To Live With Disappointment; or
Charles Ingalls and the Temple of Doom
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: To Live With Fear, Part Two
Airdate: February 21, 1977
Written by John Hawkins
Directed by William F. Claxton
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Mary’s life hangs by a thread, but instead of worrying about that, wouldn’t you rather follow Charles on another mission involving mountains, explosives, learning about racism, and Pa behaving like a total asshole?
No, me neither.
RECAP: First off, I want to thank all those who sent in cards and letters on account of my diverticulitis. They were much appreciated.
We had some friends – non-Little House people – over for dinner the other night and were telling them about Walnut Groovy.
At one point came the following exchange:
WILL: Yeah, we’re actually connecting with some of the cast. We did our first interview back in November.
DINNER GUEST: Oh yeah, with who? John Landon?
Needless to say, we won’t be having them back anytime soon.
We will, however, be announcing another such interview in the coming weeks (I hope!).
But enough about that for now. Today’s story begins with a helpful “previously on.”
It’s quite expansive, replaying Mary’s whole accident and (first) surgery. Dr. Mayes is prominently featured.
WILL: So, how DO you think they wound up at the Mayes Clinic instead of Mayo?
ROMAN: Maybe Mr. Edwards looked up the address, but he could only read the first three letters.
Evil hospital administrator Horace Benson makes an appearance too.
DAGNY: Do you think Mrs. Oleson sent him a letter saying, “Do NOT give these people credit”?
WILL: Yeah. “Unless you like getting paid in BROWN EGGS!”
Our story proper begins atop the Sierra Number Three train.
The train flies by – well, I suppose that’s putting it strongly.
Then we get an unexpected, rather lovely shot of a man driving a wagon into a town.
We know this isn’t Walnut Grove, because we’ve never seen this road before.
We see we’re in some kind of encampment on the outskirts of whatever town this is. (Could it be Deadwood???)
(No. Not yet.)
Looking closer, we see Charles, arguing with a man who won’t give him a job. Apparently he and Mr. Edwards are following up on the Chicago and North Western advertisement they saw last week.
The guy, identified as “Clancy” in the credits, says the posting Charles saw is old and the job’s no longer available.
Charles refuses to take no for an answer. Literally! He seizes the guy, screams at him, rips at his suspenders, and finally tears his shirt open to the waist.
DAGNY: Whoa whoa whoa!
WILL: Take it easy, Chuck!
A number of local ruffians or roustabouts are watching with interest, which makes it feel like a scene in a musical.
But they don’t make a move to do anything, probably since Clancy isn’t deterred by Charles’s manhandling in the least. Apparently he’s used to dealing with handsome little farmers from out of town who think they’re hot shit.
Charles then has the gall to ask Clancy for job leads! If you ask me, he’s lucky he doesn’t get a knock on the skull with a railroad tie.
Far from it! In fact, Clancy softens. Surprise, surprise, he’s one of a long line of grumpy men on this show who prove to have hearts of marshmallow goo.
He apparently also owns a magic self-buttoning shirt.
DAGNY: How did he do that?
WILL: Maybe he buttoned it quick when the camera was on Charles.
DAGNY: No, you’d have heard in his voice if he was angrily buttoning. Plus, men don’t multitask that well.
Clancy is played by an actor named M.P. Murphy. He doesn’t have a long resume, but he was on The Rockford Files and Kojak a couple times.
Clancy tells Charles that “about ten miles” out of town, miners are tunneling through a mountain and may need additional laborers.
Neither Charles nor Mr. Edwards is very enthusiastic; but Mr. Ed shrugs and says, “Well, what’s another ten miles.”
Now, it isn’t clear where he and Charles are, exactly. Charles had declared they’d head west in response to the notice in the Rochester train station. That notice didn’t tell us much; beyond the name of the company and the available jobs, all it said was “mountain division.”
Well, if you’re in Minnesota and want to find proper mountains, west is the direction to go. You wouldn’t really find any until you hit the Black Hills of South Dakota, though, or I suppose the Badlands, maybe.
Well, this is a real shot in the dark, but let’s say they’re in Rapid City, South Dakota (then the Dakota Territory). The city was founded in 1876 and marketed as “the Gateway to the Black Hills” at a time when white men, especially, were keen on blowing up mountains in search of gold.
Rapid City is a long way from Walnut Grove – about 450 miles – but that doesn’t necessarily conflict with anything in the story.
Meanwhile, back in Rochester, Rather Attractive Nurse Johnson is still working Mary’s room.
She approaches Ma, who’s spooning some of her Life-Restoring Magic Broth into Mary’s mouth. (Brought from home in a jar, no doubt.)
Nurse Johnson says Horace Benson has summoned Caroline to Accounts Receivable.
When Ma arrives, Benson says he hasn’t heard anything about the payment Pa promised him before he left. (He doesn’t call him “Pa,” of course.)
Benson’s hair is slicked back with what looks like whale oil.
Caroline says she’s been taking care of Mary herself for the most part, so they don’t need to be charged for any nursing, thank you.
This is of course a fairly stupid argument, as Benson points out.
DAGNY: This is it. Ma’s gonna have to pay with her body.
WILL: Yeah, she should use her “woman’s wiles.” They got Mr. Sprague worked up.
ROMAN: Would this guy have the legal right to take her as a wife if Charles never returned?
No, Roman, he wouldn’t. Tasteless jokes aside, Benson doesn’t suggest anything improper like that.
Nevertheless, Caroline makes a fake-huffy speech about the implication they won’t pay, even hitting him with a “good day” at the end of it. (A technique she usually reserves for Mrs. Oleson.)
Back up in the ICU, we’re treated to the ghastly sight of a corpse being wheeled out.
When Caroline comes back, Nurse Johnson says “Mary’s sleeping beautifully.” (Like that’s some major fucking accomplishment, Nurse Johnson.)
Then Nurse Johnson says, “You’ve been here such a long time, Mrs. Ingalls. Don’t you think you should get some rest?”
ROMAN [as CAROLINE, ferociously]: “Why, so you can add more ‘nursing charges’ to my bill I suppose!”
But no, Ma doesn’t take the suggestion personally. Instead, she asks Nurse Johnson if she knows of any available work in the area.
Now, how long has she been there? Given we know it was Sunday when the Ingallses left Walnut Grove for Rochester, we can figure that out pretty easily:
Thursday – Pa’s birthday/Chonky attack
Friday – Mary collapses on the playground/graveyard
Saturday – Mary develops a fever
Sunday – Pa, Ma and Mary depart on “the night train to Rochester”
Monday – Ingallses arrive in Rochester
Tuesday – Mary’s surgery
Tuesday/Wednesday – Mary has complications
Thursday – Charles travel time
Friday – Charles returns to Walnut Grove (via Springfield)
Saturday – Charles returns back to Springfield with Mr. Edwards
Now, we don’t know for certain where Chuck and Ed are now, and I’m not going to bother looking up if there really was a train between Springfield and Rapid City and how long it might have taken to get there. (I might have when I was doing Season One, but that was a long time ago, people.)
What I will point out is that we know Rochester is about eight hours from Mankato by train (because that’s how far the Friendly Conductor told Charles it was as they were approaching Mankato). It’s also about eighty miles away.
Now, I’m not going to pretend this lines up with the laws of physics in reality, but I’m happy to accept a little steam engine like the Number Three averages about ten miles per hour in the Little House TV universe.
That would make it a two-day journey from Springfield to Rapid City by train. So I’m prepared to say it’s now Tuesday – five days since Charles left Rochester, and eight days since they arrived there in the first place.
Now, here’s another thing. Benson said Charles’s bill would need to be paid “by the end of the month,” so why is he hassling her about it already? I mean, we don’t know what month or day of the month it is, though last time I argued it’s September. (Charles’s real birthday was in the dead of winter, so that’s no help.)
But it’s fair to say it can’t be anywhere near net thirty since Mary checked in. Did Benson really think Charles’s sale of the farm would be instantaneous and he’d be back a day or two later?
Anyways, whatever day it is, Karen Grassle acts her heart out as Ma asking the nurse about local job listings. She plays her like Fantine in Les Miz.
It’s a bit much, but since Caroline never gets enough to say, you have to sympathize with Grassle seizing the moment.
Nurse Johnson suggests Caroline inquire with the hospital laundry, then says this development alone is reason enough for her to finally get some rest. (Maybe she really was thinking about the billing after all.)
Back in the Dakota Territory, or wherever they are, Charles and Mr. Ed are coming down the mountain, as they come.
They reach a scenic viewpoint, from which they can see a worker’s encampment of sorts in a valley, or mountain pass, or glen, or whatever you want to call it.
The orchestra goes nuts, and whoosh, we’re down there ourselves, listening to two men argue in front of a small crowd.
The older guy is a white dude – grizzled, perhaps, by our standards, but not really by this show’s.
The other man, who’s younger if not really young, is wearing a “workman-ish” outfit that suggests he’s subordinate to the older guy, professionally-wise-speaking.
He’s also obviously of Asian heritage in some way, and if you look, you’ll see many of the men behind him are wearing non-Western articles of clothing.
(I’m pleased to say I finished this recap in time for Asian/Pacific Heritage Month.)
The slightly grizzled man asks the younger man why he isn’t following instructions properly.
One of the background workers, an older, somewhat chubby guy wearing a bandana, approaches and says something to the younger worker in what I assume is supposed to be Mandarin. I don’t know if it really is or isn’t.
The younger man waves the chubby guy away, muttering. He is apparently some sort of de facto union leader or liaison.
Slightly Grizzled Dude nastily says they should speak English, saying, “You know I don’t savvy that lingo!”
The younger man says, “I just said, ‘I will not kill my crew because you will not listen to reason.’”
This he says in perfect English, with a deep, serious tone that would give any Twentieth-Century news anchor a run for his money.
The man appears to have some sort of primitive Pokémon card attached to his hat.
[UPDATE: After I posted this recap, Dagny pointed out I didn’t sufficiently explain this hat. My apologies. The “card” on it is apparently for attaching a small lamp.]
Anyways, Slight Grizz replies, horribly, “It’s not your crew, China Boy!”
ROMAN: Wow, another racism one already?
China boy was a very common racist term for Chinese men in Nineteenth-Century America.
As they argue, Charles and Mr. Edwards come walking up.
Slight Grizz addresses the other man as “Wing.” (He’s “Sam Wing” in the credits, but I don’t think anybody ever says his first name.)
Anyways, Grizz says “one little accident” isn’t significant enough to slow the project.
Before he can explain what he means, a buckboard carrying two additional white men appears.
One of them stands up and says to Slight Grizz, “What’s the holdup, Harris?” (The slang term “holdup” in this sense apparently dates to 1837.)
DAGNY: What are those flames in the cave?
ROMAN: It’s Mordor, Mom.
You can tell this man is important, because his necktie and waistcoat seem woven with silver threads and golden needles, or perhaps vice versa.
If this gilded gent looks familiar to you, it might be because the actor, James Sikking, went on to have a major role on Hill Street Blues. I never watched that, but I do like the theme music.
You might also know Sikking, who sometimes disguised his identity with the alias “James B. Sikking,” from My Mother the Car, The Fugitive, Bonanza, Hogan’s Heroes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Mission Impossible, Mod Squad, Mannix, Charlie’s Angels, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Hunter, Doogie Howser, M.D., The Pelican Brief, and/or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Anyways, Golden Boy starts going on in a citified Eastern accent about how time is money and blah-blah-blah.
Harris says, “My powderman doesn’t want to load heavy enough to move the proper amount of rock.”
“Get another powderman,” says Golden Boy.
Chuck seizes his own moment then and yells “We’ll do it!” Then he claims he and Mr. Ed are both experienced powdermen who can blast a tunnel open before you can say Jack Robinson, or, as some in the 13+ crowd might prefer, quicker than scat.
(In addition to being a sequel to “To Live With Fear,” Part One, this one is sort of also a sequel to “100 Mile Walk,” in which Charles saw a powderman blown to smithereens; to “The Richest Man in Walnut Grove,” where Charles loses his mind over a debt; and to “The Long Road Home,” with its blastin’ oil and lectures about racism.)
Golden Boy, who has what at this point might be dubbed a Musk-y-ish lack of interest in details, not to mention compassion and understanding, says great, you’re hired.
Golden Boy turns to Harris and says, “Remember, end of steel is coming at you like a runaway locomotive.”
DAGNY: “End the steal”? Are they Republicans?
Ha! No. “End of steel” apparently means “how far railroad tracks have been put down at a given point in time.” So I guess what he means is the workers laying the tracks are catching up to the tunnel-diggers, a thing which ought not to happen?
“End of steel” is actually a Canadian expression, apparently. Canadianisms often equal American old-timey talk, but not always.
Charles, who displays an out-of-character keen business sense in this episode, jumps in to propose his own payment schedule, which differs from company policy.
Golden Boy says fine with him, even gives them an immediate raise. Then he drives off.
Harris suggests to Charles that while Golden Boy, whom he refers to as “Franklin,” might have believed Chuck’s “experienced powderman” routine, he doesn’t.
Charles insists he has experience with both dynamite and blastin’ oil. Which really is true, though you’ll recall with blastin’ oil it was limited to gingerly transporting it over a bumpy surface.
Harris then tells Wing that he and his “crew of China boys” now work for Charles.
The role of Chinese immigrants in building rail systems out of California in the Nineteenth Century is pretty well known these days.
But they did the same in other parts of the continent too . . .
. . . including the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory. (Not until the 1880s, though.)
The thousands of Chinese railroad workers in America, often highly educated people, were subjected to racism both in terms of how much they were paid and how they were treated by their employers and fellow workers. Their involvement in the construction was generally hidden from the public at large.
Anyways, Mr. Wing, again in his Dan Rather voice, repeats that he will not put his crew in unsafe situations, no matter who the powderman is.
Stiffly, Mr. Harris says if the workers won’t work, they’ll be cut off from food, shelter and money and abandoned in the godforsaken Dakota Territory.
Harris then says he’ll take Charles and Mr. Edwards on a tour of the tunnel so far.
In English, Mr. Wing’s chubby sidekick, who in his bandana more than a little resembles Steven Van Zandt, says they have no choice but to do it Harris’s way.
Notably, Not-Steven Van Zandt tells us the other workers’ motivation is the same as Charles’s: to send money home to their families.
Not-Van Zandt says this slightly reproachfully. Blink and you’ll miss it, but I bet he was saying the same thing in Mandarin in the first scene, when he was trying to interrupt Wing’s and Harris’s conversation.
Inside the cave, Charles and Mr. Edwards are demonstrating their skills.
DAGNY: How did they do the flickering lights?
WILL: Just a fan in front of the spotlight?
DAGNY: It looks surprisingly good.
Charles snaps at Mr. Edwards to hurry up, and Mr. Ed mutters “blooey, blooey” to himself – the same word he used when Carl set off the fireworks in the barn.
We see then that all the Chinese people have gone back to work, and Harris approaches Charles out of the murk.
Harris says they’ve got the job, though their speed isn’t what he’d expect from seasoned professionals like themselves.
Charles is happy, but Mr. Edwards is uneasy about the danger of the work.
They light the fuse, and Charles yells “Fire in the hole!” (As we noted with “100 Mile Walk,” the expression probably was in use at this time.)
All the workers rush out of the cave.
DAGNY: What is this music? We’ve never had music like this on Little House before. It sounds more like Fantasy Island.
WILL: That’s because it’s “Asian.”
And it is – all gongs and parallel fifths. I won’t deny it sounds nice – I think I mentioned my fondness for Turandot in another recap – but it does make a 21st-Century viewer cringe a bit.
Well, everybody makes it out before the explosion. Harris is pleased.
DAGNY: I bet that guy was handsome when he was young.
WILL: You say that about every old man on this show!
DAGNY: Truth is just truth, my love.
Mr. Harris, by the way, is played by an actor named John McLiam, who appeared in The Untouchables, My Fair Lady, Daniel Boone, In Cold Blood, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, My Three Sons, Mannix, The Food of the Gods, M*A*S*H, Starsky and Hutch, V, T.J. Hooker, Falcon Crest, Highway to Heaven, Beauty and the Beast (the Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton one), and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
He also was on two memorable Twilight Zones: the creepy one where Robert Duvall falls in love with a doll, and the funny one where an evil scientist’s personality gets implanted in Robby the Robot.
We’ll see him again on this show too, but you’ll have to wait for that.
David Rose briefly returns to his true form with some big Lincoln Portrait-type chords, then morphs back to Hollywood Shanghai again.
And you know, this is about the point you realize this one isn’t really going to be about Mary’s condition at all, but instead is concerned primarily with Charles’s and Mr. Ed’s storyline. And you know what? That’s kind of a bummer.
So is having to sit through commercials, but whatever. When we get back, we’re in a brand-new location: the hospital laundry.
Caroline is ironing a sheet or perhaps a giant towel, and chatting with an adorable larger, older lady.
DAGNY: God, is that really how they heated up irons back in those days?
I think it is. It’s just a sort of flaming . . . brazier-thing, or whatever you want to call it.
The adorable larger, older lady, when she speaks, turns out to be an adorable larger, older, Irish lady.
The character is called “Sarah Mulligan” in the credits, though whether she’s any relation to Doc’s college softball team the Mulligans is left to conjecture.
Ms. Mulligan is played by an actor supposedly named “Cordy Clark.”
Now, she was on Fantasy Island once, and on a lot of other things too, going as far back as Mister Ed.
She also played a character called “Mama,” whom Wikipedia describes as “a depraved, alcoholic prostitute,” in The Hills Have Eyes, an early Wes Craven film.
Anyways, Sarah Mulligan tells Caroline that Nurse Johnson has given her the details of her case. So much for nurse-patient confidentiality, I guess.
DAGNY: Oh my God, look at Ma’s hair! She’s got hot-girl hair! She looks like a Playboy Magazine cover from 1977.
WILL: Or 1877.
Ms. Mulligan says she and Nurse Johnson, both mothers themselves, have schemed to set up a bed for her in the nurses’ quarters, so she doesn’t have to pay for a hotel anymore.
With gratitude, Caroline says she’ll take a break right after finishing the giant sheet or towel.
Back in Dakota Territory, Mr. Edwards has a front-row seat to Charles inventing the Big Wheel.
Mr. Wing comes over.
WILL: This location kind of feels like M*A*S*H. I keep expecting the helicopters to fly over.
Clearly a graduate of the Spotted Eagle Actors’ Studio for Noble Persons of Color, Wing expressionlessly says, “I have something to show the powdermen.”
WILL: What if this guy actually WAS on M*A*S*H? Still racist?
DAGNY: Yes, but less so.
Somewhat surprisingly for a guy who was a go-to Asian American actor in Hollywood in the seventies, he wasn’t ever on M*A*S*H. He was in a lot of other stuff, though. The actor’s name was James Shigeta, and he wasn’t Chinese at all, but rather a Hawaiian-born American of Japanese ancestry.
Shigeta served as a U.S. Marine during the real Korean War, and became a star of stage and screen in both America and Japan. He was in one of Elvis’s “Hawaii” movies, and in other projects that included The Outer Limits, Ben Casey, Hawaii Five-O, Ironside, Medical Center, Kung Fu, Fantasy Island, Magnum, P.I., Simon & Simon, Die Hard, Murder, She Wrote, Babylon 5 and Beverly Hills 90210.
He was never on M*A*S*H, though.
But . . . he was on Love Boat!!!
Anyways, Charles blows Wing off with uncharacteristic hostility, or at the very least brusqueness. (I suppose what would seem merely brusque from anyone else feels uncharacteristically hostile coming from Charles Ingalls.)
Wing firmly repeats his request, and Charles and Edwards follow him to a tent, where he shows them a man apparently dying of internal injuries.
Wing tells Charles this is what happens when the explosives are loaded too heavily, and he blames himself for not preventing the accident (just as Charles himself often does when things go south back home).
Charles says he’s gonna keep doing what he’s told to do, because he needs to pay for Mary’s operation. He coldly says, “We take care of our own, that’s the way it is.” (Which pretty much shocked us.)
Mr. Harris, who wafted into the tent at some point during this conversation, says he needs to get Charles and Mr. Ed in the payroll book.
Wing and Charles stare at each other for a moment, but the significance isn’t really clear.
When they step outside, we see the angle of the light suggests sunset – another ambitious effect for this show, quite well realized too.
Harris says he assumes Charles is sick of the “China boys,” and Charles replies, “Yeah.”
ROMAN: Oh my God, Charles!
DAGNY: Who wrote this one?
WILL: That would be “Fat” John Hawkins.
“Fat” John, because that’s how he was credited in his one on-screen appearance.
DAGNY: Is he new?
WILL: No, he was one of the main producers on the show from the very beginning. He wrote a lot of episodes, some good, some bad.
DAGNY: Charles is so out of character in this one. I realize he’s supposed to be, but it isn’t believable.
Well, it is extremly un-Charles-like. He knows he’ll be risking a lot of people’s lives by using too much explosive, and decides to do it anyway. Can you imagine if someone did die because of this? He’d never get over it; his restless brain wouldn’t let him forget it. If he couldn’t even let it go when Ebenezer Sprague broke up with Laura, just imagine what this would do to him.
“Heard you say you had a daughter in the hospital,” says Harris.
WILL [as HARRIS]: “I’m lookin’ for a wife. She pretty?”
But no, what Harris is really offering is to direct-deposit Charles’s pay to the Mayes Clinic itself.
DAGNY: This is white man’s privilege at its finest.
Harris then compliments Charles on his good work and departs.
ROMAN: Pinky’s really dirty in this one.
Well, Mr. Ed is troubled by their situation, and he says so.
Charles is annoyed and dismissive, saying, “If I’ve got a choice, I go with the man who pays me.”
He stumps off then, leaving Edwards and Wing to give each other apprehensive looks.
Back in the hospital, Mary is awake, and Ma reads to her from a letter:
MA [reading]: “My dearest Mary: How I wish I could be with you right now, instead of having to put words to paper so far away! I love you, my darling! You’re in my thoughts and prayers constantly.”
DAGNY: So I guess John did find out, huh.
But no, this letter is apparently from Charles – another weird thing, given the florid style.
Mary stares blankly ahead and says, “Ma . . . ?”
DAGNY [as MARY, whispering]: “I can’t see.”
No, she can still see. What she really says, or more accurately croaks, is, “If something happens . . . if I’m not here when Pa comes . . .”
WILL: They should have dubbed an old-timey violin over this scene.
“Mary, look at me,” Ma says. “What are you talking about?” Her serious tone is undercut somewhat by the pure seventies sexiness of her hair.
WILL: She looks like Teri Garr here.
Mary starts talking about how she thinks she’ll die, which triggers Ma into making this frenzied speech:
Mary! Stop talking like that! . . . I don’t care what you think you feel! The doctor tells me you’re doing fine. . . . If you want to tell your pa something, you’re going to have to tell him yourself! And to do that you’re going to have to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get well!
DAGNY: What! Oh my God, this is not a best practice.
Back at the mountain, Mr. Franklin the Golden Boy has arrived for an inspection. Harris helpfully tells us it’s been a week since the white guys took over the crew.
Franklin asks Charles and Mr. Edwards if they could go faster for more money.
“No,” Mr. Ed answers bluntly, but Charles jumps in and says, “Yes, sir! We can do it! I guarantee it!”
Mr. Edwards gives him a grumpy look of common-sense disbelief, and after Franklin’s gone they argue briefly about it.
Like Mary, Mr. Edwards is a multi-faceted character. I’d say he has at least five personality settings, which sometimes overlap. There’s Mr. Edwards the Comedian/Merrymaker, of course . . .
. . . Mr. Edwards the Self-Indulgent Drunk . . .
. . . and Mr. Edwards the Pigheaded Fool.
Then there’s Mr. Edwards, The Man of Surprisingly Deep Feelings.
And finally, there’s Mr. Edwards the Common-Sense Superhero, which is who we get in this episode.
Later, under the mountain, Mr. Wing approaches Charles to give another ominous warning about using too much dynamite. Charles snaps back at him – not racistly, thank God, but still, very nastily.
WILL: Charles’s mode this week is “let’s blow this fucking place up!” Landon must have been pissed off about something.
Part of me feels James Shigeta’s acting isn’t a great fit for the character. Wing’s dialogue is written to be a little broken, but the actor’s deep authoritative voice and perfect American accent make this not quite believable.
Anyways, Charles angrily says if Wing and his people don’t want to “be the first man in the tunnel after every blast” (apparently the most dangerous part of the job), he’ll take care of that himself.
Wing says, “I will wait and watch. See you kill yourself.” Then he does this barely perceptible tiny weird smile. I think there’s more to Shigeta’s performance than meets the eye; but it’s VERY subtle.
Well, Charles doesn’t like this answer. I suppose not many would.
He puts his head down and goes back to work.
WILL: You’d think Charles’s hair would be a real fire hazard with those torches.
DAGNY: Yeah. Mr. Edwards’ beard, too.
Time apparently passes again, and now we see Charles, sweaty and tired-looking, driving a spike into a rock wall. Mr. Edwards appears, and helpfully informs us it’s the middle of the night (which is hard to tell in a cave).
Mr. Edwards says a telegram has arrived for Charles (at midnight?). He hands it over.
WILL [as MR. EDWARDS]: “‘Mary dead,’ that’s all I could make out.”
Charles reads it.
DAGNY [as CHARLES]: “What . . . it says Caroline’s wearing her hair like a Playboy Bunny! We gotta GO!!!”
But seriously, the telegram is good news for the most part: Mary is strong enough to have her second surgery.
In a sudden spasm, Charles resumes his spike-poundin’, despite Mr. Ed’s efforts to get him to go to bed already.
WILL: I don’t understand, Charles hates when other people get like this.
DAGNY: Yeah, but in this case, he cares mare about Mory.
She’s right, of course. He does care mare about Mory.
Anyways, the next day, Wing continues to oversee the Chinese workers.
WILL: The Chinese characters aren’t characterized much, are they? They might as well be horses. No no, I take that back. I take it back! I would hate to have that taken out of context by those who would weaken Walnut Groovy’s influence on the public consciousness.
WILL: But seriously, the racism ones are really nerve-wracking to write about. I’d hate to say something that gets Walnut Groovy canceled.
DAGNY: Canceled from what?
WILL: Well, good point.
Anyways, Not-Steven Van Zandt appears. He rushes around spreading some piece of news.
Not-Steve is played by Paul King, another American actor who mostly specialized, not exactly by choice, in walk-on “Asian” roles in things like Kung Fu, Think Fast, Mr. Moto, and Little House on the Prairie.
He was in a lot of cool stuff, though, including An American in Paris, Around the World in 80 Days, The Manchurian Candidate, Have Gun – Will Travel, Dr. Kildare, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Bewitched, Batman, I Spy, Yours, Mine and Ours, Mission: Impossible, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Hart to Hart, Ghostbusters, and Murder, She Wrote.
And he was in M*A*S*H – the Robert Altman version, though, not the TV show.
Despite King’s having been in all these things, it’s surprisingly difficult to find a picture of him on the internet. You can find more pictures of me, actually – which is ridiculous. I’ve never been in anything.
This is actually the only one I could find:
He is mentioned, though, in a post at the fascinating blog Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, a genealogy project which examines documents collected from Chinese immigrants to the U.S. between 1882 and 1943.
The Act was intended to deter Chinese immigration, but the bloggers have gotten something positive out of it by using the casefiles to construct family histories for immigrants and their descendents – including Paul King and his brother, Nelson Wah Chan King.
Anyways, after Not-Steven Van Zandt breezes through the worksite, all the Chinese guys stop work and start walking away.
Harris asks for an explanation, and Wing tells him Lin Zhao, presumably the injured man in the medical tent, has died.
Charles ignores this. He continues to pry open dynamite crates and give Mr. Edwards instructions.
“Funeral going on, Charles,” says Mr. Ed, staring at him very hard.
Charles says he doesn’t care.
Edwards says, “It ain’t very Christian to be blastin’ in the middle of it.”
Victor French is really good in this one. He looks baffled and angry; you sense Edwards, not much of a Christian himself after all, is stunned he needs to invoke religion to get Charles Ingalls to recognize the workers’ shared humanity.
Charles gives Mr. Edwards a look of such superiority, it’s frightening.
As much as Charles is unlikable, Landon is really good in this one too. It’s so sad we lost him so young. I would have loved to see him playing, say, a villain on Deadwood in his late sixties. With all due respect to Gerald McRaney (who was amazing), he would have made a great George Hearst (another crazed miner).
“Now, I’m gonna get that extra foot a day,” Charles says. “I want the money.”
In disbelief, Mr. Ed says, “Whaddya mean, ya can’t spare an hour? What’s happened to you, Charles?”
This is far and away the best scene in the episode. (It’s a pity the rest of them can’t match it.)
“Why don’t you give me a sermon later and just fill those lanterns,” Charles says, and it really is horrible, coming from him.
Without another word, Mr. Edwards moves to join the other workers. But Charles grabs him by the arm, and without so much as a second’s hesitation, Edwards punches him in the face, so hard he falls to the ground.
ROMAN: Oh my God!
I know, right?
DAGNY: Is that the first time Mr. Edwards ever hit Charles?
DAGNY: It’s hard to believe their friendship would recover from this.
“Now, I’ve had enough of you and that tunnel,” Edwards says. “Now, I’m going to that funeral . . . and when I’m done I’m gonna pack my stuff and get outta here.”
WILL: He’s LEAVING?
DAGNY: Oh my God.
ROMAN: What’s he gonna tell Grace?
WILL: What’s he gonna tell LAURA!
He stomps off, and Harris comes over, offering to personally assist with whatever Charles is doing. (Improbable.)
After a commercial break, we see Not-Steven Van Zandt conducting Lin Zhao’s funeral.
They’re burning incense over the body. I make no claim as to the authenticity.
Attending the funeral, and understanding none of the spoken language, Mr. Edwards bows his head. I have to say, I like him enormously in this story.
Then we get a little montage juxtaposing Charles’ and Mr. Harris’s bomb-setting with the lowering of Lin Zhao’s body into the grave.
The side of the mountain suddenly explodes. If the point of this episode is simply to illustrate how explosions can disrupt funerals, well, it succeeds.
Mr. Edwards, as the white people’s representative at this event, looks embarrassed and disgusted.
At the end, Mr. Wing throws something into the grave, but we don’t know what.
Meanwhile, in the cave, Charles and Harris are a-walkin’, to deafening music from the Rose. Then there’s a rumble – it’s a cave-in!
DAGNY: This one’s like Indiana Jones.
WILL: Yeah. Maybe too much so. Temple of Doom.
John McLiam’s “terror acting” is good, though. I’ll admit, the first time I watched it, I didn’t notice that in fact, there’s no attempt whatsoever to show the cave-in from the inside. None! No dust or smoke or rocks falling, just a rumbling noise and then Harris screaming. (I love that. These days they always show too much. It’s so easy to do things digitally now; but ninety percent of the time, it spoils the magic.)
Mr. Edwards runs down toward the billowing smoke or dust or whatever.
Everybody else follows him, and they all enter the cave. The music swells.
DAGNY: Wow, that’s pretty impressive, putting the Little House theme over the top of the music.
WILL: Well, David, you know.
DAGNY: Yeah. He’s a master.
DAGNY: The lighting in this one is cheesy, but brilliant.
Well, that’s very true. Hats off, Haskell B.
Mr. Edwards asks the Chinese workers to help rescue Charles and Mr. Harris, but they just stare him down, like the Scottish villagers at the end of The Wicker Man.
Then, frighteningly, Mr. Ed starts screaming, grabbing people one by one, and throwing them towards the cave.
He goes on for a while in this vein. It’s a bravura moment for Victor F.
Meanwhile, down in the cave, Charles and Mr. Harris light a lantern.
Rather delightfully, it’s identified as “Dietz Little-Wizard.” (Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that model was in use until the 1910s.)
They determine they aren’t too badly hurt.
WILL: Harris kind of looks like Georgie Pillson when he grew the beard to hide his shingles.
Meanwhile, Mr. Edwards is clearing rocks away one by one . . . until he realizes he’s been joined by Mr. Wing and his merry men.
Like a wise Vulcan, or something, Mr. Wing says, “We’ve already buried one man today. That’s enough.”
Well, it goes without saying, the work goes much faster.
Down under the cave-in, Charles and Harris are chit-chatting away, the gist of their conversation being, nobody understands why men do the stupid things they do.
DAGNY: You should create a new tag for the blog – “Men’s Regrets.” It’s a popular theme of this show.
WILL: Well, I do have “Middle-Aged Man Redemption.”
DAGNY: Yeah, this is kind of a sub-category.
Then, rather unexpectedly, Harris begins complaining about ageism in the workplace. I suppose that’s been an issue since the dawn of time. (He doesn’t really seem very old to me. But McLiam was 59, which was pretty old for the 1870s, I guess.)
Then he segues into general crabby observations about aging.
At the end of the conversation, Charles and Harris agree they’re both idiots.
Then Harris, who after all has experience underground, notes the low level of the flame in the lantern indicates they’re fucked.
DAGNY: A canary should fly in and die.
Back in Rochester, it’s raining again, or still. If that part of the state is rainier than any other in real life, it’s news to me.
Mary wakes up in her hospital bed feverishly.
DAGNY [as MARY]: “I’m getting my first period!” I’m joking, but I always wanted them to cover that on this show. I always wondered how that worked in the Nineteenth Century. They never dealt with it, though. The apple-boobs episode was the closest they got.
The iconic screen duo of Dr. Mayes and Nurse Johnson comes running in. Dr. Mayes summons Dr. Washburn (the anesthesiologist from last week), and says no matter how weak Mary is, they can’t delay surgery any longer.
WILL: Huh? Didn’t they just send a telegram saying she was strong enough?
We cut to surgery, eh heh heh.
Again, no blood, but at least there’s a thunderstorm this time to give the scene a little oomph. (Plus, it’s another cool shot full of shadows and mirrors.)
“Hold on, Mary, hold on,” says Dr. Mayes. He seems surprisingly invested in the outcome. Then again, he’s one of the few mortals to have stared into the blindingly beautiful blue orbs of Mary Ingalls, so it’s really no wonder.
And in a moment, Mayes steps out to the lobby to tell Caroline Mary’s going to be fine.
Back in the cave, Charles creepily whispers the Lord’s Prayer in the oxygen-deprived atmosphere.
WILL: Clearly, what Pa should do here is smash Harris in the head with a rock, steal his wallet, and then if he’s rescued just say he was killed in the cave-in.
ROMAN: Yeah. It would save air, too.
Charles says, “Dear God . . . God, take care of my baby.”
WILL: He’s ad-libbing. That isn’t in the Lord’s Prayer.
Charles mutters on, his eyes turning glassy.
WILL: Is he turning into a lizard man?
ROMAN: Yeah, it’s like Gollum, he’s devolving.
On the other hand, back in the post-op, Mary wakes up. She looks better already, if you can imagine that.
Then, in the cave, we get another terrific light effect, as the flame in the lantern suddenly burns brighter.
Mr. Edwards breaks through the wall, and Charles starts giggling with relief.
Not to be outdone, Mr. Ed starts roaring as if insane.
As is often the case with this show’s “laughing scenes,” this one goes on about 30 seconds too long.
Later, a vehicle approaches, pulled by a pair of Bunnies.
I first I thought it was Nels Oleson, come from Walnut Grove to aid in the rescue effort.
But actually it’s Mr. Franklin.
DAGNY: That wagon’s got really yellow wheels.
WILL: Yeah, we’ve seen that one before. Carl the Flunky’s always driving it around Hero Township.
Franklin demands to know what’s going on, and Harris punches him in the face.
Franklin fires Harris and replaces him with Wing, making him Charles’s new boss, I guess. Seems odd to me, since Wing just got a demotion.
Of course, these days, most people aren’t as attached to simple sequential concepts like employee succession, or even, say, standing patiently in a queue to order waffles. (Certainly if the way people cut in line at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair is any indication, the old notions of order are deteriorating dramatically.)
Bizarrely then, all the workers come forward and say they’ll quit if Harris is removed from the project. I don’t understand, what’s happened since they pulled him up out of the cave? Harris didn’t say he was changing his ways or anything. (Charles doesn’t either, BTW.)
Nevertheless, Harris appreciates their support. (I can’t blame him. It’s exactly the kind of response I expected from the crowd at the State Fair. Instead, everyone just cringed back from the confrontation. Cowards!)
Anyways, Harris walks over and screams at Franklin.
WILL: They should realize they’re in love.
DAGNY: Yeah, they could play “If You Leave” or some other John-Hughes-movie song over the scene.
Harris then makes a plea for better treatment for “Mr. Wing,” “Mr. Ingalls,” and “Mr. Edwards.”
DAGNY: I don’t think Mr. Ingalls deserves much compassion in this episode.
Rather unbelievably, Franklin just crawls off with his tail between his legs. (I’m sure that’s exactly what would happen if I punched my boss in the face.)
Just as unbelievably, Harris then goes over to Wing, and they shake hands and laugh.
Cut to the Number Three again, this time arriving back in Rochester. How much time has passed? Well, considering the job wasn’t yet finished when they told off Mr. Franklin, and factoring in the ten-mile walk back to Rapid City, I’d guess it’s been six weeks or so. (Since Mary probably had her second surgery the same day as the cave-in – Charles had just received the telegram the night before – this tracks with her being well enough to walk around by now.)
We also don’t know how much money Charles made, but it must have been enough for the hospital bill with some left over, because he stops to buy a bunch of flowers on the platform.
DAGNY: Ooh, a flower girl.
WILL: Yeah, just like My Fair Lady. Well, Rochester is sort of the London of Minnesota.
We see Herbert Diamond working there again, too, plus the Alamo Tourist from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is on the platform as well.
Charles then arrives back at the Mayes Clinic. Pinky looks impeccably clean – did he stop at a dry cleaner’s on the way?
They do the same dumb gag from last week, where he comes into Mary’s room and thinks she’s dead.
Bumping into Nurse Johnson in the hall, he finds out Mary actually survived and is out in the yard. He runs down the hall joyously.
DAGNY [as JIMMY STEWART]: “MARY! MARY! MARY!”
WILL: He should break a big expensive piece of equipment and have to start all over again.
And Mary is fine . . . FOR NOW! Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum.
STYLE WATCH: I’ll just say it one more time: Ma’s hair.
The Chinese workers’ costumes, on the whole, are very quilted.
Mary gets to wear a cool robe in the hospital.
And Charles appears to go commando again.
THE VERDICT: Well, the main objection people have to this two-parter is how it drops the focus on Mary’s illness to follow Charles on another harebrained moneymaking adventure in Mountain Country. Anti-racism stories are one of this show’s sweet spots, but the script is half-baked, and the experience of the Chinese workers feels awfully generic, despite James Shigeta’s perhaps overly subtle attempts to deepen Wing’s character.
It doesn’t help that Charles acts like a complete asshole throughout, then just changes back to his normal self at the end for no good reason. And Laura isn’t even in it!
It’s not really terrible, though. It does offer a fine performances from Victor French and Michael Landon (like I said, it’s fun to see him play Charles as a villain), some of the most beautiful lighting we’ve had so far on the show, and of course Ma’s hair. So don’t let my opinion put you off.
And at the very least, the grueling Part One of course can be viewed as a standalone triumph, not least on the basis of Melissa Sue Anderson’s performance. If its resolution is a disappointment, well, it’s just TV, right?
UP NEXT: The Wisdom of Solomon
One thought on “To Live With Fear: Part Two”
Another great recap. I have a picture of me at about 5 years old on my big wheels. That thing was awesome. Plow boy!😄 I wonder why Ma didn’t do her hair like that more often. 🤔. Can’t wait to see who you interview next! Looking forward to the next one. 🙋🏻♀️
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