Friday, January 16, 2009

The Werewolf of Walnut Grove 5/5

Another school day on the prairie as Ms. Wilder enters to address the students. Some whimsical harmonica music is playing and it turns out to be Bart. Hehe, nice touch. Anyway, the announcement is that after the class projects are graded Ms. Wilder will be out the door. “I will miss all of you very much,” she says. “Or should I say, I will miss some of you.” She dismisses the class with these parting words: “I apologize, not only for myself but for the school board who allowed themselves to be bullied by a wealthy fool.” Bart doesn’t like the sound of that and stops playing. “You watch what you say about my Pa,” he threatens. “How did you know I was talking about your father?” Ms. Wilder asks. “Was it the word ‘wealthy’ or the word ‘fool’?” Ooo, snap, crackle and pop, Eliza! This gets a hearty and well-deserved laugh from the class. Wah-wah music plays as Bart follows the class out of the school.

As the Ingalls kids walk home with Clarence, Laura is keeping a lookout for Bart. Now might be a good time to point out that Carrie only seems to pop in and out when it is convenient. I don’t know why she isn’t with them now. Anyway, as soon as Laura spots Bart, she hands some tablets to Albert. Bart storms forward saying “You thought Ms. Wilder was real funny, didn’t you?” Laura says she did, but he was addressing Shorty, er, Albert, who is now foaming at the mouth. Albert pretends to spaz out and Laura goes to comfort him. She warns Bart that making Albert mad isn’t a good idea and sassing Ms. Wilder is bad for business. “He loves her. He loves her more than anything in the whole world. He’d even die for her.” Way to oversell it, half-pint. “Or kill,” Clarence adds. Bart actually starts to fall for this, but also suggests that maybe Albert has The Rabies (not the indefinite variety, either). Laura takes Albert away as Clarence and Bart look on. The big “kid” forces the little kid to tell him what’s going on. Clarence sells the story about Albert being a werewolf. Bart doesn’t fully buy it at first, “There aren’t any werewolves in Minnesota.” Yeah, those beasts are only in Wisconsin and the Chicago suburbs. Clarence seals the deal by giving Bart the copy of Ms. Wilder’s book. He also tells the bully that he can see the transformed version of Albert that night at the Ingalls’ barn.

That night Laura is babysitting and keeping watch for Bart. She summons Carrie to feed Grace and keep watch while she and Albert take care of business. Laura also tells Carrie to stay in the house. We then get treated to a scene of Carrie trying to feed the Raccoon: “Grace eat c’mon Grace eat Graaaace eat c’mon Grace eat c’mon or I’ll tell.” To recreate the effect at home, set up two blocks of wood so that one is shoving a bottle into the face of the other all while a rubber balloon is slowly deflating.

In the barn, Laura is putting the finishing touches on Albert’s disguise. A short while later, Clarence and Bart arrive. Laura exits the barn and asks what those two are doing. She doesn’t seem all that surprised that they are there, which is one of many tells that this probably isn’t going to work. She feigns outrage towards Clarence for spreading the Ingalls’ secret which is followed by Albert howling. This gets Bart’s attention. Laura checks to make sure that Bart wants to see this, and he agrees. She unlocks the barn door and beckons for Bart. Albert is chained to the wall and lunges for Bart. The “kid” flinches. Albert then breaks his chains and chases Bart out of the barn. Clarence trips Bart as he bolts out the door, giving Albert an opportunity to catch up. He grabs the papier-mache rock and lifts it above his head. Bart pleads with Albert and Laura. She tells him that Albert will stop only if Bart will do what the were-kid wants. Bart agrees. Laura’s demands include behaving in school, apologizing to Ms. Wilder and being nice. It’s not the most compelling list of demands but you can’t be too greedy.

At this point, Carrie comes out of the house asking for Laura to come inside. The elder Ingalls tries to shoo the younger girl away, but Carrie whines that the Raccoon isn’t eating. “And Albert,” she continues, “what are you doing with that paper rock you made?” Maybe this is why you aren’t invited anywhere, blabbermouth. Bart figures out what is going on and proceeds to wail on Albert. Yeah, you’d better run inside, Carrie.

The next morning, Laura and Carrie are still arguing over the bungling of the hoax. Albert breaks up the fight by saying it was nobody’s fault. Yikes. He’s starting to look a bit like Two-Face. “I guess there’s just not much a person can do alone,” Albert says, talking about what to do with Bart now. A light bulb goes off for Laura and she tells her siblings they need to get to school before the bully does. She and Carrie run off, but Albert is carrying his rock and needs to readjust before taking off.

When the kids arrive at the school, Laura runs up the steps and starts to ring the bell. After the students gather, she calls Albert up to the stoop so everyone can see what Bartholomew did to his face. “We’re losing a good teacher because of the same Bartholomew,” she says. “There isn’t anything anyone can do,” complains Willie, “he’s too big.” Laura nods and says, “There isn’t anything any one can do, but there’s plenty all of us can do.” Nothing like a Norma Rae moment to start the day. It would probably be taken more seriously if someone didn’t make a creepy clown face as their papier-mache project.

Showdown music starts to play as the Slater wagon approaches the schoolhouse. Mr. Slater heads into the Mercantile where we see the Wilders picking up some supplies. Ooh, it is a tense transaction with Mrs. Oleson. Meanwhile, Bart is walking over to the school. All the children are standing as a wall as the “kid” approaches. He struts over, papier-mache crocodile in hand, and comments on Albert’s eye. Laura tells Bart that she expects him to keep the promises he made the night before. “Who’s gonna make me?” he asks. The kids circle around Bart then collectively lunge at him. Oh good, they’re instilling angry mob justice at the grade school level. No hooligan left behind! Even the five year old girls are getting that gnashing in.

Ms. Wilder and Almanzo run out of the Mercantile when they hear the commotion. Mr. Slater is quick to follow. When he sees what’s going on he tries to rush over, but Manly stops him. “You’re the one who told me grown ups should let kids handle things on their own,” Almanzo tells Slater. As the camera zooms in on the mob, I can’t help but think of that scene in Galaxy Quest where the child-like aliens attack and gore their limping comrade.

Later that day, Ms. Wilder is hanging some clothes in the cloakroom. Bart is pretty roughed up as he walks up to Ms. Wilder. He apologizes and promises to behave himself. Ms. Wilder is speechless until the kids, who are all really roughed up, tell her to accept. I have a feeling there will be another school board meeting in the near future. Then they group hug, with Bart sitting off by himself.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Werewolf of Walnut Grove 4/5

Laura and Albert are in their jammies sitting on a bed, deep in thought. They’re also mourning Ms. Wilder’s departure. Laura’s sympathy is a little stretched as she knows that if Ms. Wilder leaves, so will Almanzo. Poor Laura. They decide they need to come up with a plan, but nothing is jumping to mind. They go to sleep.

The next day, Laura meets up with Almanzo outside the post office. She acts like she just found out about Ms. Wilder and he confirms the story. He also acknowledges that if Eliza leaves, he’ll be leaving Walnut Grove, too. They share a moment. Where’s Chris Hanson?

As Manly drives away, Albert runs up to Laura with some news. He has a copy of the werewolf book Ms. Wilder showed in class. They go through a lengthy and annoying deductive proof that eventually results in a plan to scare Bart with a werewolf. Even Laura is skeptical about this, but Albert pulls her along to his secret lab of buffoonery.

Oh, so the papier-mache stuff from earlier was relevant. The Raccoon waddles up to Laura and Albert who are working on a large mold. “What on Earth is that?” asks the Raccoon robotically. Strange, she sounds a little like Caroline. Oh, it was Caroline from off-screen. Albert says it is a project for school, specifically a rock. Caroline is a little skeptical of the artistic merit and practicality of a papier-mache rock, but she let’s the kids continue their work.

What follows is a semi-montage of supply gathering. They are cutting up something in the woodshed, maybe rope of some sort. We then see Laura trim off the beard of a man sleeping on a porch. We don’t get a good look of the before, but considering how much hair she chopped off it could not have been good. He looks alright now, though a little groggy. The Ingalls run off before Beardo realizes what happened.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Werewolf of Walnut Grove 3/5

Caroline is laughing at something as she takes some clothes off the line outside the Ingalls’ house. She notices that Albert, Laura and Carrie are home from school early. As they recap the morning’s events for Ma, Grace the Raccoon ambles to the laundry basket, retrieves a doll, and scurries away not unlike Gollum. After hearing the details, Caroline tells the kids to watch the Raccoon as she speaks to Pa about what’s going on.

We see Charles walking up to the schoolhouse. Ms. Wilder is sitting in the front row crying. She looks pretty put together for someone who has supposedly been crying for at least an hour. She sees Mr. Ingalls and tries to sputter out what happened. Charles tries to comfort her, but she says she can’t cope with Bart. He asks if Ms. Wilder has tried to talk to Mr. Slater, but she rehashes their one-way conversation/threat from earlier. Charles commiserates for a bit then heads over to the Slater Compound for a sit down with Papa Bart. As he leaves, Ms. Wilder confides that she needs the teaching job. Charles says he understands, but that the students need an education. I guess that is the polite, turn-of-the-century Minnesota way of saying “suck it up, lady.” She seems to catch his drift.

Over at Casa de Slater, Mr. Slater is not really receptive to anything Charles has to say. Apparently dad is taking Bart’s interpretation of events as the reality of the situation. This time, Ms. Wilder sent Bart to the corner, stood up too fast and knocked her own chair over, startling herself. That’s not even a good lie. Charles challenges this, but Mr. Slater says that he’ll believe his own son over the word of a stranger. I guess that’s why the year on Bart’s birth certificate looks like it has been erased and rewritten a couple of times. We then find out that Bart was hiding inside the barn the conversation took place in front of and he overheard everything. A self-satisfied smile crosses his face.

Almanzo is livid as Charles breaks the news to him and Eliza. Almanzo says he’ll discipline the kid himself, but Charles talks him down. Awww. He suggests leaving it up to the school board, but Eliza refuses. She’s not sure what her plan will be, but as she tries to formulate one a schoolyard rhyme is being yelled at the Wilder house. Eliza leaps up, runs to the door and sees that it’s Bart. “See you at school, Eliza Jane,” he yells as he runs away. Almanzo is about to pound the “kid’s” face in, but Eliza stops him. Instead, she agrees to the school board meeting.

Uh-oh. The school board consists of Nellie, Harriet, Doc Baker and Charles. Wait, if two people from the same family can be on the board, why isn’t Caroline there? Or Nels? At least they would bring some sanity to the proceedings. Also, four people? I guess ties protect the status quo but that seems a little unproductive. Anyway, Harriet raises the point that Mr. Slater has pledged a lot of money to the school fund drive and that expelling Bart will likely cancel that pledge. Why do I get the feeling that it was actually Mrs. Slater who made the pledge? Just a hunch. Charles states that if Bart sticks around, the school won’t function so the pledge money won’t do much good anyway. Mrs. Oleson is concerned that since Mr. Slater is such a big wheel in Walnut Grove that he could take his business elsewhere. Charles is okay with that conclusion, not wanting to sacrifice principle for profit. Nellie bitchily chimes in that if Ms. Wilder can’t control the class they should hire someone else and that they should now vote on the matter. The vote goes 2-2, so Bart gets to stay. Ms. Wilder leaves the schoolhouse defeated.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Werewolf of Walnut Grove 2/5

As Albert and Laura are walking home from school, Bart forces himself into helping Laura carry her books. She puts up a pretty good fight, but Albert steps in by telling “Bartholomew” to stop. “Don’t call me Bartholomew, shorty,” he responds. Albert, who is one-third the size of the new “kid” counters with “Don’t call me shorty, Bar-thol-o-meeeew,” then shoves the bully away. Sidebar: a few years later there’s an episode where Albert is revealed to be a morphine addict. I wonder if he got hooked on the stuff as a result from all the cruisin’ for bruisin’ that he evidently enjoys engaging in.

Anyway, Bart punches Albert squarely across the face and knocks him to the ground. Laura sees an opportunity to jump on Bart’s back to pull him away, but since he is more man than child (at least 90/10) he is still able to go after Albert. Almanzo, who is at work, can see the commotion and runs over to help. He struggles to pull Laura off of Bart and also Bart off of Albert. Bart tells him to butt out, causing Almanzo to ask if he really wants to fight with a girl. The bully says he was fighting Albert and Almanzo points out that the kid is half Bart’s size. It might be fair to point out that Bart is about the same size, if not a tad bigger, than Almanzo. “You’re not!” Bart says as he reels up a punch. Almanzo blocks him and gives the “kid” a solid gut shot. Almanzo sends the crowd home then gets his flirt on with Laura and her pigtail. Ick. He also takes a look at Albert’s eye and predicts a beauty of a shiner. As the Ingalls kids walk away, Bart yells at Albert “I’m gonna get you, shorty.” Albert almost engages again, but Laura pulls him back.

On the trail to the homestead, Laura is going on about Almanzo’s surplus awesomeness. Albert whines about how he didn’t need to be rescued, but Laura decides to razz Albert about it instead. They try to figure out what to tell Ma and Pa about Albert’s eye which turns into a lengthy discussion about lies of omission versus boldface lies. It’s not interesting filler. Somehow it works around to Albert needing to use his brains to beat Bart rather than his non-brawn. Laura warns him not to get his brains knocked out by Bart.

The next day Almanzo is dropping off his sister at the school when Mr. Slater intercepts them. He’s pissed. “WILDER! You hit my boy, yesterday.” Almanzo claims self-defense, but Mr. Slater says that Bart said that Almanzo started the fight for no reason. His name ain’t Tracy, Mr. Slater. Anyway, Almanzo calls bullshit and tries to explain what really happened. Mr. Slater cuts Manly off, saying that children fight amongst themselves so they should handle it. Almanzo says that doesn’t work when one of the kids involved is bigger than most grown men. At least this clears up whether Bart’s size was intentional or a grievous mistake from central casting. Mr. Slater says that he will take care of disciplining his child, and Almanzo tells him to get started. Ooooh, buuuurrrrrn. Slater says Bart behaves at home and that it’s the teacher’s job to make sure he behaves at school. “If you can’t Ms. Wilder, maybe the school board can find someone who can.” Oh dear.

During class, Ms. Wilder is writing something on the board when Bart starts a wadded paper fight with a couple other kids. She restores order then asks Albert to come up to the front and solve the math problem on the board. As he walks up Bart grabs the back of Albert’s suspenders and flings him backwards. Ms. Wilder asks Bart to stop. As Albert does the math, Bart places something on Albert’s seat. Apparently Mary isn’t the only blind one in the family as Laura doesn’t notice. Clarence tries to say something, but Ms. Wilder tells him to be quiet.

Albert completes the division problem without showing his work, which impresses Ms. Wilder. He goes to sit down and lands on a tack. Clarence pipes in that it was Bart who did it. Bart turns around, grabs the kid, lifts him up, and I think is about to unhinge his jaw to devour the poor boy before Ms. Wilder tells him to stand in the corner. “My pa ain’t gonna like this,” he says. She corrects his grammar and repeats her demand. As he moves towards the corner, he throws Ms. Wilder’s chair to the ground. I guess he’s preparing his monologue for his intro theater class at the community college. This startles Ms. Wilder and she commands Bart to pick up her chair. “Pick it up yourself,” he sneers. She tries for an ultimatum, but Bart calls her bluff before she gets to the “or else”. Ms. Wilder tries to regain her composure as she begins her lesson on decimals. She’s overwhelmed, decimated even, and decides to dismiss class. The kids file out. As Bart leaves, Ms. Wilder starts crying. She’s not really doing much for the harsh schoolmistress stereotype.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Werewolf of Walnut Grove 1/5

1980 – Albert and Laura plan to frighten a bully whose disruptions caused the teacher to resign.

A team of horses brings in this episode as they move towards a worksite outside a farmhouse. Two men, one named Mr. Slater, are discussing some blueprints for a silo project. Charles rides up with a lumber delivery just as the blueprint conversation finishes and Mr. Slater goes to unload Mr. Ingalls’ wagon. Mrs. Slater exits the farmhouse wearing what could best be described as a “Top of the Mournin’” ensemble: a grayish black dress with an inexplicable green hat. It is not fashion forward, even for 1890.

Mr. Slater calls for his son, Bartholomew, to get a move on as school is about to start. A younger gentleman, I’d say around age 25 exits the house. “Why do I have to wear these sissy clothes anyway?” he asks Mrs. Slater. Oh, apparently I was mistaken. He is not a gentleman. And I guess he’s not 25? Either that or he was held back...a lot. Bartholomew then asks his father why he has to go to school when he would rather work, but Mr. Slater says that this is what mom wants. Mrs. Slater cuts in to say that it takes brains and brawn to run a farm the size of Slater Estates. Bartholomew reluctantly mounts the wagon as his parents discuss the boy. “I wish you had talked to him about behavior,” Mrs. Slater says to her husband. “Schooling’s your idea, woman. You handle it.” Charming.

Mr. Slater leaves to give his workers some instructions as Mr. Ingalls looks on. As Mrs. Slater and Bartholomew depart, she tells her son to mind his manners and behave himself. She doesn’t want Bartholomew to get thrown out of this school. I have a feeling this might be important background information for later on.

At the schoolhouse, Ms. Wilder is looking over the new student’s transcripts and is less than impressed with Bartholomew's record. “Bart,” he corrects her, tersely. Thank goodness, I was not looking forward to typing out “Bartholomew” a hundred more times before this recap was done. Anyway, Ms. Wilder asks Bart to take a seat and he gives the room a onceover. He sees Laura, saunters over to the desk she shares with Albert and says hi. “I want to sit there, shorty,” he says to Albert. “I’m sitting here,” he replies. “I can fix that,” Bart says as he grabs Albert’s shoulder to shove him off the bench. Before he can do so, Willie Oleson hops out of his seat and offers Bart his desk. Brownnoser. Willie’s former deskmate Clarence sidles over to give Bart some space but Bart wants the whole space. When the kid, who I would say is maybe nine or ten, tells him to go fly a kite, Bart just bumps him off the end. The other kids laugh at this, causing Ms. Wilder to ask what is going on. Clarence sheepishly joins Willie in the back of the room. Ms. Wilder announces that there are two new projects coming up and is met with kids moaning.

Meanwhile at the Mercantile, Mrs. Slater interrupts Harriet as she warbles some song from the public domain. They chit chat about all of the renovations happening at the Slaughterhouse. Uh, Slater house. Mrs. Slater is looking for some drapery material and Mrs. Oleson starts gushing over some new swatches that just came in. The first fabric Harriet shows Mrs. Slater looks not unlike the background here, only with a brown base instead of blue. Mrs. Slater tries to laugh it off, but comes right out and says that it is absolutely awful. It sounds rude, but it doesn’t come off that way since she is objectively correct. Harriet tries to say that Nels picked out the fabric, blah blah blah, but he comes in and asks if she is still trying to sell the horrible fabric she ordered. Mrs. Oleson tries to laugh it off. What is the point of this scene?

Back at the school, Ms. Wilder just revealed the new project for the kiddies. We don’t know what that project is, which explains why we just wasted 3 minutes at the Mercantile. Anyway, a kid asks what can be written about the sky. Ms. Wilder suggests writing about the influences the moon has on the Earth. The kid asks for clarification. Ms. Wilder first mentions tides and follows that with exploring the moon’s effects on people. “You mean like making them lovey dovey?” Willie asks jokingly. Ms. Wilder smiles, albeit disapprovingly, and says “more seriously, it is said that many people’s minds go awry at the full of the moon.” Umm, I think Willie may have out-serioused you on that one, Ms. Wilder. “That is the derivation of the word lunatic,” she continues. Kids love that Latin. Bart sees this as an opportunity to blubber his lips with his fingers. Sure, why not? Laura and Albert glare at him as the other kids laugh.

Ms. Wilder either ignores Bart or didn’t notice as she prattles on about the moon, delving into the topic of werewolves. “Are there really werewolves, Ms. Wilder?” Carrie asks. This piques Bart’s interest. Ms. Wilder says that she doesn’t personally doesn’t believe they exist, but she does have a copy of "Werewolf written by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould in 1865.” Not the correct title or publishing date, but I do give Ms. Wilder props for at least presenting both sides of the debate. She also mentions that he wrote “Onward, Christian Soldiers”, which is correct. That was written in 1865, so maybe that’s where the mistake came in. Come on, Little House, where are my fact checkers?

Ms. Wilder introduces the second project by commenting on the marvelous work Clarence does with papier-mache. She invites him to the front of the room for a demonstration. Both Clarence and Ms. Wilder pronounce “papier” as three syllables instead of saying “paper”, which is really screwing with my Midwestern sensibilities. Anyway, he removes the cloth on Ms. Wilder’s desk to show all the things you can make with this technique. A huge mess does not make the short list. Ms. Wilder gets over stimulated by the purple kangaroo, to which Bart makes a face not unlike the one I’m making: “calm down, ma’am.” Clarence continues with the demo and Ms. Wilder invites Bart to try it out. He walks up to the front of the room, takes a strip of paper and uses Clarence’s head as a mold. I can see why a huge mess didn’t make the short list. The class laughs, including Laura and Albert though she tries to compose herself, and Ms. Wilder freaks out. “What are you doing?!” she squeals. “I’m making a midget,” Bart responds. I’ll give that a point, though he would have gotten more if he had said a purple midget. Ms. Wilder tells Clarence to go outside and clean up and tells Bart to go help and apologize. She warns him that she will ask Clarence if he received a proper apology. I wonder if we’ll ever see or hear Clarence again.