Bye Bye Beadie; or
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Airdate: February 25, 1976
Written by John Hawkins
Directed by Victor French
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: After the Bead loses a no-confidence vote, a psychopath takes her place.
RECAP: Well, after the momentum of “The Runaway Caboose,” our run of good stories comes to a catastrophic end today.
WILL: This one is bad but intense, kids. Miss Beadle gets fired.
ROMAN: Oh, because she tries to kill all the kids in the blizzard?
WILL: I wish! God, I wish. But no, not yet.
This episode aired two weeks after “The Runaway Caboose,” because on February 18th, 1976, NBC ran highlights from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (hosted by Johnny Cash, whom we’ll meet again shortly).
Yes, a circus, on primetime TV. Seems hard to believe, but I suppose that Joe Exotic thing was a hit a couple years back. Pop culture is just the same trash redone so people can feel superior to the old version, isn’t it? Even though they’d have gobbled it up if they were around themselves back then.
Oh well, anyways, we open with a shot of the schoolhouse, set to our beloved “Mary the Nerd” theme. (Piano doubling the harpsichord this time.)
The school is not vomiting today, but the door is hanging wide open.
Miss Beadle is grading papers, and we see towards the back of the room Willie is whispering with two big goons we’ve never seen before.
One of them could be Not-Albert on Bovine Growth Hormone.
And the other looks like Dwight Schrute.
BGH Kid shoves Willie – always a crowd-pleasing gesture from any character on this show.
We haven’t taken full attendance in a while, so let’s start with that. In addition to Willie and the two half-orcs, today we have Laura, Mary, Nellie, Not-Joni Mitchell, two Nondescript Helens, Cloud City Princess Leia and her brother Luke, Not-Linda Hunt, Non-Binary Kid, Not-Albert, an AEK, Quincy Fusspot, a boy who looks like Carl Sanderson but isn’t, Midsommar Kid, and the Smallest Nondescript Helen of Them All.
The ball gets rolling when BGH Kid, after a grunted consultation with Dwight, throws his McGuffey loudly onto the floor.
After the resulting merriment has burned out, which doesn’t take long, he reaches down to pick the book up. But Miss Beadle sharply says, “No, Sven,” and tells him to leave it there since he’s now performed the same trick with it three times.
There are a lot of Svens in Minnesota to this day, in case you’re rocking with glee at the old-time Scandinavian names they dug up for this show.
The class giggles, and the Bead gives them a look like she wishes there was a blizzard she could murder them all in. Perhaps that’s why she’s left the door open, so she’ll notice right away if one develops.
Miss Beadle starts writing some shit on the board, and Willie quietly grabs an eraser. Nondescript Helen lets him pass with a mysterious half-smile that neither endorses nor criticizes what he’s up to.
This Nondescript Helen is definitely the sly Mona Lisa of the student body.
Anyways, with a look of determination, Willie throws the eraser at Laura.
Miss Beadle turns slowly around.
DAGNY: Wow, Bead. What a look.
WILL: Yeah, she’s at the end of her tether in this one.
DAGNY: She’s going to spontaneously combust from hatred.
ROMAN: Yeah, it’s like Carrie, but if Carrie was the teacher.
WILL: I bet a lot of teachers could relate to that concept.
Anyways, among those who think the bad behavior is funny are Not-Joni Mitchell, who smirks (she’s another bad’un, isn’t she?) . . .
. . . and David Rose, who gives us some “hilarious” trombone sounds on the soundtrack.
Then again, in a couple episodes, we’ll learn Willie is a trombonist himself, so maybe David’s just foreshadowing that plot development.
Then we cut to Mrs. Oleson and Mr. Hanson discussing the Bead’s job performance at the Mercantile.
ROMAN: Huh? Is this a school board meeting?
OLIVE: And why is he putting his tie on!
DAGNY: We clearly caught them at an intimate moment.
Mrs. Oleson, who’s wearing her “ladies’ cut” version of Pinky, says she likes Miss Beadle, but points out there are discipline problems with some of the boys.
Back in the classroom, Dwight whacks BGH Kid over the head with a book, and Willie shoots Laura with a peashooter.
Laura throws the eraser back at Willie, who ducks so it hits Dwight. Dwight responds by attacking BGH for some reason.
The Bead tries bodily to tear the two Uruk-hai apart.
ROMAN: Oh my God, Miss Beadle!
OLIVE: Do they realize those guys are like forty years old?
Notice Nondescript Helen maintains her attitude of cool ambivalence.
Mrs. Oleson and Mr. Hanson arrive, and Mr. Hanson shoves the boys back into their seats.
Mrs. O starts clucking that the rumors of discipline problems are obviously true, and Laura picks this, by anyone’s estimation a bad moment, to confess to throwing the eraser.
OLIVE: Oh jeez, Laura.
Rather awkwardly, Miss Beadle dismisses the class.
Mrs. Oleson is nastier than she needs to be here, but really all they do at this point is invite Miss Beadle to come to a school board meeting and discuss any problems she’s having.
Then we cut to the meeting itself. Nels has apparently become Chair since the last time we attended one, and he’s sitting at the Bead’s desk and lording it over everybody a bit. I guess if you’re Nels, you’ve got to take such opportunities when they arise.
Charles is there, but Doc isn’t.
OLIVE: What’s Charles doing there? He isn’t on the school board. And Doc’s missing.
WILL: Charles might be on it now. Remember when the board gave Mary the scholarship, he was like, “How come I wasn’t told about the meeting?”
OLIVE: I guess.
ROMAN: Doc must have been term-limited out, and Charles ran for his seat.
The Bead is also there, having changed into her sizzling red tartan dress. She knows how to play to her strengths.
Nels, who acts the gentleman but has a creepy eye for the ladies under the surface, seems a bit flustered by how hot she is, in fact.
Miss Beadle is saying, “Some of the older boys are very difficult to handle,” to which Mrs. Oleson replies, “Oh my, that’s an understatement.”
OLIVE: Does she mean it’s an understatement to call them boys because they’re forty years old?
Mrs. Oleson is ridiculously nasty to Beadle here, when really all of them are in agreement that the problem is having giant stupid morons in the class who don’t want to be there, something quite outside of the Bead’s control. (This was also a problem in my rural high school.)
Anyways, Mrs. Oleson says the problem’s about to get worse, because “the bigger boys will soon be coming in here when the harvest is over.”
OLIVE: Bigger than the forty-year-olds?
The reference to the harvest season suggests we’re still in the fall of 1882.
Like a very parfait gentle game-show host, Nels thanks the Bead for playing and dismisses her. She notes she’d like their verdict tonight if possible and departs.
Later that night, Miss Beadle is waiting up, still in her skintight dress. She’s drinking tea, but if she put something stronger in it tonight I can’t say I’d blame her.
Charles appears at the door.
OLIVE: Is she in a hotel? The door opens right into her bedroom.
In fact, it’s never been clear where Miss Beadle lives. Olive’s right, she does appear to be in a rented room now (above the Post Office?). I thought she lived in a normal house when she was recuperating from her body-pulverizing horse accident in “School Mom,” but looking back I guess we couldn’t tell. (The wallpaper is different . . . but that story did take place six years ago, according to Little House Universal Time, or LHUT, so that’s not unlikely.)
The Bead offers Charles a drink. Tea, but still. Now that I know Landon once made a pass at Charlotte Stewart, I wonder what the exact situation was. Presumably it wasn’t in the middle of filming this scene, I suppose.
Charles the character certainly isn’t in the mood for drinkin’ or flirtin’. He informs Miss Beadle that “they” decided to replace her with a man.
OLIVE: “They”? Boy, he always lets himself off in situations like this.
WILL: It’s true. Remember when he said “people like you” took everything from the Dakota guy?
Charles says the vote wasn’t unanimous.
DAGNY: What do you suppose the count was? I can’t imagine Hanson voting against her.
WILL: No, he loves her.
OLIVE: Well, he saw the situation with his own eyes.
ROMAN: No, it’s the love-triangle between the two of them and Doc. He wants to get rid of the temptation. So it’s buh-bye Bead.
Eventually, the Bead shrugs and says she sort of hated teaching anyways, and really didn’t know what she was going to do when all of the asshole farm kids came back. Unlike Mary in similar situations, she really sounds like she means it and isn’t just lying to save other people’s feelings.
Then she says, “Well, that’s the trouble with being a teacher, there’s no one else in the schoolroom to blame.”
I like that they’ve adjusted Charlotte Stewart’s makeup in this scene so it really looks like she’s been crying. A nice touch.
Charles just shrugs.
Then Miss Beadle grabs a card the schoolkids made for her one year that says “We Love You Miss Beadle” and starts waving it around.
ROMAN: This is embarrassing.
WILL: Yeah, it’s a bit late for this.
Charles actually rolls his eyes, in fact.
OLIVE: He’s like, “I don’t know what you want me to do about it.”
Then Miss Beadle asks him not to tell the kids until the new teacher is hired. Charles says he won’t.
OLIVE [as CHARLES]: “I’ll just tell Laura, secretly.”
ROMAN [as CHARLES]: “And then Laura will tell the whole school.”
Then, her voice breaking, the Bead gives Charles some specific academic advice concerning Laura. Charlotte Stewart really is quite good in this story, and you can see why she considers it a personal favorite.
Too bad everything else in the episode’s a bucket of shit, though.
Charles leaves, and, hands trembling, Miss Beadle makes to put her magic glasses back on, then just sets them down.
After the break, we see the Bead’s hopes to keep her firing hush-hush were in vain, because of course Nellie got the dirt from her stupid parents and is now telling all on the playground.
BGH Kid is genuinely confused. He seems sad at the news, and makes no connection between this development and his own behavior.
This seems to be a nod in the direction of “Even the bad kids aren’t REALLY bad,” which is very Little House, but wasn’t universally the case in my high school, where some of the kids really were bad, and didn’t grow out of it. (Seriously, a food fight broke out at our tenth class reunion. Not. A. Joke.)
Anyways, Nellie hypothesizes Miss Beadle was fired because she couldn’t control the situation after Laura threw the eraser. Mary says that was actually Willie’s fault, and shoves him out of the frame. It’s pretty stupid they should pin this development on that one incident, since by everyone’s account decorum has been deteriorating for a while. I suppose most kids might have blinders on about that, though.
But Nellie doesn’t; she’s clearly taking this line just to get a rise out of the Ing-Gals, and it works. Mary threatens to Will-Smith her (if I may be permitted a topical reference). This seems out of character for her, but actually is a stepping-stone on her journey to knocking that kid’s teeth out with her lunch-bucket next season.
Nellie sees Mary’s statement for the empty threat it (probably) is at this point, and replies calmly, “You try it, I’ll pull your hair out by the roots.”
Miss Beadle, who’s reading something to the Smallest Nondescript Helen of Them All, half-heartedly shushes them.
Behind them, Not-Carl Sanderson is playing marbles with Luke.
The Ing-Gals ask the Bead if the rumors are true, and she confirms they are. Laura throws her arms around her, and Mary says, “Whoever he is, he won’t be a good as teacher as you, Miss Beadle.”
OLIVE: “A good as teacher as you”? Maybe she wasn’t really that great.
The Bead ignores the awful syntax and dissolves, of course.
That night in bed, Mary and Laura speculate about who the new teacher will be. So did we.
OLIVE: Is it Doc?
DAGNY: Is it Aldi?
ROMAN: Is it Mustache Man?
Of course, with Mary’s booksmarts and Laura’s crude street cleverness, they quickly figure out the real reason a man’s being brought in.
For the biggest brute of them all, a “Herman Stone” who “just moved into the old Harrison farm,” will soon be joining the class. Mary says she saw him herself, and can personally attest to his titanic proportions. (Lucky for John she likes her men waifish.)
Laura says she’s more afraid of a mean teacher than a big stupid student. Both are bad to deal with in actuality.
Anyways, just when we think we’ve finally gotten through a Laura-’n’-Mary sleepytime scene without wanting to murder one of them, the other, or both, Melissa Gilbert gets that look on her face again.
And indeed, suddenly the two of them are laughing their heads off over a conversation so idiotic you want to just turn the TV off and wipe down the bathrooms or something instead.
And in fact, you’ll soon wish you had. Because in the next shot, we see the new teacher come walking up the thoroughfare.
He’s carrying that same carpetbag that everybody always carries on this show. Standard issue at the time, I suppose.
Simultaneously, we see a tall young man coming down the hill. Presumably this is Herman Stone, though he’s not exactly the colossus Mary led us to expect.
At least he’s wearing shoes, which is more than you could say for Johnny Johnson.
The harpsichord swells again (well, a harpsichord can’t really “swell” its sound, but the other instruments drop out which achieves the same effect), and the teacher stands on the steps surveying the playground. He’s dressed like an undertaker and looks a bit like Robert Preston, though if you’re hoping for fast-talking razzle-dazzle from him, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
The teacher is actually played by Richard Basehart, a middle-aged actor in the Twentieth-Century-distinguished-looking-white-guy mode who had some interesting stuff on his resume, including Federico Fellini’s La Strada and John Huston’s Moby Dick.
Some people have compared Walnut Groovy’s approach to MST3K, but while I loved that show I don’t think there’s much overlap, despite the obvious commonality of talking about TV whilst watching it. (A phenomenon that did in fact exist before MST3K.)
Then the music changes to “The Island of Misfit Grovesters,” and a stagecoach passes carrying Miss Beadle. She waves goodbye to all the kids.
OLIVE: Where are they taking her? Can’t she still live in the town?
AMELIA: They’re going to Old Yeller her when she’s out of sight.
(Yes, Amelia was still here on break.)
Laura immediately gets off on the wrong foot by baring the old gopher fangs at the new teacher.
The teacher then kicks things off by screaming “SILENCE!”, which though it seems harsh was also the Bead’s preferred way of commencing the school day, you’ll recall.
I’ve been known to scream “Silence!” at our kids as well, usually, but not always, for humorous effect.
Having got their attention, the teacher introduces himself as Mr. Applewood in a soft but gloriously deep and rich voice.
Viewers my age might remember Richard Basehart as the narrator of Knight Rider‘s opening sequence:
He was on Love Boat once too.
Anyways, Mr. Applewood rolls out a long list of new rules, some of which are nuttier than others.
At one point, Laura whispers something to Mary.
WILL [as PEE-WEE HERMAN]: Is there something you could share with the rest of us, Amazing Larry???
Applewood sits down at the desk and gently says, “As your first lesson for today, you will write down the rules I have just given you.” Then he smacks the desk with the ruler and screams “NOW!”
He has the science-fiction villain’s knack for speaking in a soothing near-whisper, THEN SUDDENLY SCREAMING TO TERRIFY EVERYONE!
WILL: I had a teacher like that. It doesn’t make any sense as a teaching approach.
I know I was just saying sometimes rotten kids are the problem, but that’s not always the case. I remember literally weeping when I learned I was assigned to the fourth-grade class of Mr. Hogg, a teacher of legendary savagery. He lived up to his reputation. At least weekly, he dumped the contents of my desk all over the classroom floor for me to clean up in front of the other kids to punish me for messiness, and he once took away my baseball glove and threw it into the trash just as a custodian was taking the bin away. (I hated baseball even then, and my desk is still messy, so joke’s on him.)
But Hogg’s treatment of other kids was much worse. He literally made a kid named Mike St. Cloud wear an orange traffic cone in class as a dunce cap. This was in 1984.
And I have really traumatic memories of a day when Chad Von Moos, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who I’ve mentioned before, dared to challenge him. Hogg responded by “proving” to this kid how worthless he was by going around the room and forcing every child, one by one, to say something bad about him.
We were nine-year-olds.
Both Mike and Chad were kind of screwed-up kids, who grew up into screwed-up teenagers and screwed-up adults. Would a different treatment from Mr. Hogg have changed their trajectory? It’s impossible to say, of course. I’m sure he’d just smirk at the suggestion.
I have never experienced or witnessed such deliberate cruelty to children from any other educator. If Mr. Hogg ever comes up in conversation with old school friends, everyone goes silent. To this day, nobody laughs about him.
And I find it funny there seems to be no evidence whatsoever on the internet of his existence. Maybe he’s dead, or in hiding from his former students.
If not, he ought to be.
Anyways, the kids all scramble to write the rules down. Out come Mary’s smart glasses, of course.
Roman came back from the bathroom at this point.
ROMAN: Did I miss anything?
WILL: Yeah, the new teacher is Davros.
The BGH Kid passes a note to Willie, who passes it to Nellie, who sneaks up and puts it on Laura’s desk.
Applewood looks up and says, “Laura Ingalls!” (How he knows her name already is unclear. Seating chart?)
He tells her to bring the note up, then screams at the rest of the class.
The note reads:
We all gasped in shock at this. I’m not joking.
Funny things happen when you immerse yourself in the Little House universe. You may find yourself recoiling from mild epithets like “Four-Eyes” or “Crab-Apple” as if they were scalding water.
Or you may cry uncontrollably if forbidden from taking tests or from performing excess work tasks of other sorts.
Some of you know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.
Anyways, without unnecessary ado Applewood whips Laura’s hand with his ruler, twice.
DAGNY: Our principal in Canada hit kids when I was in school.
OLIVE: You’re kidding.
DAGNY: I’m not. He did it all the time. He called it “the strap” – he actually used a ruler, but he always called it “the strap.”
WILL: Probably the British influence, huh?
DAGNY: He was there until about 1985. Then we got a new principal who was HORRIFIED that the previous one hit us. We were all shocked, because he was even older than the first one had been, so we expected him to be worse.
And it’s worth noting that while Mary winces and the class quiets down while Applewood is hitting Laura, none of the kids seem all that shocked. And in fact, corporal punishment in schools was generally seen as normal in Nineteenth-Century America. It’s still legal in many states, though its use is thankfully rare these days.
On this show, we did see the Grovesters rise up as a community in response to one child being beaten – but that was an extreme case, and in the home.
Well, before we go to commercial, Applewood says to Laura with evil satisfaction, “Since you like to write, you’re going to do a lot of it.”
WILL [as APPLEWOOD]: “You’re going to become famous author Laura Ingalls Wilder. You will write books just like these TV adventures, only not as good.”
(Sorry, LIW book lovers. Truth is just truth.)
When we return from the break, Laura is writing something over and over on the board. David is giving us “Mary the Nerd” again on the harpsichord, so clearly he doesn’t think the whipping was that big a deal either.
We see Laura is copying some odd vocabulary words, including turgid and pungent.
That night in the common room, Laura and Mary are telling Pa what happened. We don’t hear them mention the physical punishment, but it isn’t specifically indicated they didn’t mention it either. We join them mid-conversation.
OLIVE: Wouldn’t they see her hand-wounds?
Ma says, “Now, in my experience, teachers always try to be very fair.”
OLIVE: Oh, shut up, Ma.
That’s about it for that conversation.
“Superb!” Applewood declares. Apparently he’s going to be dining here every night; poor Nels.
Mrs. Oleson says, her mouth full of food, “I always feel that the only thing harder to find in Walnut Grove than good food is intelligent talk.” I know some people who do this: try to endear themselves to new acquaintances by immediately bad-mouthing third parties. I used to be prone to it myself. It can get you into trouble.
Then there’s this funny exchange:
HARRIET: Ordinarily, Mr. Applewood, I don’t like to carry tales –
NELS: Then don’t.
WILLIE: May I be excused?
HARRIET: No, Willie!
Then Mrs. Oleson, for no reason whatsoever, starts to assassinate Laura’s character. The real problem I have with this episode is not that any one aspect of it is impossible, but rather that so many improbable things happen on top of each other without any justification.
Here, it’s not impossible that Harriet would launch into complaining about Laura – but on a day when Applewood has already misidentified and punished Laura for something she didn’t do? We’ll see these unlikelihoods pile up and up and up as we go on.
Nels stands up for Laura and the two argue. Willie asks to be excused again, and Nellie chimes in, saying Laura was teacher’s pet under the Beadle regime. A mild criticism, for her.
But Applewood chuckles like an insider trader and thanks the awful Harriet-Nellie duo for such useful information, saying, “Forewarned is forearmed.” (A Sixteenth-Century expression.)
Then we cut to Carl the Flunky dropping Not-Joni Mitchell and Nondescript Helen off at school. (More granddaughters?)
Other kids are also arriving, and we see Dwight Schrute has Willie in a headlock.
When Mary and Laura appear, BGH Kid comes over and apologizes for getting Laura in trouble with his note yesterday.
He tells Laura he’s got a plan to get Applewood back big-time. But Goody-Goody Laura doesn’t want anything to do with it.
WILL: She acts more like Mary throughout this whole episode.
Then we get the first of a couple queasy-making scenes. Class has apparently been underway for some time, and Herman Stone comes in late.
“HERMAN!” roars Applewood.
Herman rises, laughing. Cloud City Princess Leia’s brother Luke looks on passively.
Applewood whispers that Herman missed the history test. Herman cockily replies, “Kings ’n’ battles don’t mean nuthin’.”
Applewood tells him to put out his hand, but Herman yanks it back before he can strike. The kids laugh and applaud.
“GET BACK TO WORK, ALL OF YOU!” Applewood rants. He’s a bit like the “Sit down or you will be expelled!” guy at the end of Dead Poets Society.
Applewood is breathing heavily now.
WILL: Am I crazy, or is there a weird unpleasant sex undertone to his characterization?
“Hold out your hand,” Applewood says again.
This time Herman obeys, but when Applewood hits him twice, Herman just laughs in his face and says “You cain’t hit hard enough to tickle.” He talks like Dan Dority on Deadwood, and probably would fit in quite well on that show in other ways.
“Go back to your seat,” whispers Applewood. As snappy rejoinders go, I’ve heard better.
“Sure,” says Herman. “Reason I was late, one of our cows was birthin’.” A legitimate excuse for a farm kid.
OLIVE: He should have had cow placenta goop all over his hands.
ROMAN: Yeah, it should have splattered when the teacher hit him.
Then, again for no reason whatsoever, Applewood makes Laura write more crap on the board.
After school, she’s still writing. Applewood stares at her and fondles his ruler.
DAGNY: Okay, you’re definitely right about the weird sex subtext.
“Mary the Nerd” plays again. We were all singing along by this point.
Outside, Herman and Dwight are arm-wrestling. Herman smashes Dwight’s head into the wall, then offers him some chaw.
Then BGH Kid walks over to a tree, where he finds Laura. (I thought she was inside? I guess this is later?)
BGH Kid says they’re still planning to avenge Laura’s awful treatment. But Laura again asks him not to, then says she has to go.
OLIVE: Where does she have to go?
DAGNY: She’s got a Zoom meeting.
Laura goes inside, passing Applewood, who’s perched on the porch.
The rest of the class soon follows . . . but when Applewood comes in, he finds somebody’s poured ink into his carpetbag.
The entire class shrieks with laughter, even Laura and Mary.
OLIVE: Why would they all laugh, knowing he’s likely to hit them for it?
WILL: Nothing about this one makes sense.
Mary in particular makes out-of-character oh-no-you-didn’t faces.
By the way, I’ve had some questions about which nickname corresponds with which kid, so here’s an almost but not quite complete picture of the Walnut Grove student body, followed by a key.
- Nondescript Helen
- Christy Kennedy
- Nondescript Helen
- Cloud City Princess Leia’s Brother Luke
- Herman Stone
- The Kid With Very Red Hair
- Cloud City Princess Leia
- Bovine Growth Hormone Kid
- The Smallest Nondescript Helen of Them All
- Dwight Schrute
- Not-Joni Mitchell
- Nondescript Helen
- Not-Carl Sanderson
- Sweet Colleen
- Willie Oleson
- Non-Binary Kid
- Lice-Infested Arnold Lundstrom
- Mary Ingalls
- Laura Ingalls
- Not-H. Quincy Fusspot
- Midsommar Kid
- Nellie Oleson
- Ambiguously Ethnic Kid (AEK)
- H. Quincy Fusspot
- Kid Hideous
- Not-Linda Hunt
“DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY!” rants Applewood. “AND YOU THINK IT’S FUNNY!”
Then he summons Laura to the front.
(Not-Joni Mitchell makes Florence Pugh Face at this.)
“You’re expelled,” Applewood says. “Go home.”
DAGNY: He’s got a funny scar.
WILL: He was in Moby Dick, probably a whaling injury.
Laura tries an Oliver Twist “please suh” approach with him, but he just screams “NOW!”
After the commercial, Laura walks home in a dense fog, even though mere minutes ago everyone was on the playground and it was sunny and clear.
DAGNY: A wildfire?
She finds Pa in the barn.
DAGNY: Oh, it’s my favorite game, What is Charles Making?
DAGNY: He’s fixing a chair! Easy one this time.
Laura tells Pa what happened.
OLIVE: What, did they drip glue on her face? Seriously, what ARE those tears?
Pa seems weirdly unconcerned.
WILL: Do you get the sense this episode might be a dream?
In bed that night, Caroline is more upset.
WILL: Another shit part for Caroline in this one.
But Charles doesn’t want to talk about it.
DAGNY: It’s a Charles and Caroline edition of Go the Fuck to Sleep.
He says he’ll talk to Applewood about it in the morning, and Caroline says don’t lose your temper.
The next day at the playground, the Bead is back in town!
She chats with Charles and the Ing-Gals a bit. Apparently, she was just on vacation, not banished or killed.
She asks how school’s going, and when Laura dissembles, she shows some of that old piercing Bead-iness.
MISS BEADLE: Just all right?
WILL [as LAURA]: “I GOT FUCKIN’ EXPELLED, OKAY???”
Inside, Applewood explains to Charles that because Laura was first into the classroom, she can be the only suspect in the Curious Incident of the Ink in the Carpetbag.
DAGNY: He has Glen Campbell’s hairstyle. He’s like Glen Campbell if he ate something that made him evil.
Charles presents an alternative theory. Applewood is dubious, but eventually, he smiles, sort of, and says okay, Laura can come back.
DAGNY: I’m not sure I buy that this teacher would care what a parent thought.
ROMAN: Well, Pa’s on the school board.
Charles and Laura smile too, instantly forgetting how odd and distressing it was that this guy expelled her in the first place.
Charles leaves, and Applewood gives Laura a look of sherry-cask-aged hatred.
Later that day, the kids are coming in from recess, and Willie takes the opportunity to pull more mischief with the carpetbag. Everybody squeals with laughter again.
“SILENCE!” Applewood roars again, and we see he has replaced the ruler with a big pointer-type stick. He picks it up, shaking with rage.
“HERMAN, COME UP HERE!” he screams. I don’t know why he thinks Herman did it. He really doesn’t bother much with detective work in these situations, does he?
But Herman refuses.
Applewood rants, whips the desk with the stick, and advances on the big kid.
Laura, showing incredible and uncharacteristic stupidity, pipes up to say Herman didn’t do it.
Applewood wheels and demands to know who the culprit is, but Laura, again unbelievably, refuses to implicate Willie. Neither does anybody else, perhaps even more unbelievably.
Applewood threatens to whip Laura if she doesn’t tell, and BGH Kid throws his McGuffey on the floor with rage.
Applewood rants like a madman and draws back to hit Laura with the stick.
“Just a minute,” says Charles’s voice from the back of the classroom.
He’s come back because one of the Ing-Gals forgot her homework. He orders them to go home.
Applewood hems and haws a bit, but doesn’t say much. So it’s odd that when Charles exits, he follows him out onto the steps and roars “MISTER INGALLS, I’M TALKING TO YOU!”
Charles cuts him off and says he’ll soon be returning with the full complement of the school board. He again makes to go, but Applewood screams “HOW DARE YOU!”, then makes the bad mistake of laying a hand on Pa’s shoulder.
Charles grabs him by the shirt and slams him against the wall.
DAGNY: He’s lucky Pa didn’t have a lunch-pail, he would have clocked him with it.
Charles says if not for Caroline’s influence, he would be kicking Applewood’s ass all over Hero Township, then breaks the whippin’ stick, as if to sort of put an exclamation point on the whole exchange.
After another commercial break, we join the school board meeting already in progress.
WILL: Whose buggy is that? Doc isn’t there. The Rev isn’t either. Nobody else has a buggy like that.
Applewood is arguing in his own defense. He says Charles has a conflict of interest and has turned on him because he’s giving Laura the bad grades she deserves.
DAGNY: Katherine MacGregor’s facial expressions are the only thing that makes this one worth watching.
Charles stands up and struts around the room like Atticus Finch, arguing Laura’s previous good grades prove Applewood is biased against her.
I’m sorry, this one is just so stupid. Everyone’s acting like Laura’s character is the evidence that makes or breaks this case, when it’s Applewood’s performance as an educator that’s being questioned.
Besides that, every person in the room except Applewood knows Laura personally and wouldn’t need a phony-baloney trial scene to decide what she’s like.
Applewood starts getting exapplesperated. He appears to have moistened his entire face with Laura’s teardrop glue.
He also starts disgustingly dabbing at his lips with a handkerchief.
Applewood accuses Laura and the Bead of scheming to undermine the public’s confidence in him even before they knew of his existence, and Mrs. Oleson for no reason at all agrees with this nonsensical notion.
Then Charles introduces a new piece of evidence: Applewood’s CV, which they apparently never bothered to review before hiring him.
Charles asks him why he left his last job, a question he can’t even think of a good answer for. (Though as someone who’s job-hunting himself, there’s part of me that sympathizes.)
Charles suggests they inquire with previous schools to see if they had similar problems with the Crab-Asshole.
Crabapple screams “HOW DARE YOU!” and rockets from his seat – though, quite funnily, this time in the opposite direction of Charles.
Applewood rants at the board, and shouts down Mr. Hanson when he tries to defuse the situation.
DAGNY: Look at Hanson’s eyebrows, they’re crazy! They’re practically growing into his hairline!
WILL: You try being a man over forty-five sometime.
Applewood rants and punches the board – the chalkboard, I mean, not the school board. Since we’re making The Office comparisons this week, I’ll point out he’s like Andy in the episode where they made him go to anger-management classes.
“THERE MUST BE ORDER!” Applewood rants. “THERE MUST BE ROUTINE!”
DAGNY [as TEVYE]: “Tradition!”
He rants on and on, whilst sweat sprays from his head and spittle spews from his mouth. He actually resembles Moby-Dick himself in this performance. Not an easy thing for a human actor to achieve.
Finally he screams “I MUST HAVE ORDER!”, then breaks down in a heaving, panting mess.
DAGNY: Oh my God, why are they letting him go on like this?
WILL: They’re Minnesotans.
Then, without any further discussion, Applewood resigns and leaves. No Ebenezer-Sprague-type redemption for him, I guess.
WILL: This whole thing is bullshit. We’re supposed to believe he’d just self-destruct in front of them?
Once he’s gone, Mrs. Oleson says, “Well, I guess our next order of business is book-banning.”
Back in her hotel room, Miss Beadle hears a knock at the door.
DAGNY: I figured out her housing situation. The town owns a house for use by the teacher, so that’s where the Bead was living when she had her accident. But when she got fired, she had to take a rented room at the Post Office.
WILL: Yes, that makes sense . . but she was already in the hotel room the night the school board fired her.
DAGNY: She rented it just in case. She saw the writing on the wall.
It’s Charles. Others have noted the impropriety of a woman entertaining a man alone in her rooms at this time period, and I think they’re probably right.
“To make a long story short,” Charles says – the saying probably was around by this point – Applewood is gone and she can have her job back.
Miss Beadle, not for the first time the only character in the episode who seems to have a working brain, points out that they still have the original problem. Charles says that since having a psychopathic teacher didn’t solve it, the whole community will have to come up with a solution together.
So she agrees. And then in an epilogue, Big Herman throws his book on the floor again, but the whole class turns to stare at him.
The combined staring powers of the Bead, Nellie (in an iconic shot) and Mary together are enough to make him burst into flame, and he is never seen again.
And bye-bye, reader. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!
STYLE WATCH: I like Applewood’s fob watch.
Charles appears to go commando again.
THE VERDICT: Excruciating. For completists only. I find Basehart’s performance ludicrous; but then again, I don’t drink anymore. Maybe that would have helped!
Anyways, I won’t say who, but at least one of our regular viewers actually bailed before the end of it. But don’t worry, they received a severe hand-whipping for it. WE MUST HAVE ORDER!!!
UP NEXT: The Long Road Home