Saturday, March 14, 2009

Next Week: The Raccoon

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I thought it might be nice/nifty to put up a preview of what's in store for next week's recap.

"The Raccoon" 1974 - After Laura's pet raccoon bites her and the dog, Charles and Caroline discover it is rabid.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder 5/5

The stage bringing Mr. Stoeler has arrived and Nels greets him and offers a glass of lemonade. Meanwhile, the classroom is a-shambles as the kids are throwing papers and books and are just genuinely chaotic. Mrs. Oleson has no control as even Hilde has gotten in on the action. Then Laura storms in and gets all drill sergeant with the class as she commands everyone to stop. She calls out Albert for his shameful behavior. Mrs. Oleson is torn up because she doesn’t know why this happened, leading Laura to explain what the kids planned. Harriet is shocked by this but Laura apologizes for what happened. She goes on to make a speech about how she expected Mrs. Oleson to fail, but everyone has learned a lot during this difficult time, blah blah blah. The speech concludes with a rousing call to clean up the classroom, most of which is accomplished by Harriet. Hehe.

Some time passes and the inspection is in full swing. The class demonstrates the French lesson about the new dress with the blue parachute. It does remind me of my French class where the repeating en masse sounded more like some cultish dirge than communication in a foreign tongue. The demo ends and we can see Mr. Stoeler nodding in approval. Harriet dismisses the class and the grown-ups chat for a bit. Mr. Stoeler is impressed and will recommend the grant. However, Mr. Stoeler is concerned that the expanded curriculum isn’t particularly relevant for the local area. It turns out French was only used as an example and was not a direct suggestion. Nels is biting his tongue so hard that I’m worried that blood is going to start dripping. Harriet is disappointed with how this conversation is going and seems almost offended when Mr. Stoeler suggests, directly this time, that perhaps agriculture should be taught. Since this isn’t in Harriet’s wheelhouse she starts stammering a rebuttal. Nels quickly intercedes and reminds Mr. Stoeler that his stage will be leaving shortly. Mr. Stoeler congratulates and thanks Mrs. Oleson again for the demonstration and departs. Nels also gets in one last dig, reminding Harriet that this was exactly what Laura suggested.

Laura is putting laundry on the clothesline when she sees all the kids from school approaching. Albert introduces Ralph, who asks if Laura is still mad. Laura is getting over it and appreciates all the kids’ compliments. The kids also have news that Mrs. Oleson wants Laura to take her job back. Laura says she will come back only if the kids promise not to wear the uniforms anymore. Aww.

The next day Laura rings the morning bell and the kids file in wearing all the latest Walnut Grove fashions. Starting today, the class will be studying agriculture which the kids seem genuinely interested in. Laura starts writing “crop rotation” on the chalkboard and Ralph seizes this moment to yank Willie’s hair. He yelps again, causing Laura to turn around. This time, Ralph gets busted after Laura goes through a lengthy explanation of peripheral vision. After Ralph gets sent to the corner, the show ends with Willie being far too excited that it isn’t him in the corner for once.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder 4/5

At school, Harriet is leading the class in a French lesson. She starts counting at them and expects them to repeat. Okay, I took two years of French and I know my accent is not good but it was not as bad as what is going down in Walnut Grove at this very moment. Also, “trois” is not two syllables (nor is it “trios”, Microsoft Word). After they reach ten/“dix” Mrs. Oleson tells the class their pronunciation is terrible, which is rich considering she hits the “p” hard in “sept”. She asks Albert to stand up so she can ridicule his pronunciation. As Mrs. Oleson demonstrates how to say “tuh-wahhhhhhhh” Ralph pulls Willie’s hair and he yelps again. Harriet sends Willie to the corner, which is dumb because she should have seen what Ralph did since they are sitting right next to Albert.

The kids leave school and are really getting fed up with the new classes. Willie runs to catch up with Ralph and Albert. He threatens Ralph that he won’t get fooled again. Ralph says “oh yeah?” and then Willie takes a swing. Ralph ducks and he happens to have been standing in front of a post which gets the brunt of Willie’s wrath. Hehe. Albert and Ralph head home and Albert starts to reminisce about the days when Laura was teaching. Ralph suggests trying to get Laura to come back. He asks when Mr. Stoeler is coming back and the answer is tomorrow. Ooo, a conspiracy.

Laura is hoeing in the garden as Albert approaches. They chit chat for a bit, talking about how people can’t stand Mrs. Oleson. Albert tells his sister that the kids want her back and Laura admits that she wants to return as well. In fact, she was hoping that Harriet would fail so that the parents would beg Laura to come back. Albert says that could still happen, but Laura is pessimistic. Albert reminds Laura that Mr. Stoeler is coming back for the inspection and hints that if things look bad, the school won’t get the grant. Laura is picking up what Albert is laying down but she doesn’t seem to be fully on board with whatever Albert is planning.

That evening at dinner, Manly is wondering if Albert is really going to pull some shenanigans. Laura isn’t sure, but she’s confident that things will work out. She brings out supper and Almanzo asks what it is. That is not a good way to start a meal. Tonight’s entrée is Chilled Lemon Chicken with Aspic and Tarragon. Almanzo seems to disagree with at least 80% of the contents of that description. Laura is excited about trying something new but her hubby is positively befuddled by what is on his plate. He keeps asking questions and Laura is not amused. Manly says he might like it if he took the skin off (BAD IDEA) and Laura storms out.

Over at the Oleson house, Harriet is putting on her night mask as she preps for tomorrow’s French demonstration. Nels is trying to stay as uninvolved in the whole teaching fiasco that is likely to unfold.

Back at the Wilder house, Laura is grousing in the bedroom. Almanzo enters and apologizes for the whole dinner debacle. Turns out Laura is actually upset about what she suspects will happen tomorrow at the school and that she kind of wants whatever is about to go down to happen. She really wants her job back, but she doesn’t know if she wants Mrs. Oleson to quit under these circumstances. Personally, I would prefer circumstances that involve tar and feathers, but Laura is nicer than I am.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder 3/5

Even Hilde is bored with Mrs. Oleson’s art appreciation presentation. Today’s lesson is Renaissance Art. Hmmm. It’s mostly naked ladies, so Ralph and Willie are extra interested. Albert looks terrified. The class is tittering (hehe, tittering) at the pictures of “modest” young maidens. Mrs. Oleson is getting pretty irritated while I’m just getting uncomfortable. It's like your grandma talking to you about sex.

After school the boys are complaining about all the changes at the school. They aren’t fans of French and Ralph in particular doesn’t like dressing like a “sissy”. Says he of the long flowing locks. Sorry, I’m not a fan of that particular term unless it is preceded by “Bobby and”. I’m actually not a fan of that either, but at least I’m not mildly offended. It’s at this point that Albert reveals that he has gotten around the sock rule by putting coal dust on his legs. You know, a less messy work around would be to make sure your shoes aren’t scuffed so Mrs. Oleson doesn’t check your legs. She’ll probably notice coal dust if she is looking for socks.

Meanwhile, Ralph’s dad pays a visit to Mrs. Oleson at the school. “My boy says you’ve been showing dirty pictures in here,” he informs her. Mrs. Oleson is at first shocked by this accusation, until she realizes that it is the artwork that Mr. Parker is referring to. Harriet tries to explain a distinction between artistic models and boobapalooza, but Mr. Parker doesn’t really care about context. She pulls out the copies of the artwork in question and he takes a look at them. Mr. Parker is shocked by one of them, which Mrs. Oleson dismisses by saying it is a very famous painting called “The Bathers”. I’d show it to you, but that is also a very a common title and I don’t know exactly which one she is referring to. Mr. Parker looks at another one and asks what the title is. Mrs. Oleson hems and haws a bit before answering “The Rape of the Sabine Women”. Isn’t that a little hardcore for the 7 year olds in the class, Harriet? Mr. Parker has had enough and threatens to bring in the law if Mrs. Oleson doesn’t stop with the naked ladies.

That evening, Ma and Pa are enjoying dinner with Laura and Almanzo at the Wilder house. Caroline is praising the meal and the house while Manly goes on about how everything is so tidy now that Laura is home full time. Laura is visibly uncomfortable during this conversation. Charles notices this and tries to change the subject, but it ends up circling back to Laura not being as busy as she used to be. Everyone tries to console her, but the idea of being only a good homemaker (her words, not mine) and not being a teacher is making her feel useless. She runs into the kitchen crying. Manly follows and gives her a hug. They chat some and he reassures his wife that everything will be okay.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder 2/5

It’s nighttime at the homestead. Albert comes down from the loft to see if there is any cake left, but Caroline is saving what’s left for tomorrow. Charles tosses the kid an apple and Albert goes back to bed. Ma and Pa are going over the list of items the kids will need now that a new dress code is in effect. Albert overhears this and calls down that they won’t need to bother with black stockings. Caroline reminds him that he only has one pair, but Albert is standing his ground that he will not wear stockings to school. Charles chuckles at this and okays the request. He finishes totaling up the list and notices that Caroline is quiet. She’s worried about how Laura loved teaching and it has essentially been taken away from her. Charles suggests that Laura may have been looking for an out, but Caroline doesn’t buy that theory for a second. Neither does Charles.

The next day at school all the kids are in uniforms: the boys looking like bored waiters at the Olive Garden and the girls ready to audition for Pirates of Penzance. Mrs. Oleson starts ringing the bell and ushering the children inside. Once everyone is in, Harriet tells the kids to line up for inspection. The kids split up along the aisle as Mrs. Oleson Soul Trains down the line doing the Stocking Check Shuffle. She stops at one girl who is not wearing white stockings. The girl sheepishly mentions that her parents can’t afford stockings, prompting Harriet to set up a layaway plan for the child. Gross. Harriet works her way around to the boys’ side of the aisle and stops at Albert when she notices his shoes are scuffed. Upon closer inspection she sees that he is not wearing black socks. She does not set up a layaway plan for him as his reason for not wearing them is because he only wears black socks for special occasions. Harriet is not impressed.

After inspections are over a man and his son enter the room. The boy’s name is Ralph Parker and he is about the same age as Albert and Willie. He asks why everyone is dressed the same. “Because I require it,” Mrs. Oleson replies, either icily (yikes) or sexily (YIKES). Ralph and his father have a whispered chat. Ralph: “I ain’t gettin’ up with that.” Pop: “You’ll do as you’re told.” Ralph: “It looks dumb.” Pop: “Mind your mouth boy or I’ll put my fist in it.” Oh, geez. Mr. Parker assures Mrs. Oleson that Ralph will have his clothes tomorrow and leaves as Ralph heads toward his seat. Before Harriet can complete her first sentence of her first lesson, Ralph blows a raspberry and everyone laughs. “Who made that rude noise?” demands Harriet. Ralph then pinches Willie who cries out in pain. Because someone who yelps is obviously a troublemaker, Harriet sends her son to the corner.

That evening while cooking dinner, Harriet prepares her French lesson. If I can get the gray sludge covering the part of my brain where I stored my tenth grade French class, I can try to translate. “Do you like my new dress? Yes, I like your new dress. Do you have your…blue feather(?). No, I do not have my…blue parachute(?).” Nels interrupts Harriet before my brain melts. He asks about dinner, but Harriet goes on about how her plan is to do an ask/response exercise for tomorrow’s French class. Yeah, repeating sentences with conjugated verbs with no context other than Mrs. Oleson basically doing ads for the mercantile is a fantastic way to learn a foreign language. Nels asks her how to say “do you think supper will ever be ready?” Harriet starts to translate but then realizes what her husband did there. She is not amused by that or his threat that he will go to the restaurant in five minutes. She chases him out of the kitchen while tossing French insults his way. Je suis fatigué de ceci, laissez-moi vous disent.

Goodbye, Mrs. Wilder 1/5

1981 – Mrs. Oleson’s constant interference prompts Laura to quit as Walnut Grove’s teacher.

Sorry for the extended hiatus, folks. Like I mentioned earlier, February is the craziest month of the year for me and unfortunately this project had to take a backseat for a while. The good news is I am mostly back and ready to work. Let me just say that this episode is…appropriate for now. Enjoy!

Wagons are circling outside of the school as we zoom in on the building’s front door. I’m guessing this is going to be a school heavy episode. Laura is quizzing the kids about New York City geography. That’s useful information, I suppose, if one of the kids invents game shows. I dunno, it is almost like quizzing kids about the neighborhoods of London – it’s only useful if you end up going there. Laura asks if any of the kids can name one of the five major areas of the city. Hilde raises her hand and guesses “Manhattan”. Before she can advance to the lightning round, Willie shoots a spitball at a kid sitting behind Hilde. Laura glares at Willie, who remarks “I didn’t do nothin’.” “Anything!” Laura angrily corrects. “I didn’t do that neither,” he replies. The class laughs, then Willie asks why they need to learn about NYC. “In case you go anywhere outside Minnesota you’ll have something besides total ignorance to take with you.” For some reason Albert finds this funny and starts laughing.

Laura moves on to the lightning round and asks Hilde if she can name the other four areas. Hilde declines the offer, as do the rest of her classmates. Laura testily gives out the answer then asks what the designation is for those five areas. Meanwhile, Willie preps another spitwad. Laura catches him before he fires and asks if he knows the answer. Willie says he doesn’t know and Laura informs him they are called boroughs. “I thought ‘boroughs’ were some kind of a donkey,” he replies, playing(?) dumb. The class laughs again, frustrating Laura further. She writes on the board the two different spellings of borough/burro, to which Willie responds with hee-haw sounds. Laura sends Willie to the corner.

Laura continues the lesson by talking about the Brooklyn Bridge. She asks which borough is on the non-Manhattan side of the bridge. Laura is met with glazed eyes. “It’s called the Brooklyn Bridge,” she snarls. “Does anyone find it logical that it might be connected to Brooklyn?” You know, maybe the class didn’t want to acknowledge the insult to their intelligence by answering such an inane question.

Oh cripes, Mrs. Oleson is wandering in. She has a gentleman guest with her, but she seems more concerned about Willie being in the corner than introducing the man. Laura tells Willie to sit down as his mother nervously chuckles. Mrs. Oleson then introduces Mr. Stoeler, a member of the State Board of Education. Oh, geez. If the Minnesota Board operates at all like the Walnut Grove Board this school is going to be in a lot of trouble. Mrs. Oleson goes on to explain that he is visiting to give an evaluation of the school for the School Improvement Program. If the evaluation goes well, the school might be able to get some grant money for renovations and supplies. Mr. Stoeler tells Laura that he will be sitting in to see how the class is doing. Ooo, bad timing for that. Laura asks the class another random-ass question to which no one responds.

We see Almanzo arriving home from work. He enters the house and announces his arrival. Laura is so not in the mood and tells him not to cause such a ruckus. Manly asks Laura about her day. “I had the kind of day that makes me wonder why I ever wanted to be a teacher in the first place,” she rants. “What makes otherwise intelligent students suddenly become rude, unruly, and stupid?” Now wait just a minute, Mrs. Wilder. The best teachers I have had were the type that inspired me to learn. Rote Q&A is not all that inspirational, nor is the snoring that would happen if the unruly kids didn’t act up and keep everyone else awake. I hope that wasn’t too rude. Put another way, the kids aren’t fully to blame, half-pint. Manly tries to be sympathetic as Laura annihilates the peas she is snapping. She goes on to rant about Mrs. Oleson and her constant meddling. Almanzo suggests that Laura take a break, but apparently Mrs. Oleson called an emergency meeting of the school board. Manly reads the room and decides to go tend to the horses while Laura pulls out a giant knife to cut some parsley. I hope she doesn’t bring the knife to the meeting.

This week’s school board is composed of Nels, Harriet, Charles, Doc Baker, and a couple of townies who are there for quorum. Harriet is arguing that the school is not meeting state standards and unless the curriculum is updated the school will not get their basic assistance grant. Laura asks what Mr. Stoeler disliked and Mrs. Oleson explains that education is no longer about the three R’s. Charles asks what should be added to the curriculum. Art appreciation and French top the list, which Nels is dumbstruck by. Harriet is also concerned that there is no real dress code in the school. “Some of the children come to school looking like common little beggars,” she says bluntly. You know Harriet, unless you plan on supporting Willie for the rest of your days there is a strong likelihood that you’ll have a common little beggar associated with the Oleson name. Just a heads up.

Anyway, Laura is not only offended by Harriet’s classism but the mere idea of covering art appreciation and French is just too overwhelming. Harriet offers to tutor Laura, but Laura is more concerned about the students learning the essentials. I have to agree, though my humanities-loving heart is aching a bit. Mrs. Oleson is digging in her heels, claiming that if other schools can do it, Walnut Grove can do it. Laura points out that other schools have more than one teacher, which Harriet interprets as weakness on Laura’s part that she can’t handle an extended schedule. Charles intervenes, pointing out that the future farmers and wives of farmers probably won’t need French. Nels agrees, adding that the idea of Willie taking on two extra courses would cause him to be in school the rest of his life. Bwah! Oh, Nels, never change.

Laura agrees with Nels’ point, saying it would be too much for any student. “Well,” starts Harriet, who is approaching maximum huffiness, “properly taught I’m sure that they could manage.” Surprisingly, Laura does not flip the bitch switch, though she is thinking about it. Mrs. Oleson also reminds the room that she has a teaching certificate and that she would have been an international star of the teaching world had she not married Nels. Keep it classy, Harriet, you’re doing great so far.

After questioning Laura’s credentials, Harriet moves for a vote on the curriculum. Nels abstains, but the townies and Harriet vote for the change. Laura is disappointed, but asks Mrs. Oleson for reassurance that one teacher can handle the workload. Harriet chuckles a positive response. “Good,” Laura says while flipping the switch, “because I quit. Ladies and gentlemen meet your new school teacher.” She storms out and the rest of the board slowly follows her out the door. Harriet remains standing at the desk.