Little House on the Prairie: Season 1, Episode 10

The Raccoon (20 Nov. 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | Family | Romance
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Blaming herself when Laura's doll breaks during a game of catch, Mary is delighted to give her sad, little sister an abandoned, baby raccoon. After Pa reluctantly agrees to let her keep him... See full summary »

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Title: The Raccoon (20 Nov 1974)

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Blaming herself when Laura's doll breaks during a game of catch, Mary is delighted to give her sad, little sister an abandoned, baby raccoon. After Pa reluctantly agrees to let her keep him, Laura names him "Jasper", teaches him tricks and tries to keep the mischief-maker out of trouble. But one day, Jasper bites Jack, the Ingalls' dog, and disappears into the woods. When Charles later shoots a snarling, rabid raccoon who is killing the chickens and begins to watch Jack for signs of rabies, a tearful Mary reveals a terrible secret... Jasper had also bitten Laura who made Mary promise not to tell. Written by shepherd1138

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20 November 1974 (USA)  »

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Quotes

Charles Ingalls: ...No more arguing about it. Just take him outside, play with him for a little while, then turn him loose in the woods where he blongs.
Mary Ingalls: Pa, he's just a baby!
Laura Ingalls: Like Carrie. You wouldn't leave Carrie out in the woods, would ya?
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Raccoon: The New Dog.
22 March 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Today's Little House opens on a tragedy. A fatality I should say, so brace yourselves. It all started when Mary wanted to play catch with Laura, who was busy playing with her doll. I realize these interests are a bit out of character for these two, but this is only the tenth episode and Joseph Bonaduce hadn't written for the show before. Anyway, when Mary threw a heater, Laura tried to catch it, but fell over the log she'd been sitting on and in the process, her doll got busted. She was heartbroken. Worse yet, Charles was unable to glue the head back together, and Mary, feeling responsible for the incident, tried to procure a new doll head, but found they sell at a whopping $1.20! On the way home, Jack had a wild animal cornered. Mary discovered it to be a baby raccoon, so she took it home and gave it to Laura, who fell in love with the little critter. She named it Jasper. Apparently it was okay with Caroline for her to keep it, but here comes Charles, let's see how he'll react. Out of the question! He ordered Laura to take Jasper outside, play with him a bit and turn him loose. The girls protested, but Charles said no 'cause he's meany-head. Naturally, he changed his mind after being softened up by Caroline, with the condition that Jasper sleeps in the barn. The next day, the girls walk the raccoon, leash and everything, to school where they have him perform tricks for the class. En route, Jack tried to attack Jasper. The girls dismissed it as jealousy, but a dog knows. There's something about that critter he didn't like. That Sunday, while the Ingallses were at church, Jasper managed to get into the house and trash it. That was the last straw. Charles gathered up the raccoon and turned him loose in the wild, but what the Ingalls patriarch didn't know was that raccoons can find their way home again.

The girls should have listened to Jack, because the next day when Laura attempted to feed her little pet, he bit her and then bit Jack as he ran away. That night, the little bastard came back and terrorized the chickens. A shirtless Charles went out to have a look see and he was attacked by Jasper in the barn, but he grabbed a pitchfork and speared the little vermin to death. It turns out, the raccoon was rabid (who'd a thought?) and so Jack had to be tied up. Mary tearfully lets it slip that Laura was bit too, but she didn't say anything because of a promise. Is that more important than your sister's life, Mary? Well, according to Doc Baker, they simply had to watch Jack and Laura for any possible signs and, if they did develop rabies, there was no treatment. So for the next several days, Laura and Jack were watched like a hawk, Mary kept figuratively beating herself up over the raccoon thing, it was all very tense and emotional. As the days progressed, things got no better, but not particularly worse, until one night Jack was jumping and barking furiously. He's probably just feeling restless, but Charles was somehow sure it was the rabies and so he grabbed his rifle and headed for the barn. Despite Jack not even frothing at the mouth, Charles cocked his piece and aimed, about to make a HUGE mistake, when suddenly...Jasper appeared! A ghost! Nope, turns out the rabid raccoon wasn't Jasper after all. Oh Jasper, you adorable little deus ex machina. So Jack was okay, Laura was okay, and they all put this horrible mess behind them.

What can I say about The Raccoon? It was very well done, well acted, well written, just an all around good episode. The animal handling was done well, you have to wonder what was going through that raccoon's head during all that. Performances: Melissa Gilbert was very good, as always, just look at her in the beginning where she's holding her broken doll, crying. If that doesn't tug at your heart, you haven't one. Melissa Sue Anderson was also fantastic, as were Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Jack the dog and Jasper the raccoon. Not easy for animals to act, but they pulled it off. I like how the episode starts out fun and quirky, but immediately turns dark and dramatic. Not an easy feat, but they pulled it off flawlessly. It's amazing how one small incident set off this chain reaction that nearly cost two lives. Going in, we knew Laura wasn't going to die, but Jack...? Don't worry, Jack won't die until Season 4. So Little House fans, check out The Raccoon, and remember, don't try this at home.


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