Friday, January 9, 2009

Silent Promises 5/5

It’s nighttime at the Ingalls’ homestead and Albert is still working his sales pitch on Bandit. The dog is looking it over but isn’t convinced. It’s a buyer’s market, Albert, deal with it. Pa comes outside to tell Albert to go to bed. Albert gets five more minutes to make the sale and decides to imitate a dog going into the dog house. You know what border collies don’t respond to? That. As Albert goes into the house making dog noises, the sound guys decide a cavernous echo is the way to go which would not really work as a selling point for me. It doesn’t work for Bandit either.

Sunrise on the prairie as Charles leaves the house looking for Albert. It turns out the kid fell asleep inside the dog house. Oh dear. Caroline comes outside asking if either of the guys had seen Laura, but no one knows her whereabouts. Pa goes for a walk and finds Laura sitting in the woods. She’s wondering what to do about the whole Daniel situation. Although she doesn’t love Daniel the way he loves her, Laura wants to know if she should live her life to make him happy. Y’know: settle. “Sharing your life with someone is fine,” Pa says, “but you gotta love ‘em.” Laura wants to know how she can express this without hurting Daniel. Yeah, it doesn’t quite work that way, unfortunately. Laura predicts that Daniel will ultimately give up his studies, but Pa says that is Daniel’s own fault if he quits out of spite.

Daniel is studying in the main room when Laura arrives. She apologizes about leading him on with the whole ring wearing thing. “I wanted you to learn, but not for me, for you,” she signs. She leaves out the part about him being too young for her. Daniel is being stubborn about it, but Laura removes the ring and gives it back to him. He tears up his manual and turns his back on Laura. She leaves.

Nathan returns and sees the torn manual and ring on the table. He goes to Daniel’s room to see what is going on. Daniel signs that Laura lied and his father asks why. When Daniel doesn’t offer an answer, Nathan explains that Laura lied because she felt sorry for Daniel. Before I can object to this, Nathan goes on to say that he was doing the same thing by keeping Daniel away from people to protect him. Now that they see the error of their ways, Daniel should continue learning. Nathan goes on to say that Daniel is no longer getting special treatment since he can now be treated like any other child. They hug. Aw.

Back at the Ingalls, Caroline climbs up to the loft to check on Laura who is feeling sorry for herself. Daniel shows up during the pep talk to speak with Laura. He brought his manual and apologizes. He asks her to be his teacher again and Laura agrees. They go outside while Ma and Pa hug. Laura then does a voiceover musing about teaching and the importance of education. Hopefully her words don’t fall on deaf ears. What?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Silent Promises 4/5

Both Mr. and Mrs. Oleson are behind the counter at the Mercantile as Laura and Daniel arrive. After greetings are exchanged, Laura asks Daniel what he would like. Daniel signs that he would like candy, but he wants to know how much it costs. Laura double checks the price of gumballs with Mrs. Oleson, who is taken aback that any sort of information has been exchanged. Nels is obviously quite impressed while Harriet is bewildered. Daniel signs “see you later”, which Laura translates for the Olesons. Mrs. Oleson does a weird thing with her hands before settling on waving goodbye. Daniel waves back with a “what’s her problem?” look on his face. The kid picks up on nuance rather quickly, I’ll give him that. After the kids leave, Harriet tells Nels that all the finger-wriggling was making her nervous and that it is not natural. Y’know, that wouldn’t make me so angry if it wasn’t for the fact that in 2009 that line of thinking still exists in the world. Not necessarily about sign language (I don’t recall ever hearing complaints), but about…ok, this isn’t the forum for this discussion. Anyway, Harriet says as she leaves the room “if God had wanted me to talk with my hands, he wouldn’t have given me a mouth.” Nels’ response: “even God can make a mistake.” Eh, half-a-point Mr. Oleson.

Laura and Daniel are walking by a stream and set to work on their next lesson. As she opens the manual, Daniel places his hands on it to get her attention. He reaches into his shirt and pulls out a chain with a ring on it and hands it to Laura. The ring belonged to his mother and Laura remarks that it is beautiful and that Daniel shouldn’t lose it. He signs that it is a gift, but Laura politely refuses. Daniel insists, but Laura says it should be a gift for the woman he marries. He signs “I love you”. Laura: “I love you too, but…” Daniel stops Laura and then kisses her. She has a bit of a conniption. I don’t think she was leading him on, but throwing around “I love yous” a little too loosely is going to get you into trouble, half-pint. Daniel freaks and runs away.

Nathan returns home and sees Daniel staring into the fireplace instead of studying. Nathan tells his son it is important to study, but he slaps the book away and goes to his bedroom. Nathan looks on in wonder.

Almanzo sees Laura moping around town and asks what’s up. Okay, I didn’t realize how much of an age difference there was between these two characters until this scene. She wants him so badly…the girl’s an open page. Anyway, he notices the necklace and thinks it must be related to whatever problem Laura is having. Eventually Sarah, Almanzo’s ladyfriend, comes up and says hi to the two of them. Laura gets a brief Flavor of Love look in her eyes and her smile gets a little sadder. I’ve been there, honey. She signs “I love you” towards Almanzo as he and Sarah are walking away.

Nathan is working outside as Laura arrives at the house. She asks if Daniel is home, but Nathan says she might as well just burn the books. This guy really needs to tone down the extremism in his reactions to everyday obstacles. There’s just something eerie about the calmness in his voice when he suggests book burning. Nathan asks what happened but Laura is purposely vague. He directs her to the pasture where Daniel is sitting next to a tree. He notices Laura then looks away. She removes the necklace, takes off the ring strung on the line, and puts it on her finger. Daniel hugs her in appreciation. Aw.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Silent Promises 3/5

FIRE!! Oh, it’s the hearth in the Page living room. As Nathan is sitting down, Laura asks if he would like some coffee. He says alright, then Laura signs “coffee for father” for Daniel who goes to fulfill the request. Oops, did he forget to sign “Hi, I’m Daniel and I’ll be your server today?” Mr. Page asks Laura how she did that and she explains the concept of sign language. She starts to flip through a manual, but Nathan says he needs his glasses. Before he can get up to retrieve them, Laura signs “spectacles for father” and Daniel goes and grabs them. Nathan is dubious, claiming that Daniel saw the book being opened and, knowing that his father can’t read without his glasses, went to retrieve them. Laura asks why Mr. Page is being so resistant. “I’ve been living with him for fifteen years,” he says, “next thing you’ll tell me he can hear.” Eh, at least it’s not an accusation of witchcraft. Goody Ingalls asks Nathan to ask Daniel something. Nathan wants Daniel to show him the picture of Daniel’s mother. Laura demonstrates “show me mother’s picture” and Nathan mimics. He then signs it for Daniel, who complies with the request. Nathan is wowed and Laura goes for the kill with her sales pitch. Nathan then asks how he can tell Daniel he loves him. Aw. And then they make out…just kidding. They do hug and Laura smiles.

We then see a montage of Nathan reading up on his sign language. After watching him learn the first few letters of the alphabet, we dissolve into a scene of the father and son signing the Lord’s Prayer by Daniel’s bedside. I’ll probably be upgrading my ticket to Hell for saying this, but it looks like they’re doing some sort of Holy Hand Jive.

The next day at the Ingalls’ place, Albert bursts through the front door telling everyone to come out and look at his finished work. Everyone goes outside, though no one is more reluctant than Bandit. Albert uncovers the dog house and the family congratulates him. Bandit just looks around like most dogs do. He’s not having anything to do with the dog house. Both of the dogs I had growing up were indoor dogs, so a dog house was never an issue, but I doubt either one would have been enthusiastic about being expected to live in a dark enclosure. Well, my second dog might have, but only in the case of thunderstorms because she would be hiding. But we wouldn’t be leaving her outside in that situation, so it’s kind of a moot point. Albert is trying to goad Bandit, but the dog is totally non-responsive. I don’t think he has fully adopted Albert the way the other Ingalls have. Just saying.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Silent Promises 2/5

Laura is at the Pages’ homestead asking Nathan if she can try to teach Daniel sign language. Nathan politely refuses, saying that special training would be required of anyone who is going to engage in special teaching. Laura claims that she is a teacher-in-training and it’s not like Mr. Page has a specialist already lined up. He keeps claiming it’s a waste of time. Dude, the worst that can happen is Daniel doesn’t learn, which means that he is in no worse position than he is now. You have nothing to lose. Oh geez, he plays the “God’s will” card, which Laura counters with “it’s my time I’m wasting (true) and God gave us our own wills (that’s one theory).” Nathan ignores the theological debate bait (debait?), tells Laura she’s wasting her time, but agrees. She starts tomorrow morning.

At the Ingalls’ place, Charles is at the table lighting his after-dinner pipe. We can hear hammering noises in the background, which causes Caroline to ask Charles to ask Albert to hold off on the dog house construction so that the baby can get some sleep. Charles goes to the door and calls out to Albert that it’s quitting time. That was uneventful. Laura comes downstairs with her signing books. She and Pa talk about her new client and that Laura wants to go to the Wilders’ house in the morning so she can tell Ms. Wilder all about it. Charles can read between the lines and suggests telling Ms. Wilder the news at school on Monday. Laura can read between the lines too and they have a little daddy-daughter bonding moment. Aw. Again, uneventful.

The next morning Albert is back to work on the dog house. He has a frame built as Laura heads out for her lesson. Albert asks for her opinion, but Laura says that no dog in its right mind is going to sleep in that box. Albert takes offense to this, wrinkles his nose and asks his sister why she smells like Ma. Y’know, in all my years of bickering with my siblings, I’ve never used “why do you smell like Ma?” as a go to insult or “oh yeah?” variant. Oh, Laura put on some perfume for her visit to the Wilders. Albert knows what’s up and Laura gets a little too indignant about his line of questioning and storms off. Girl, just own the fact that you’re into older guys, alright?

Laura makes her way to Daniel’s house. He sees her through the window and has an ear-to-ear smile as he opens the door for her. He’s got it bad, got it bad, got it bad. Laura signs “Hi”, which doesn’t really register a response since he doesn’t know sign language yet. Laura seems a bit baffled by this and starts flipping through one of her manuals. Daniel walks over to see what she is looking for. She then signs “good morning”. What’s the sign for “ass-backwards”? Laura starts to get a bit flustered that things don’t seem to be registering with Daniel and flips through the manual again. She walks to the window, taps on it, then does the sign for “window”. Okay, that looks a bit more productive albeit low energy. This starts to register with Daniel, so Laura tries the same approach with the door. Daniel does the sign for “window” again and Laura corrects him. They go through a couple more, including “perfume”. Yeah, that one’s going to be useful for day-to-day chores on the Page homestead. Laura does a mini-quiz, but Daniel has trouble with “door”. “Oh well,” Laura says, “nobody said it was gonna be easy.”

An indeterminate amount of time has passed and the lessons have moved to a wooded area. Laura’s going through various abstracts, such as “seeing” (points to her eyes); “funny” (which she signs but doesn’t demonstrate) and “happy” (signs and smiles, which doesn’t really differentiate between her other signs). She does “mad”, which just causes Daniel to look at the audience in polite confusion. Oh, he’s distracted by the picnic setup in the foreground. He signs something then produces a wrapped package. Laura is excited and says “You did it!” Okay? Not too sure what happened there, but hooray. They hug and it starts to rain. She does the sign for “rain”, he mimics, and then there’s a clap of thunder. Maybe you should seek shelter, kids. Instead, they hug and spin in circles, like you do.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Silent Promises 1/5

(1980) Laura’s sign language pupil (Alban Branton) falls in love with her.

We open this episode as school is letting out in Walnut Grove. Willie is trying to pull Albert away from a riveting game of catch. Willie acquired some firecrackers and wants to set them off to scare Old Man Dunsworth. Meanwhile, I prepare myself for an episode about the challenges of life in the 1800’s after you lose your fingers. Thanks, Little House. Albert is hesitant but eventually agrees to go with Willie after he’s offered some free licorice.

At the Mercantile, Nels walks in on Willie as he is rummaging through some drawers looking for the licorice. When his father asks what he is doing, Willie lies about looking for the catalog. Nels leaves and Willie asks Albert to be a better lookout. He starts to rummage again as Albert browses through the catalog. He stops on an ad for dog houses and muses over the idea of building one for Bandit. Willie gives him some grief about the project and tells Albert he can’t have any licorice, now clutched in his hand, if he runs off to work on the project. At this point Nels walks in and Albert says that he doesn’t want to take any licorice without permission. Narc. Willie runs out of the store before Nels can yell at him.

A man and his son are riding into town. The man slowly tells his horses “whoooooa” as they pull up to a building. The son is looking off into the middle distance, but unlike Mary it appears that he is actually looking at something. “Now you stay here,” the man says very slowly, patting his seat. The boy nods, distracted by the kids playing baseball in front of the school. The kid hops off the wagon and walks over to get a better look. In the meantime, Mr. Dunsworth is closing up the bank and hitching up his team to go home. Willie is nearby lighting the firecrackers. He throws them on the ground near the wagon that Mr. Dunsworth is about to mount. Surprise, surprise, the explosion freaks out the horses and they bolt knocking the banker to the ground. Willie, honey, there’s a distinction between a prank (i.e. scaring Mr. Dunsworth) and second degree murder (i.e. what is about to happen).

Laura is chatting with Almanzo when she notices the commotion. She sees the horses, she sees the new boy, she sees the new boy in the path of the horses, and she sees that the kid does not seem to realize that there is a runaway buggy about to mow him down. Laura runs over and pulls the kid out of the way just in time, tackling him to the ground. The kid is knocked unconscious, so that’s a fifteen yard penalty against team Ingalls. Almanzo carries the kid off to Doc Baker.

After the examination at Doc Baker’s, the diagnosis is that the kid had the wind knocked out. That doesn’t really explain the non-responsiveness, but I’ll defer to the doctor on this one. Nathan, the father, regrets bringing his son to town since “he can’t hear, he can’t think,” but Baker interrupts him, saying that the kid can think even though he can’t hear. “He’s like a baby,” Nathan claims. “All babies learn, they just need teaching,” replies Doc Baker. Nathan says that he can’t provide the special teaching that Daniel requires and then asks if they can go home. Laura asks Baker what kind of teaching Daniel would need. Baker explains that communication is the first step and tells her about sign language. As Doc Baker grabs some reading materials on the subject, Daniel and Nathan come out to the lobby. Daniel is obviously a smitten kitten for Laura and smiles. Laura looks on with pity then heads home to study the books Doc Baker hands her.