La La Lansford; or
Can You Imagine CHARLES INGALLS is Your Fucking Brother?
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: Journey in the Spring, Part One
Airdate: November 15, 1976
Written and directed by Michael Landon
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: We meet Charles’s parents, and, like the good Little House characters they are, they immediately go insane and/or die. Flashbacks galore, plus Charles cries. A lot.
RECAP: We’re joined once again this week by Olive’s friend Lucinda, who last contributed way back in January.
OLIVE: You remember the characters and everything?
LUCINDA: I can figure it out.
After last week’s harrowing tale of murder and dismemberment, we return to a more typical story, where nothing that bad will happen, except one beloved established character getting ripped to shreds and dying, and one new one attempting to burn himself to death.
But I’m getting ahead again. Little House took a week’s hiatus between “The Monster of Walnut Grove” and this episode, a fact which would have PISSED THE SHIT OUT OF ME if I was watching this back in the Twentieth Century.
Young people of today at least will never know the irritation of having your favorite show preempted by Circus of the Stars or whatever, even if in many ways their lives are a million times worse.
What did NBC put on instead, you ask? Well, this time it was the second half of Gone with the Wind, which, despite my fondness for crap from the past (and my fairly high tolerance for its offensiveness quotient), is a movie I’ve never liked.
I do love plenty of pop-culture garbage myself, as regular readers know, but I’ve never gotten the appeal of this one.
It isn’t so much the sentimentalization of slave times (though it is that in part) as it’s the soap-opera plot and shlocky sincerity.
I realize the irony of a Little House on the Prairie blogger being critical of such things. Oh well, sorry, Hoopskirt-Heads!
Anyways, we open on a man of late middle age, possibly, stomping wildflowers in the woods.
The task finished, the guy stomps towards a house that looks vaguely familiar. Then again, by this point I think they’ve used every location on the show more than once, so it’s probably nothing.
Although Amazon calls this one “Journey into the Spring,” when the title pops up onscreen we see it’s actually “Journey IN the Spring.”
To slightly sad music from the Rose, the man goes inside. He walks to the wall and pulls a curtain back. Weirdly, rather than the expected window, we find it conceals a bedroom, with a woman asleep in the bed.
To more gentle, sappy music, the man gently and sappily sits down on the bed. The woman gently and sappily wakes.
“Lansford,” she says.
Okay, at this point in the story, serious Bonnetheads in the audience will turn to each other and go “Oh my God, LANSFORD!!!” I’m not one, but I know the type.
And of course, then there’s going to be that jaded older Bonnethead, possibly sipping a gimlet or something, who throws water on the fun by saying, “Ah, but which Lansford?”
For Lansford of course was the first name of both the real Charles Ingalls’s father and his brother. But more about them later.
Well, the lady in the bed is surprised her Lansford is out of bed. He tells her he had to go to the post office, and then she’s surprised to learn he’s been there and back already.
“Land’s sakes,” she says, or possibly “LAND sakes” – it’s hard to tell – “what time is it?”
“Oh, never mind the time,” Lansford replies.
OLIVE: I’d be mad if I lived in the Nineteenth Century and I asked somebody the time and they wouldn’t tell me. It’s not like you could just roll over and check your phone.
OLIVE: Dad, you grew up in the country, I suppose you can tell the time by looking at the sky.
WILL: I grew up in the country, not on a pirate ship.
And the reason the house looks so familiar is it’s the same house Charles & Co. left at the beginning of the Pilot!
Anyways, Grandpa Lansford doesn’t really look that old, but he has a gray mustache and speaks in a Ronald Reagan-type whispery grandpa voice.
The actor, Arthur Hill, was in lots of TV shows and movies, but perhaps his greatest accomplishment was creating the role of George in the original Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He won the Tony for it.
Lansford reads Charles’s letter aloud.
OLIVE: Charles’s handwriting is girlier than I’d expect. I wonder if there are hearts over the I’s.
Grandpa’s barely gotten two words out when Grandma Laura interrupts to ask when Charles and Caroline are going to have another baby already. They’re quite bickery in this scene.
Grandma Laura proceeds to rant, albeit weakly, that Charles and Caroline have to keep poppin’ babies out till they have a son to carry on the family name.
OLIVE: So that’s where Charles got it from.
“I’m sure they’re doin’ their best, Mother,” says Grandpa Lansford.
OLIVE: Not again with the men calling their wives “Mother.” It’s gross.
Then they argue about whether he should continue reading at all.
OLIVE: Oh my God, it’s Grandma and Grandpa Kaiser.
Grandpa Lansford reports that Charles’s crops “look good this year . . . barring drought or grasshoppers.” (Grasshoppers again.)
Today’s crop report suggests we’ve skipped the winter and moved into 1877(C), by the way.
Charles also writes he should “have some good money banked come winter.”
WILL: Sprague reference.
Then Charles goes on to say “Mary is close to bein’ a woman.”
AMELIA: What, are they checking her pantaloons every night?
WILL: My God, I’m not putting that in.
Grandma Laura tells Grandpa Lansford she hopes “your son” watches out for boys sniffing around Mary.
But when Lansford says Charles is doing just that, she praises “my son” for his good sense.
LUCINDA: First he’s his son, then he’s her son?
LANSFORD: First he’s my son, then he’s your son?
Then Charles says he’s thinking about building on to the Little House, and says when he does, Grandma and Grandpa should come live with them. (Eventually he will put an addition on – and pay a price for it – but it isn’t another bedroom.)
Moving on to Arts & Leisure, Charles writes, “When I play the violin at night, we all think about ‘Dancin’ Grandma.’”
(Nobody’s mentioned “Dancin’ Grandma” a single fucking time on this show, but maybe they all visualize her during the fake-fiddling scenes.)
Relatively abruptly, Charles signs off. (As “your son, Charles Phillip Ingalls” – the first time Charles’s middle name has been mentioned on the show.)
Grandma Laura croaks that she wants to hold the letter, then makes Lansford promise that in the spring they’ll move to Walnut Grove.
By this point we’ve intuited Grandma isn’t just lazy but dying, even if she doesn’t really seem all that ill to us. (The actor, Jan Sterling, who was in a million things but who I don’t recognize from anything else, is no Patricia Neal. But, who is.)
Grandpa Lansford struggles inwardly whether to tell Grandma she’ll soon be dead and will never see her son and grandchildren again. Not a tough call, if you ask me.
Lansford has gone to the fire to make some beef tea or something when Grandma Ingalls says his name again. (Irritatingly, the fool of a subtitle transcriptionist calls the character “Mrs. Colby.”)
“How long till sunup?” Grandma Laura suddenly asks – a question apparently so out of place it makes Grandpa drop his spoon and crane his neck around in disbelief.
(To be fair, though, the lighting in this scene is so murky, you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t tell what time of day it was.)
When Lansford comes back to the bedside, Grandma’s hand is motionless.
Grandpa Lansford snuzzles the body whilst David Rose fools around at the low end of the piano.
DAGNY: Come on, she dies right after that conversation? Just coincidentally? I take it Landon wrote this one, huh.
Dags’s objections aside, dropping dead after being read a letter is actually pretty common in the Little House universe. Remember Miss Maddie?
Next, a jarring transition plops us into a screaming field of turkeys.
We see Carrie sitting under a tree in the middle of the the flock (technically a “rafter,” if you want to know). She looks quite depressed, actually.
Meanwhile, Pa yuks it up with a goat-faced turkey farmer.
Carrie apparently gets to choose the turkey that they’ll be having for Thanksgiving dinner. I think everyone can see where that’s going.
As a reminder, Thanksgiving was observed as a federal holiday beginning in 1870.
Despite having aired in November, this isn’t really a Thanksgiving episode, though. If you believe what you read on the internet, the turkeys we see onscreen are approximately eight weeks old, and in those days a turkey would be ready for slaughter at 24 to 28 weeks. That would put us in July or August of 1877.
Pa goes over and he and Carrie have a hilarious little conversation about turkeys. Carrie is offended to learn male turkeys have a proper name, “Tom,” whilst females are generically called “hens.”
AMELIA: She’s right. Look at her, the little feminist.
DAGNY: Yeah, Carrie’s the Gloria Steinem of this show.
Eventually Carrie picks one, and off they go. I’m glad. I find the seething mass of turkeys kind of horrifying, actually.
Pa, Carrie and the Chonkies return home, where a chopping block wittily prefigures Tom’s death.
Ma slowly emerges from the Little House. She compliments Carrie’s turkey, but without real enthusiasm.
Pa and Carrie start to bring Tom into the barn, but Ma takes Charles aside.
DAGNY: You can tell she’s got bad news, ’cause she didn’t run out orgasming “CHARLES!”
She gives Charles a letter from Lansford.
AMELIA: His shirt’s buttoned awfully low.
ROMAN: My history teacher wore his shirts like that.
WILL: In school?
ROMAN: Yeah. I think that might be why he doesn’t work there anymore.
Charles blither-blathers cheerfully until he gets to the paragraph where it says his mother’s dead. We don’t actually see the letter, but it’s probably near the top, I’d guess.
DAGNY: This isn’t as funny as when Caroline runs to greet her ma and finds her coffin instead.
Charles breaks down and Caroline embraces him.
That night, Ma and Carrie have a little conversation about death and the like.
ROMAN: Carrie’s getting a lot of screen time this season.
DAGNY: Her bangs look good.
Ma brings up Baby Freddie and says it’s okay to feel sad when loved ones die. Carrie reminds her they’ve gone to Heaven.
WILL: Mr. Edwards should come in and say, “Ain’t no Heaven, kid, ’cept at the bottom of a bottle.”
Abruptly, Carrie changes the subject and slurps, “I wish Tom could sleep with me!” She also wanted to sleep with a pig once, I think.
Out in the barn, Charles is making a cage for Tom.
DAGNY: He’s like me, putting together that storage unit when my mom died.
Caroline comes out and offers him coffee, of course.
Charles does that thing where he affects absurd good cheer in the face of tragedy or danger.
But he quickly breaks down again.
He’s angry his father hid his mother’s illness from them. He says they should have come along with them when they moved out of Wisconsin in the first place. That’s idiocy, though. You could barely feed the five people you did have in Kansas, Chuck.
He also describes his parents’ house as a “shack” . . . which seems petty, as it’s no worse than 90 percent of the homes we see on this show.
OLIVE: Oh, look at Pa crying! He’s great!
WILL: You’re surprised? It’s Michael fuckin’ Landon.
AMELIA: You should get that as a tattoo, Dad.
(Actually, here’s a real Michael Landon tattoo I found this week:)
In a nice moment, Caroline steps forward and says, “We’ll be just fine while you’re gone,” basically ordering Charles to go bring his dad home to Walnut Grove.
AMELIA [looking at her phone]: Wow, Laura Ingalls Wilder lived to be ninety? That was a long time for a pioneer woman.
ROMAN: Yes, but at the end of her life she was rich. Rich, rich, rich!
The real LIW looked a little like Hints From Heloise, I think.
But never mind that for now. After a break, we see Charles boarding the train in Springfield. Oddly, Caroline, Mary, and Laura have come to see him off – oddly, since it’s quite the distance from home for them.
Then again, maybe they took the Mustache Man Express.
Anyways, they all wave at each other like idiots as the Number Three departs.
LUCINDA: The tall one seems like a turd.
OLIVE: She can be.
On the train, Charles laughs at a little kid who’s picking his nose.
Then the kid’s mom hits him.
OLIVE: Pa isn’t going to like that.
But Charles just laughs harder.
OLIVE: Oh my God, he did like it.
Charles then becomes distracted by a scrawny, watery-eyed, unshaven old-man passenger.
AMELIA: It’s Mr. Gower!
The old man makes clawing gestures with his hands.
DAGNY: Jeez, look at his nails.
AMELIA: They look like Aughra’s.
Charles looks ahead thoughtfully. So does his reflection in the window.
OLIVE: His reflection should do something crazy, like stick its tongue out.
The camera pans away the window and into a flashback. We haven’t had that many on the show so far, I realize.
It’s VERY blurry. I’m not sure if they smeared the lens with vaseline, or put a nylon over it, or what. I know there are some tricks.
The first thing we see is a clean-shaven and young-ish Lansford, who walks up a hill.
DAGNY: Apparently Grandpa Ingalls goes commando too.
ROMAN: That’s where Charles got it from.
We know it’s Youngish Lansford because he’s yelling for Charles, but without the mustache, he looks like a completely different person to me. In fact, at first I thought it was a different actor, though that would be bizarre, wouldn’t it?
Well, speaking of different actors and the bizarre, a little boy suddenly emerges from the shrubbery.
Yes, it’s Matthew Labyorteaux, later to become a series regular as the quite fictional, loved-by-many, reviled-by-some adopted moppet Albert Ingalls. (I’m pro-Albert myself.)
As you probably know, for some reason the Brothers Labyorteaux spelled it Laborteaux during their years on the show. Apparently they thought that would be more comprehensible to audiences than Labyorteaux.
But I can’t think Y!
Anyways, since both Matthew and his brother Patrick (who also will be joining the cast soon) now use the y spelling, I will too.
Here of course, Matthew is playing not Albert (not playing Albert, I mean – not playing Not-Albert) but Young Charles.
OLIVE: I forgot about this. It makes no sense, because Albert is adopted. So why would he look like Charles as a kid?
WILL: Maybe Albert is the illegitimate son of Charles’s dad. That would make him Charles’s half-brother as well as his son!
AMELIA: Like “I’m My Own Grampaw”?
To me he looks like he’s about six, but apparently Matthew Labyorteaux was actually nine at the time.
Since Michael Landon was 39 when he filmed this one, we can date this scene to roughly 1847. (Since in real life Charles was born in 1836, that works out pretty nicely!)
And speaking of real life, this flashback provides as good an opportunity as any, or perhaps as bad a one, to go into Lansford’s actual history.
For extra context, I turned to Annie Kontor of Wilder on the Prairie fame (check out her podcast here).
I’d hardly describe her as a jaded older Bonnethead, but when I said we’d be talking about Lansford Ingalls this week, she did ask, “Which Lansford?”
Lansford Whiting Ingalls was born in 1812 in Quebec, but to American expatriates of English descent. What they were doing in Canada is something of a mystery – Annie says Lansford’s father (Samuel Worthen Ingalls, a fire-and-brimstone puritan type from New England) might have gone there to try to make it as an importer/exporter, but nobody really knows for sure.
At any rate, the family didn’t stay there long. They returned to the U.S. and settled in New York, where Charles was born.
In 1832, Lansford married Laura Colby, a native New Yorker. (More on her history in a little bit.)
After a financial panic in 1837, some members of the Ingalls family moved to Kane County, in Illinois, and so did Lansford and Laura, a few years later. Annie says they originally had a 164-acre farm, but they couldn’t have done very well with it, because by 1850 Lansford gave his occupation as “laborer” for a census.
In 1853, the Ingallses moved again – this time to Jefferson County, Wisconsin (just west of Milwaukee).
And as it happened, a young woman named Caroline Quiner lived just across the Oconomowoc River from the Ingalls farm. (Viewers from Wisconsin – like me – will get a chance to laugh their heads off when Karen Grassle tries to pronounce Oconomowoc in a future episode.)
We’ll deal with what happened there (and what didn’t) down the road, but until we learn otherwise, we will assume this flashback is showing us Charles’s family experience in Illinois, circa 1847?
This is going to be a long recap, I can tell (we’re just fifteen minutes into the episode), so you may wish to fortify yourself with drinks and snacks at this point. Maybe not popcorn, though. We don’t want you to get too distracted.
Back to our story. Lansford accuses Young Charles of running away, and Young Charles, who’s carrying some sort of sack or tote (sadly, not on a stick – a missed opportunity), affirms this.
OLIVE: I think Charles’s dad is handsome. He kind of looks like George Bailey.
Lansford does that thing where he pretends it’s just fine his kid is running away, which confuses Young Charles.
WILL: I feel like I’ve seen a million scenes like this in sappy, schlocky TV shows and movies.
LUCINDA: It is a classic way to deal with idiot kids and their stupid scenarios.
Soon Lansford is pretending he wants to abandon the family and come along.
WILL: Now that is a very red shirt.
DAGNY: Yeah. It’s no Pinky. But you can tell it’s Pinky’s ancestor.
“Pa!’ mewls Young Charles unhappily. “Are you sure you know what you’re doin’?”
Young Charles is worried that this decision will upset his ma.
WILL: Oh, who cares, she’s horrible. [as GRANDMA LAURA:] “WHEN ARE YOU GONNA HAVE A SON???”
Then he asks, “What about Peter, and Lydia, and Polly?” (All actual siblings of the real-life Charles, though he leaves out at least one who would also have been born by this time – Lansford the Younger!)
Lansford the Elder waves that off, but Young Charles continues to mewl what a bad idea it is.
LUCINDA: He sounds pretty nasal.
ROMAN: Probably a cocaine addict.
Young Charles eventually says he was just kidding, he wants to stay in the Big Woods after all. So there goes my Illinois theory.
Now, despite being a Wisconsin native myself, I’ve never actually visited the Big Woods region myself, though I am familiar with the Minnesota side right across the Mississippi River from it. Pretty area.
As I’m sure everyone reading this knows, in real life Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in the Big Woods, near a place called Pepin. Apparently, there are actually TWO places called Pepin right next to each other – a town and a village. I wonder if they are bitter rivals? I can actually picture a Little House episode where Mrs. Oleson moves her family two miles out of town and then tries to declare that zone the REAL Walnut Grove. Can’t you?
Well, enough of my fantasies. Anyways, in real life Charles and Caroline didn’t move to the Big Woods until 1863, so contrary to what this show suggests here (and has suggested before), Charles did NOT grow up here.
But I’ll leave it to the more established Bonnetheads to get worked up about that. I just like the show, myself.
Well, Lansford and Young Charles agree to go home, together.
LANSFORD: I wouldn’t be surprised if your ma’s got a fresh pie in the oven.
AMELIA: “That’s a euphemism, boy. You’ll know what I mean when you grow up.”
Back in the present, or 1877(C), or whenever, Middle-Aged Charles comes out of his reverie and tells the ticket collector he’s “going home.”
Well, soon after that, we see Charles crossing a yard. And who should he encounter in that yard but Alice Garvey!
But actually, it can’t be Alice Garvey, because he calls out “Eliza Ann!” to her.
“Eliza Ann” runs to embrace him.
WILL: Wait, what? Charles’s sister is Alice Garvey’s twin? God, maybe Alice and Albert are BOTH Charles’s half-siblings. That would give the blind school episode a real poignancy.
But of course, it’s just that Hersha Parady (another favorite of my friend John Pima’s) plays both characters. (John has a thing for “prairie milfs,” but that’s a topic best saved for Walnut Groovy’s OnlyFans page.)
And in fact, a rather convoluted conversation between Eliza Ann and Charles reveals that a) she’s not actually Charles’s sister but CAROLINE’s, and b) she also married Charles’s brother Peter.
So, in another “I’m My Own Grampaw” twist, this makes her Charles’s sister-in-law twice over.
It’s weird, but things like this do happen from time to time. When my own grandfather died, my grandmother married her daughter’s husband’s father . . . meaning my married aunt and uncle suddenly became each other’s stepsiblings. And their surviving parents-in-law became their stepparents as well. Life is funny that way.
On a show that’s known for falsifying history to the point of ridiculousness, it’s notable the double-sister-in-law thing is actually true. Peter Ingalls and Eliza Ann Quiner did marry.
And they did live in the Big Woods . . . but they weren’t there at this time. Their ten-year stay there ended in 1874, when they joined Charles and Caroline for the journey across the Mississippi River to Minnesota.
But Peter and Eliza Ann settled in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota, just over the border from Pepin really; nowhere near Walnut Grove.
I stopped in Zumbro Falls for a chicken-salad sandwich once (I think).
Anyways, Charles and Eliza Ann walk up to the house – hers and Peter’s, it turns out, rather than Lansford’s – arm in arm.
AMELIA [still reading]: Laura Ingalls Wilder was born before the typewriter was invented, and she died the year the polio vaccine came out. She was around for the invention of the electric guitar!
WILL: She also was around for the 1920s. She probably danced the Charleston on the back of an elephant in Times Square.
Next we cut to the inside of the house, where Charles and Eliza Ann are dining with a sharp-faced man and two children – presumably Peter and their kids. (They actually had five by this point, however.)
If Peter looks familiar to you, it’s because Mark Lenard, the actor, famously played Spock’s father, Sarek, in Star Trek (the original series), Star Trek: The Next Generation, and three of the movies.
Sarek addresses the girl as “Amelia” (!). (I’d refer to her as Amelia Ingalls to differentiate her from our daughter Amelia, but she drops out of the story after this scene.)
Quite oddly, though, it seems Peter and Eliza Ann Ingalls never had a child of that name.
Sarek, whose manner suggests chances for an uncomfortable conversation are good, sends the tots out.
Then Sarek and Charles state definitively that it’s been four years since Charles last saw Lansford – i.e., four years since coming to Minnesota. So in fact, since that happened in 1874, this would make it 1878, not 1877 as we’ve calculated. I’ll accept that.
“Well, if you thought he was bad when he lost the farm,” Sarek says, “wait’ll you see him now.” (A reference to what happened in Illinois in 1850?)
The conversation’s been going okay so far, but it takes a wrong turn when Charles suggests they spend more time with Lansford.
“Well, what in God’s name do you expect me to do?” Sarek snarls suddenly. He stomps around the room and says to Eliza, “Who does he think he is, coming back here and accusing me of not treating Pa right?”
DAGNY: I get it. Can you imagine CHARLES INGALLS is your fucking brother?
Sarek continues, “It’s well and good for him living halfway across the world away from all this!”
OLIVE: “Halfway around the world”? Aren’t they in Wisconsin?
It is a slight exaggeration. Walnut Grove is about 200 miles from the Big Woods.
Sarek says having their depressed father around was having adverse effects on the family’s mental health. I can see that.
Interestingly, he suggests Lansford was always like this, to a certain extent, even before his wife’s death.
Charles doesn’t fight back, but simply says he’s going to go visit Lansford and will come back the next day.
Then Sarek, calming down, tells Charles it’s better to just leave him alone, and remember him as he was when they were children. Which is sad.
You can tell they combed Sarek’s hair over his ears to hide his true species.
LUCINDA: You guys should watch Andy Griffith next.
WILL: Oh, that’s not as good.
LUCINDA: I like it.
WILL: Well, it’s not as dark, anyways. Nobody used a baby as a battering ram on that.
Charles leaves and heads to his father’s “shack.” When he comes in, Lansford sees him in his Matthew Labyorteaux form.
OLIVE: I love the episodes where people go insane. It happens a lot on this show.
LUCINDA: It happened a lot in real life. They probably all had iron poisoning from drinking well water.
In another flashback, we see Lansford getting upset because Young Charles has taken a job to help pay their overdue bills. It’s a nice thread connecting Lansford’s and Charles’s characters.
Back in the real world, Lansford realizes it’s actually the Michael Landon Edition of Charles he’s talking to.
Together they visit Mrs. Ingalls’s grave.
WILL: “Laura Colby Ingalls.” Probably named after the cheese.
OLIVE: Yeah, Wisconsin. “Laura Colby Jack Ingalls.”
(In real life, though, Laura Colby Ingalls died in 1883, in Burnett County, Wisconsin – about 100 miles north of the Big Woods. I’m not sure what she was doing there.)
There are daisies at the gravesite. It’s touching, since these are the very flowers we saw Lansford stomping in the opening scene.
Suddenly David’s tinkly piano takes us into another flashback.
Young Charles and Laura Colby are boating together.
WILL: Oh, it’s The Muppet Movie.
Young Charles is playing the fiddle.
DAGNY: Albert is not as good a fake fiddle player as Michael Landon.
Laura Colby claps and goes on about how she wishes she could dance to the music. Okay, she’s Dancin’ Grandma, we get it.
OLIVE: She’s so old to be his mom. And she talks like Blanche from The Golden Girls.
LUCINDA: She’s a cougar.
Laura Colby essentially says Lansford is one of those dipshits who doesn’t realize his life is great just because it didn’t wind up like his stupid childhood dreams. I get like that sometimes, too.
With a touching irony, Young Charles says, “I wish Pa never had those dreams. I wish we’d just stayed in one place and made do!”
Laura Colby blah-blahs for some time. Clearly Charles gets his gift for sappy inspirational nuggets from her.
WILL: She kind of looks like Madeline Kahn. She should have played Madeline Kahn’s mother.
Young Charles then makes a Carrie-like turn into nonsense, jabbering about wishing on wildflowers or something.
Then Laura Colby starts throwing daisies overboard.
OLIVE: This is just like Young Frankenstein. “What shall we throw in now?”
In case we’ve forgotten that this nice lady is actually dead, Landon cuts to shot of her grave in the pouring rain.
Inside Lansford’s “shack,” Charles chuckles about how strong the storm is. It actually seems out of character, given how his life and livelihood have been more or less destroyed by them more than once.
Lansford just stares at the wall.
Charles reiterates his invitation for Lansford to come live with them. Lansford just replies, “I can’t leave your ma.”
Charles starts screaming at him.
AMELIA: This is a bit of a bummer.
DAGNY: It is an intense scene.
Lansford rises, to a clap of Castle Thunder.
LUCINDA: Is he gonna cast an evil spell? I think every show should have somebody casting an evil spell.
Charles says he hopes God can forgive Lansford for wasting his life by feeling sorry for himself, and Lansford slaps him across the face. Pretty hard, too.
LUCINDA: That was a crispy one!
Charles starts shaking and crying.
LUCINDA: Oh, he’s crying!
WILL: Yeah, Pa’s secret weakness is he can’t tolerate physical pain.
Charles walks out to his mother’s grave again.
DAGNY: Is that stone, or just wood?
ROMAN: Looks like wood.
WILL: That won’t last long in this weather. He didn’t even shellac it.
Charles literally lies down on his mother’s grave in the rainstorm. There really was no concept they judged too melodramatic for this show, was there?
Charles lies there talking to his dead mother for a while.
But then he notices the fire.
Yes, Lansford has set the house on fire, with himself inside. And he’s locked the door.
Thinking quickly as usual, Charles seizes a rockin’ chair or something and hurls it through the front window.
The house is engulfed in flames. Michael Landon is definitely doing his own stunts in this one.
Charles finds Lansford in bed, waiting to burn to death with a horrible frozen expression on his face.
Charles screams, “Papa, Papa!” but Lansford won’t budge.
Charles physically drags his father through the fire and out the door. Landon’s still doing the stunt work himself, I think, but you can tell from “Lansford’s” wig it isn’t Arthur Hill.
The two of them fall together into the mud.
DAGNY: I love when there’s mud on this show.
ROMAN: Yeah, it’s very Deadwood.
Lying there in the filth, Charles decides to give Lansford a guilt trip about how bad he treated Laura Colby when she was alive. Not the best timing, Chuck.
The next day, the sun is back out, and Charles and another guy drive up toward the “shack” in the Chonkywagon.
DAGNY: Now, Will, you always say every location in movies and TV looks like Wisconsin.
ROMAN: He said it yesterday when we were watching The Crazies. But to be fair, that actually did look like Wisconsin.
DAGNY: So, this really IS supposed to be Wisconsin – does it look like it?
WILL: It’s close enough. The only time this show really looks like the Upper Midwest is when they’re in the woods.
Charles finds Lansford kneeling, or rather squatting, by the grave.
I thought the other guy was Sarek, but Charles says it’s a “Mr. Hillyard.”
Without saying much, Lansford walks past Charles to the wagon.
OLIVE: He should hit Charles with a shovel and then try to escape.
Charles has one last crying look at the grave.
ROMAN: Is her hand going to burst out of the ground?
Charles catches his mom up on the plot, as if she just came back from the bathroom or something.
WILL: Do you think he’s trying to imitate Albert’s acting?
DAGNY: Oh my God, he IS!
WILL: Uh-huh. Landon was that good.
Charles climbs in the wagon with Lansford and Mr. Hillyard, who you can tell is played by Carl C. Pitti, better known to readers of this blog as Carl the Flunky!
Okay, I know we’re in the final stretch here, but looking back through my old notes I’ve discovered something VERY weird.
So, in this story, Carl C. Pitti plays a man named Mr. Hillyard. With me so far?
In “Survival,” Pitti played one of the insane racist U.S. Marshal’s deputies. Do you remember the character’s name? I do – it’s Deputy Hill.
Furthermore, in “The Gift,” Laura is trying to hawk her unethical wares to a lady credited as “Mrs. Hillstrom.” After Laura leaves, Mrs. Hillstrom’s husband comes home . . . and it’s Carl the Flunky!
Now, could someone please tell me, just what the fuck is the meaning of THIS? It can’t be a coincidence that all three characters played by Carl C. Pitti have names starting with Hill. It’s clearly a joke of some kind, but what does it mean?
Anyways, back in Walnut Grove, Carrie is torturing poor Tom the turkey.
I’m sorry to say, the turkey torture looks pretty real to me.
Laura, who loves to play the nagging mother to Carrie, comes out of the Little House and yells at her.
A brief conversation reveals Carrie thinks Tom will be their guest at the dinner rather than the main course.
You understood this little gag, I’m sure . . . but in case you didn’t, Mary says to Laura:
MARY: That’s it! That has to be it! Carrie thought we were going to HAVE him for supper . . . not that we were going to have HIM for supper!
WILL: Oh my God, you don’t have to explain the joke!
OLIVE: Yeah, that’s pretty bad.
LUCINDA: Well, they had to have the kids do something.
Anyways, the Chonkywagon arrives home, having picked up Mr. Edwards somewhere along the way.
Grandpa Lansford apparently has shaken off his depression, at least enough to be delighted to see the Ing-Gals.
Caroline comes barreling out of the house, flailing and screaming, “Papa Ingalls!”
Lansford greets her warmly, too. He seems reconciled to the idea that this is his new home, for now anyways.
That night, they have a bonfire and a dance party. Mr. Edwards even augments the wall of sound with his fake harmonica-ing.
Carl and Alicia are also there, but no Grace or John. I’d say they’re at the state English championships in Minneapolis, but I’m pretty sure I made that joke already once.
Right on cue, Lansford starts talkin’ about “Dancin’ Grandma.”
Laura dances like the little demon she is.
AMELIA [still reading]: Laura was eighteen when she got married.
WILL: Not on this show.
AMELIA: How old was she on the show?
WILL: I dunno, fifteen or sixteen.
DAGNY: I always thought that was so great. I was so jealous of her.
Grandpa Lansford and Caroline talk about how their Laura was named after his.
LUCINDA: Why didn’t they name their FIRST daughter Laura?
OLIVE: Maybe Mary’s named after Caroline’s mother.
WILL: More likely the Virgin Mary. Did you know Carrie is named after Caroline? She’s Caroline Junior.
OLIVE: I never realized that.
Then Caroline ruins things by saying, “I wish Grandma could have seen [Laura] one more time.”
Some Mantovani-esque strings come in as we see Lansford’s buzz has been decidedly harshed.
Charles sets his dad up in the soddy.
Lansford, who seems to have pulled himself together again, says, “That Edwards and his family, they’re nice folks.”
DAGNY [as CHARLES]: “Yeah, the older boy’s havin’ sex with Mary.”
Then Lansford tells Charles he doesn’t want him to put an addition on the house, because he doesn’t think they’d make good roommates.
LANSFORD: We didn’t say more than two words to each other all the way back from Wisconsin.
WILL: The Will and Grandpa Kaiser Story.
(Just kidding, Dad, if you’re reading this.)
Lansford rather philosophically tells Charles it’s nothing personal, they’re just complete strangers to each other.
They continue to have an awkward conversation for a minute or two, and that’s it, the end. Bum-Bum-Bah-Dum.
ROMAN: That was a terrible cliffhanger.
AMELIA: It wasn’t really a cliffhanger.
ROMAN: That’s what made it terrible.
No verdict till next week, but I’ll leave you with this final exchange:
AMELIA [still reading]: Her husband was handsome.
WILL: Yeah. “Manly.”
AMELIA: He died before she did, but he actually lived to be even older than she was – ninety-two.
WILL: Yeah, you wouldn’t think it, given they survived plagues of locusts, fires, an orangutan coming to town. . . . That stuff wears a person down pretty quick.
AMELIA: . . . An orangutan comes to town?
Oh, and one last thing: as I mentioned above, I am indebted to the quite wonderful Annie from Wilder on the Prairie for enduring my stupid questions and sacrificing her time and energy to answer them as I prepared this recap. Thanks, Annie! Whether you’re an experienced Bonnethead or a more casual fan like me, you’ll find much to love about her great podcast, which you can find here.
STYLE WATCH: Charles appears to go commando again.
UP NEXT: Journey in the Spring, Part Two