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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Charles Ingalls, his wife Caroline, their three daughters Mary, Laura
and Carrie, and their dog Jack, have just moved out of the Big Woods
and into their very own home in Plum Creek, just three miles from
Walnut Grove. Charles built the house himself, after procuring lumber
from his new employer, Lars Hanson, owner of the mill and founder of
Walnut Grove. It was a little house on the prairie, but so long as
there was a roof over their heads, glass in the windows, a lock on the
door, and room enough for everybody, the family was more than pleased.
The farmland surrounding the house was in desperate need of tending to,
so Charles goes into town to get some feed for the animals and some
seed. He stops into Oleson's Mercantile and meets the proprietors Nels
Oleson and his "lovely" wife Harriet. The Ingalls patriarch has no
money so he intends to buy the goods on credit, which the Olesons deny,
unable to extend credit because apparently some farmers have a bad
reputation of running up bills and not paying them. Disheartened,
Charles leaves and heads over to O'Neil's feed store. In exchange for
the feed and seed he needs, he made a deal with O'Neil (excuse the
rhymes) to fix his shabby old roof. So with working for Mr. Hanson at
the mill in the morning and working on O'Neil's roof in the afternoon,
then going home to do the farm work, I dare say that Charles Ingalls is
in for more than he bargained for.
When heading for Hanson's the next morning, Charles stops to help the town doctor, Hiram Baker, who was experiencing wagon wheel woes. The good doctor gives him a ride into town to start his long, 15-hour day of grueling carpentry. In an effort to try and repay Charles for helping him, Doc Baker brings him a cage of chickens, given to him by a patient as payment (God bless the days before HMOs). Fried chicken tonight!! Charles' busy schedule disallows him to go to church, and according to the Reverend Alden, those who do not attend church regularly are sinners, as he so-less-than-subtly made clear with his chosen hymn. As the weeks rolled on, Charles was nearly finished with O'Neil's roof and Mr. Hanson requested he take some time off, so Charles takes the whole family on an outdoor picnic to make up for the time he couldn't spend with them. It was a grand ole time! Charles even shows off his kite flying skills... and when climbing a tree to retrieve it, he suffers a rather nasty fall, breaking four ribs. So with the man of the house incapacitated, Caroline jumped in to do the farm work. Things were going fine until Liam O'Neil showed up. Seems Charles hadn't completed the work at the time he promised and as a result, the oxen had been mortgaged to him. So never mind that the guy who busted his ass to help this old miser is bedridden, he just takes the oxen without a second thought. Enraged, Charles gets up from his sick bed and storms over to O'Neils. It seems the contract did not expire until midnight so legally the oxen still belonged to Charles and he was going to make damn sure he would fulfill his end of the bargain. So, with four broken ribs, Charles tried to stack the bags of grain, each seeming to weigh a metric ton. Heaving and straining, feeling in extreme pain, Charles lugged the grain, until he strength gave out and he felt he was done for, while O'Neil just stood there and did nothing to help him. Thankfully, Laura and Mary, who secretly tagged along, jumped in to help their fallen Pa. But what's this? Doc Baker, Mr. Hanson, Nels Oleson, and everybody in town comes along to help. So in the end, Charles got the oxen back, he made a whole town of new friends, and as for Liam O'Neil, he is, was, and always will be a total jackass.
Great episode! Great start to a great series! All the actors were terrific, particularly Michael Landon. Towards the end when he struggles with those grain sacks, he really displays the pain and the perspiration his character is enduring. Other notable mentions, Karl Swenson as Mr. Hanson, Kevin Hagen as Doc Baker, Richard Bull as Nels, Katherine MacGregor as Harriet, Dabs Greer as Rev. Alden, Melissa Gilbert as Laura, Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary, and of course, the lovely Karen Grassle as Caroline, all were fantastic and really gave great introductions to their endearing characters we grow to love as the series progresses!
This is the very first episode, and already we've me so many wonderful
Nels and Harriet Olsen are the store owners. Harriet is the mean, selfish one who tends to boss her husband around. Nels is a sweet but quite weak man in character at times and he allows his wife to push him around. They own the store and right off, Harried makes sure Charles understands her. He does.
Then we meet Dr. Baker and Mr. Hansen. You can't help but to not love them. Of course, along with Michael Landon, these two men played in various western television shows in the fifties and sixties. I think we've seen them on almost every show. Oh, and we cannot forget the good ol' reverend, another great character actor from the old west! I think I remember him best on Gunsmoke.
Honestly though, I watched Little House on the Prairie long before I even know westerns existed, so for me the blessing is in seeing them younger...
In this episode, Charles builds his house. But in order to complete the task, he must ask for a few supplies from the Olsens. Needless to say, he learned his lesson right off about who Harriet Olsen is. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we don't meet the two Olsen children. That was reserved for the next episode!!!
Of course, even if I'd never seen this episode before, one knows that when the two men shook hands, it was a dead deal for them. Something's going to happen!
In truth, the writers and producers did an excellent job in setting us up to what we'll see in the next nine years is up to the same standards.
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