Nice to Beat You; or
What is This, Straw Dogs?
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: The Bully Boys
Airdate: December 6, 1976
Written by B.W. Sandefur
Directed by Victor French
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: When a new family comes to town, Mary and Pa are brutalized, and Ma is molested in the street. But in the end, the Reverend Alden kicks the perps’ asses and all is well.
Yes, that’s really the story.
RECAP: Apologies for the long hiatus! Dags and I have both been sick, plus we’re all busy as heck. You don’t care about that, though, so let’s get going!
WILL: So, Rolling Stone came out with their list of the best 100 TV shows ever made this month.
DAGNY: Oh yeah?
WILL: I liked, like, three of them.
DAGNY: That sounds about right.
WILL: A lot of ones you watch, though.
DAGNY: Oh, great.
WILL: No Doctor Who.
DAGNY: I guess that’s surprising.
WILL: No Little House.
DAGNY: . . .
DAGNY: Well . . .
WILL: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “WELL”???
I suppose it’s too late to dump her from this project, right?
Well, we’ll consider it a temporary lapse of judgment and just move on.
And as for the list, well, things like that never really mean anything, do they.
I have to say, Little House Season Three is fantastic, isn’t it? Seriously, we’ve just been through eight episodes, and we haven’t had a single bad one. This beats both Season One (where we only had six good stories before we got to “The Love of Johnny Johnson”) and Season Two (where I would argue we began with a stinker in “The Richest Man in Walnut Grove” – I know some of you disagree, and more power to you).
So now, I expect you think I’ll say, “That streak is about to end, because this one’s terrible.” But no, while it is difficult to watch at times, it’s actually one of my favorites. So let’s just see how long we can keep our run going, huh?
We open on a shot of a slightly ramshackle house. If it looks familiar, that’s because way back in “Plague” it was shown to be the house of Mr. Edwards before he and Grace took over the Old Sanderson Place.
And in fact, in a rewarding twist, we will later learn that’s exactly the house it’s meant to be today. (As opposed to the show’s usual practice of using one house to represent twelve separate properties.)
But, I’m getting ahead.
As the camera pans down from the trees, David Rose gives us a lovely waltz, complete with prominent jawharp continuo.
The gentle music in no way foreshadows the grueling circumstances our characters are about to live through.
The director’s name pops onto the screen.
DAGNY: Ooh, it’s a French one.
It is, and B.W. Sandefur wrote it.
If last week’s episode reminded us of 1970s heterosexual pornography at times, this week starts off imitating gay porn of the same period.
A sorta hardbodied guy in an unbuttoned shirt steps out of the house, hitching up his trousers suggestively as he does so.
The guy emphasizes his masculinity further by spitting.
Then he walks over to a barrel, but it’s to wash his face, not to urinate in it, thank God.
We see he is Geoffrey Lewis, an actor readers my age must have all known in one form or another, since he did bit parts in a zillion TV shows in the seventies, eighties and nineties (including the infamous Golden Girls episode “Empty Nests”) and had recurring parts on shows from Mama’s Family to Dawson’s Creek.
I remember him as one of the vampires from the original Salem’s Lot miniseries, myself.
He also was the father of Juliette Lewis, for those of us who remember her.
Anyways, here Geoffrey Lewis says, “George, Bubba, come on, the day’s a-wastin’.”
A big man with a gray mustache comes out of the house and says, “What’s the hurry, Sam?” He’s wearing a white shirt and pulling on his suspenders, and to me he looks more like a detective on a seventies cop show than a Little House character.
Roy Jenson (Canadian-born, yay) was in as many things as Geoffrey Lewis, but they’re mostly of an older vintage than I’m able to recall myself.
They include the hat trick of Gunsmoke, Bonanza AND Rawhide, as well as such seventies film classics as Chinatown and Soylent Green.
Finally, a flop-haired teenage boy comes out as well. I wore my hair like that in the nineties, and the look seems to be back now too.
Michael LeClair, the actor, has a shorter resume . . . but it does include doing the voice of the kid in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a scary-as-fuck children’s special about snakes directed by Chuck Jones.
Anyways, Sam addresses the boy as “Bubba,” saying he needs to go to school, because math is an essential skill for a swindler to possess.
So, Bubba washes his face and lopes off.
DAGNY: That water Foley was excellent. It really sounded like the water was in the barrel.
Meanwhile, in the Mercantile, Mrs. Oleson is setting out yard goods.
DAGNY: I find it interesting that the way we sell fabric hasn’t changed in all this time. Like, at all.
I hesitate even to mention this, but we seem to have bid the painfully thin version of Harriet we met the first season goodbye. From this story on, Katherine MacGregor looks much more healthily filled out, if I may say so.
Sam and George enter the Mercantile. They’re snacking on fruit, and Mrs. O says, “So, I see you like the pears,” though anyone can see they’re actually eating apples.
(No doubt following their surprise win at last season’s Walnut Groovy Awards, the apples are going for two Groovies in a row. This time, however, they may have bitten off more than they can chew!)
Mrs. Oleson starts to growl at the men for eating produce without paying, but when they say they’ll buy a bushel of the “pears,” she assumes they’re rich and changes her tune.
OLIVE: Are they supposed to be gay?
WILL: Well, they’re allegedly brothers, but I’m not so sure.
It is kind of a stretch to believe all three are siblings, at least from the same woman. Roy Janson was 49 when they made this and Geoffrey Lewis was 41, so that’s fine, but Michael LeClair can’t be more than about fifteen. Even if their mother was just sixteen when she had George (not impossible on this show), that means she would have been 50 when she had Bubba. Again, not impossible; but kind of a stretch.
Anyways, Mrs. Oleson boasts that the Mercantile is the largest store in Hero Township. This I doubted at first; but in reality North Hero Township only has two towns, of which Walnut Grove is the larger, so it’s probably true.
But despite the smell of cash in the room, Mrs. Oleson can’t help making a face when George throws his “pear” core out the door like a common wastrel.
The men introduce themselves as the Galender brothers, and start ordering all sorts of shit, up to and including fancy shoes.
Outside, Nels comes rolling up in that yellow-wheeled wagon we often see Carl the Flunky driving. I assumed Carl owned it, but we know he takes on delivery work for the Mercantile in his spare time, so I guess it’s part of the Olesons’ fleet.
Nels comes in as Mrs. O calculates the Galenders’ bill to $16.75 – about $335 or so in today’s economy. (I’m tired of always saying “in today’s money,” so I’m going to try “in today’s economy” out for a while. I read it in an article.)
Sam G says they’ll charge the items and thank you kindly.
Nels throws Harriet under the bus, then, saying clearly she neglected to mention they don’t extend credit to strangers. (I wouldn’t think she needed to mention that if they didn’t ask.)
But while Nels is talking, George G drops a glass vase on the floor “accidentally on purpose.” (Olive, whose comments throughout reflect everyone’s reactions in our family, gasped at this.)
George apologizes with friendly menace.
Sam G says he’s expecting a large sum from his bank on Friday and will be able to settle up then.
The Olesons happily agree. It’s interesting to note, the only difference between these people, to whom Harriet is happy to extend credit, and the Ingallses, to whom she’s twice denied it (or tried to), is that the Galenders have made an extravagant order rather than sticking to plain stuffs and necessaries like Charles & Co.
That means Thin Harriet and Business-Sense Harriet have both departed the show, possibly for good.
We cut to Miss Beadle enrolling Bubba Galender in school. Her hands are frecklier than I imagined, somehow.
The Bead cuts the new kid no slack whatsoever, putting him through the same tense interrogation to which she once subjected Johnny Johnson.
The schoolchildren, who this week include Not-Joni Mitchell, two veteran Nondescript Helens and two newer ones (at least!), Sweet Colleen, Ol’ Four Eyes, Laura, Not-Linda Hunt, Cloud City Princess Leia, Willie, the Midsommar Kid and Nellie, all laugh that their new classmate’s given name is “Bubba.”
Miss Beadle notes most of the boys are missing from class because it’s planting season. Normally I would assume this means spring, but since the Galenders were eating “pears,” I’m going to declare that this is the fall of 1879(C) and the crop being planted is winter wheat. (At work, I’ve recently been learning more than I ever knew before, and more than I want to know now, about the production of crops like wheat and oilseeds.)
The queasy feeling we experienced when George G dropped the vase returns when Willie teases Bubba about his name and Bubba suddenly slams him against the wall.
OLIVE: Oh my God . . .
Willie actually falls to the floor, and naturally, Beadle blames him for fooling around. You would too, if you hadn’t actually seen what happened.
The Bead must have doubts, though, because she doesn’t send him to the corner.
OLIVE: I’d be careful doing that to Willie. He might poison your food, or something.
The Bead may not have seen, but the other kids did. Mary in particular peers steelily at Bubba from across the room. No doubt her miracle spex gave her an ideal view of the incident.
Cut to the mill, where we see Charles loading boards onto a wagon to a rather urgent arrangement of the theme tune.
Sam and George approach, saying they want to place a lumber order, and Mr. Hanson comes out to take it down.
ALEXANDER: Ah, custies. That’s what we call them at the grocery store.
ROMAN: Oh, you do not, Alexander.
They say they want to fix up the house they’ve bought, which Hanson confirms is Mr. Edwards’s old place. (It’s worth noting, for those of you interested in such things, that George G gestures to the west to indicate the house’s location.)
Sam points to the wagon then and says they’ll just take that wood. But Hanson says it’s already been sold to a Mr. Henderson. (Henry’s father?)
But after a brief conversation, Hanson agrees to let the Galenders have it.
George G offers to pay extra for Hanson’s inconvenience. But Hanson refuses this “generosity.”
And speaking of paying, Sam G repeats his line of bull about the overdue bank draft, though this time he adds that they spent all their ready cash at the Mercantile.
Hanson hesitates a moment, but then says he’ll have the lumber delivered later that day and they can settle up when the check arrives.
Cut to the schoolyard, where Mary (still stinging from her humiliation on Founder’s Day?) is skipping rope like a woman possessed.
Meanwhile, Laura is playing some sort of variation of dodgeball where everyone stands in a circle. We’ll just call it “circle dodgeball.” (There are so many bizarre versions of dodgeball that I got bored reading about them and gave up.)
Dodgeball didn’t make it to the U.S. until after 1884, though, so we’ll mark that down as the first anachronism of the day.
Anyways, Laura’s playing with most of the main schoolgirls (Leia, Not-Joni, several Nondescript Helens, Sweet Colleen, etc.)
Meanwhile, Bubba G is squatting in the shadows by the schoolhouse.
Bubba stands up and walks toward the girls. The Nondescript Helen who looks like a blonde Mona Lisa says “Hit her, Sarah! Hit her!”
(Remember, “Sarah” is one of the many names Cloud City Princess Leia’s been addressed by.)
To my great surprise, Helen actually sounds like she has a real Upper Midwestern accent. It’s something in her pronunciation of the first syllable of “Sarah,” which is said in a flat, whiny tone and almost rhymes with “peer.”
Man, I wish the actors who played all these kids could be identified. We know Cindy Moore was Leia and Clay Greenbush was the Midsommar Kid, but for the most part this large group of actors is a total mystery, despite playing the same characters on a very popular show for years on end. How is that possible?
[UPDATE: I threw this question out on Twitter, and The Great Alison Arngrim Herself replied, saying, “Many were children of crew members. Great way for parents to keep eyes on their kid all day! Can’t really act up when Dad is standing right there, doing the lighting!”
[Thanks, AA! Now if only they would step forward to claim their share of the glory. . . .]
Anyways, Bubba grabs the ball suddenly and hurls it as hard as he can into the face of a small girl, who falls to the ground as if dead.
OLIVE: Oh my God!
ALEXANDER: Was that Carrie?
It wasn’t Carrie, but it’s nice he was worried. I think it was the Smallest Nondescript Helen of Them All, or maybe the second-smallest. At first I thought it was Alicia, but she and Carl and John are all missing from this one again.
Most of the other girls rush to help little Helen, but Laura turns with a ferocious look and advances on Bubba.
OLIVE: Look OUT, asshole.
But when she confronts him, he shoves her to the ground.
Knowing her sister too well, Mary rushes to prevent Laura from attacking him.
In her weird alien voice, Cloud City Princess Leia says, “He throws too hard, Mary. He hurt Cindy.”
Mary goes over to Bubba, but before she’s able to say much, he punches her in the face!
OLIVE: Oh my GOD!
It’s a good thing she didn’t have her glasses on.
The bell rings, which raises an interesting question: Can the bell be rung from both inside AND outside? It seems unlikely, and we’ve only seen people ringing it from outside. But if the Bead is ringing the bell from the steps, why doesn’t she intervene?
Anyways, Bubba tells Mary there’s more where that came from if she tattles.
DAGNY: Wouldn’t he worry the OTHER kids would tell?
WILL: Nah, he knows they’ll do whatever the writer says.
And speaking of tattling, on the way home, Mary makes Laura swear not to tell Pa, because she would be so embarrassed.
OLIVE: Does Mary ever make the right decision? Even once?
As they get closer to the camera, we see Mary has a black eye.
That night, Ma and Carrie come out of the barn carrying a bucket. (Do they milk cows that late? I guess since cows are milked at least two or three times a day, maybe they do.)
Pa arrives home via Chonky-steam.
He asks, “How are my lovely ladies doin’ this evenin’?” and Carrie slurps, “I been helpin’, Paw!”
The whole exchange is kind of cute.
Ma says the cow was “making a fuss, and I didn’t want the roast to wait.” Maybe if Spot keeps fussing, she’ll be next week’s roast!
And now, readers, some of you might want to turn away, because I think if you look very close, you can see Pa thwack Ma’s boob with his fingers.
I kid you not. I watched it several times.
Okay, you can look again, everyone. Upstairs, Mary is whining to Laura about her black eye, and Laura is just ignoring her.
Then, at dinner, Stupid Pa relates how the bigger Galenders were bragging about Bubba being admitted to the Bead’s damn school.
He notices Mary’s eye, and she says she “got hit in the dodgeball game,” which is sort of a lie and sort of not.
Ma says, “It’s a good thing she didn’t have her glasses on.” (See, that’s just what I thought!)
Mary tells Pa it’s going to be fine, because “Ma fixed me a poultice.”
ROMAN: That’s her answer for everything.
Pa says he once had a black eye, and that the experience “taught me a lesson: The only thing worse than one black eye is two black eyes.” (An odd little joke; I don’t quite get it.)
Anyways, that night in bed, Laura is licking or biting at her fingers again.
Nibbling away continuously, she brainstorms a list of ways they could take revenge on Bubba G, most of which involve frogs.
The next day, we see all the kids playing at recess again.
Mary and Laura are seesawing. (Just regular seesawing this time, not sideways-seesawing or whatever it’s called.)
Suddenly Bubba G jumps between them, and David Rose gives us a sinister blast from the trombones.
If you listen closely, you’ll note the trombone melody is a dark version of the “school” musical theme (aka “The Island of Misfit Grovesters”).
Laura starts hissing and snapping at Bubba, but Mary drags her away.
Now, one part of this story I don’t like, reader, is a thread you might call “Nellie-and-Bubba-Sittin’-in-a-Tree.”
Nellie approaches Bubba and compliments him on getting rid of the Ing-Gals.
At first he sneers at her, but then she bribes him with candy and they bond.
Nellie sits on the seesaw, but when Willie tries to join her, Bubba grabs him (by the hair, ow) and pushes him away.
I love the way Jonathan Gilbert just sort of stomps off sadly.
Meanwhile, at the Mercantile, Mr. Hanson bumps into a familiar-looking man, Mr. Henderson.
He’s familiar-looking because he’s played by the same guy who bought Yuli Pyatakov’s house at the tax sale.
But it can’t be the same character, since this Mr. Henderson is presumably Henry’s father, and the tax-sale guy didn’t come to town until after we met Henry.
The actor is Rayford Barnes, who was in practically every TV show made between 1950 and 2000.
Anyways, Hanson gives Henderson an update on his order. Henderson apologizes, but says he’s gone with another vendor.
Hanson very quickly deduces the Galenders, who bought their lumber on credit, have now resold it AND stolen his customer to boot.
Nevertheless, Hanson reassures Henderson it’s no problem at all; I might not have, if I were him.
But before he lets Henderson depart, he confirms that the party who supplied him with the cheap lumber was none other than the Brothers Galender.
Karl Swenson makes a tight, angry face, which makes him look even more like he’s turning into a werewolf than he usually does on account of his eyebrows.
After a commercial break, we see Mr. Edwards sawin’ away at the mill. No “Old Dan Tucker,” though.
Wolf-Man Hanson comes snarling out of nowhere, complaining about those blasted Galenders.
He recaps the plot to this point for Mr. Ed.
Hanson laments that you can’t put people in jail for buying stuff on credit and not paying. I thought maybe debtors’ prisons were still a thing at this time, but it seems they were banned in the U.S. in 1833.
Mr. Ed then wistfully recalls some previous adventures in “Duval County” in which he joined some goons in beating up debtors.
There’s a Duval County in Florida and one in Texas. I don’t think there’s a way to determine which one he means. Either is possible; neither seems particularly likely. (Or unlikely.)
But angry as he is, Mr. Hanson is not a man of violence at the core. Except where Mrs. Oleson is concerned.
He stumps off, leaving Mr. Ed to complain he didn’t get to finish his amusing debtor-beating-up story.
That night, Hot Caroline brushes her hair before bed.
She tells Charles even Mrs. Oleson has turned against the Galenders, saying Harriet complained about them at the Women’s League meeting she just attended.
CAROLINE: Why, I thought she was going to have Nels go out and take a shotgun to those Galenders.
Charles says Mrs. O might be rising in his estimation.
Caroline has more tea to spill, as the young people of today say, ah ha ha, from the meeting. She reports the Galenders “got a side of beef from the Mortons” (never heard of ’em) “and hay and feed from the Stevens[es]” (them either), without paying of course.
Despite this, she urges her husband, who indicates he’s eager to “knock their heads together,” to give the brothers the benefit of the doubt.
. . . Words, reader, she will RUE.
Anyways, since neither she nor Charles are in the mood for sex, they say goodnight.
With a nice pipe-organ transition (even though this church doesn’t have one), we cut to Sunday services. This makes sense, since it’s been established the Women’s League meets on Saturday nights.
In attendance are the Ingallses, the Olesons, Mr. Hanson, the Bead, Carl the Flunky, Mustache Man, Mr. Nelson the Gray-Haired Dude, Johnny Cash Fusspot, the Generic-Looking Bald Man (as a generic-looking bald man myself, I mean no offense by that), Not-Quincy Fusspot, and a lone Nondescript Helen.
Behind Charles, there’s also a rather beautiful woman we’ve never seen before. She’s sitting in the same pew as J.C. Fusspot, but she bears little resemblance to his wife, so I think that’s a dead end. Since Not-Quincy Fusspot is sitting between them, I think we can assume she’s his mother, and that she and J.C. are brother and sister.
You may remember that Aldi chaperones the Women’s League meetings, so he’s up to speed on the Galender sitch.
His sermon today is on the theme of “some people are just assholes, and you’ve got to shrug ’em off.”
Then he quotes the Lord’s Prayer; to nip any objections to his analysis in the bud, I presume.
French gives us a close-up of Mary then, but her expression is up for interpretation. (She looks furious to me, but then she kind of has Resting Furious Face, doesn’t she?)
Perhaps sensing this, the Rev says he’ll do some specific outreach to the newcomers.
Back at Chez Galender, Bubba and Sam are arguing about math.
Sam orders some coffee, and Bubba says he treats him like a servant. As if to confirm this, Sam sends him to answer the door when a knock comes a moment later.
DAGNY: He looks like Walton Goggins.
Incidentally, Goggins twice played Almanzo in movies, but that’s another story.
Anyways, the Galenders receive the Reverend Alden with much hospitality. George G laughs that their mother used to say “ya gotta feed the preacher or pay the devil.” (Not a real saying, it seems, just a prime B.W. Sandefurism.)
Alden launches into some smirking remarks about how badly the Galenders have been treating the Grovesters. He’s not very good at encounters like this.
Sam G tells Alden about the overdue bank draft (adding it’s coming from St. Paul). Then he sends Bubba outside to chop wood. Complaining like Caliban, Bubba goes.
Sam and George then tell Aldi they only sold the lumber because their mother had a medical emergency and they needed to send her some money. They say they’ve been shielding Bubba – an emotional child – from the news of her illness.
OLIVE: Why does he talk with a Southern accent?
WILL: Well, obviously they’re not from around these parts.
ROMAN: Yeah, that explains why they don’t have Minnesota accents like everybody else.
Aldi swallows this idiotic tale, then the Galenders butter him up further by saying they’re eager to start attending services. Notably, they say they’ll come “next Sunday,” even though Alden previously told us he only preaches in Walnut Grove once a month.
Aldi makes to leave, but when they invite him to have some food, he can’t resist – an old stereotype of the clergy.
Back to the school then, with David giving us some weird Lawrence Welk-y muted trumpet music.
Mary sits sulking on the steps. Miss Beadle comes over and says, “It’s not like you to sit through recess.”
OLIVE: I feel like it is.
WILL: Yeah, usually she’s inside brownnosing.
Anyways, confirming her loser status, Mary actually apologizes to the Bead for sitting out recess.
I don’t know how the Bead, who as we all know operates this school on the Panopticon surveillance principle, doesn’t know about the bullying by now.
Anyways, meanwhile, Laura is kicking Willie’s ass at marbles.
Willie tries to DQ her on a technicality.
Nellie and Bubba come walking over – arm in arm.
WILL: I just don’t buy Nellie liking this guy. They’re different species of bullies. I think she’d find him disgusting.
DAGNY: I can see it. She wants to learn at his feet.
Maybe it’s more than that, though, since she actually tries to hold his hand, if you look closely. The sex drive is kicking in for the teenagers, people! Buckle up!
Bubba then steals marbles from both Laura and Willie.
Mary, who’s now skulking amongst the driftwood logs that seem to be everywhere in this community (dropped by the glacier, no doubt), pricks up her ears.
This time Laura does attack Bubba, but he shoves her down. (Where the fuck is the Bead???)
Mary rushes over to hold Laura back again, and Nellie and Bubba head off to the playground equipment.
DAGNY: They’re not gonna show them together on the seesaw because she’s lighter than he is.
Mary cites Prince of Wimps Rev. Alden and his turn-the-other-cheek wiffle-wuffle.
Laura says her dress is torn, but Mary says the Whip’ll fix it. I’m glad to hear she’s still with us. Haven’t seen her in a while.
Anyways, Mary tells Laura it’s safer under the driftwood, so the two of them withdraw from the playground-proper.
Then we cut to a very weird shot of the Galenders apparently snuggling up together on the ground, or something. You can’t tell if it’s just two or all three, or where they are exactly. It appears to be the Mercantile behind them.
George and Sam laugh about how they’ve taken over the town. Sam notes that “a man can have everything he wants here” . . . and then George sees Caroline coming down the hill with her egg basket and says, “Just about everything.”
ALEXANDER: Oh no. . . .
And indeed, reader, I’d argue the scene we’re about to witness here is as horrible as anything we ever encounter over the course of this series. And on a show notorious for its rapist mimes and baby battering rams, that’s saying something.
The tone of this episode is really remarkable. . . . Even though this is a show that’s 99-percent happy endings, there’s a tension to this story that keeps us uncomfortable throughout. And this scene drags us right along that knife’s edge.
Well, let’s do it. As I said, Caroline is coming down the hill, though strangely she’s chosen to plow through the burdocks and shit rather than use the path.
George G continues leering at her and says, “You know, right now I’d like me some . . . farm-fresh eggs.”
It’s really horrible. For all our comments about popcorn, shipping Doc and Mr. Hanson, 7+ and the like, of course this show is actually famously sexless. That’s what makes George’s innuendo all the more shocking.
He’s also eating a carrot, for God’s sakes! It’s obscenely phallic, if I need to spell it out for you.
David Rose gives us a sudden horror crescendo in the brasses.
So, this is what happens, as succinctly as I can do it. George and Sam start hassling Caroline. George holds her by the arm and takes her basket away. Caroline cries, “Let go of me!” She looks to the mill, but nobody’s on duty. No Charles, no Hanson, no Mr. Edwards, no Carl the Flunky. No Gray-Haired Dude. No Mustache Man.
Caroline struggles, and George dumps the basket of eggs out onto her skirt. Sam holds Caroline’s shoulders from behind, while George reaches for her legs, saying he’ll help “clean you up.” When Sam starts stroking her cheek, she shouts, “Take your hands off me!”, breaks free, and runs, while the Galenders laugh at her.
As I say, we haven’t had a scene like this on the show so far. It’s unbelievably horrible. And you could have heard a pin drop in our rumpus room during it. I mean, it’s not The Accused, or (God forbid) Irréversible, but it’s about as close to that as this show will ever get. (At least, until “Sylvia.” . . .)
Anyways, the visceral reaction our little group had to the attack are if nothing else a testament to how real these characters are to us.
But I don’t have to tell you that, reader. I know you feel the same.
To more horror music, the Galenders depart, George once more chomping his filthy carrot.
We get a little reprieve from a commercial break, but when we come back we’re mercilessly dumped right back into this storyline, as Ma runs home to some nutso music from David.
And then Pa comes driving up. He waves to Ma, but she just runs away from him sobbing.
Charles Ingalls as we know is quite perceptive, so when his wife runs away weeping rather than smiling and saying “Oh, Chaaaaarles!”, he quickly deduces something is wrong.
He runs after her, losing his hat in the process.
Charles finds Caroline pouring water. She’s trying to keep herself together.
When Charles asks what happened, she simply says, “I broke the eggs.”
She starts to blame herself for what happened, and Charles begins to realize.
Gradually, Caroline tells him what happened.
Charles’s face goes blank in a way that’s actually quite scary.
“The Galenders put their hands on you,” he says in a broken voice, but it isn’t really a question.
Then, in a REALLY frightening moment, Charles suddenly seizes Caroline’s head in his hands. David even gives us a “stinger” in the trombones.
Charles screams at her to clarify, and she starts breaking down.
Charles runs from the house, with Caroline screaming after him.
Next we see him driving the wagon at high velocity.
ROMAN: Chonkies in high gear.
Meanwhile, David outdoes himself with the crazy music.
Charles arrives at the Galenders’, where Sam and George greet him with gentle taunts.
Sam goes inside. Charles follows him, and George steps into the doorway to block his escape.
“I want to know which one of you put your hands on my wife today,” says Charles.
“Was that Mrs. Ingalls?” Sam says. “Why, you’re a lucky man. She’s a mighty handsome woman.”
He pauses, then says, “Soft, too.” And George says from the doorway, “Real soft, you said.”
Then Charles grabs a chair that’s hanging on the wall AND SMASHES GEORGE IN THE FUCKING FACE WITH IT!!!
OLIVE: OH MY GOD!!!!!
George falls out the door, which Charles slams and locks.
Charles then wrestles Sam G to the floor and punches him in the face, hard, over and over again!
OLIVE: Oh my God, Charles! This is really strong stuff for Little House.
WILL: I know, what is this, Straw Dogs?
But then George breaks the door down and advances on Charles with a tree branch he’s snatched up.
We suddenly cut to Mr. Edwards wandering free in the woods. (By coincidence, he’s also carrying a stick . . . or maybe it’s NOT such a coincidence, given Victor French is the director!)
Mr. Ed gets very alarmed when he sees the Chonkywagon rocketing past – without a driver.
WILL: It’s like the Marie Celeste!
Mr. Ed quickly stops and calms the Chonkies – no small task with such giants.
Then he looks in the back of the wagon, where he finds Charles – beaten to a bloody pulp.
At this point, David gives us more scary music, but it’s also weird, with the jawharp perhaps over-prominent in the mix.
DAGNY: I don’t agree with David’s choice here. You can’t make the boing-boing instrument sinister, no matter how talented you are.
Later, we see Caroline, Edwards, and Doc (who’s barely in this one) tending Charles’s wounds at the Little House.
Sadly, it will surprise no one reading this that everyone’s concern about Caroline has been dropped to give priority to Charles’s injuries.
It will also surprise none of you that Charles is shirtless.
Doc says Charles has some broken ribs. It’s the second time somebody’s had broken ribs on this show; the third if you count Red Buttons bamboozling everyone into thinking his were broken too.
A fussy little knock on the door indicates the Reverend Alden has arrived.
Apparently he’s just stopping by to offer well wishes, but Charles startles him by blaming him for the fight.
I guess his insinuation is if Aldi hadn’t told the people to turn the other cheek, the Grovesters would have gotten the Galenders in line by force by this point. (Not sure I buy that, Chuck.)
Anyways, Aldi shocks him (and us) by throwing the blame back in Charles’s face.
Mr. Edwards says given Caroline was just molested in the street, the Galenders’ punishment more than fits the fucking crime.
Then Aldi turns to Caroline and says, as if he’s just thought of it, “Oh, Caroline, in that incident, is there any chance you might have misinterpreted the Galenders’ intentions?”
WILL: It really IS The Accused.
OLIVE: Next he’s gonna ask what she was wearing.
ROMAN [as REV. ALDEN]: “Wait, were you wearing your floppy bonnet? Everyone thinks you look too hot in that.”
Charles bites the Rev’s head off, but rather than let it drop, Aldi says, “I’m sorry . . . but so help me, Charles, I cannot approve of what you did.”
So Charles throws him out of the house. I did that to somebody once, though the circumstances were rather different. It’s quite a satisfying feeling, actually.
Caroline says nothing, but the Rev pats her on the arm and says “It’s all right,” as if she’s apologizing for her husband’s crazy conduct, which she very much isn’t. This is not Aldi’s finest hour.
Once he’s gone, Mr. Ed says he intends to go kill the Galenders with a plow handle.
Charles says he doesn’t want him to get involved, though.
The camera pans up, where we see Laura and Mare listening from the loft. I was wondering if they were.
They’re in their jammies, so I guess it’s night now? Anyways, Carrie is nowhere to be seen. Probably drugged, to spare her the trauma of what’s going on.
So, the next day I guess, Aldi heads straight to the Galender place. Presumably the horse pulling his buggy is meant to be Jehoshaphat, but it really does look more like Bunny.
Bubba G, the only one home, is resentfully chopping wood again.
Despite having told Sam and George he wouldn’t mention Ma Galender’s medical condition to Bubba, he asks him about it. I don’t understand – what does that have to do with what happened to Caroline?
But Bubba tells him Mama G disappeared to California with a “drummer” shortly after Bubba’s birth.
DAGNY: Never trust a drummer. It was the same in the Winnipeg bar scene.
Stupid Aldi finally begins to accept the obvious.
Before going, though, he reiterates his invitation for the Galenders to come to his next church service. (It’s not clear how many days have passed since the previous Sunday.)
In an odd error, Alden gives Jehoshaphat’s reins a little flick, and the sound department dubs a big ol’ whipcrack effect on top of it.
It’s kind of like on The Sopranos how they dubbed a really exaggerated kissing sound whenever Tony kissed somebody. This is really distracting once you notice it, enough to ruin one’s enjoyment of the entire series, in fact. So, next time you watch The Sopranos, you’re welcome.
Anyways, Bubba goes back to chopping wood.
ROMAN [as BUBBA, singing]: “Get out the way for Old Dan Tucker. . . .”
So, after a long development section, now we begin the triumphant final movement of this symphony of pain.
Cut to the schoolhouse, which is vomiting Leias, Not-Jonis, Helens and the like into the thoroughfare.
It can’t be the same day, though, because Bubba is also there. (Unless Aldi stopped by the Galender place before school?)
Laura’s all excited to soak her feet in the family’s drinking water source when they get home.
But before the Ing-Gals can leave, Bubba snatches up Mary’s paper tablet (which is branded “Webster,” though I could find no evidence a real-life equivalent existed).
Laura starts yipping at him once again. Bubba says “Finders keepers” – a saying that apparently was around in the U.S. by this point.
“Losers weepers,” Tartan Nellie adds, taking up the call-and-response.
Without looking up from where she’s sitting on the school steps, Mary points out the tablet is hers, then slowly raises her head to stare daggers at him.
She rises and points out his days of ruling the schoolyard are over.
Bubba says, “Well, you first better go talk to your papa, ’cause if you remember, my brothers taught him real good how to belly-crawl.”
And then Mary smashes Bubba’s teeth out with her lunch pail.
Okay, okay, so we don’t actually see any teeth go flying. But the moment couldn’t be any more satisfying if we did.
Mary and Bubba grapple, and Laura joins the fray.
Bubba knocks the two over and laughs, at which point all the girls charge him, knock him over, and pummel and stomp on him.
DAGNY: Now it’s like “The Lottery.”
Mary and Laura turn to each other and smile. Then Mary happily cries, “Let’s get him, Laura!” and they join in the beating.
It’s worth noting Willie joins too.
David gives us his theme waltz again, then morphs it into the end of a Rossini overture, then adds a little “haw haw” guitar chord at the end of it. He’s having an off day, if you ask me.
When we return, it’s nighttime, and Ma and Pa are sitting outside together. (September, then.)
Pa is filling his pipe. He’s got some faint bruising on his face, but certainly doesn’t look like he’s recovering from a severe beating.
Mary and Laura come out to say goodnight.
Mary apologizes “about today,” so presumably Miss Beadle was not pleased. Well, the Bead took a pretty hands-off approach to the whole affair, so she’s got to accept part of the blame herself.
But Charles praises the girls for resolving the situation. “Sounds to me like they taught somebody a lesson,” he says.
MARY: I learned one too: that if you stand together, you don’t have to be afraid.
WILL [as MARY]: “Also, if you put a rock in your lunch pail, it can come in handy.”
Ma tut-tuts dutifully, but then laughs when Laura reenacts the beating.
(I also think it’s clear Melissa Gilbert knows how to throw a punch better than Melissa Sue Anderson.)
We cut to the Ingallses coming up the thoroughfare in the wagon. They’re dressed for church.
DAGNY: Actually, THIS is Ma’s hot bonnet. It’s the one she always wears with her form-fitting outfits.
The Galenders are also approaching. Bubba has a black eye, but neither George nor Sam show any evidence of the chair-face-smashing or repeated face-punching they experienced earlier in the week.
Inside the church, everyone seems surprised that the Galenders have come. (I am too – what reason do they have to do so?)
DAGNY: Do they lock them in the church and burn it down?
WILL: Yeah, like the MacDonalds and the MacLeods.
Rev. Alden starts warning of the eternal punishments that await the unrepentant in the afterlife.
WILL: Ooh, pullin’ out the big guns.
OLIVE: Yeah. [as REV. ALDEN] “Charles Ingalls, you’re going to burn in Hell!”
But no, Alden’s message is clearly for the Galenders. He’s quivering and making various unhappy faces, but I’m not sure it’ll make much difference with these three.
But in fact, George G takes the bait, interrupting to say Aldi seems to be singling them out.
Alden blah-blahs a mite longer.
DAGNY: Mr. Hanson looks great. He really gussies up for church.
WILL: Edwards too! We’ve never seen him so dressed up.
Alden orders to Galenders to leave Walnut Grove. And then, when Sam sass-talks him, Aldi seizes him, twists his arm, and slams him up against the wall.
George jumps up, but Mr. Edwards grabs him and throws him to a group of male Grovesters at the back of the church. (The rest of Mr. Ed’s family is nowhere to be seen, by the way.)
Sam and George say fine, they’ll leave.
WILL: Aldi looks like he’s going to have a heart attack.
Mr. Edwards and his goons usher the Galenders out. Hilariously, we see Nels is fanning the shocked Mrs. Oleson with a hymnal.
Then the men of the town literally march the Galenders out of town as the ladies sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (a period-appropriate choice) in the church.
And finally, we can all relax. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum.
STYLE WATCH: As noted, Mr. Edwards looks great in the church scene. Outside, however, his classy outfit loses some polish when combined with his usual battered beehive-lookin’ hat.
Charles appears to go commando again.
WILL: What is the message of this one? Sometimes it’s okay to kick somebody’s ass, but only if they really deserve it?
DAGNY: Well, if everyone else in town agrees with you, then yes.
As close to Quentin Tarantino as Little House will ever get, “The Bully Boys” is a series of graphically violent episodes in search of a plot. Nevertheless, I find it a little masterpiece – provided you can stomach the attack on Caroline. In the end, though, the moral is a little muddled.
UP NEXT: Next time we’ll do “The Hunters,” another personal favorite of mine. And if things work out we’ll have a little surprise for you too. Fingers crossed.
3 thoughts on “The Bully Boys”
What a great recap of an unsettling episode for me. Your still of Charles running from the wagon to the little house made me realize it must be true that Michael Landon didn’t wear undies! And loving that tidbit that the guy that played Bubba voiced the kid in Rikki Tikki Tavi. I adored that cartoon growing up.🐍 can’t wait to see what’s in store in the future recap!
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Thanks, Maryann! You can always tell with Charles’s pants, can’t you. I loved Rikki Tikki Tavi also (even though I spent the rest of that year in bed because I was afraid of cobras on the floor!).