Post 54:
“The Music Box”

Post 54:  “The Music Box”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

January 26 – EXCELLENT

 


“At Nellie’s party, Laura steals a music box. She has bad dreams. She breaks it and Nellie catches her with it. Nellie won’t tell if Laura does anything she says. Laura is friends with a girl named Anna who stutters. Laura and (won’t let) Anna be in the club because Nellie said. They make fun of Anna. Later Laura tells she stole and she doesn’t get in trouble.”

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From Tracy —

It’s only once in a lifetime I get to state the following: This episode of LHOP is practically psychedelic! It’s filled with dreams and long hair and strange sights!

It has an awesome intro with more dolls and dollhouse miniatures you could ever want stuffed into the Oleson’s store windows. I would think they would be more likely to put in the latest plow or calico — the practical stuff for simple folk — but no, here it is warm weather with no Christmas in sight and there are all kinds of pretties and frillies.

But Laura doesn’t receive a doll or even a new dress on her birthday. She gets a big gilded dictionary.

The Evans kids from Good Times may have been really excited to get their encyclopedias (at least until they learned they were ripped off) but there is little joy from Laura in receiving such a gift. She’s still too young to appreciate it.

The next scene reveals the still disappointed Laura hanging out by the store windows again with her adorable blond friend Anna who stutters. And then a treacherous snake begins to slither up the stairs. It’s Nellie. She wants to invite them up to be in a “club.”

Laura’s dread is palpable as she goes up with Anna who really can’t resist looking at Nellie’s loot. Who could blame her?

Soon even Laura’s enjoying herself while watching a music box play. Nellie snaps it closed inches from Laura’s face like gang moll closing her cigarette case on a cop. Game on. Laura later takes it after poor Anna is made fun of for stuttering. Who knew there were pockets in petticoats for a music box? You learn something every day.

Of course, in true Little House fashion, she gets all of 15 seconds of joy alone with the music box before it gets knocked off a barn wall and breaks. This why the Ingalls can’t have nice things. Now the damned thing’s song is not jaunty but jarring. Laura ages 20 years before our eyes.

Side Note: There sure are a lot of music boxes in the Little House series! Shall we ever forget the one in “Haunted House” with the spinning doll that Laura becomes obsessed with? She really needs to get ahold of her habit. Of course, our readers are more than a little obsessed with music boxes too. We got more comments here at Girls Gone Wilder about what song the music box plays in that episode than for any other post ever. I researched it hard and came up empty. I even went so far as to contact the national specialist on that particular kind of spinning doll jewelry box combo. He didn’t know the song either. So I’m a little nervous about this post, to be honest.

But let’s get to what makes this episode REALLY special — the fever dreams!

Every time the guilty Laura goes to sleep she has a lulu.

The first involves a messy-haired Laura in brown rags facing a British judge – wig, gavel and all!

This second time she dreams she’s in a medieval dungeon with Harriet as her jailer. Harriet laughs with rotten teeth as she throws dirty mush on a crawling, starving Laura. Even Nellie (who by this time knows Laura took the box) makes an appearance and bonks Laura on the head with a big greasy drumstick!

And finally, the third nightmare is almost as good as the second. This time an entire British Red Coat battalion is there to march Laura to the gallows. The hangman? Why a hooded Nellie with a candy stick poking out of her mouth! But of course!

Oh my God, what fun they must have had shooting this! How could they ever have gotten through it without just rolling on the floor laughing?! It’s SO over-the-top.

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From Anne —

Agreed, Tracy: over-the-top, to the hilt, off the scales. This episode is packed with greed, guilt, sadism, torture, and blackmail. Not bad for one 48-minute, family show.

You are so right that Landon and the LHOP writing team must have had a serious music box fetish. Besides the stolen, broken, jinxed one in this titular episode, and the “Haunted House” one Tracy notes, do not forget “May We Make Them Proud.” It’s a music box from Albert that finally breaks Mary’s emotional logjam after the incineration of her baby. Hell’s bells, indeed.

Man, in the triple tableaux of nightmares Laura experiences, her hair looks like Brooke Shields’ in The Blue Lagoon. Harriet’s broken teeth and Nellie’s candy cane of death really are a blast. But the overblown, overloud concerto of horror combined with all the psychotic cackling wore me out. I had to mute it.

I got curious and googled Katy Kurtzman, who played Anna with the white-blond hair and saucer blue eyes. She did a few other roles, including The Adventures of Heidi and Dynasty. She did some expert whimpering in this episode, but there’s a scene where her “tears” appear not to be moving down her face or drying in the prairie wind. Maybe they had to bust out the Vaseline or RhuliGel since the faucet of tears wasn’t flowing on its own.

Maybe it’s because we’ve all got immigration on the brain that caused me to note that Anna’s family is Swedish, her mother doesn’t speak English, and Anna struggles with speech. Half-expecting Mrs. Oleson to demand that Walnut Grove needs to build a wall.

The best thing about “The Music Box” is, for me, how Nels finally grows a pair (to quote Tracy). Watching him grab a belt and go after Nellie was quite exciting. Giving her a choice between going to Anna’s house to apologize, or getting whipped with a belt was a nice a piece of parenting for old Nels. Even Harriet seemed scared. Even I was scared. And yet, he really lets Laura off the hook at the end. Pre-teen me was bothered by this, as my journal entry implies.

And then there’s Willie. He expertly rides on the coattails of his sister’s blackmail, leveraging Laura to let him win at hide and seek, or carry heavy buckets. Willie embodies his own brand of gingham-shirted, mop-topped, lazy malevolence.

I could relate to Laura’s dictionary disappointment. My dad used to do that to me, too: buy me stuff (45 records, for instance) that he actually wanted. What’s a girl do? Steal, then dream of being hanged, I guess.

PS: WTF Little House has a great edit of this episode if you would like to refresh your memory:

PSS: This is also a rare episode where Nels finally grows a pair:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lSF2psUfu0

 

 

 

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