Several weeks earlier, Percy and Nellie traveled to New York (with their infant twins, Benny and Jenny) to help run the family's store and hotel after Percy's father, Mr. Cohen, falls gravely ill; the elder Mr. Cohen soon dies. Nellie - who is never seen on-camera - writes to her parents and tells them that their stay in New York will now be permanent to carry on the family business. This news saddens Nels, but Mrs. Olesen's life virtually comes to a complete stop. She is deeply depressed, refuses to eat and cannot sleep; there are times when she'd rather be dead. ...
Nels goes to the ice house to get supplies and finds an unconscious (and frozen) Belinda inside. Belinda, as it turns out, will be just fine, but Nels decides to get some answers. Nancy claims she saw Willie close the door to the ice house (which he affirms), but she says nothing more about why; only the audience knows it was part of a diabolical plan to kill off her school rival and obtain the leading role in the school talent show. Later, Charles is visiting Sleepy Eye and visits with the orphanage director. In casual conversation, Charles learns that Nancy's mother...
James begins feeling insecure about his place in the Ingalls family, and tries a little too hard to emulate the older Albert. When he is caught with a shaving blade stolen from the Mercantile, James runs away, leaving Albert to go find him and convince his adopted brother to come back home.
Dr. Baker is enthusiastic about his new assistant, a young university-trained physician named Caleb LeDoux ... until he realizes he is black. The Ingalls family are among the few to accept Dr. LeDoux, while others' reactions range from prejudice to outright racism. Even Dr. Baker has a tough time concealing his prejudice. Then, a pregnant white woman is suffering from complications and must rely on LeDoux to save her life, but the woman's racist husband refuses to cooperate and Charles must intervene. The surgery is a success and both woman and her baby son are fine; ...
Aging circus daredevil Gambini the Great has a hypnotic effect on the children of Walnut Grove, especially Albert and Willie. A tragedy during one of Gambini's stunts will provide a chilling lesson in hero worship.
A pair of bumbling crooks kidnaps Nels and holds him for ransom. However, Mrs. Olesen refuses to pay the $100 fee required to free her husband, so Nels decides to work with the crooks to get his revenge. In the process, nearly everyone in Walnut Grove finds themselves on the wrong side of the criminals.
Charles travels to Chicago to comfort his grief-stricken friend, Mr. Edwards, after young newspaper reporter John Jr. dies in what seems to be a tragic street car accident. When John's boss reveals that he was about to publish a story about business corruption, Charles and Mr. Edwards become suspicious and soon realize that John Jr. was marked for murder. With the help of the newspaper publisher, they track down who may have wanted to silence John Jr.
A young, overweight boy named Elmer Miles is mercilessly teased at school. However, Nancy - of all people - goes easy on him because she actually seems to like him. Of course, she has plenty of ulterior motives up her sleeve once she gains Elmer's trust.
Mrs. Oleson decides that reopening Nellie's Restaurant and Hotel as a franchised restaurant will result in big business for the fledgling business. Does she have what it takes to meet the demands of a tough franchiser, and can she fight off unexpected competition from Charles and Nels when they open up their own restaurant?
Gideon Hale is a 9-year-old boy with a speech impediment; he stutters. Everyone at Walnut Grove School tease the boy, except for James. James decides to take Gideon under his wing and become his long-sought-after friend. However, when Gideon's back is turned, James (albeit reluctantly) goes along with the teasing. Unfortuately, James is unaware that Gideon is listening in. Gideon realizes that James is just like everyone else and, in tears, runs away. When their son fails to return home, Mr. and Mrs. Hale become very worried and enlist the Ingalls to help search for ...
A pregnant Laura has a tough time caring for the Wilder farm when Almanzo and Charles are away on a delivery trip to Arizona; a drought and her duties at school doesn't help matters. Later, Laura has a heart-to-heart talk with Willie about responsibility and being a role model. Willie takes the discussion seriously, organizing the classmates to help manage the Wilder farm when Laura falls ill with heatstroke.
A present-day couple buy an antique, folding-leaf table with a large "I" branded on it and are curious to learn about its origins. The story focuses on Charles' efforts to patent the table and have it mass produced. However, a ruthless businessman is successful in a bid to steal the patent and snare an ill-gotten profit, forcing Charles to realize that his family, and not the tables, are his greatest legacy.
Hester Sue's ex-husband, Sam, arrives in Walnut Grove, stating that he is reformed from his days of drinking, gambling and wild living. Sam appears to be reformed and Hester Sue believes him enough to agree to re-marry him. Should Hester Sue turn the other cheek and forgive Sam, or is he psychologically controlling his former wife through a very clever series of lies to conceal his current lifestyle?
The marriage between Almanzo and Laura faces its first stern test when he falls seriously ill with diphtheria and later suffers a crippling stroke. Eliza Jane arrives to help care for her brother, but makes matters worse by babying him.
Almonzo's continued morose outlook on life during his recovery from a crippling stroke, not to mention Eliza Jane's pampering, takes its toll on the Wilder marriage. Not even the birth of the couple's daughter, Rose, seems to help matters. Then, a massive tornado destroys the Wilder home, and Laura is badly injured; she recovers, but goes into shock when she sees a pile of rubble instead of the slightly damaged home she thought was there. Laura becomes severely depressed, leading Almonzo to finally realize his outlook has rubbed off on his wife; he makes good on a ...
Mr. Edwards arrives back to Walnut Grove harboring some disturbing secrets, namely that his marriage was ruined because of his alcoholism. His inability to stay off the bottle nearly destroys his cherished friendship with Charles when he causes an accident that nearly kills Albert. Charles tells Mr. Edwards to leave Walnut Grove and not come back, leaving Almanzo and Laura as his last hope.
Caroline travels to an influenza-ridden mining camp with Dr. Baker after she receives a plea for help from an old friend who is pregnant and desperately ill. After realizing that her friend will die and that the baby's father never wanted children at all, Caroline agrees to uphold her friend's deathbed request to give her child a good home.
During a trip to Sleepy Eye, James and Albert walk into a bank robbery staged by a nefarious gang. James is critically wounded, and the doctor tells Charles that James is expected to die. A grief-hardened Charles enlists Mr. Edwards (and later, Albert, after he disobeys a direct order to stay in Sleepy Eye) to track down the men responsible.
James continues to linger in a coma, weeks after being shot during a bank robbery in Sleepy Eye. Charles refuses to believe his son is virtually dead and, as the weeks pass, becomes verbally abusive to his family and friends. Unable to deal with mounting pressure by the others to let James die in peace, Charles leaves home and takes his adopted son with him. In the woods, Charles builds an altar and prays to God for a miracle.