming the fears we had last week about her relapsing on laudanum), slurs, “Well, there aren’t enough people in all of Hero Township to eat that many watermelons.”

(As she says in her memoir, Karen Grassle was clearly going through a bad patch at this point in the series. And it wasn’t a watermelon patch.)

Fortunately, her best work so far in the series is coming up really soon.

Coming soon on Little House

Then we get a wry little scene where Laura starts quizzing Pa on his corny beliefs, and looks at Mary as if his dumb platitudes PROVE they SHOULD jump in with Dr. Briskin.

WILL: See, what happens is all Charles’s fault.

ROMAN: It usually is.

Laura also talks about the risks they took moving to Kansas (the first reference to anything from the books in a good long while). She clearly feels this is a comparable situation.

Then Pa takes off, saying, “Have a nice day.” 

On the way to school, Laura has brought the catalog along, and she continues to read the list of infirmities treatable with Dr. Briskin’s: “ague, whooping cough, colic, and dyspepsia.”

Laura argues they’ll actually be doing the whole community a disservice if they don’t sell them these wonderful medicines.

DAGNY: This is just like Educated, with those essential oils or whatever they were.

Out of the blue, Mary gives in.

DAGNY: Stupid Mary!

WILL/ROMAN: Stupid Mary.

Mary’s hair looks really stringy in this scene.

You can actually tell it was awfully hot filming this one; everybody’s face glistens.

Sweatin’ Mary

And now, we get the debut appearance of a new regular character: the Sierra Number Three Train!

An authentic Nineteenth Century steam engine (built just a little bit after this period, though), the Number Three is among the most famous of Hollywood trains, having perhaps the longest resume of any guest star so far on the show. (It includes The Virginian, High Noon, The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Lassie, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and at least two Clint Eastwood westerns.

In real life the Number Three, sadly, was destroyed in Little House: The Last Farewell, when Landon went berserk and blew everything up.

Just kidding, of course

The train’s first appearance here is actually pretty gratuitous, since its only purpose is to show the package of medicines is on its way to the Ing-Gals.

When it arrives, Mary and Laura tear it open. We don’t see them pick it up from the Post Office; wouldn’t Grace be suspicious about it?

Of course, now that her life is one big non-stop “Old Dan Tucker” party, she probably is too tired to notice such things.

Previously on Little House

Well, whatever. The package contains a wooden box full of little bottles, all labeled Dr. Briskin’s.

DAGNY: Is this like Dr. McGillicuddy’s?

The next day, the girls split up to go door-knocking. Mary’s first arm-swingin’ stop is Mrs. Foster’s house, where she almost gets drenched in urine when Mrs. F empties a bedpan at her.

We learn the kids are asking 25 cents per bottle (about $7 – actually pretty cheap compared to most of the Westover oils).

Mary is not a natural salesperson. Her approach consists mainly of grabbing Foster by the apron and screaming in her face.

Mrs. F sweetly tells her to piss off, adding “Have a nice day.”  All these Have a Nice Days are really starting to grate.

That well known Nineteenth-Century expression, “Have a nice day”

Meanwhile, Laura is at a pig farm, talking to a rude and unpleasant woman.

Whilst Laura does her pitch, the woman’s red-haired toddler takes a bottle from the box and pours its contents into the pigpen.

Addressing the child as “Bertie,” the woman takes the bottle from him, then screams at Laura that she’ll be liable if the pigs get sick. 

WILL: It’d be awesome if the pigs became super-intelligent.

ROMAN: Yeah, like Planet of the Apes.

Laura, bless her, fights back and demands payment. But she also gets told to piss off.

The pig-farmer’s wife, or I suppose I should just un-gender it and say pig person, is one of the most obnoxious characters we’ve had so far in the series. She is something else. If her kid broke something in the Mercantile, I’d like to see her try to get out of paying for it, especially if Mrs. O was working.

Beware the Retail Queen of Hero Township

The Pig Person is played by Anne Gee Byrd, who did bit parts in a million TV shows and is still working today. I don’t recognize her from anything, though. 

Anyways, Laura sadly returns home, accompanied, oddly, by the music David used for her fake love affair with Willie Oleson.

Previously on Little House

Mary meets her in the hayloft and they share sob stories. Laura tells her all about the unpleasant encounter with the Pig People, whom she refers to as the Hobsons.

DAGNY: Why don’t they sell the stuff to Doc?

WILL: Doc’s very anti-homeopathy. Remember how he freaked out about the Secret of Śamin.

Previously on Little House

Later, we see a stranger pull into the driveway in a wagon. Jack goes charging out at the horses.

DAGNY: It’s a wonder that dog doesn’t get killed.

Caroline comes out of the house, and she and we see the driver is quite a character: a lanky weirdster with a bulbous nose who immediately begins talking in flowery language.

His voice is strange too: deep and with a bizarre accent. In fact, he sounds like Patricia Neal pretending to be a French waiter, or something. 

“Bonsoir and welcome to Le Hollandais.”

No doubt she’d be the most heartbreaking waiter you ever had.

Anyways, this creature is played by David Byrd, who was the pharmacist in the “spongeworthy” episode of Seinfeld. Roman and I also saw him recently in David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Interestingly, although he’s now deceased, he was also married to Anne Gee Byrd (the Pig Person) in real life. (See above.)

Introducing himself as “Faubus,” the man says his wife is practically dying, then launches into an absurd, flamboyant sales pitch for “Indian medicine jewelry,” and pulls out a necklace made of what appear to be horse-chestnuts.

Ma says she’s not interested, but the guy then sadly says he hasn’t eaten in two days, because in addition to the dying wife he has two starving kids, and he left all his food for them. He is an obvious con artist.

Dumb Caroline says, “You can’t work without eating!” and says she’ll whip Faubus up a quick mess of vittles.

Faubus insists on giving her some of his junk in exchange for the food, which seems odd, since she didn’t ask for it, and he could kept it to peddle it to somebody else down the road. (Literally down the road, ah ha ha ha.)

Pa gets home just as Faubus is driving away.

DAGNY: Now the rest of the episode will be Pa hunting this guy down and killing him.

Pa comes in cheerfully. Apparently he’s familiar with this Faubus character, and he laughs, only a little maniacally, when he hears Caroline gave him a free lunch.

DAGNY: He’s so condescending to her sometimes.

He also says the beads on the necklace were buckeyes, not horse-chestnuts as I thought. Well, can’t be right all the time.

Buckeyes
Horse-chestnuts

If memory serves, Johnny Cash (who’ll be joining us fairly soon on this show) mentions “a string of buckeye beads” in “Flesh and Blood.” It’s a really beautiful song:

Pa says Ma shouldn’t be embarrassed, because Faubus is “the world’s best salesman.” He adds that he doesn’t even have a family, he’s just a full-time con man.

And inside Laura’s head, the Wheels of Evil begin turning.

The next day, on the way to school, Laura tells Mary Pa’s backhanded praise of Faubus means it’s okay to lie to sell stuff. Boy, she jumps to a lot of crazy conclusions in this one.

Mary is skeptical but goes along. She’s a complete pushover, much more so than usual. There’s something weird about this story, actually.

Pushover Mary

Anyways, Laura heads off to sell some meds to people before school starts.

WILL: Before school?

DAGNY: They always have an enormous amount of time before and after school to do things. School must be from like eleven to one.

Laura stops at a house where an elderly woman is trying to carry a bucket of water.

The old lady, whose name according to the credits is Agnes Molson, is played by Lurene Tuttle, who memorably was the sheriff’s wife in Psycho, and who also appeared in two very odd horror films from the seventies, The Manitou and Parts: The Clonus Horror. She’s probably the only good thing about this episode.

Lurene Tuttle (third from left), in Psycho
Lurene Tuttle (at left), in The Manitou

Laura helps her and starts to boo-hoo-hoo about her sick ma and pa, but did she ever pick the wrong mark. The old lady starts complaining about all her own aches and pains, but when Laura brings out the Briskin’s, she says she can’t afford it, then makes a big show out of suffering from the rheumatiz, or ague, or whatever it is. 

Laura helps her sit down, then starts to go, when the old lady calls out, “Bless you!” in a weak quavering voice. 

Of course Laura feels guilty and gives her a bottle of Dr. Good for free. The minute Laura’s gone, the old lady, who noticed right away the “medicine” is 120 proof (twice the strength of Dr. McGillicuddy’s), guzzles it down and pretty much dances into her house, cackling.

Interestingly, Briskin’s is spelled differently on the label than it was in the catalog. I’m not sure which is right.

Anyways, this community is full of criminals

ROMAN: If the alcohol content is so high, why don’t they sell it to Mr. Edwards?

A good idea, I think

When Laura reports this to Mary, the latter freaks out. It’s a bit late for that, Four-Eyes.

Freakout Mary

The comedy-variety duo of Nellie and Willie approach, and Laura rushes into the privy (yucko) to spy through a peephole.

Nellie wants to know if the Bible has arrived yet. Mary suggests it has, then yells at Laura some more after the mean kids shove off.

WILL: This one’s quite tedious, isn’t it. And still twenty minutes to go.

DAGNY: Yeah. It feels more like some seventies Disney thing than Little House, actually.

Then Laura wanders the playground kicking at the dirt. Soon she finds a pile of rags (??) hidden under a pile of hay (????).

Squeak squeak, go the Wheels of Evil.

After a commercial break, the schoolhouse vomits.

The kids run by so fast that even I’m not sure I caught them all. But it does seem Not-Albert is now in their midst.

Laura runs off, but Mary sits on the steps looking hung-over.

Hung-Over Mary

Miss Beadle comes out to more doofy music, and Mary again tries her terrible screaming sales pitch. She should know better. With her powers of observation, deduction, mind-reading, and interrogation, the Bead out of anyone in this fucking town should be kept from getting even a whiff of what’s going on.

Screaming Mary

But Beadle must have a hot date with her dandy, because she lets Mary off with just a suspicious look.

THIS TIME.

Then we get the hilarious sight of Laura dressed in rags and covered in filth wandering with her arms full of Dr. B’s bottles.

She’s also barefoot.

The old Johnny Johnson routine
Previously on Little House

In case the audience doesn’t find this funny, David chooses to gloss it over with some of the wackiest music he’s provided so far, played on a Moog synthesizer or some other electronic seventies thing. 

Guest soloist Wendy Carlos on the Moog

She goes up onto the porch of some cabin and knocks. A lady (“Mrs. Hillstrom,” according to the credits) comes out. There are a lot of people in this one.

At first I thought the lady was Irene Tedrow again (Minerva Farnsworth from “Remember Me”). But she isn’t.

Irene Tedrow
Not-Irene Tedrow

(The actor, Eve McVeagh, also has an insanely long resume of bit parts, but I don’t recognize her from anything. I mean, except from “Remember Me,” that is. Which she wasn’t actually in.)

Laura says her ma is dead and her pa and sisters are sick, and that’s why she’s selling Dr. Briskin’s Homeopathic Remedies.

DAGNY: Pa is gonna kill her.

She adds that the medicine “cures colic as quick as a scat” – a disgusting expression of Doc Baker’s, if you recall.

The lady listens for a bit but then says, “Aren’t you one of the Ingalls girls?”, drily noting she saw Caroline in the flesh that very morning.

Laura beats it out of there, and then who should appear but Carl the Flunky! So apparently he’s Mr. Mrs. Hillstrom?

WILL: Who knew Carl had a wife?

ROMAN: Yeah. Good for him.

He’s leading one of the largest horses I’ve ever seen in my life.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mrs. Hillstrom blames the “disgraceful” Caroline for Laura’s conduct.

DAGNY: Wow, this is very Michael Landon. Parents, if your kids suck, it’s your own fault.

Back at home, Mary comes out to the barn to meet Laura.

DAGNY: You can tell Mary’s older, ’cause she gets to wear tan stockings instead of black.

Mary points out it’s too late to get the Bible now even if they did sell anything, as the Rev’s birthday is imminent. She then suggests they pretend to be sick so they can get out of going to church that day.

DAGNY: Like the other kids are going to accept that as an explanation? Mary’s the fucking Treasurer.

WILL: Not only that, this is way below Mary’s usual level of scheming. She’s quite good at it when she wants to be.

Previously on Little House

Then we cut to the girls fishing at a lake – one we’ve never seen before.

It’s also very unusual that Mary is there. Does she even fish?

Their conversation is completely unnecessary and content-free.

Back at the barn, Caroline and Charles are talking about how odd it is that Mary went fishing. Their noticing the oddity is the first thing in this whole story that makes sense.

Caroline says she wants to make a berry pie for the Rev, and Charles says he’ll go pick some. But he grabs his fishing pole as he takes off, saying he’s going to pick the berries “down by the river.” (Not the creek?)

Pa finds the girls fishing. Why he would come here instead of Laura’s usual primo fishing spot, I don’t know.

WILL: There’s something really off about this one. It’s totally unlike Pa to pretend he’s picking berries and go fishing instead.

Well, the big day finally comes. Ma is pulling snarls out of Carrie’s hair, and Pa calls for the girls to get ready.

The Ing-Gals first pretend to be asleep, then try to say they’re sick with laryngitis, a condition they neither know anything about nor know how to pronounce. Picking a disease at random seems an unlikely strategy to be endorsed by a Brainiac bookworm like Mary. 

Plus the more I think about it, it’s absolutely fucking stupid, because why would they feel the need to name the disease anyway? Like, if they said “influenza,” would Pa just say, “Oh, the flu,” and let it go without verifying it for himself?

Well, obviously Pa calls them on their bullshit. The girls break down and tell the tale.

WILL: Even Mary’s crying is below par.

Pa says they have to go to church and confess all. Seems a lax punishment for stealing forty-some dollars. 

But then, Laura conveniently left out the door-to-door-begging elements of the story, which is the bit that REALLY would have infuriated Pa.

Plus it is Alden’s Birthday Itself, which must be a municipal holiday given the fuss everyone’s making. I suppose Pa figures the girls’ll be publicly shamed before everyone in town, and he and Ma can just kick back in the front pew and watch the punishment being executed.

But when push comes to shove, Pa softens the blow by bringing them in to see Alden before anybody else has arrived for church.

DAGNY: Aldi’s still putting out all his doodads and Holy Water.

Pa gets right to the point and says the girls have something to tell him.

WILL: What, no “happy birthday” first?

Claxton cuts away briefly so we don’t have to be bored hearing the story again. (It was boring enough the first time.)

ROMAN: Alden’s the Prince of Liars, he’ll probably admire what they were trying to do.

Previously on Little House (incidentally the first graphic we ever made for Walnut Groovy)

Back inside, Aldi looks at all the little bottles.

WILL [as LAURA]: “You don’t happen to have worm fever, do you?”

The girls say they’ll never do it again. The Rev says he’ll keep the box of medicines and dismisses them.

DAGNY: He should drink them all and be shitfaced when everyone gets in for the service.

WILL: He is a recovering alcoholic.

“Now join in shinging, ‘Singing in the Sheaves.'”

OBVIOUSLY there’s nothing funny about alcoholism (I’m recovering myself), so no need to send in a bunch of angry cards and letters.

“I fuckin’ love you guys.”

Well, everyone arrives at church.

DAGNY: Full house today.

WILL: Aldi’s Birthday.

Alden starts rambling a parable about gift-giving.

WILL: What’s he talking about?

DAGNY: I don’t know. Maybe he did hit the sauce.

The moral of the sermon is “It’s the Thought That Counts.” Really, that’s all it is!

Then Aldi holds up a copy of the Bible that’s falling apart. He says it was his father’s, though he’s received many as gifts since. He kind of rolls his eyes at the idea of getting Bibles as presents, which seems rude.

You have to be careful trying to be funny about gifts. My ex-wife and I once had another couple for dinner, and I guess I was trying to impress them or something because I started making witty remarks about how I don’t like blueberry desserts, only to learn they had brought a blueberry cobbler to share with us. 

Anyways, Nellie realizes she’s holding the proverbial blueberry cobbler, and stashes the Rev’s present under the pew. (Fortunately our friend still let us eat the cobbler and didn’t surreptitiously flush it when we weren’t looking. It was delicious, as I recall.)

Aldi goes on and on about what awful condition the Bible’s in.

ALDEN: The cover’s worn. . . . The pages are yellowed. . . .

WILL [as ALDEN]: “A dog once crapped on it, in fact.”

Still, he says it’s his favoritest Bible of all.

Then the Rev says he loves the Sunday-school kids’ present, and holds up the empty Dr. Briskin’s box. 

We don’t see the class’s reaction to finding out how their money was spent, but I’m sure Not-Joni Mitchell is rolling her eyes. 

Anyways, the Rev says the liquor box is perfect for carrying his shitty old Bible in.

DAGNY: I can’t believe this. He used to be such a hardass.

WILL: They really softened him after the first season. Maybe he realized he was too hard on Mary when he told Ma not to let her take that examination.

DAGNY: Still, there’s no way he would PRAISE them for doing something so stupid.

Then Aldi leads them in a hymn he calls “Jesus and His Love” – not a real hymn as far as I can tell, so it must be a David Rose original.

As the camera pans out, let’s try to identify who’s there. Besides the Ingallses, Olesons, Miss Beadle, Doc and Hanson (sitting separately), we have Midsommar Kid, Not-Joni, some Nondescript Helens, Not-Quincy, Sweet Colleen, Mrs. Molson the alcoholic, and if you look closely, Mr. Nelson the Gray-Haired Dude’s Late Wife Mrs. Nelson’s Identical Twin Sister Mrs. Johnson.

But there are also at least nine adults we’ve never seen before.

WILL: Who are all these people? They’re not the usual gallery. No Gray-Haired Dude, no Mustache Man.

DAGNY: Yeah, who’s that bespeckled guy?

WILL: “Bespeckled”?

DAGNY: With the glasses.

WILL: Oh, bespectacled.

DAGNY: That’s what I said. Bespeckled.

WILL: That’s Mr. Hanson! But his glasses ARE bigger than usual – I think they might be his real ones.

Note Mr. Hanson’s speckles

And where the fuck is Miss Ames? Was she a con artist too? I suppose maybe she was. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!

“Suckers. I’m not even a Congregationalist.”

STYLE WATCH: Charles appears to go commando again.

THE VERDICT:

ROMAN: Well, that one wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as bad as you said it was going to be. The Red Buttons one was worse.

WILL: I guess. Maybe it would have been okay if it was just twenty minutes instead of an hour.

But after this one, we move into a nice long stretch of good episodes. See you next week!

UP NEXT: His Father’s Son

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.

One thought on “The Gift

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