Post 49:
“Sylvia, Part One and Two”

Post 49:  “Sylvia, Part One and Two”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

“May 16 & 17 – GOOD

Sylvia & Albert like each other & she gets raped. They want to get married & she falls trying to get away from the raper. The raper gets shot but later Sylvia dies.”

152 - 5-16

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From Anne —

It’s Sunday. I can do whatever I want. I could watch the NFL playoffs, or a 1960s French film on Hulu, or make these crystallized ginger cookies I’ve been meaning to make.

But out of duty to anyone who was ever traumatized by the most unsavory LHOP episode ever, I force myself to re-watch (it’s been 30+ years) parts 1 and 2 of “Sylvia.” I subject myself to this twisted combo of Stephen King’s It, The Blue Lagoon, and some after-school special.

How else to explain “Sylvia,” sprung from the mind of sadistic Michael Landon? Perhaps inspired by the gothic chill of DePalma’s Dressed to Kill, or Kubrick’s The Shining (both out around the time Landon must have written “Sylvia”), he conflates whore-ishness with innocence, and romantic awakening–alongside sparkling streams and daisies–with leather-gloved sexual assault.

IrvHartwig

What stands out today is less the theatrical nightmare of a masked “raper,” as I called him in my journal. It’s more Sylvia’s misogynist dad. Making her bind herself, telling her she’s possessed by the devil, calling her a lying whore, making her work the fields while pregnant. All because she hit puberty! Thanks, Dad. On another level, “Sylvia” makes a strong case for a little abortion on the prairie.

Isn’t it also bizarre that the “raper” gets shot in the back, but no one seems very interested in who he was, and why the cheesy mask? Did he order that mesh mask from Sears & Roebuck? Did they come customized, or did he paint the lips and eyes himself, when he wasn’t shoeing horses?

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

Anne and I have talked about this episode for as long as I can remember. And I somehow thought covering this one would be kitschy and weird and inadvertently funny. Anne was smarter than me on this point. She’d wince whenever I would mention the “Rape Clown.” Finally we got down to it. But instead of giggling at the perverseness of a raping clown stuck in the middle of Walnut Grove, I just about ground my back molars into bits because of all the sexist shit.

Who doesn’t let poor Sylvia down in this episode? Clearly Albert is the only one. Even Laura stands by while the Salem Witch trials go on in her classroom with Mrs. Oleson as judge, jury and executioner. And Doc Baker (!) fails to notice she’s been raped. This episode should be retitled “Blame the Victim.” I’m surprised they didn’t make her wear a scarlet letter on her dress.

witch-hunting

Amongst the Massengill commercial sweetness of all of the pistils and stamens and young romance there lurks something even more sinister than a blacksmith gone bad — a dad who says things like “You’re a wanton thing Silvy” and “You reap what you sow” and “How can I believe a whore?”

This may be the worst episode in LHOP history ever. Social media on the subject certainly claims that it is.

For me though it turns out to be just one more reason to be freaked the fuck out by clowns.

PS: I did some digging in the Sears and Roebucks catalogs of that time and didn’t find any clown masks. He probably bought it from Mrs. Oleson.

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Post 48:
“Gold Country”

Post 48:  “Gold Country”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

“January 27-28 – GOOD

The Ingalls family starts to go west to look for gold. One of their friend find (sic) it and he is shot. Also, Laura befriends an old man who told her where a buried treasure is. She tells and someone digs it up. Then he kills himself because the treasure was for his dead wife. They go home.”

68 - 1:27

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Melissa Gilbert on the set of “Gold Country.” I think she’s coloring in a coloring book. Love the way she’s sitting. So confident!

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

I get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever the Ingalls leave town. Nothing ever good comes from it. Going through Deadwood for the Ingalls must have been like me walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light District with jet lag. But I at least I got to eat a hash brownie to take the edge off.

Boy there sure are a lot of cowboys in this episode! I wonder if Landon would call up his old Bonanza buddies and say “Let’s party like it’s 1959!” More than likely he was just a very decent man who called up actors he’d worked with and say “Do you need some work?” It seemed like every cowboy actor and stuntman ever was called up for this episode. And the foley sound is especially awesome with all the whooping and shooting.

Here’s a bit of a tangent – Poor Jack! Couldn’t he ride in the covered wagon too? That was a damned long journey. Give a dog a break man.

I always rejoice when Edwards falls off the wagon and gets to sin a bit. As a drinker and a sinner myself I approve of his behavior most of the time. Grace seems like she always has the leash on too tight. “You call this having a little fun?” she remarks as a post-coital man stumbles down some whorehouse stairs and drunkenly fires his pistol (yes gun) in joy.

Boy the town’s minister was way creepy. I kept expecting him to say “Oh glorious day! We now have enough children for a cult!!”

The Italians were fun and added some much needed humor but then of course that means ONE OF THEM MUST DIE! (I don’t make the Little House Rules peeps.)

The epic naivéte of all of the characters really makes me pound my forehead sometimes. I don’t know why they didn’t keep their claims secret. It’s mind boggling.

This seems like a particularly dark episode what with the self-immolation and grave robbing. Or is it just me?

By the way I had to look up what the Ingalls’ $126.00 find would be worth in 2015 dollars. That would be approximately $3585. It seems like that would definitely keep the Ingalls happy for at least a year.

History buffs will also be happy to hear that there was a real life South Dakota Gold Rush right around the time that the Little House stories take place. Of course another TV show, Deadwood is all about that.

Homestake_works_mine_1889

The Homestake Works Mine in 1889 in Leads, South Dakota. No small operation!

____________________________________________________

From Anne —

It ain’t just you, Tracy. This pair of episodes is as dark as the Dark Side. I could not sleep after watching these! Another nightmare straight from Landon’s unconscious featuring, as Tracy said, murder, self-immolation, mental illness, grave robbing, possible necrophilia and greed. How can Laura, Mary and Carrie mosey down a hill full of wildflowers before and after these atrocities?

Agree as well about the minister. His forehead was big as a flying saucer and his eyes were wet and glassy. Icky!

Adding to the feeling of an alternate universe in these episodes was the sideways rain with sun shining through in Walnut Grove before the Ingalls leave to head west. Pretty tough to film a rainy day in southern California. Industrial Light and Magic, you’ve done it again – badly.

It’s also totally disturbing to see Ma and the kids anywhere near prostitution and painted ladies. If Pa didn’t strike gold soon, Mary would have had to do a night in a brothel just to pay for a sack of flour. (Kudos for your math, Tracy.)

We gotta give some credit for art direction and makeup in these episodes. The crazy, romantic, doomed coot (Harlan, played by Robert Forward) has a cool little lean-to and his face looks so sun blistered he seems otherworldly.

Found out this guy also had a role in Isis (the 1970s TV show, that is.)

Being 25% Italian, I’m bummed that the happy Italian guy had to be offed. No one cared a fig about figuring who shot him! Such was the wild west …

Now pardon me, I’m off to my Little House-induced shrink appointment! 

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Post 47:
“Fred”

Post 47:  “Fred”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

“January 15, 1983 – GOOD

Laura gets a goat for a pet. He butts Mr. Edwards, Mrs. Oleson, Doc Baker, Reverend Alden, Pa, & the old owner. It gets drunk and Pa says she has to get rid of it. She lets it go. When she is allowed to keep it, she looks for it and finds it with some Nanny goats. She leaves it. The goat is named Friendly Fred.”

57 - 1:15
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From Anne —

Maybe if Laura had lived in an era when she could’ve watched all the goats-screaming-like-humans internet videos she could stand, she wouldn’t have needed a pet goat. But Laura could never resist: feral raccoons, rabid dogs, epileptic horses, I don’t know. This time, a highly impolite goat, ironically named Friendly Fred.

If memory serves, the musical interludes in this episode do a great job foreshadowing the indiscriminate butting. Ma is the only one spared.

And for all the Little House episodes involving alcohol and drugs, this one is at least funny. In my journal, the goat episode is sandwiched between one about Pa’s manic depressive dad, and one about three bullies who terrorize W.G. Every TV series needs a tipsy goat episode. Even Walking Dead.

Believe it or not Fred has a Wiki page:
http://littlehouse.wikia.com/wiki/Fred_(goat)

And here’s another blog about LHP and their Fred post. The Blog is called “WTF Little House on the Prairie?”:
http://wtf-littlehouse.blogspot.com/search?q=goat

They also did a video spoof of this show:

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From Tracy —

Goats scream like humans? Oh I had to look that up. But first I found this video where an angry billy goat is terrorizing a whole town:

Then I found the mother of all compilations of goats screaming and talking and bitching up a storm:

It sent chills right through my spine.

Anyhoo, back to the episode. I remember this episode and not liking it one bit. I can’t believe Young Anne gave it a “Good” rating. WTF indeed. Jack the dog is way cuter and almost gets kicked by Mr. Ingalls after a Fred attack. I remembered thinking as a kid that this was a throwaway episode. Maybe I only liked the tragedy of LHP.

If I had to think of the things that I liked about this episode it would have to be the tremendously goofy Spanish bullfight music and the happy ending. Oh and all the butt shots.

 

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Post 46:
“Little Girl Lost”

Post 46:  “Little Girl Lost”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

“January 11, 1983 – EXCELLENT

While all the girls are bug hunting, Carrie falls down a hole. Everyone from town comes to help her get out. This one man who used to be a drunk supervises. Caroline is going crazy. Finally they find a mine and get her out. Mr. Hanson and the drunk are friends.”

53 - 1:11

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

Here’s an episode that will have you pondering the following issues:

“Where in the hell did they ever find bellows that big?”
(Who the hell knows? Maybe Mr. Hanson?)

“I think engineering is sexy!”
(It is, dear reader it IS!)

“Is Miss Beadle trying to kill her students?”
(Well duh.)

“Can Carrie be any cuter?”
(Yes. But it will cause a rip in the space-time continuum sucking everything back to the 1970s permanently. Anne would like that so don’t tempt her.)

“Is Karen Grassle trying to make me cry with her wonderful acting?”
(Eh yup. Have tissues at the ready.)

Alas we’re still dealing with the miserly and poo-poo headed NBC that won’t let us see these videos on any other format except a set of DVDs released more than 10 years ago. Throw some videos up on YouTube and make us watch some ads! Or I would be glad to pay $2-$3 to see each of these episodes again wouldn’t you? Are you listening NBC? (stamps foot ala Nellie Oleson.)

In lieu of any actual video footage of this episode, watch this lovely slideshow of the adorable twins who played her. Yes of course they grew up to be high school cheerleaders.
PS: I recommend that you turn your volume down low. The soundtrack is pop treacle at its worst:

But back to the episode. Everything that could go wrong goes wrong which is the way it almost always goes down in the W.G. Not only does Carrie ruin all of Mary and Laura’s hard work bug collecting, she trundles off to chase a butterfly and then falls down a well.

Even before Caroline goes off on Miss Beadle for sending her children on a wild goose chase capturing bugs my mind began to reel. Was Miss Beadle actually the Harbinger of Death?

“You did this!” Caroline screams at Miss Beadle.

“She did do it!” I thought after remembering the episode when Miss Beadle sent the kids home in a blizzard.

Later Karen Grassle lays her head down my the mining shaft after all hope is lost and weeps. I lost it at that point.

I got curious then. Did Grassle ever win an Emmy for her portrayal of Ma Ingalls? Alas no. In fact it’s shocking (SHOCKING!) how little the show won or was nominated. The one person who got nominated for acting? Mary! The hated Melissa Sue Andersen who the Carrie actresses said “they didn’t really know” after saying nice things about everyone else in the cast.

Speaking of acting I thought the man who played Laudie the drunk was excellent. John Ireland was his name and he had a long and varied career. I found his love life the most interesting. There was Natalie Wood, Joan Crawford, Sue Lyon (aka “Lolita”) and 16-year-old actress Tuesday Weld when he was 45. “Little Girl Lost” indeed.

And can we go around and put seals on these mines shafts and old wells? It’s 2014 people! And kids are still falling into them.

____________________________________________________

From Anne —

Tracy, your post is full of many truthful points:

1) Engineering is surely sexy, and some drunk engineers can be effective;

2) The jinxed Miss Beadle can trigger tragedy with the greatest of ease … in addition to her poor blizzard decisionmaking skills, wasn’t it her cough that kicked off the Walnut Grove ague epidemic in the “Quarantine” episode?;

3) Karen Grassle’s acting skills are underated. In her new cookbook (which I received for Christmas from my husband), Melissa Gilbert extols her virtues: ”I was thunderstruck by Karen Grassle…she was earthier than any woman I had known before…very well trained as an actor, with a grace that drew me to her. I’d watch her breathe and the way she moved her hands.” And the way she opened up a can of mad-mother whoop ass on Miss Beadle;

4) Back then it was mine shafts, today it’s sinkholes. The earth is hungry for Corvettes. A guy just sleeping in his recliner in Florida was sucked completely under. Won’t you join the International Society for People Who Can Only Hope They Don’t Fall Down a Sinkhole? (acronym: ISPWCOHTDFDS).

Thanks for the video of the irrepressible Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush, Tracy. They were still in diapers when they started on LHOP, and probably started menstruating before the show ended. They both seem like very good sports. I like the shot of them in pink turtlenecks. I’m sure they were relived to tag team in “Little Girl Lost.” If one of them has to cry like crazy, or look like a charred hot dog after emerging from the pit, the other did too.

The moral of this episode is clear: butterfly chasing is more dangerous than, say, parasailing near skyscrapers. And, always keep an alcoholic engineer on speed dial.
.

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Post 45:
“Bunny” and “The Race”

Post 45:  “Bunny” and “The Race”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

“January 7, 1983 – EXCELLENT

Nellie somehow gets Laura’s horse. She whips it and it runs off. Nellie falls and she is temporarily paralyzed.Then she gets Laura to do her homework for her. She gets well and doesn’t tell anyone so they will continue to serve her. Laura finds out and pushes her down a hill. Ha, Ha!”

Bunnylaura

____________________________________________________

From Anne —

The prairie is sometimes sunshiny, sometimes sadistic.  In this pair of episodes, sadism triumphs. First, Nellie abuses a poor steed named Bunny.  Then she abuses her family, Laura and anyone who’s ever had a disability by faking paralysis. Then it’s Laura’s turn to inflict pain for fun! In an epic way.
 
Laura’s peeping at Nellie while Nellie dances with a doll to a diabolical music box seems lifted from Psycho. The close-ups of Nellie screaming while she barrels down a hill are absolutely a reference to the staircase scene in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, the visceral film about the Russian Revolution: 

04

Love how Laura sits down and rests on a rock before she goes for the Big Shove.  The Nellie’s dummy body double flops over into the retention pond.  At this rate, they both deserve at least one night in jail.

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

Is it me or do these two episodes show both Nellie and her mother Harriet at their absolute worst? For the life of me I can’t remember any episodes where they acted this despicably.

But first let’s talk about the main actress in these two shows: Bunny the horse! What an actor! I swear you can read so much in those thoughtful eyes as she chews on Laura’s apple.

At the time I was watching these episodes as a kid I was actually riding horses and grooming them and mucking out their stables. I never had my own horse but ohhh how I wanted one. So the idea of Laura trading her horse for a stove just about killed me. Then when Nellie starts whipping Bunny like a red headed stepchild . . . well, I wanted to crawl through the screen and rip Nellie’s head off.

I will see your Battleship Potemkin reference Anne and raise you a Wizard of Oz reference. When Harriet goes out to the Ingalls to thank Pa and then discovers Bunny it’s so much like Miss Almire Gulch riding out to Dorothy’s farm to get Toto it’s uncanny:

Then there’s Nellie’s over-the-top rage when she sees Laura and Jason ride off together. That’s when I began to wonder if Nellie wasn’t in some part based on Bette Davis’ terrifying portrayal in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane:

But I digress. Onto “The Race” – not nearly as good an episode as “Bunny” but a hell of a lot less violent. Here we see Mrs. Oleson get taken for a ride literally by a thoroughbred she’s buying for the incredibly undeserving Nellie. And then she throws over her own daughter in order to win the race.

I wanted to smack both Mr. Oleson and Mr. Hansen who don’t even try to go up against the old battle-ax when she tries to con a win for Team O.

About the only thing that did my heart good after that was seeing Laura win, seeing a silver cup exchanged for shiny shoes and seeing that the Oleson’s had an outdoor privy like everyone else. 

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Post 44:
“The Pride of Walnut Grove”

Post 44: “The Pride of Walnut Grove”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 27, 1982 – GOOD

Mary wins a math contest and goes to Minniapolis (sic) for a state contest. Meanwhile, Laura tries to act like Ma. She keeps house, bakes, etc. Since Walnut Grove paid for her trip Mary feels she has to win. She is 1st runner up & they have a party anyway.”

38 - 12:27

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From Anne —

Welcome to the prairie, where there is nothing digital. Especially Little House video content. Tracy says that NBC or whoever holds the license for the LHOP TV episode canon has scoured the world wide web, erasing any clip, blip or full episode. We’re going from memory, gals! Let’s see just how deeply Little House embedded itself in our collective memory … without visual aids.

So, I don’t really recall much about this episode. It sounds good, though, and by gosh, that’s the review I gave it: “GOOD.”

How many of us waged battle in an academic contest when we were young? I won the 3rd grade spelling bee (though you wouldn’t know it here…in my journal entry I spell Minneapolis “Minniapolis”). I also had a game-winning answer in a 5th grade quiz-show format history contest.
Q: ‘Who said “I have not yet begun to fight”‘ ?
A: John Paul Jones.

Funny thing is, I only knew this because it was referenced in a episode of The Carol Burnett Show, a show I used to beg to stay up and watch on Saturday nights, along with Sonny and Cher. Like many of us, I have a diploma from the University of Boob Tube.

We all know Mary Ingalls was a Type A, high achiever perfectionist. It must have devastated her to lose a math contest in Minneapolis.

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

Hey if anyone out there has suggestions for how to post links to the shows, please let us know. If NBC was so worried about their content why aren’t the episodes available on iTunes for purchase? Or at least streaming somewhere on Netflix? I’m sure there’s at least another dollar or two to wring out of this series and I’m sure the stars would appreciate a heftier check from their royalties (?). Les sigh.

Well now back to the episode. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the episode too but I did watch it last year. And I do remember my stomach tightening in sympathy over how Mary did in the competition. I was a little Type A perfectionist myself and entered damn near everything like the awards junkie I am.

Both girls were so mature in this episode and I loved how Laura didn’t get jealous but worked extra hard so that Pa wouldn’t be overburdened. Seems to me she fell asleep at the dining table while talking to Pa?

Besides I am a sucker for any episode that features bunting and bandstands.
 

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Post 43:
“The Blizzard”

Post 43: “The Blizzard”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

December 23, 1982 – EXCELLENT

Miss Beadle sends the kids home from school. She doesn’t know it’s turning into a blizzard. The mothers come and find no children at school. They start search parties and find everyone. Mr. Edwards doesn’t come back till the morning. One guy dies. At the end Charles reads a Bible part.”

(No full episode available on YouTube)

____________________________________________________

From Tracy —

In honor of the horrid crappyness of the current winter, we bring you this Little House episode . . . which rocks.

I think I must have play acted it a dozen times with friends. We would tilt our bodies forward with our hands outstretched like we were walking into a blinding wind. We did this even in the summer. And then we got to live it during the Blizzard of 1978 in Indiana.

But back to the episode. First off I have to ask — why the hell brandy? There is a lot of brandy drinking in this episode and I just have to say “uck”. What’s wrong with whiskey ?

Perhaps that’s just what people drank when it was cold. Or it was considered more polite and dainty.

But still . . . whiskey . . . a much better choice people!

Of course you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol at all in the cold as it lowers core body warmth temperature. It does make you feel warmer temporarily which is of course is the whole point.

Another issue – why aren’t the citizens of Walnut Grove a bit more panicky about snow? Didn’t the Ingalls learn this by now, considering the episode “Survival” when they’re holed up for weeks with strangers in an abandoned cabin? That was during Season One! This is Season Three! Just sayin’. 

Some special moments — Willie being sweet to Miss Beadle. His blond bun reverence is so lovely. You just know he’s wanted to touch her hair forever. And Mary was smart to suggest following the fence.

But when it’s too cold even for the horses (!) there’s not much hope for two little girls.

____________________________________________________

From Anne —

Gosh, you remember this well, Tracy.  What a nice, morbid game to play: the zombie-esque blizzard walk.What I recall most clearly from this episode (since I don’t have the luxury of watching it again on YouTube) is Miss Beadle’s wrinkled brow.  And her profound guilt, which turns to self-loathing … when you’ve done something so bad and there’s nothing to do but accept everyone’s hatred, or pity.  But hey, it’s not her fault there was no Al Roker back then.  Miss Beadle had a way more legitimate excuse than the mayor of Atlanta, that’s for sure.And no one can forget how, in this episode and a handful of others, tragedy brings out sweetness and sympathy from Willie and his stone-cold mother Harriet.

And on that note, let’s pause for a sec to remember Richard Bull, who died last week.  His real life wife of 66 years (Barbara Collentine) and his TV wife 10+ years (Scotty MacGregor) had dinner to discuss what a good man he was.  He gave dimension and dignity to one of the most hen-pecked characters in TV history.  Thanks for everything, Mr. Oleson!

  

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