In Season 8 of “Little House on the Prairie,” which ran from 1981 to 1982, we get to relive some of the most endearing moments and see some significant changes in the little town of Walnut Grove. Adam and Mary leave for New York where Adam intends to practice law, Percival and Nellie go for New York to take over his father’s business, Willie starts growing up and changing his ways, and Almanzo suffers a stroke and nearly becomes permanently disabled. Season 8 is the last season with the focus on Charles and Caroline Ingalls and their family’s life.

Season 8, Episode 1 – The Reincarnation of Nellie Pt. 1

Description:

Percival takes over the family business when his father dies, which means that he and Nellie will remain in New York permanently.

Fun Fact!

This is the first and only episode in which Harriet acknowledges out loud that her daughter Nellie had been mean, spoiled, and conniving as a child.

Did you know?

In Harriet and Nancy’s first scene together, when Harriet is baby talking to her and saying, “I’m your new mommy!” the angry child punches her right in the nose. If you watch and listen carefully, you can tell that the punching sound is heard a split second before Nancy’s fist touches Harriet’s nose.

More Trivia!

In the scene where Nancy and Cassandra are at the water pump behind the school, notice how uneven Cassandra’s braids are. One is significantly thicker than the other. Then, in her next scene with the family at dinner, her braids are normal again.

Season 8, Episode 2 – The Reincarnation of Nellie Pt. 2

Description:

Nels and Harriet’s newly adopted daughter Nancy settles in quickly at her new home. Harriet delights in spoiling her, but the child is a diabolical monster who creates major trouble everywhere she goes.

Fun Fact!

This is the second time that an Oleson daughter gets doused in a dunk tank. In Season 4’s “Meet Me at the Fair,” Nellie has her turn getting soaked in one of those tanks. Also, in both cases, Laura is responsible for setting the whole thing up without Nellie or Nancy’s knowledge.

Did you know?

After tending to Belinda, Doc Baker tells her parents that she’s awake, but she has difficulty talking. But when her parents go in to see her, Belinda talks just fine and even manages to tell them the entire story about how she came to be locked in the ice house.

More Trivia!

Nancy sings embarrassingly off-key in front of the mirror in one scene. Ironically, Allison Balson (Nancy) went on to be an accomplished musician, so this scene does not reflect her real singing voice.

Season 8, Episode 3 – Growin’ Pains

Description:

After adopting two more children, Charles and Caroline must adjust to managing five young children. The family tension mounts when James runs away after getting into an argument with Albert.

Fun Fact!

The abandoned house that Albert and James find in the storm is the same house that Laura and Almanzo later own in Season 9. The same sets were used for both instances.

Did you know?

Charles makes an inconsistent comment to Albert when he expresses resentment toward James: “I’m sure glad Laura and Carrie didn’t feel that way when you first came to live with us.” However, in Season 5’s “Fagin,” Laura becomes jealous of the attention Albert receives from Charles, and it even prompts Albert to run away.

More Trivia!

In Season 7’s “The Lost Ones, Part 2”, James shares that his biological father had taught him not to steal. Yet, James seems to resort to stealing when desperate or terrified of punishment. He plans to take Tompkins’ money before running away with Cassandra (but does not get the opportunity). In this episode, he steals a razor from the mercantile to cover up breaking Albert’s razor after using it without permission.

Season 8, Episode 4 – Dark Sage

Description:

When Doc Baker’s workload becomes too much for one person, arrangements are made for an African-American doctor and his wife to join the community.

Fun Fact!

The first names of Dr. Ledoux and his wife are Caleb and Mattie. These are the exact same first names of the married couple that Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash play in the
Season 3 opener, “The Collection.”

Did you know?

If you watch closely, at one point, you will notice that Doc Baker picks up his phone to speak, and yet the base is not wired to the wall. The only wire is between the base and the earpiece.

More Trivia!

In this episode, before meeting Dr. and Mrs. Ledoux, Harriet Oleson ignorantly assumes that they are French. You’d think she would have learned her lesson in Season 5’s “Blind Journey” when she mistakes Hester-Sue Terhune.

Season 8, Episode 5 – A Wiser Heart

Description:

At the invitation of Eliza Jane. Laura attends a writing seminar in Arizona, but the experience is marred by a rude professor who cuts her down at every turn.

Fun Fact!

When Eliza Jane asks Laura if she believes in love at first sight, Laura hesitates before saying, “I suppose.” In Season 6’s “Back to School”, she takes one look at Almanzo and immediately knows she will marry him one day.

Did you know?

This episode marks the first of Laura’s somewhat strained relationship with her new sister-in-law, Eliza Jane, who is clearly bitter over her own unhappy life and is eager for control. This attitude is revealed here for the first time (remember that Eliza Jane is quiet and self-sacrificing in Season 7’s “Laura Ingalls Wilder”), and she only gets worse in Season 8’s “Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow“.

More Trivia!

When Laura pushes Mrs. Pierce, she lands in a pail of water, and her hair remains dry. Two shots later we see Mrs. Pierce still sitting in the bucket, only now her hair is soaked. Since she landed on her behind, her hair should not have gotten wet, and there was no time for anyone to have poured water over her head, realistically.

Season 8, Episode 6 – Gambini the Great

Description:

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.

Fun Fact!

When Gambini escapes from being tied up in the creek and is underwater for over a minute, he finally breaks the surface and walks up to the praise of the on-lookers. You might notice that he isn’t breathing hard, nor does he appear overexerted in any way.

Did you know?

Actress Martha Nix plays a sweet, quiet new student named Amy in this episode. Amy is never seen again, but Nix also appears as a girl names Holly three years earlier in Season 5’s “The Sound of Children”. Ironically, in that Season 5 episode, Nix’s character was a little girl who had a huge crush on the older Albert who is not interested. Now in this episode, it is Albert who really likes her, but though she is nice to him, she is not lovestruck.

More Trivia!

Stephen Manley, who portrays Marco here, went on to play a teenaged Mr. Spock in the movie “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”.

Season 8, Episode 7 – The Legend of Black Jake

Description:

A pair of bumbling crooks kidnaps Nels and holds him for ransom. However, Mrs. Oleson refuses to pay the $100 ransom 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.

Fun Fact!

Harriet has a record of four fainting spells in this episode, and Nancy has one, her first and only one, in the whole series.

Did you know?

When Charles puts a lock on the door, Caroline says they never had to do that before. In Season 1’s “Harvest of Friends”, however, Charles gives Caroline a key to their front door, and she specifically mentions the feeling of security that it gives her.

More Trivia!

This is absolutely the first and only episode where we hear anybody refer to Nancy as “darling” (except her parents, of course, mostly her mother). Charles calls her “darling” when she is fearful about her parents’ lives. You will notice that Nancy is arguably more scared and empathetic than she’s ever been in the series.

Season 8, Episode 8 – Chicago

Description:

Charles travels to Chicago to comfort a deeply grieving Mr. Edwards, whose son John Jr. had died in a tragic accident. But that grief soon gives way to rage when it becomes apparent John Jr.’s death was no accident.

Fun Fact!

When Callahan takes the ledger from the pawn broker’s he put it under his arm. Outside, it is still there as he chats to Charles and Mr. Edwards. All that rain in the early 1880’s and no plastic cover for the book! Wouldn’t an investigative journalist with such important records, at least put it under his rainproof coat?

Did you know?

Charles tells Laura that he will take her and John Jr. fishing and that he will surely become jealous because she will catch the bigger fish. However, Laura mostly spends time with Carl and it is clear from Season 2’s “His Father’s Son”, that John Jr. does not like to harm animals. John also prefers spending time with Mary.

Season 8, Episode 9 – For the Love of Nancy

Description:

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.

Fun Fact!

In the emotional scene where Elmer reads his essay, announces his withdrawal from school and runs out of the classroom, Laura doesn’t budge from her desk. After hearing something like that from a student, a teacher should have at least called out to him or run after him.

Did you know?

Nels Oleson is usually the voice of reason throughout the series, especially in contrast to his wife. In this episode, however, when Elmer is over for dinner at the Olesons, Nels allows Willie and Nancy to laugh at Elmer’s voracious eating stunt and doesn’t tell them to stop. It’s as if Nels doesn’t know what to say, whereas in other episodes when Harriet is away, Nel usually jumps at the chance to discipline his children.

More Trivia!

In the scene after Elmer quits school, he is having dinner with his family. There is a shot of their house from the outside, and it’s clear that the sun is almost completely down. However, in the next scene, when Elmer and his father are outside and the school children come to talk to Elmer, it is full daylight. These two scenes were obviously filmed at very different times.

Season 8, Episode 10 – Wave of the Future

Description:

Mrs. Oleson decides that reopening Nellie’s Restaurant and Hotel as a franchised restaurant will result in big profits for the fledgling business.

Fun Fact!

In this episode, Charles strategically makes his dinners taste horrible so the kids will complain and he can force them to cook the next night, but the plan backfires. This isn’t the first time Charles tries to outsmart his children and ends up with the joke on himself. This also happened in Season 5’s “Men Will Be Boys”.

Did you know?

It is unlikely that the people of a Midwestern town in the 1880’s would have tolerated a restaurant operating on Sundays. Additionally, it is unlikely that either Caroline or Hester-Sue would have consented to work on Sundays. In fact, during “Back to School, Part 1”, Caroline refuses to cook even one meal on Sunday as a favor to Harriet.

More Trivia!

After the first day of business at the faster pace of ‘Mrs. Sullivans’, Caroline and Hester-Sue leave. The Olesons then calculate they have made nearly $25 that day. In the next scene, Caroline tells Charles about the $25, but how would she know? It was only totaled after she had left.

Season 8, Episode 11 – A Christmas They Never Forgot

Description:

An unrelenting blizzard on Christmas Eve leaves friends and family snowbound at the Ingalls homestead. Caroline, Laura, and Hester Sue share memories of Christmases past.

Fun Fact!

The star on top of the Christmas tree at the Ingalls’ home is not the star that little Carrie buys at the mercantile in Season 1’s “Christmas at Plum Creek”, although Carrie stares at it with wonder in the same way.

Did you know?

Almanzo’s story revolves around his belief in Santa Claus at the age of six. In 1863, Santa was still referred to as Saint Nicholas. The name “Santa Claus” emerged in the next decade.

More Trivia!

This is the first Christmas episode in which the entire Ingalls family isn’t together in the final scene. The last scene belongs to Charles and Caroline alone.

Season 8, Episode 12 – No Beast So Fierce

Description:

A timid young boy named Gideon with a stuttering problem arrives at Walnut Grove’s school and is ridiculed by the other children. James reaches out and befriends him, but their budding friendship stands to be destroyed when James makes a foolish mistake right in front of Gideon.

Fun Fact!

In previous episodes, a trip to Sleepy Eye by wagon was about a day’s journey, and three days to Mankato. Now, Charles and James seem to get to and from Minneapolis – almost double the distance to Mankato – with just one overnight stop each way.

Did you know?

Gideon has been missing for days, yet when Caroline finds him, his clothes are spotless and his hair is neatly combed. It is hard to believe that a child would stay that clean for that long while sleeping in the woods.

More Trivia!

Do you recognize the young Peter Billingsley, who went on to fame with his lead role in “A Christmas Story”, one of the most celebrated holiday films of all time?

Season 8, Episode 13 – Stone Soup

Description:

An expecting Laura has a tough time caring for the Wilder farm when Almanzo and Charles are away on a trip to Arizona. Laura has a heart-to-heart talk with Willie about responsibility and being a role model.

Fun Fact!

After Charles and Almanzo leave for Arizona, Caroline tells Laura, “Well, at least Charles and Almanzo don’t have to put up with this heat”, but why would Caroline expect it to be cooler in Arizona than in Minnesota?

Did you know?

When Willie approaches Laura’s desk to speak with her about history (after the other children have left the classroom), he appears to be dripping with sweat. The camera cuts to Laura for a moment, then switches back to Willie, whose skin is suddenly completely dry.

More Trivia!

Charles tells Almanzo that they will be making their delivery to Northern Arizona. Arizona didn’t become a state until 1912. The real-life Laura Ingalls was 45 years old by that time.

Season 8, Episode 14 – The Legacy

Description:

A present-day couple buys an antique 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.

Fun Fact!

Claude Earl Jones, who plays Jack Prescott in this episode, appears again in Season 9’s “Home Again, Part One” as a compassionate store owner who drops shoplifting charges against Albert in Burr Oak, Iowa.

Did you know?

This episode is unique to the series in that it opens up in a futuristic time (1982) and shows a couple bidding on a furniture item that bears the initials “CI.”

More Trivia!

Why would Caroline need to hire a farmhand while Charles is away when her son Albert is nearing young adulthood and pre-teen James is living at home? Even Mary knew how to plow a field at age 14, as she demonstrates in Season 4’s “To Run and Hide”.

Season 8, Episode 15 – Uncle Jed

Description:

Charles and Caroline are about to adopt James and Cassandra, but their Uncle Jed comes forward demanding custody of the Cooper children.

Fun Fact!

Early in the episode, Jed talks about how he struck it rich, panning for gold. Ironically, the same actor appeared as a character named Zachariah in Season 3’s “Gold Country”, where he was living on a bed of gold and hated the way money changed people.

Did you know?

Audiences may be surprised how well-written young Cassandra’s essay is. For an 8-year-old, her writing is well beyond her years, much better than many older students are able to produce.

More Trivia!

In this episode, Cassandra (Melissa Francis) becomes the only Ingalls child (other than Mary) to win a prestigious award at school in Walnut Grove.

Season 8, Episode 16 – Second Chance

Description:

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.

(Not so) Fun Fact!

It is very unlikely that Hester Sue, a black female, could have purchased land and concluded the transaction so quickly. Following the Civil War, 19 of 24 northern states still did not allow black people to vote, and women were generally considered the property of their husbands.

Did you know?

Up until the very last scene, there are absolutely no children who appear in the episode. They appear briefly at the end with no speaking lines, but that’s it. The same goes for Laura and Almanzo.

More Trivia!

It is very out of character for Harriet Oleson to grab Sam (a black man) by the hand in excitement after the work he does for her, then insist he eat at the restaurant for half price a couple weeks in a row. Based on her history of stinginess and racist behavior, she seems out of character in this episode.

Season 8, Episode 17 – Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow Pt. 1

Description:

The marriage between Almanzo and Laura faces its first 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.

Fun Fact!

In this episode (as well as “A Wiser Heart”, which aired earlier in season 8), the audience really gets to see more of the type of relationship that Laura and Eliza Jane had in real life. On the TV series, the two of them were close for the most part, but in episodes like this, Eliza Jane is rude, disrespectful, and not always kind to Laura, which is how Laura portrayed her in real life.

Did you know?

Laura gives birth in this episode after announcing her pregnancy in the previous season. She is the only character on the show who ever has a baby and goes through the actual nine-month pregnancy on the show. With Charles Jr. and Grace Ingalls, and Laura’s second child Baby Wilder, they were all born in one episode, and Mary’s two pregnancies took their full course within just a few episodes.

More Trivia!

This episode marks the first time that we see Charles Ingalls hold one of his grandchildren–Rose, who is his third grandchild. Remember that Mary miscarries her first son and her second infant son is killed in a fire during Season 6, and we never see Charles actually hold and enjoy him.

Season 8, Episode 18 – Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow Pt. 2

Description:

The arrival of her first child should be a beautiful time for Laura, but it is tainted by Almanzo’s increasingly bitter attitude, as well as the possibility that Laura and Almanzo might lose their home. Frustration meets with anger as Laura feels that her marriage is slipping away.

Fun Fact!

According to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s posthumously-published book, The First Four Years, the final installment in her 9-book series, it was actually a fire that destroyed her and Almanzo’s home. Also, the special “Give us this day our daily bread” plate really did exist, and it was one of the few things that survived the fire. In reality it did not belong to Caroline; the plate was purchased by Laura and Almanzo to commemorate their first Christmas together. After their daughter Rose Wilder Lane died in 1968, the plate was discovered among her possessions and placed in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association in Mansfield, Missouri, where it remains today for visitors to see.

Did you know?

Did you notice, after Laura angrily smashes the special plate to pieces, Caroline magically presents it to her later, and it looks as good as new.

More Trivia!

At the end of this episode, Lucy Lee Flippin (Eliza Jane) flubs her lines briefly when she says, “I’ve forgotten how much I missed being away from all of you.” Given the tone of the scene, this is obviously incorrect!

Season 8, Episode 19 – A Promise to Keep

Description:

Mr. Edwards returns 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.

Fun Fact!

Corinne Camacho appeared in two Little House episodes: this one, and Season 4’s “My Ellen”. Ironically, in both shows, she bakes a chocolate birthday cake with white candles, is grieving the death of a child, and has a strained relationship with her husband.

Did you know?

The first few scenes of the episode, which are filmed with Grace, Isaiah, Carl, and Alicia in their house, uses the exact same house sets used for Laura and Almanzo’s house (before it was destroyed by the tornado a couple episodes earlier). If you look closely, they are all sitting at the table and eating cake in what would be Almanzo’s parlor.

More Trivia!

This is the second time an Ingalls family member asks Mr. Edwards to be the godfather to their baby. Charles and Caroline asks him to do the honors with their newborn son in Season 1’s “The Lord is My Shepherd”, and Laura requests that he be that special person to baby Rose in this episode.

Season 8, Episode 20 – A Faraway Cry

Description:

A longtime friend of Caroline writes to her and asks for help. Her friend is pregnant and lives at a gold prospector’s camp where there is an outbreak of influenza.

Fun Fact!

The blood pressure machine that Doc Baker uses in the Camp Hospital was not invented until the 1920’s.

Did you know?

This episode is the only mention of Dr. Ledoux (though he is not seen) since the episode of his introduction.

More Trivia!

Did you notice that since this story takes place mostly away from Walnut Grove and involves a medical story, the only towns person in the opening credits is Doc Baker.

Season 8, Episode 21 – He Was Only Twelve Pt. 1

Description:

Tragedy strikes when James, who is traveling with Charles, Albert and Mr. Edwards to Sleepy Eye, is shot during a brutal bank robbery. When James slips into a coma, Charles goes with Mr. Edwards and Albert to track down the criminals and bring them to justice.

Fun Fact!

The first part of this two-part story is a re-write of the 1972 “Bonanza” episode, “He Was Only Seven”.

Did you know?

When Charles is recruiting people in Sleepy Eye to help him hunt down the criminals, why doesn’t he seek out Jonathan Garvey? It’s possible that Jonathan has left Sleepy Eye between his last appearance and this episode, but nothing about it is ever mentioned.

More Trivia!

Hal Smith is best known as Otis Campbell, the town drunk, on “The Andy Griffith Show” that ran from 1960-1968.

Season 8, Episode 22 – He Was Only Twelve Pt. 2

Description:

As James lies in a coma at the Ingalls’ house, Charles increases the distress of his family by his refusal to accept the child’s impending death. Angry that nobody – not even Doc Baker – offers any hope for James’ recovery, Charles takes his son away to the mountains, where he builds a temple and prays fiercely for a miracle.

Fun Fact!

Charles’ character goes down a road that we have not seen in previous episodes, at least not in this way. Though devout, Charles also knows when to accept reality and understand that not everything can be made better simply through prayer. In this episode, however, Charles detaches himself from all reality and clings solely to his faith, depending wholly and completely on a miracle to save his son.

Did you know?

This episode marks the final appearance of Bandit the dog. He is seen for a few seconds outside the little house during Cassandra’s final scene.

More Trivia!

Notice that the past four season finales of the series have involved characters dying or being near death. There was leukemia-stricken young Dylan in Season 5’s “The Odyssey”; diphtheria-stricken Almanzo in Season 6’s “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, Part 2”; the wagon accident that killed James and Cassandra’s parents in Season 7’s “The Lost Ones”; and now James is near death from a gunshot wound in this episode.

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Little House on the Prairie – Complete Series DVD

Little House on the Prairie – Complete Series DVD

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