Widow House on the Prairie; or
Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Widow Lies
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: For My Lady
Airdate: March 10, 1976
Written by B.W. Sandefur
Directed by William F. Claxton
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL:
WILL: So in this one, Charles does handyman work for a hot woman so he can buy Caroline a present, and Ma thinks they’re having an affair.
DAGNY [chuckling]: . . . This show is so stupid.
RECAP: Stupid or not, here we go.
But before we begin, a plug! A few weeks back, the nice people at The Ma and Pa Cast asked if I’d help create a new image featuring their logo. Here’s where we wound up:
I quite like how it turned out, and The Ma and Pa Cast is one of the more entertaining Little House podcasts if you ask me, so do give them a listen at your favorite podcast hub.
Anyways, we open with a close-up of a barrel labeled D. Haviland, Limoges, France.
A pretty specific appellation, and indeed, we will see the creators of the show didn’t just produce it out of their ass. I’m getting ahead of the story, though.
This barrel is in the back of the Chonkywagon, attended by Mary. She does not look comfortable, as the wagon’s really jostling her around today.
We see the wagon is approaching a familiar-looking big Victorian-type house (a Queen Anne?).
B.W. Sandefur wrote this one, which is promising.
And Claxton is back as director.
Mary says, “Dishes . . . all the way from France!”
And in fact, Limoges, France, was in the 1800s (and still is today) that country’s sort of porcelain capital, which I didn’t know but I’m sure you did if you’re into shit like that.
One tourism site describes its inhabitants as “potty for pottery,” which seems an unfortunate choice of phrase.
If you can believe what you see on the internet, the city has a lot of over-the-top historic architecture, and at least one bookshop which from its photo appears to be magical.
David “D” Haviland was an American-born exporter who set up in Limoges in the first half of the Nineteenth Century. He died in 1879, and his sons, Charles Edward and Theodore, had been running the business, called Haviland et Compagnie, for some time already by then, so I’m not sure about that D on the barrel. But whatever, it’s possible.
Apparently this delivery is for someone called “the Widow Thurmond,” who Charles assures Mary will be “proud” to show her the new porcelain. (“Proud”?)
“Why do they call her ‘Widow’?” says Mary. “Mrs. Thurmond’s awful young, and pretty too.”
WILL: It drives me nuts when they do this with Mary. Like, she’s the second-smartest kid in the whole state, but she doesn’t know what a widow is?
DAGNY: Come on, it’s for the little kids in the audience who don’t know.
Pa explains the impenetrable concept. Mary says the only widows she knows are black widow spiders.
WILL: Rubbish! Walnut Grove is lousy with widows!
Notably, before she and whatsisface got married, Grace was nearly always referred to as “the Widow Snider.”
Mrs. Whipple is also a widow, and there are a number of others, I’d argue.
Anyways, Pa laughs like a maniac, even by his standards, at Mary’s spider gag.
They arrive at the house, where the Widow Thurmond, indeed young and pretty, is talking to a fern.
DAGNY: Have we seen this house before?
DAGNY: It’s the old guy’s hoarded house, isn’t it?
DAGNY: Is he in this one?
WILL: You’ll have to wait and see.
We flash forward in time, but only a few minutes. Charles opens the barrel in the Widow’s dining room.
DAGNY: Is it more explosives?
No, it’s really dishes. The three of them examine a plate, and Charles says, “Your husband made an excellent choice, Mrs. Thurmond!”
WILL: Oh God, like he’s any judge of fine china.
DAGNY: It’s meant to make us suspicious. He means the husband made an excellent choice picking such a hot wife.
So this must be a recent widowhood, if Mr. T ordered a new plate set but croaked before it arrived. “Arthur was always so thoughtful,” says the Widow wistfully. (Try repeating “says the Widow wistfully” a few times fast and see how far you get.)
DAGNY: So she married the old guy, huh?
WILL: No. It’s supposed to be a different house.
DAGNY: . . . It’s not the same house?
WILL: No. It’s just identical. Do you think it’s fair to do that?
DAGNY: No. I mean, I suppose it could be like one of those prefab houses in the 1940s you just ordered from a catalog. Maybe there are identical giant Victorian homes all over Minnesota.
WILL: It’s possible. We do see it again, in fact.
DAGNY: Oh my God . . . it’s the house that explodes, isn’t it?
WILL: No. It’s the blind school.
The Widow fetches lemonade whilst Pa and Mary wander the house. It really is sort of preposterously over-decorated.
The Widow comes back with the lemonade, and Mary is amazed the mansion has its own icehouse.
DAGNY: Oh my God, and Willie was SMOKING in the icehouse, wasn’t he!
WILL: No. If he had, the ice probably would have put it out.
DAGNY: I suppose.
WILL: And it wasn’t Willie, it was Albert.
DAGNY: Wasn’t Willie with him?
WILL: No, it was another kid.
DAGNY: I suppose they couldn’t have had both Albert AND Willie kill the baby. That would be too much for the audience to bear.
WILL: Yes, even Little House had to draw the line somewhere.
I suppose now’s as good a time as any to tell you the Widow T is played by Mariette Hartley. While never a major star, she has plenty of interesting stuff on her resume, including Alfred Hitchcock and Sam Peckinpah movies, The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, Bonanza and Gunsmoke, The Incredible Hulk, Peyton Place, NCIS, Law & Order: SVU, and Grey’s Anatomy.
She was also on You Know What.
And she was in some wacky Polaroid ads with James Garner.
DAGNY: I remember those. I liked Mariette Hartley. I was a Hartley-Head.
She’s still acting today. Funnily enough, I remember her as a talk-show host, and sort of thought that’s what she was best known for.
But when I looked it up I learned the show she hosted, The CBS Morning Program, was on for less than a year, in 1987, and is I guess considered one of the worst talk shows of all time. (Wikipedia, with uncharacteristic harshness, describes it as “the joke of the industry.”)
The Morning Program must have made quite the impression on twelve-year-old me, I guess. I think my mom liked it.
Anyways, the Widow Thurmond says Charles is repairing her china cabinet, and when that’s done she can get rid of her old set of dishes.
Mary, in the manner of smart kids everywhere, indicates to Pa that MA MIGHT LIKE THOSE DISHES AS A PRESENT.
Widow T says she’d be happy to pay Charles in dishes rather than cash if that’s what they’d prefer.
Charles thanks her but says frankly they need the cash right now. It’s nice he actually explains it for once, instead of just pridefully sticking his head up his ass like he usually does.
Mary begs, saying she’d donate her earnings from Mrs. Whipple’s sweatshop towards the purchase.
DAGNY: Mary’s still working for Whipple, huh? Wasn’t that just for Christmas?
WILL: She got a contract extension. The Whip’s not getting any younger, you know.
DAGNY: I suppose. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s the most consistent employment any Ingalls has had on the show.
But Widow T reminds Mary of the patriarchal rule governing this community.
Pa asks if he could have more ice for his drink.
DAGNY: They’re really going gaga over this ice.
WILL: Yeah, Mary should steal some and take it home.
DAGNY: Laura would. She’d try to put it in her shirt for boobs.
Cut to the common room, where it’s a scene of chaos by Little House standards: Ma is brushing Carrie’s hair, Mary and Laura are washing and drying dishes, and Pa is simultaneously smoking and putting dishes away.
Mary is also filling Ma’s head with fairytale images of fancy dishes. Ma wonders how much a full set of china costs.
DAGNY: Oh my God, it’s another meta moment. Because Caroline isn’t really asking Charles how much china cost in those days. She’s asking YOU . . . she’s asking Walnut Groovy!
Well, I’ll do my best. The American Agriculturist catalog of 1881 lists a “white stone porcelain dinner set” of 179 pieces (it doesn’t specify how many settings) from the importer James M. Shaw & Company (which did apparently trade in Haviland china) available for $30, or about $800 in today’s money.
Pretty pricey, and I bet that isn’t even a fancy set.
Indeed, Pa tries to change the subject, saying he was thinking about putting in an icehouse of their own.
Ma says “it’s a while before the first freeze” so there’s no rush to decide about that. This confuses the timeline a little, since “The Long Road Home” took place in late October of 1882 – hardly “a while before the first freeze” in Minnesota. Could we now be in spring or summer of 1883?
Well, don’t worry about that too much. A heavy storm in the time-space continuum is forecast for next week.
Later, Charles tells Caroline he wishes he could afford to get her a nice set of dishes too. Caroline immediately frets that she’s given him the wrong impression.
DAGNY: She always has to make it about his feelings.
Charles then mentions he’s going to Mankato again on another freight trip. Apparently these are extra jobs he’s been picking up to pay off a loan to Mr. Sprague at the bank.
DAGNY: Sprague’s still around, eh? That’s good.
WILL: Yeah. He’s a little meaner again in this episode. Well, not mean, just kind of stick-up-his-ass.
DAGNY: That’s good. It’s good to have him consistent, because he wouldn’t just magically transform into a 100-percent different person.
And sure enough, next thing you know Charles goes to the bank, where he finds Sprague winding the clock.
WILL: He’s tall.
DAGNY: Yeah, the Shaquille O’Neal of Walnut Grove.
Mr. Sprague assumes Charles has come to pay off the loan, which is due tomorrow. Then he’s concerned Charles isn’t able to pay, but Charles says he actually wants to talk about the next loan.
Sprague asks if it’s an emergency, and Charles admits it’s for a personal purchase.
Charles says he could pay the new loan back at “harvest time,” suggesting we are in fact in summer again.
Mr. Sprague says his advice as Charles’s accountant is that expensive personal purchases are best not made by people in debt. Then he laughs and congratulates Charles on agreeing with him, which he hasn’t actually done.
DAGNY: I like him. He makes decisions and then sticks with them. He’s a different sort of businessman than anybody else in town. He’s not a wiffle-waffle like Nels. And he’s not insane like Harriet.
Despite not liking this outcome, Charles is still a cash-on-the-barrel type in his heart (if never actually in practice), and he leaves without pressing the matter further.
Later, Charles installs the repaired cabinet at the Widow T’s house.
DAGNY: Look at all that stuff – the painting, the butter-dish . . . How wealthy is she? She’s a lot richer than the Olesons.
WILL: Yeah, you wonder if the Ingallses would even be comfortable in a house like that. They only have the one piece of art, that creepy Little Bo Peep or whatever it is.
Mary’s not present this time, and the two of them have a conversation that isn’t quite flirty, but isn’t quite not flirty either.
DAGNY: She’s hotter than the Bead. She might be hotter than Caroline. She’s probably the hottest woman we’ve had on this show.
WILL: What about Doctor’s Lady?
DAGNY: Okay, she’s not as hot as Doctor’s Lady.
The Widow goes to get her purse, and Charles pokes around the mansion again.
DAGNY: Wait, pause it. We’ve seen that!
WILL: You mean the cabinet? Is that the one he made for Mrs. . . . Nelson?
Actually Mrs. Johnson. Cut me some slack, they are identical twins.
DAGNY: No, I mean the symbol. It’s the same one that’s on their headboard.
It is similar.
WILL: Well, obviously whoever made the furniture props loved the design. What is it? Birds flying in circles?
DAGNY: No, it’s an infinity symbol with leaves growing out of it.
WILL: It’s rural Minnesota in the 1800s, it is not an infinity symbol. Actually it kind of looks like spiders, or crabs. . . .
DAGNY: No, it’s totally an infinity symbol.
The Widow brings Charles his money.
DAGNY: Were banknotes actually the same size then as they are now? On Deadwood they always look bigger.
Well, they probably were bigger. The bills issued by the U.S. government were larger, and in fact were nicknamed “horse-blankets” because of their size. But into the 1930s private banks were allowed to print their own money, and it’s not clear to me if those bills had a standardized size. (Anybody know?)
Anyways, Charles points out some of the woodwork around the doors kind of looks like shit, and the Widow says her husband used the wrong chemicals on it and it got ruined. (My parents recently had a similar experience with their living room carpet, but if you ever run into them DO NOT MENTION THIS.)
Charles proposes redoing the woodwork in exchange for the Widow’s old dishes.
DAGNY: Why does he want to get them for Caroline so badly? They’re so impractical. Carrie would break one the first day.
After some tiresome blabbity where they’re both like “No, YOU should get paid more!”, they shake hands and agree.
DAGNY [as THE WIDOW THURMOND]: “TAKE ME, CHARLES!”
Charles says the dishes are a surprise gift for Caroline and says he’ll be back tomorrow to start work.
DAGNY: She’s going to fire up the stove and make it so hot he has to take his shirt off.
Charles drives away, smiling, as David Rose brings in his slappin’ “Lemming Holocaust” music from “The Camp-Out.”
When we come back, a dense fog outside the Little House once again indicates it’s early morning.
Charles is trying to sneak out, but Bed-Head Caroline wakes up. Charles tells her he’s working extra hours at the mill.
WILL: She looks ill. Look how pale she is. And she’s practically talking in baby talk.
DAGNY: She always does that. [in baby-talk:] “Oh Charles! Oo can’t make oo own lunch!”
At the mill, Charles loads up a wagon with grain-sacks.
DAGNY: Oh, it’s Mr. Hanson! [as HANSON] “Hello, Sharles.”
WILL: I do like how he says “Sharles.”
Charles asks Hanson if he can leave work early the next few days to work an additional job. Assuming Charles is having trouble paying off his debts (again), Hanson offers to lend him some money. But Charles refuses.
WILL: He’s such an idiot.
Cut to Charles paying off his loan at the bank. Now we do get a good look at the bills, which not only appear to be the same size as today’s, they are in $5 and $1 denominations and all feature a picture of Abe Lincoln.
Now, again, the history of U.S. currency design is incredibly complex, and half of what’s out there are these long blathering posts by “enthusiasts” who may or may not know what they’re talking about.
(I mean, sometimes that sort of thing is all right.)
But as far as I can tell, Lincoln only appeared on a $1 bill twice – once on a privately issued bill printed in New Jersey in 1861 (during the Civil War):
. . . and then again in 1899, on a “silver certificate” that also featured Ulysses S. Grant.
The bills Sprague handles don’t closely resemble either design.
As for the $5 bill, Lincoln didn’t appear on that until 1914. In the 1870s and 1880s, you might have seen a picture of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, or Christopher Columbus.
But whatever, Sprague is happy Charles has successfully paid off his debt, and says now how about that new loan you wanted to talk about?
WILL: I don’t get it, it was just yesterday that Charles came in to talk about the new loan. Why didn’t Sprague just say, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow”? Come to that, why didn’t Charles wait one more day before coming in in the first place?
Charles cheerfully waves off Sprague’s question, saying his cash-on-the-barrel advice was great and he’s figured out a better solution.
Cut to the schoolyard, where the Ing-Gals, Willie, an AEK, the Kid With Very Red Hair, and a handful of Nondescript Helens are starting on the long road home.
Willie and Laura are arguing about whether the phases of the moon have any effect on fishing conditions. (The Farmers’ Almanac agrees with Laura that they do.)
Despite never having shown much interest in fishing, Willie says they don’t, but he’s probably just arguing to be a dick.
These two inveterate risk-takers bet some marbles on it. I wonder what authority they’ll agree on to decide the question.
DAGNY: Laura has a burgeoning gambling problem, wouldn’t you say?
WILL: How so?
DAGNY: She’s always banking on something, even if it’s unlikely to happen. “Mr. Edwards is gonna say yes to the train trip,” or “We’re gonna sell these therapeutic oils for more money.”
In fact, this family shows the whole continuum of risk-taking. Carrie is in the middle where she’s a blob of nothing. Jack too.
Laura is extreme risk, then Charles is next. And he’s only less than Laura because of his age – when he was young, he was as bad as Laura or worse.
Ma is risk-averse. She’s at the far opposite end. She has no imagination.
And Mary, well, Mary is the most complicated person on the show. She wants to be on the Ma end of the continuum. But she’s easily talked into risky behaviors by Laura, and when she makes decisions herself, her deceitful side takes over. Laura’s like “Oh, we’ll trick Pa into letting us do something fun,” but Mary’s like, I’ll lie to Ma and Pa for WEEKS to cover up my mistake or to do the things that are priorities for me, like looking cool. She lies about big things.
WILL: I don’t think Jack should count. And slow down, you’re talking too fast! This is too much content!
DAGNY: Well, it’s what happens when you pump me full of coffee on a Saturday morning and then make me watch Little House.
Well, Laura, apparently feeling Pa would be an appropriate authority to ask, runs over to the mill screaming for him. (How Willie would accept Charles as an independent referee in this case I can’t imagine.)
Mr. Hanson tells the kids Charles left work early, and says he can’t answer their question himself. “I know that the moon has something to do with the tides,” he says.
WILL [as HANSON]: “And with a woman having her period!”
Willie demands payment, and Mary for unknown reasons sides with him.
DAGNY: Willie’s only currency is goldeneyes or whatever those marbles are he’s obsessed with.
DAGNY: Yeah, aggies. He’s Mr. Aggie.
Then we cut to a dinner scene, where the girls are still going on about Aggie-Moon-Fish-Gate.
Soon, Pa’s wagon is heard. Ma rushes out to meet him . . . and this is where B.W. Sandefur starts tightening the screws.
Charles tells Caroline he’s just getting home now because he stayed late at the mill . . . not knowing Laura already told Ma she was unable to find him there after school.
DAGNY: I’ve been in that situation. It’s reasonable for her mind to go there. I mean, if not for the fact that it’s Charles, who we know would never cheat.
WILL: I don’t know. He has narcissistic tendencies. If he wanted to do it, he would easily rationalize it for himself. He’s basically a Bill Clinton in a lot of ways, when you think about it.
Before bed, Ma catches Mary, who confirms Laura’s version of events. Pa’s story does not check out.
WILL: Whoa, it’s the Mary harpsichord theme.
DAGNY: That’s ’cause Mary said she’s going to study before turning out the light.
WILL: My God, David Rose was a genius.
The next day, the fog is back. Caroline is splitting wood, something Karen Grassle is not 100 percent convincing at doing.
An old coot we’ve never seen before drives up to the house. He has the face of a comedian, and in fact the actor, Richard Collier, was in Blazing Saddles.
DAGNY: He looks like my Uncle Dick.
WILL: Yeah, he does.
The man, whom Caroline addresses as “Mr. Burnside,” says he’s brought them a jar of pears his wife canned for them.
DAGNY: You know, canned pears must have been a big thing at this time. Remember how they always had them at important meetings on Deadwood?
Burnside says he’s seen Charles’s wagon parked at the Widow Thurmond’s every day this week and meant to drop them off there, but forgot.
Caroline is disturbed by this information, and later that day, she takes Carrie into town to investigate things for herself.
DAGNY: Look, look, that’s Carrie Two! She looks different, and her bonnet is different!
WILL: You think the two Carries wore different BONNETS?
(Dags feels she can tell the Greenbush twins apart, in case you’re just joining us.)
Well, the Ing-Gals find Mr. Hanson and Carl the Flunky at the mill, but no Charles.
Mr. Hanson stirs the pot by saying he has no idea why Sharles is leaving work early every day, but he’s probably taken another side job and is going to burn himself out.
“Now,” he says, “I have known men as strong as Sharles to burn the candle too long.”
WILL [as HANSON]: “To stick the candle in at both ends!”
Caroline says she’ll speak to Charles about all the “hard work” he’s been doing. Then she heads to the Mercantile.
DAGNY: Is she going to have an affair with Nels now?
But Caroline gets a nasty shock when she finds the Widow T herself in the store, rifling through the yard goods whilst Mrs. Oleson licks her boots.
The three ladies make some awkward small talk. Mrs. O apparently didn’t know about the Widow’s Limoges china purchase.
WILL: She didn’t order it through the Mercantile?
DAGNY: Minneapolis. Dayton’s.
Caroline asks WT about her satisfaction with Charles’s, erm, handiwork, in general terms.
Remembering her pledge not to reveal Charles’s extra efforts at the house (a stupid one neither she nor Charles really thought through), the Widow is like, oh, that cabinet, yes it was great.
Then she awkwardly excuses herself. Mrs. Oleson goes running out after her, saying she forgot her tin of pastilles.
DAGNY: Oh, I love pastilles!
Caroline sadly watches her beautiful rival through the window.
DAGNY: They’re trying to make Caroline look ugly here.
WILL: Yeah, it’s like on The Simpsons where Homer almost cheated and they made Marge have the flu.
Then Caroline makes a foolish and impulsive purchase of some expensive challis fabric.
Outside, Ben Slick is trying to chat up the Widow before she takes off.
WILL: That’s Mr. Edwards’ poker buddy from Mankato.
DAGNY: She’s not gonna give the time of day to trash like that.
Cut to the Laura and Mary Ingalls traveling vaudeville act coming down the lane.
Mary is swinging her arm and bitching at Laura, and Laura is dawdling, bitching back, and throwing rocks. (Not throwing them at Mary per se. Yet.)
Laura drops some exposition, saying Pa told the family he was making a delivery to Sleepy Eye that day.
The girls pause on a ridge, or something, overlooking Thurmond House.
Now here’s a serious question, readers: Does anybody know where the Little House itself is supposed to be located, geographically-wise-speaking, in relation to the town of Walnut Grove? The fictional Walnut Grove, I mean, not the real one.
Here is a helpful map of the urban core somebody calling themself Toby made in 2008. It’s apparently based on the actual positions of the building exteriors used for filming. Seems to match well enough, anyways.
Now, in real life, the Ingalls property was located around two and a half miles due north of the town center.
However, on the show, it seems to me when the Ingallses leave town for home in the wagon, they head south from the church, then follow the bend to the east, passing the Post Office and Hans “Rubberface” Dorfler’s smithy on the way.
Now, I have noticed the Ing-Gals frequently take a shortcut behind the mill when they leave school.
So perhaps this would indicate the Little House is located approximately two and a half miles east/southeast of the church?
The shortcut would be more direct, but it’s also pretty hilly; let’s assume the total walking distance is probably 35 minutes to an hour, each way, in good weather.
(In a blizzard, this would be an impossible journey, but it’s one only an utter psychopath would expect them to make.)
If anybody has other theories about the Little House’s location, I’d love to hear ’em.
And yes, I know some of you are wondering where Cattail and/or Willow Lake(s) fit in geographically, but we shall leave those questions for another day.
Anyways, eagle-eyed Mary (sorry) spots the Chonkywagon parked by the Thurmond house. I.e., NOT in Sleepy Eye.
Uneasy about this revelation, the Ing-Gals make up a lie to convince themselves there’s nothing unusual about it, and press on.
Later, Charles arrives home. In the common room, Caroline scrambles to hide the blouse she’s been making from the new fancy material.
Meanwhile, Carrie trundles out like a rundown Star Wars droid and sets the table.
DAGNY: See, those are dishes Carrie can’t break.
Outside, Mary asks Pa how his day was, and he says, “Well, it’s never too good a day when I got that long trip to Sleepy Eye!”
WILL: Yeesh, why would he even offer up this lie?
DAGNY: He’s covering his ass so his story seems consistent. He lies very freely when he wants to. He IS Bill Clinton.
Mary and Laura give each other kind of an eep look.
That night, they debrief the situation in bed.
DAGNY: At least they have each other to talk to. Chelsea didn’t have anybody.
WILL: Well, that cat. “Socks.”
Laura jumps to woman-blaming, suggesting the Widow Thurmond is evil like the stepmother in “Cinderella.”
Mary again shows her shaky grasp of the whole “widow” concept by saying that’s a stepmother, not a widow.
WILL: But she was also a widow, wasn’t she? Because Cinderella’s father died. I mean, I don’t know if it was based on an actual incident.
The girls are very disturbed by Laura’s theory; so much so that they simply say goodnight instead of engaging in the usual ten minutes’ worth of go-to-sleep bullshit.
Downstairs, Pa is smiling to himself, pleased with his machinations to get his beloved wife a present. In case we doubt his earnest romantic intentions, David Rose gives us the Johnny Johnson and Laura Ingalls Fantasy Overture in the score.
Audience members who are easily thrilled, and even some who aren’t, get a treat, then, when Charles undresses onscreen.
From the bed, Caroline doesn’t actually accuse Charles of anything, but does ask him some almost direct questions about his work at the Widow Thurmond’s place.
Charles awkwardly lies that he had to run out there again to deliver some lumber. Caroline asks why, and Charles says he’s going to be doing some additional work out there, which he probably should have just said in the first place.
Caroline tests him by saying if he’s expecting some additional income, she’s going to go ahead and order some stuffs and necessaries from the Mercantile. Charles is like, uh, I wouldn’t do that.
WILL/DAGNY [turning to each other, nodding]: Cash on the barrel.
Unsatisfied, Caroline abruptly says goodnight, and then David plays “Mary the Nerd” again. He’s a bit scattershot in this one.
After a commercial, we see Laura walking through an autumnal forest. So I guess maybe it is still the fall of 1882. Or maybe it’s now the fall of 1883? Oh well, I don’t know what I’m talking about. And as I said, this time it really doesn’t matter.
DAGNY: I love this music.
WILL: Oh yeah, I call this one “Drinkin’ Jack.” Because Jack was drinking from the creek the first two times they used it.
Pa and Mary are there too.
WILL: That’s a nice spot. That’s where John was scared by the deer, isn’t it?
They’re out a-gathering mushrooms.
WILL: Charles should poison the widow with the mushrooms and just steal the dishes.
Laura asks, “Going to Sleepy Eye again today, Pa?” with a touch of irony.
Since Caroline already figured out where he’s been, he drops the Sleepy Eye ruse and just says he’s doing some extra work out at the Château de Thurmond. Why he doesn’t just tell these two about the surprise, I don’t know, it would simplify things enormously.
The Ing-Gals shoot each other a look.
DAGNY: It’s actually funny people are so willing to distrust him. That’s probably the real reason they had to leave Kansas, he was such a philanderer.
Then Mary says she’s been working on a dress for the Widow at the sweatshop, and you’d never think it, but she actually has a gigantic ass under her dress.
DAGNY: No WAY! Oh my GOD! She did NOT just say that!
(I asked Roman if he recognized this image. He said no, but added, “Don’t worry, I’m sure nobody under fifty reads this blog.”)
(Nonsense. I know for a fact there’s at least one 38-year-old.)
Anyways, Pa shrugs Mary’s comment off.
Then Laura puts in her oar, adding she heard the Widow has false teeth.
Annoyed by their nonsense, Pa departs.
Then we see the Gals cutting across a field.
WILL: Look, it’s those sheep again.
DAGNY: Oh yeah.
WILL: . . . In fact, I think that’s the same shot – they just dubbed different dialogue over it.
DAGNY: My God, you’re right. . . . That’s really distracting, actually.
WILL: See, you’ve never watched a show this way before. It does sort of ruin it, doesn’t it.
Laura says since Mrs. Whipple has Mary working on that dress for Badonkadonk Thurmond, she’s got a plan to figure out what’s going on.
Next, we see Charles arriving at the chateau. And then we see a bush start to move.
DAGNY: Oh my God! Is that Caroline?
But no, it’s Mary and Laura. They creep up to the house and peep through the windows. Be careful, girls; it’s a good rule of thumb not to go looking for something you’re unprepared to actually find.
But of course, in this case they don’t see anything, so they just throw the bush disguise to the ground and go up to the door.
When the Widow lets them in, Mary tells her she’s come to confirm her measurements. Charles comes into the room, and tells Mary to be careful not to stick the WT with a pin.
WIDOW THURMOND: She’s been doing quite well so far.
WILL: Of course she has, she’s a fucking professional.
I’m not quite sure what the girls intended with this scheme to begin with, but since I guess it’s essentially foiled, they depart.
As they leave, Mary (mis-)quotes “The Spider and the Fly,” by Mary Howitt (published 1829).
Then she calls Mrs. T a black widow who’s “trapped” Pa.
DAGNY: My God, they assume Pa is the innocent victim?
WILL: See, that’s what the symbol on the cabinet was. Black widows!
They walk home in dejection, passing (but failing to clean up) the mess of branches from their abandoned bush costume.
DAGNY: What is she going to think when she finds that?
On the way home, Charles stops at the Mercantile, where he tells Mrs. Oleson, of all people, about the secret time he’s been spending at the Widow’s house!
Mrs. O puts two and two together and turns ice-cold. She says he can count on her discretion, then, the minute he’s out the door, starts screaming for Nels.
DAGNY: [wipes tears of laughter away]
WILL: You’re loving this one, aren’t you?
DAGNY: I am. It’s a comedy for grown-ups.
Back at the Little House, Ma has put on the beautiful new blouse she made. Laura hands her a little bottle.
DAGNY: What is that, the homeopathic oils?
But no, it’s her lemon verbena, of course!
It’s worth noting that Carrie, noticing nobody’s paying attention, climbs halfway up the ladder during this scene.
Pa comes in, then immediately goes back out to wash up for supper.
WILL: He didn’t even notice. Her new blouse, the lemon verbena. Although, I suppose if Laura’s in charge of it the whole place reeks of lemon verbena all the time.
Mary, always good at rubbing salt in people’s wounds, says, “I don’t think he really saw you, Ma!”
Ma tries to keep it together, but then rushes out to change her clothes, crying.
That night in bed, Laura says she’d like to punch the Widow in the stomach.
DAGNY: Don’t do that! Pa’s so virile, I’m sure he’s impregnated her already if they ARE having an affair.
Mary says men are “supposed” to get jealous and beat people up, but women aren’t.
DAGNY: I don’t like where this conversation’s going.
Downstairs, Clueless Chuck continues to offend. And he’s not the only one.
WILL: I thought she was going to change?
DAGNY: She did, it’s a different blouse.
WILL: It looks exactly the same.
DAGNY: You’re as bad as he is!
Then Charles goes to bed, on the way complimenting her on the new blouse she wore earlier. Caroline is like, what the fuck? as a sad tune plays on the soundtrack.
WILL: That’s the “Haunted House” theme! It’s from the music box the old man had! Wow, this is like David Rose’s Greatest Hits album.
DAGNY: You know, Little House should have had a clips episode. You know, like on Golden Girls, where they’re all sitting around the table reminiscing about their crazy adventures.
[UPDATE: Some of our Twitter followers, INCLUDING THE FANTASTIC MELISSA GILBERT HERSELF, pointed out there were in fact some clips episodes that aren’t included in streaming services, DVD collections, and the like. I stand very much corrected!]
After the commercial, we see Caroline shopping in the Mercantile, and Mrs. Oleson appears.
DAGNY: Is she going to be nice or mean? I bet nice.
She is nice, but the music is sinister.
Mrs. O makes a kind of hilariously awful speech where she drips sympathy for Caroline whilst gloating she’s deduced Charles is schtupping the Widow.
Caroline screams at her to shut up and storms out.
DAGNY: Poor Caroline. She should trash the place as she’s leaving.
She passes the Thurmond place on her way home, and hears the Widow laughing.
WILL: Oh my God, she hears a hot woman’s laughter and sees her husband’s car in the driveway. Look, they’re on the porch!
DAGNY: And he looks more relaxed than he has in years.
WILL: She should burn the house down.
DAGNY: She could, the girls pulled those bushes up for kindling.
She stomps home without confronting them.
Later, Charles and the Chonkies drive up, almost killing Jack yet again.
There are just minutes to spare; I’m often surprised how quickly they’re able to wrap these stories up sometimes.
Inside, Ma tells the girls to go outside, as she’s going to murder Pa when he comes in.
DAGNY: Oh my God. . . .
When he comes in, she says she must speak to him, but he drags her outside to show her something.
In the back of the wagon sits the barrel full of china.
DAGNY: Is she gonna be like, “Oh, oh, oh, CHARLES!”
WILL: That was a pretty good Caroline.
DAGNY: Thank you.
Charles confesses all.
WILL: Now SHE’S supposed to feel guilty? She shouldn’t. She was just using the evidence of her senses. She was justified in being suspicious.
DAGNY: Of course she was. She was Mr. Sprague-ing it!
And “oh, oh, oh, CHARLES” it is, as Laura bares her chompers in glee.
Then Voiceover Laura tells us they used the new china at every meal after that.
WILL: No you didn’t, Voiceover Laura. We never see those fucking plates again.
DAGNY: See, that’s how we should eat, instead of everybody with their elbows on the table, people talking with their mouths full, leaving before everyone’s finished. . . .
WILL: What can I say, we’re the Olesons.
And that, reader, is it. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!
STYLE WATCH: We already commented on the Widow’s crazy decor.
Ma’s new blouse is nice.
Charles appears to go commando again.
DAGNY: That was my favorite Little House so far. It’s even better than the baseball episode.
WILL: High praise!
DAGNY: Well, sometimes it can be so boring.
WILL: Well, that’s the great thing about Little House. The stories get better as the show goes along. Up to a point, I mean.
DAGNY: It’s a terrible title, though. “For My Lady,” yuck. Anytime there’s a lady in the title, it sounds sleazy.
WILL: Well, I was thinking about using it when I write a book about about our marriage. But now I won’t.
DAGNY: Thanks, my love.
WILL: Anything for you.
UP NEXT: Centennial