A Nightmare in Elmsville; or
How Many Poison-Ivy Pandemics Can One Town Bear?
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
AIRDATE: January 17, 1977
Written by John Hawkins
Directed by Victor French
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Southwest Minnesota reels from a twin outbreak of mountain fever and poison ivy.
RECAP: We watched this episode out of sequence some time ago at an extended family gathering that included my dear sister Peggy and her husband Bruce.
Peggy and I watched Little House probably every day growing up, and we don’t get to see each other enough these days due to distance, so this was a treat.
It was a Christmas party, with nobody really paying attention to the TV, but I caught a few comments here and there.
We begin with a closeup of a burning torch. That can’t be good, can it?
The camera pulls back to reveal a rowboat approaching a city from the water. Both boat and city are lit with torches.
PEGGY: Is that Venice?
WILL: Or London before the Great Fire?
DAGNY: Nah, Hawaii. Tiki torches.
A sinister chord plays as the title appears.
We see Mr. Edwards is piloting the boat (Victor French himself directed this one) and carrying Doc Baker as passenger. They wear grim expressions.
ROMAN: Transylvania, maybe?
WILL: It does have a Classic Horror feel.
(Fat) John Hawkins wrote this one.
As Mr. Ed and Doc approach the, um, dock, three armed men appear from nowhere and point guns at them.
The leader informs them the town is under quarantine because of a “mountain fever” outbreak. (More on mountain fever in a bit.)
Doc announces he’s been summoned by someone named Dr. Quimby.
PEGGY: Dr. Quimby, Medicine Woman???
The leader snarks that six people have died while they were waiting for him.
ROMAN [as DOC]: “And once I’m done there’ll be fourteen more, now let me through.”
When Doc and Edwards get out of the boat, the guy asks if Mr. Ed is also a medical man.
OLIVE [as DOC]: “Him? He’s an imbecile!”
Mr. Edwards calmly says he’s already had mountain fever, so he’s in no danger. But the guy won’t let him come further.
The men grab Doc’s carpetbag and lead him off into the night.
WILL: They came from Walnut Grove by WATER?
PEGGY: Sure. Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.
The city has not been named yet, but it sure looks like Mankato, which we saw from the river in “Mr. Edward’s [sic] Homecoming” two seasons ago.
Technically, it would be possible to get to Mankato from Walnut Grove by boat, if you followed Plum Creek north to the Cottonwood River (of which Plum Creek is a tributary), then followed that to the Minnesota River via Sanborn, Springfield, Leavenworth, New Ulm, Cambria, and Judson. I estimate it would take about a month each way, with pitstops.
Speaking of pitstops, Mr. Edwards seems to feel he deserves one after this long voyage, so he ambles over to some sort of complimentary coffee stand to grab a cup. Was that even a thing back then?
Even if it was, it seems unwise to have one during a disease outbreak, doesn’t it? My doctor’s office stopped putting their coffee out during the pandemic. (I know, I know, let’s not get into that.)
Suddenly a deep voice speaks on the soundtrack, saying, “You don’t want that coffee.”
OLIVE: Is that his conscience?
No, it isn’t. It’s a very creepy man, who literally emerges from the shadows behind Mr. Edwards.
At first I thought it was Brother Hodgekiss, since the actor resembles Johnny Cash, if Johnny Cash fell on very hard times indeed.
But Mr. Ed doesn’t recognize him, so it probably isn’t Hodgekiss. Plus, he’s identified as “Dixon” in the credits.
(And the actor is not Cash, but Raymond Guth, a popular TV bit player who did Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and all those old western shows you’re familiar with by now.)
Anyways, this Dixon is slurring his speech something considerable, and he extends a bottle of “Giant Killer” – presumably a whiskey blend from some local craft distillery.
(In all seriousness, though, “giant killer” is what Ernest Hemingway called liquor, making it an anachronism here.)
Anyways, Dixon tells Mr. E the booze will “keep the mountain fever spots away.” He says it so rhythmically, you almost expect the orchestra to swell and give us some drunkard’s showtune, like “Oom-Pah-Pah,” or whatever the song is that Mickey Rooney does in Pete’s Dragon.
Mr. Edwards gives the bottle a cursory wipe and drinks. I don’t take alcohol these days, but I remember the pleasure of a cocktail or glass of wine after a long journey. I mean, I usually got mine in the hotel bar, not from random weirdos on the street, but of course these are different times.
“That keeps the spots away,” the man says again. Actually, maybe this isn’t Mankato – do you think there’s an alcoholic in that city who wouldn’t know Isaiah Edwards by sight?
Mr. Edwards moves off – and we see Dixon’s arm is covered in a horrible rash!
So, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a real disease, common enough today but a terrible blight in late Nineteenth-Century America.
I know our production team usually forgets the real Minnesota is not mountainous, but in truth the disease is found all over the continental U.S., not just in the Rockies. While it can be treated with antibiotics today, it’s still a very serious condition, with the potential to affect many systems of the body. It’s similar in several ways to typhus, actually.
One correction, though – the popular name for the disease at the time seems to have been “black measles,” not “mountain fever.”
Back in Walnut Grove, Grace is boiling something in front of the Old Sanderson Place. Whether supper, laundry or soap is a matter of conjecture.
Carl and Alicia are about to leave for school. With John Junior packed off to college last week, finally it makes sense for him to be missing from the story.
(In fact, last week reader Ben wrote in to suggest John was missing from the season’s earlier episodes because the story order for the season was shuffled and “‘I’ll Ride the Wind’” was originally meant to run earlier. That makes a lot of sense. If this happened a lot, it explains why the timeline’s so fucked all the time, too.)
Mr. Edwards arrives home from his boating excursion.
ALEXANDER: Isn’t he sick?
ROMAN: No, it was the drunk in the street who was sick. Or I should say, it was the OTHER drunk in the street who was sick.
Grace makes a mock-stern speech about how Mr. E is filthy and should wash up before hugging them.
PEGGY: I never cared for her.
WILL: She’s grown on me recently.
Grace says, “There’s fresh clothes on your bed.” Then she points to his trousers and says, “I’ll be wanting these in the kettle as soon as you get out of ’em!”
DAGNY: Is that a euphemism?
WILL: Doesn’t suggest anything to me. She just wants it in the kettle.
Next thing you know, we’re at school. There’s a good crowd of kids there this week, which is a relief, given we haven’t yet been told how many students died in the blizzard.
In addition to the Ing-Gals, the Olesons, and the Sanderson-Edwardses, we see an Ambiguously Ethnic Kid, the Non-Binary Kid, and Not-Joni Mitchell. There are also several Nondescript Helens (including Mona Lisa Helen, Hangover Helen, and Pigtail Helen), Cloud City Princess Leia, Sweet Colleen, and fan favorite H. Quincy Fusspot.
Pigtail Helen has a startling new hairstyle.
Finally, we know all the kids who were at school on Christmas Eve survived too, so that adds the Midsommar Kid, the other AEK, the Kid with Very Red Hair, the Smallest Nondescript Helen of Them All, Henry McGinnis, Joey Bowers, and Little Tommy Spencer to the list of non-casualties.
Who does that leave unaccounted-for? Well, three of the “Nots” come to mind: Not-Albert, Not-Linda Hunt, and Not-Quincy Fusspot.
We haven’t seen Cloud City Princess Leia’s brother Luke in a while either. But I suppose he and Not-Albert might have graduated by this point.
Anyways, Miss Beadle is not around today, so Nellie makes everyone go apeshit by talking in a “proper” voice and usurping her place at the desk.
Nellie declares she wants to read aloud to the class from the newspaper.
If you look closely, you can catch the title of the paper: The Five Cent Wide Awake Library. This was in fact a real publication, consisting of adventure stories and handsome (if sometimes racist) illustrations, which ran from 1878 to 1899.
Then she reads:
Little Willie with a shout
Gouged the baby’s eyeballs out,
Stomped on them to make them pop;
Mother cried, “Now, William, stop!”
Willie – Oleson, that is – suddenly screams that Nellie’s making it up, but she isn’t.
I guess these macabre “Little Willie” poems were popular around the turn of the century (a little later than the 1880s, but pretty close).
Kids always love this kind of stuff – the Addams Family, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, dead-baby jokes, etc. When I was a kid it was Garbage Pail Kids.
Needless to say, this reading is a smash hit with the kids, so Nellie gives them another tidbit:
Little Willie, in a bright new sash,
Fell in the fire, was burned to an ash.
“Let me see that!” screams Willie.
“Little Willie” was the creation of an English poet named Harry Graham. I was amused to learn Stephen King is a fan.
It’s too bad Willie isn’t more familiar with these verses, because he could have responded with another one I found:
Into the family drinking well
Willie pushed his sister Nell.
She’s there yet, because it kilt her –
Now we have to buy a filter.
(Seriously, Willie and Nell? How perfect is that? I hope Landon is smiling about that up there somewhere.)
The merriment comes to an end, though, when the Bead appears and hisses a rebuke at the kids.
OLIVE: No wonder she tries to kill them every once in a while.
She’s accompanied today by Mr. Hanson.
PEGGY: His hair is a little like a Munchkin’s.
Mr. Hanson says, “I have just come from the Edwards place.”
DAGNY: I love Mr. Hanson. “I have yust come.”
Hanson is making the rounds informing people there’s a mountain fever outbreak in Elmsville – so apparently it wasn’t Mankato after all, despite superficial similarities.
There is no real Elmsville, Minnesota, so I’m afraid I can’t chart the water route from Walnut Grove.
Mr. Hanson says as a precaution, the school board has decided to close the school temporarily.
The kids all cheer, and the Bead, who is not in a good mood today, screams at them to shut up.
Mr. Hanson goes on to say everyone needs to stay home to avoid spreading the infection.
Seems sensible enough to me.
PEGGY: It’s a leftist conspiracy.
DAGNY: Of course it is. Where do you think we came up with all our COVID nonsense? Little House on the Prairie.
Miss Beadle instructs the children to pray the fever doesn’t come to Walnut Grove (see, prayer in schools, there’s something for conservatives to like as well in this one), and sends them on their way.
WILL [as MISS BEADLE]: “Now I know last time I said go straight home, some of you thought it would be ‘cool’ to get lost in a blizzard, but . . .”
Then David gives us more horror music as we see Walnut Grove looking like a ghost town!
WILL: It’s not that different from how it usually looks. I guess normally Mrs. Foster might be walking around.
DAGNY: Nah, it’s different. It looks like the Twin Cities did at the beginning of the pandemic. You didn’t see it because you were at home. I on the other hand was an essential worker.
Back to the Little House common room, then.
OLIVE: Does Carrie have a new hairstyle?
DAGNY: Maybe. Her bangs look shorter.
ALEXANDER: Maybe it’s Carrie Two.
Laura is screaming at Carrie for coloring on her homework.
“I declare, with all the children and the schoolwork, this house is gettin’ smaller and smaller!” sighs Ma in a bizarre accent, half British, half Southern. (Sort of the way Nathan Lane talks on The Gilded Age.)
“I drawed our house,” slurps Carrie unhelpfully.
PEGGY: Just push her in the fire, Laura.
Pa checks Laura’s homework and says she needs to rework some problems. He says it’s clear she did the assignment “like a runaway freight train.”
ROMAN [as LAURA]: “I was on a runaway freight train once.”
Laura asks if she can go fishing when her homework’s done. Pa says no, and stresses the quarantine is to be taken seriously.
Then Laura asks a second time and Pa says, “All right.”
BRUCE: He caved pretty easily.
There’s nothing else of interest in this scene, except Pa does giggle at the end of it.
Meanwhile, at the Old Sanderson Place, Mr. Edwards and Carl are building something in the barn and “Old Dan Tucker”-ing away as they go.
DAGNY: Are they building a crib?
BRUCE: Coffins, more likely.
WILL: Nah, it’s a hot air balloon basket for Carrie.
Speaking of which, I know this is about a month late, but did anybody else think of Carrie during the Mysterious Incident of the Chinese Spy Balloon(s)?
Mr. E and Carl have a nice little bonding moment over how much Carl’s learning from him. See, I don’t know why he freaked out so much about Sissy John and his poetry, it’s been clear the whole time one of the kids was normal.
But all the good feels go out the window when Grace comes running from the house a-screamin’. She tells them Alicia has the fever spots.
OLIVE: Did Alicia drink out of his liquor bottle?
Grace heaves and gasps in terror.
DAGNY: Another graduate of the Karen Grassle School of Orgasm Acting. They must have had a coach who said, “Go with the O.”
Edwards rushes inside to check Alicia’s condition himself.
WILL: Did you know that’s Kyle Richards from Real Housewives?
PEGGY: No way. [looks closer] Oh wow, it IS! I had no idea. My friend went to see her at BravoCon.
Seeing the spots, Mr. E covers his face in horror and shame and says, “Oh my God. . . .”
DAGNY: French is good in this one.
Grace doesn’t chide him for taking the Lord’s name in vain – another example of the personal growth we discussed last week.
“Isaiah,” she says, “is it the fever?”
WILL [as EDWARDS]: “Yeah . . . and it ain’t for the flavor of a Pringles!”
Edwards barks at Grace to get out of the room, then agonizes over how this is the second time he’s brought mountain fever to his family.
Now, you may recall, in “Mr. Edward’s [sic] Homecoming,” we learned Mr. Edwards once had a wife and daughter in Dakota Territory, but both of them died during a disease outbreak. However, in that story, Mr. Ed explicitly says the infection was smallpox, not mountain fever.
Grace rushes back to comfort him, but he screams at her to stay away.
Mr. Edwards hypothesizes that while he couldn’t get mountain fever himself a second time (true, it seems), he must have brought it home as a carrier. A sophisticated medical conclusion for him, but whatever.
WILL: I don’t know why Grace defers to his opinions about such things. She’s the medical practitioner in the family.
ROMAN: Well, Mr. Edwards does have experience taking care of a family during an epidemic.
BRUCE: They died, he didn’t do a very good job.
True. Well, Mr. Ed says he and Alicia will quarantine together in his “old cabin.”
OLIVE: Oh, where he brews his booze?
Back in the common room again, the kids are still squabbling.
If you listen, you’ll notice everybody’s voice in the scene has been redubbed except Mary’s. (It’s at 13:27 if you want to hear it for yourself.)
Carrie steals some paper from Laura and tries to escape, but Pa catches her.
DAGNY: A misbehaving child would struggle if they were grabbed like that.
PEGGY: Even if it was Michael Landon?
DAGNY: I see your point.
Laura informs the audience the quarantine has been in place “eight or nine” days at this point.
Then, Pa declares since there’s no sign of fever in Walnut Grove yet, they should go visit the Sanderson-Edwardses.
ALL: OH MY GOD, CHARLES!
I’m not saying it’s unrealistic for a family to do this, but I can’t really believe Charles would suggest it.
Then Pa says since it’s raspberry season they should pick some while they’re out. He won’t be joining them, though, since it’s also plowing season.
PEGGY: What time of year is it?
WILL: Well, raspberries are harvested in summer and fall.
PEGGY: But Pa’s plowing.
DAGNY: Yeah. It’s the only farming anyone does on this show.
Pa’s plowing notwithstanding, since school’s in session we’ll give this the benefit of the doubt and suggest it picks up right after “‘I’ll Ride the Wind.’” That means it takes place in the fall of 1881. (In the C timeline.)
PEGGY: Does Carrie have the spots on her face?
OLIVE: That’s just acne.
As the four Ing-Gals make their way to the Old Sanderson Place, the kids squirrel about.
DAGNY: It’s like when we went for that walk in St. Louis Park at the beginning of the pandemic.
But as they approach, Grace yells over the wind that they should stay away.
Grace brings them up to speed with the plot and screams, “I’ve just never been so frightened in all my life!”
DAGNY: For a former midwife, she doesn’t handle stress well.
Well, you can tell this sucked out the fun of the outing for the Ing-Gals.
WILL: What happened to the Sanderson geese? Did they eat them all?
DAGNY: Yes. Goose-eating is a protective factor against mountain fever.
Caroline and the girls return to the Little House. You can tell how upset they are, because everybody’s got their arms folded six ways to Sunday.
ROMAN: Are the cows and chickens gone?
BRUCE: They had to slaughter them.
The girls go up the hill to pick berries, and Ma trudges out into the field to give Pa the update.
ROMAN: Is that really Karen Grassle?
DAGNY: No, it’s Mustache Man. Karen Grassle wouldn’t walk through a field herself.
Carrie isn’t too helpful picking berries.
WILL: My God, she looks like a cannibal.
DAGNY: Plus you can see they just impaled that berry on a stick.
Then Laura announces one of her cockamamie schemes to smuggle Alicia some raspberries. Mary protests, but Laura just steamrolls her as usual.
Meanwhile, in the cabin (actually Mr. Edwards’s old house, which I suppose reverted to his ownership when the Gallenders left town?), Mr. Ed pulls a wet cloth out of a bucket and puts it on Alicia’s head. Then she says she’s thirsty, so he pours her a drink from the bucket.
PEGGY: Rag-water? That’s nice.
Alicia doesn’t think much of the gesture either. She requests some proper water, which Mr. Edwards goes out to collect.
ALEXANDER: Is he just leaving her to die?
DAGNY: It was the standard treatment for a lot of conditions back then.
WILL: I’m surprised he leaves her unguarded.
DAGNY: Why, who’s going to come?
WILL: I don’t know. Busby?
ROMAN: Yeah, or that guy who drowns dogs?
Well, Laura comes, as it turns out.
DAGNY: So she’s just going to ding-dong-ditch these raspberries?
She hears Alicia crying and whimpering through the door.
ROMAN: Is this what I was like when I had scarlet fever?
WILL: . . . What???
I had to pause the video.
DAGNY: Didn’t I ever tell you that? Yeah, Roman had scarlet fever when he was three. It developed out of strep throat.
WILL: Oh my God, that’s how Mary went blind!
ROMAN: Spoilers, Stepfather!
(Spoilers, everyone. Mary goes blind.)
Well, we’ll deal more with this revelation another time. After a quick vision test for Roman, we resumed play.
Anyways, Laura goes in. Now, everyone in our little viewing group groaned at her stupidity, but I don’t know. For all Laura’s aware, Mr. Edwards could be dead, and that would mean they’d have to get Alicia out. I’m willing to give her a passing mark for the decision.
Well, Mr. Ed, who of course is not dead, returns immediately and shouts at Laura, screaming, “You’re trying to catch the fever, that’s what you’re tryin’ to do!”
DAGNY [as EDWARDS]: “And it isn’t for the flavor of a Pringles!”
Laura runs away, with Mr. Ed yelling at her as she goes.
WILL: Wow, she rarely gets yelled at by her Old-Man Besties. Well, actually they often yell at her, now that I think about it.
Very intense music from David in this scene, by the way.
Back on the hill, Glopface Carrie is still stuffing her face with berries.
WILL: I predict a privy scene.
Laura comes running back. This means the Old Sanderson Place must be very close indeed to the Little House.
Laura lies to Mary about what happened. Mary looks doubtful, but what’s she supposed to do, I guess.
That night, although there’s raspberry pie on the Little House table, the mood is grim.
Ma and Pa discuss the epidemiology of the case, but they don’t make much headway.
Pa tells Laura about Mr. Edwards losing his (first) family. I’m surprised she didn’t know.
Laura is freaking out, of course, and she asks, as innocently as possible, if the virus is airborne (paraphrase).
Pa doesn’t know. And in fact, in those days they didn’t know how mountain fever is transmitted, but today we do.
WILL: It was spread by ticks.
ROMAN: Well, I’m sure Mr. Edwards was covered in them when he got home.
Pa is very gloomy, saying mountain fever has a 50/50 mortality rate. It’s more like 25/75; still, not great.
Guilt-gopher Laura says nothing.
That night, though, she sits up in bed and sees . . . the spots!
(She actually wakes up scratching her arm, but we’ll set that aside for now.)
Laura gets out of bed, writes a note and runs away. I don’t know where the hell Jack is. (Yet again, some watchdog!)
WILL: She should go back to her Mountain Man for help.
DAGNY: That’s probably where the fever came from. Mountain Man, mountain fever.
ROMAN: The Curse of Mountain Man!
WILL: It’s a pretty slow-boiling curse if so. . . .
Out at the “cabin,” Mr. Edwards is beginning to experience symptoms himself. David gives us some of his weirdest music to date – Phantom of the Opera stuff on a gothic organ.
Laura knocks at the door, but Edwards says she should go away.
LAURA: I can’t, Mr. Edwards. I got the fever!
WILL/DAGNY [as LAURA]: “And it isn’t for the flavor of a Pringles!”
(Yes, that’s the Brad Pitt one.)
Mr. Ed takes a look at Laura, and comforts her, saying she did the right thing joining them.
The next morning, Ma and Pa arrive.
OLIVE: Chonkies to the rescue!
Mr. Edwards tries to turn Pa away. Pa says Mr. E’s in no condition to take care of anyone, since he’s sick and exhausted. But Laura pipes up from the window for him to do the sensible thing.
DAGNY: That’s a cute little window. She should do a puppet show.
She’s quite firm about it, too.
ROMAN [as LAURA]: “I’ve shot you once and I’ll do it again, Pa!”
DAGNY: Who would win in a duel to the death between Charles and Laura?
ROMAN: Laura. She’d fake crying, and when he was off his guard she’d strike.
Pa looks agonized, but Ma puts on a brave face. You can tell she’s proud of Laura’s decision.
Lovely music from David takes us into the next commercial break.
Then it’s back to the Little House again, where Pa is readying for a trip to track down Doc Baker.
Nicely, Ma’s prepared a severed head in a sack for him to take along.
Ma makes a couple statements in a strange jittery mutter.
WILL: Is she on the laudanum again? I can’t understand a word she’s saying.
Pa says he’ll be back in 24 hours. So I guess that gives us some clue as to Elmsville’s whereabouts, sort of.
OLIVE: Mary’s like, “Laura’s so unlucky. Nothing bad ever happens to me.”
Pa climbs aboard the Chonkywagon.
DAGNY: Pa’s butt looks good in those pants. You can tell they’re extra-tight because he’s going to have a fight later. Them’s his fightin’ pants.
I also have a pair of fightin’ pants. They’re the mustard-colored trousers I wore to the Minnesota State Fair back in 2019 when I confronted those terrible people I’ve spoken of in the past. The leader of the group even said, “You think you’re pretty great in those YELLOW PANTS!” (I’ve sanitized the remark for a general audience.)
Yellow pants indeed. Well, this goes to show, it wasn’t JUST the pandemic that turned everybody in America into monsters.
But don’t worry about that for now. Dags, as usual, is right: We are zeroing in on an action/adventure segment.
The fun begins when Charles finds the road to Elmsville blocked by . . . Mustache Man!
Mustache Man shouts no one’s allowed into Elmsville because of the quarantine.
ROMAN: My God, whose side is Mustache Man ON?
DAGNY: Yeah, why isn’t he with the Groovians?
Charles adds to the mystery when he informs Mustache Man “we’ve got it in Walnut Grove,” as if Walnut Grove is a place MM has little or no familiarity with.
ROMAN: They’re really thinking we won’t remember this guy as Mustache Man? He’s in every episode!
Then Mustache Man says, “You can’t go this way, farmers burnt down the bridge.” (If that’s so, why the hell is he guarding the road?)
Abandoning his duty, Mustache Man then advises Charles to take “the boat at Cider Ferry” to get to town. I’m not sure if “Cider Ferry” is a company or what. It isn’t a town, not a real one, anyways.
Then he wishes Charles good luck.
ROMAN: You can tell Mustache Man feels bad about having to be mean to Pa.
Charles drives off to some moody piano music. And I mean very moody.
At the “cabin,” Laura is playing nurse to Alicia.
OLIVE: That looks so fun.
Mr. Edwards gets some firewood, but then he gets dizzy.
ROMAN: Is he going to hallucinate? I love when people hallucinate on this show.
But no, he just falls over.
OLIVE: Oh my God!
Don’t worry, though – Laura’s there to tend him. The music throughout this storyline sounds a bit like Turandot, to me.
Back in Elmsville, the three goons are eating some slop on the docks.
One of them expresses hesitation at eating off the same plates sick people have touched. He mentions that Dixon (the shadowy-yet-loveable drunk from the beginning) has died.
ROMAN: He must have been Doc’s first patient.
So let’s take a closer look at these three. The leader goon’s face is very familiar, and that’s because the actor, Rance Howard, appeared in more movies and TV shows then perhaps any other guest so far.
A very small selection of these includes The Music Man, The Andy Griffith Show, The Fugitive, That Girl, Cool Hand Luke, Bonanza, Chinatown, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, Battlestar Galactica, Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, The Thorn Birds (remember that?), Splash, Murder She Wrote, Days of Our Lives, Cocoon, Quantum Leap, Baywatch, Tales From the Crypt, Seinfeld, Married . . . With Children, 7th Heaven, Cold Case, CSI: NY, Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, The X-Files, and Arrested Development.
He’s also noteworthy for being the father of both Ron and Clint Howard and the grandfather of Bryce Dallas Howard.
By a fun coincidence, he was also in the 1990s horror film Ticks! If you’re like me, you remember that one being written up by Fangoria back in the day.
Ticks also starred Howard’s legendary son Clint, who delivered the movie’s catchphrase, “I’M INFESTED!!!”
Anyways, the second goon, the one who was worried about the contaminated plates, is sort of Kevin-Spacey-ish-looking.
He’s played by Alex Sharp, a stuntman who was in a zillion westerns as well as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (we made the kids watch that once and they hated it), Planet of the Apes, Bullitt, The Goonies and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
He also apparently once foiled a bank robbery in real life.
The third goon is older, with a gray mustache. Some of us recognized him right away.
PEGGY: It’s MATTHEW!
Yes, it’s Matthew Cuthbert from the famed Anne of Green Gables miniseries, Richard Farnsworth. (I understand there’s some rivalry between Little House and Anne fans, but that’s ridiculous. I never read the Anne books either, but the eighties TV show is simply a masterpiece. I won’t entertain arguments to the contrary.)
Farnsworth was a stuntman who became famous late in life as an actor. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for The Straight Story, an unusually warm and fuzzy David Lynch movie.
But I remember him best as the wily sheriff in Misery, who sadly is one step behind Annie Wilkes. (Spoilers.)
Well, Charles comes a-rowin’ up to the dock, but the goons won’t let him through. So, he punches Matthew and pushes him into the river.
(I love that shot of Farnsworth.)
Charles then tries the same trick on the leader goon, but Goon # 2 clips him on the head and knocks him out.
The goons throw him back into the rowboat and push him out onto the water. (At least they don’t light it on fire. Scandinavians, you know.)
Back at the Little House, Ma is crying, probably because her part in this one is so shitty.
Carrie gets out of bed, and her nightgown rides up a bit.
OLIVE: Whoa! We do not need to see Carrie’s bikini area.
She approaches Ma’s bed.
DAGNY: Definitely Carrie Two.
Carrie slurps that everything’s going to be okay.
CARRIE: It scares me when you cry.
PEGGY [as MA]: “It scares me when you talk.”
Well, soon Carrie’s snuggling into bed with Ma. Your enjoyment of this scene will depend on your fondness or hatred for Carrie, but I liked it.
Carrie says, “Goodnight, Mommy.” (I don’t know that she’s ever called Ma “Mommy” before.)
ALEXANDER: Goodnight Mommy!
The boys and I just watched a horror movie called Goodnight Mommy (the Austrian version).
It’s beautifully done, but a complete bummer and not recommended for the squeamish. (Or for mothers.)
Back at the “cabin,” the Turandot music continues. Alicia croaks “Papa” for like the trillionth time.
WILL: Smuffocate her, already!
Alicia looks like shit.
You know, it’s just occurring to me that her name is Alicia, and the name of Mr. Edwards’s daughter who died of smallpox was Alice.
Suddenly Alicia seems to pull herself together. She asks if Mr. Edwards is sick, but Laura says he’s “just tuckered.”
DAGNY: Old Dan Tuckered.
Alicia asks if they’re going to die, but Laura just says, “I don’t know.” She’d make a great pre-K teacher, wouldn’t she?
Alicia rather predictably freaks out at this, saying her sins will keep her out of Heaven. Gee whiz, this poor child is obsessed with Heaven and what’ll keep you out of it. (Nice work, Christianity.)
First it was worrying about whether dogs go there in “Remember Me.”
Then she revisited the same question when Mine died in “The Collection.”
Anyways, it’s apparently an act of theft that’s the heavenly sticking point.
WILL: Did she steal Nellie’s music box???
No, but it was a hair ribbon from the Mercantile.
Laura says petty theft is no big deal in God’s eyes. It explains a lot that she thinks that.
Alicia folds her hands to fess up to God.
PEGGY: She has nail polish on!
DAGNY: Yeah. The plastic barrettes are one thing, but I draw the line at this.
Alicia then begs Laura to return the ribbon if she dies. Alicia’s not a favorite of mine, but this is probably her best story if you’re a fan.
Laura says sure. Despite being spotty, she has no other symptom of the illness. This may prove to be significant.
Meanwhile, back at the Elmsville waterfront, something is emerging from the depths.
WILL: Is it the Lake Kezia Monster???
No, it’s Charles Ingalls.
BRUCE: Is he Rambo?
WILL: Apocalypse Now, I thought.
Charles swims up to the dock, where Matthew Cuthbert and the other goons are now playing gin rummy.
ROMAN: Was Richard Farnsworth ever young?
Charles carefully sneaks out of the water, then improbably walks into a stack of wooden crates.
If you look closely, the crates come from Hong Kong and appear to have Chinese letters on them. That must be some shipping route.
The goons give chase.
PEGGY: These guys like their jobs a little too much.
Charles leads them up a fire escape for some reason.
Actually, two reasons: so he can push them down the stairs, and so he can look cool jumping off it.
Meanwhile, Doc Baker is coming down another set of stairs in a saloon.
WILL [as DOC]: “Well, you do have some good hookers here, I’ll give you that.”
Doc and some other people are tending patients (or corpses) on the floor.
ROMAN: Now, if they died, would it be safe to eat them?
There’s absolute silence, until Charles Ingalls comes running through the door literally screaming “Doc! Doc!” and then the goons barrel into him and propel him into a table and chairs that somebody’s stacked up. It’s actually really funny.
DAGNY: Doc’s gotta be so embarrassed. [as DOC] “God, Charles, you dumb hick . . .”
While Charles tells Doc he’s needed by his own peeps, another doctor tells the goons they’re idiots to come into a sick ward.
WILL: Ha ha, they’re going to get the fever! They might as well have eaten off Dixon’s plate.
This seems to be developing into an ethical conundrum for Doc – should he abandon his triage patients to go home and deal with his own people?
DAGNY: Actually it’s not really a difficult question. He shouldn’t abandon them, but as long as they’re attended to, it’s actually more ethical to go to Walnut Grove. Not because he lives there, but because they’ve had no access to medical care and so are in a position of greater need.
Dagny isn’t a doctor, but she does know a few things about medical ethics because of her job. (My job doesn’t require deep knowledge of ethics. I work in communications.)
But Doc doesn’t have much time to ponder the question, because the other doctor, apparently the aforementioned Quimby, says they can totally handle things without him at this point.
(We’re getting down to the wire here, so I’ll just say Quimby is played by Marshall Kent, who did a bunch of TV, including that Eric Shea Whiz Kid thing everybody and their brother seems to have been in.)
Quimby then guarantees Charles safe passage back to the boat so they can leave.
Back in the “cabin,” Edwards’s and Alicia’s fevers have broken. And the spots are gone!
Mr. Edwards hugs her and thanks God for saving them. This is significant, since his relationship with God in the series has been touch-and-go.
ROMAN: Reverend Alden should appear in the window and shake his hand.
Suddenly everybody arrives to check on them. Unfortunately, Laura still has her spots. But fortunately, Doc immediately diagnoses them as poison ivy.
Everyone laughs and cheers, except Charles, who cries. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!
Grace seems to wear a new combo.
Charles wears some different pants for once! Hard to tell from a still, but I think they’ve got some kind of plaid or check pattern.
He still appears to go commando under them, though.
THE VERDICT: More light-hearted than Season One’s “Plague,” this is still a highly entertaining follow-up, the dark drama complemented by action and a surprising amount of fun. There are good performances from all the regulars – French in particular is great, and Arngrim steals the show with “Little Willie.”
UP NEXT: Little Women
4 thoughts on “Quarantine”
Another good recap of an episode I really do like. Love the poster by the way!😆
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Thanks so much, Maryann. I’m not 100-percent happy with the poster – all that crosshatching is well beyond my abilities! But I’m glad to know the general effect is okay. 🙂
Thanks for the shout-out! I don’t have much to add to your entertaining write-up….the only behind-the-scenes stuff I can think of for this one is a photo I saw once showing how the night “lake” at the quarantined town was actually built inside the soundstage. I don’t know if you think much about the show’s sets, but I think the attention to detail with them is part of what makes the show; I love how the Ingalls house and barn is complete on the soundstage (so they can film outside at “night”) and also complete out on the ranch (it’s rare, but they sometimes do film inside the set that’s on the outdoor location). I still would like to know if the bank was also a set that could be filmed inside while on the ranch used for exteriors; it sure looks like it.
I agree that the original Anne of Green Gables was awesome. That was because of its cast and its locations. Weren’t the sequels awful, though?
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Agreed on all points . . . except perhaps about the A o’GG sequels. They’re a bit of a blur in my memory, but I remember liking the one with Wendy Hiller.