Saturday, April 25, 2009

Next Week's Episode


1979 - Although the people of Walnut Grove are delighted when a carnival comes to town, Nels Oleson (Richard Bull) is in despair. It seems that the carnival's fat lady, Annabelle (Harriet Gibson), is Mr. Oleson's long-estranged sister. Elsewhere, Laura (Melissa Gilbert) has a new rival for the affections of Almanzo (Dean Butler) in the form of snooty Christie (Wendy Schaal). ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Ellen 5/5

The next day Mrs. Taylor has decided to do some shopping at the Mercantile. Harriet starts to offer her condolences, but Mama Taylor cuts her off with cheerfulness. She asks for some candles and Harriet goes to retrieve them. As she grabs some table candles, Heloise corrects her and asks for twelve birthday candles. Harriet looks confused at first but eventually fulfills the request. Heloise then notices a doll on the counter and remarks on its beauty and that it must be expensive. Harriet agrees and tells her that it’s $4. Heloise decides to buy it, remarking that “they’re only little girls for such a short time, it can’t hurt to spoil them some.” Harriet just stands there absorbing everything like some gobsmacked sponge until Heloise asks for the total. Harriet completes the transaction with a concerned look on her face.

The search party has reassembled back at the Busby ranch. As they walk around Mr. Garvey hears a rustling sound. Cal thinks it must be birds, but Garvey suspects it is something else. He looks over at a tree, calls out for Busby, and the guy who was reading the book jumps out of the tree. Busby starts to run and most of the posse chase after him. Cal decides to run along the ridge going around the other side of the house and draws a bead on Busby. He fires and Busby is down. When the posse catches up to the man, they notice that the wound looks pretty bad and take him to Doc Baker.

At the Doc’s office, Busby is patched up but not really in any condition to talk. However, it appears that he was of diminished capacity before getting shot in the head, so there’s no telling how lucid he’s going to be now. Charles asks the man where Laura is, but Busby is virtually non-responsive. Charles tells him “nobody is going to hurt you” so long as he tells him where Laura is. Busby doesn’t answer, probably because he is using all of his strength to not die, and Charles grabs him and starts to shake him. Garvey stops him before he hurts Busby and then shows Mr. Ingalls how to play Good Cop/Bad Cop. He calmly and quietly asks Busby where he found the book and flowers. Busby mumbles something that after viewing five times with headphones on I still can’t make out. I think the gist is “I dunno.” Garvey tries to goad the answer from Busby by promising that no one is going to hurt him. Seeing as it has only been thirty seconds since Charles made the same promise and instantly reneged, I don’t see that as an effective tactic. Busby glances over at Charles and says “That’s...not...true.” Ha! “I just pictures.” He starts to sob a little, most likely overwhelmed by the situation and then loses consciousness. Doc Baker declares him too weak from blood loss.

Charles stands in place for a moment, contemplating his next move. Cal, meanwhile, looks at the ground, probably thinking that he should have just stayed home and did some laundry or something. “If he dies I’ll never find my daughter,” Charles says quietly to Cal. When Cal doesn’t offer a response, Charles grabs him by the shirt collar and looks ready to pummel him. Garvey stops the physical part of the altercation, but Charles asks Cal why he shot Busby. Cal just says “I’m sorry.”

At this moment Harriet barges in looking for Mr. Taylor. Doc Baker yells out “Not now, Mrs. Oleson,” probably because there’s enough dramarama happening in his office without her getting involved. Harriet apologizes for the intrusion, but goes on to describe the bizarre transaction that just took place with Heloise. “She was so strange,” she says, “she said that Ellen brought her some flowers yesterday.” This catches everyone’s attention.

Down in the root cellar, Mama Taylor is lighting the candles on a tasty looking cake. Wait; there are only ten candles, maybe eleven, on that cake. There certainly aren’t twelve. After she lights the last candle, Mama Taylor tells Laura Ellen to make a wish before she blows out the candles. Laura thinks for a moment and then suggests that if they both close their eyes they will both get a wish. Heloise politely refuses, saying that it’s Laura Ellen’s birthday, but Laura replies, “I want you to have a wish too...mama.” I think Laura could have an excellent career in psychology, if only modern psychology wasn’t twenty-five years away from being established. Heloise thinks about this, has another Ellen hallucination and decides to make a wish. Once Mama Taylor closes her eyes to think of her wish, Laura makes a run for it. Run, Laura, run!

Once outside, Laura makes a dash for the hilly wooden area but keeps losing her footing. Mama Taylor eventually catches up with her in a spot marked by a little wooden cross. Oh, jeez, they’re at Ellen’s grave. Really, show? Laura’s had enough of Mama Taylor’s dementia and keeps saying she’s Laura. Heloise is still immersed in the denial phase and keeps screaming “No!” After two or three rounds of this, Laura screams out “Ellen’s dead!” This catches Mama Taylor’s attention. Laura points out that they are at Ellen’s grave and it finally sinks in for Heloise. She realizes what mistakes she has made and hugs Laura. Laura reminds her that God can help her if she just gives him a chance. Here are a few hints for Heloise: don’t throw Bibles at people of the cloth and don’t try to assimilate other people’s children. That’ll probably move you through God’s queue a little faster.

As Mama Taylor contemplates the universe a bit at the grave, we can hear a wagon driving by. Laura looks over and notices that it is the search party, including her Pa. She runs over to the wagon and rejoins her father. She says she is fine and that Mrs. Taylor is okay and by the grave. Cal walks over to join his wife in the final phase: acceptance.

Later on we see Laura cutting through the Busby fence with a big smile on her face. She runs over to the shack to check in with Mr. Busby. She hands him the book for him to keep. I guess he was the Boo Radley of Walnut Grove. Or maybe Lenny without the rabbits. Either way, Laura says she wants to be his friend and he seems to appreciate it. Aww.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Ellen 4/5

Mary is running from the school over to the mill. Pa asks why she isn’t at school and Mary says Miss Beadle let her go to try to find where Laura might be. She recaps her last encounter with Laura and that she was last seen cutting across the Busby place. Pa and Mr. Garvey share a worried glance. Aside from a couple of peeping Tom kids, what’s the big deal with the Busby place, anyway? Pa says Laura knows better than that and Mr. Garvey suggests that maybe Laura is still visiting with Mrs. Taylor. Pa sends Mary back to school and he and Jonathan go to the Taylor homestead to check things out.

Mama Taylor peeks through the window and sees Garvey’s wagon approaching. Surprisingly, this scene is filmed like an episode of Cops. Charles calls from the wagon asking if Laura has stopped by to visit. Heloise lies and says Laura hasn’t been there. Charles accepts this and decides to move on to the Busby place. Oh good, maybe now we’ll see what the problem is there.

We see Ellen’s slate and the flowers on the ground and a guy squatting nearby reading The House That Jack Built. The guy looks to be in his thirties, but given how riveted he is by the book he may not necessarily be functioning as a thirty-something. He sees the wagon approaching and decides to run and hide. Charles and Mr. Garvey hop off the wagon and run up to the nearby shack, barging in the front door calling out for Busby. Charles frantically says he is going to check out the creek while Jonathan calmly says he’ll keep watch near the shack. He speculates that Laura might already be back at school. That is until he spots the flowers and slate on the ground. Charles checks out the items and determines that they are Laura’s.

Back at the Taylor house, Heloise climbs down to the cellar and hands Laura a dress. “Put this on,” she requests. Laura asks to be let go but Heloise repeats her request. Laura takes the dress (or else she gets the hose again) and starts to change clothes. Mama Taylor starts walking around and talking about how much she loved the root cellar when she was a child. She lights a lantern as she recalls having wonderful dreams when she slept in the root cellar. She turns to look at Laura and asks her to come into the light. Out walks a blonde child and for a minute I thought she gave Laura a Hannah Montana wig along with the dress. No, it’s just another hallucination. Or is it a delusion? Either way: tres creepy. Back in reality, Laura is just sort of standing there uncertain of what to do next as Heloise walks over and starts petting Laura’s head. Mama Taylor then takes Laura’s pigtails and unravels the braids. “Oh Ellen, my beautiful Ellen.” Laura tries to correct Mrs. Taylor, but the crazy lady tells her “No, say ‘I love you, Mama.’” Laura just looks at her, so Mama Taylor repeats her instructions. Remember Furby? Laura sort of looks like one with her hair down and this scene is exactly like trying to teach your Furby how to talk, crazy eyes and all. After a beat, Laura stammers out “I love you, Mama,” and gets a big hug from Heloise. She makes Laura Ellen promise to never leave her. This would be the “Stockholm Syndrome” phase of the grief process.

Back in town, Charles and Mr. Garvey have organized a search party at the Mercantile. As the posse heads out, Cal Taylor walks up to Mr. Garvey and Nels and offers his assistance. Mr. Taylor brought a rifle with him and Mr. Garvey says that won’t be necessary. “Maybe, maybe not,” says Cal. “All I know is my daughter drowned. A good swimmer, but she drowned.” So the gun would have kept her from drowning? I’m not following his logic. The posse ends up combing the Busby land but they’re having no luck. Charles suggests getting lanterns since dusk is approaching, but Mr. Garvey is fairly sure that nighttime searching won’t bring about results. He tells Charles to go home and they can resume the search in the morning. Charles reluctantly agrees and ends up hitching a ride with Cal. Before they depart, Cal reminds Charles that he knows how he must feel but at least Mr. Ingalls has hope. He also says that Ellen’s twelfth birthday would be tomorrow. You know what sucks about grief duels? No one wins.

Night has fallen by the time Charles gets back to the homestead. Caroline opens the door for him and the two hug as Mary watches from the doorway. Cal watches this play out and he looks a bit sadder when he alerts the houses to get a move on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Ellen 3/5

At the mill, Charles and Mr. Garvey are making some repairs on the water wheel. Jonathan is sitting inside the wheel working on some internal repairs while Charles is fixing something on the top. Charles says he’s ready and heads over to the reservoir. At first Mr. Garvey was ready, but before he leaves the wheel he sees another repair he needs to make. He tells Charles to hold up a second, but Charles doesn’t hear him. Charles pulls the blocker out of the reservoir and water starts heading down the aqueduct. The wheel starts to turn with Jonathan inside. Luckily it is a simple wheel-and-axle setup, so Mr. Garvey only gets flipped upside down instead of ground into bits. He still cries out as if he’s getting ground to bits. I guess Jonathan isn’t a spinning ride kind of guy. Charles doesn’t notice anything wrong until he is practically standing next to the wheel, but once he notices the problem he runs up to the reservoir to block the water again. Charles runs back down to check on Garvey, who says he hasn’t been that dizzy since the Sleepy Eye Juggler contest. That...makes no sense. Anyway, Charles asks again if Garvey is alright and he replies that he is going to get a sarsaparilla and have a sit-down. Once he leaves, Charles cracks up. This better be important later – I hate writing “sarsaparilla” in vain.

Later on, Charles loads up a wagon with sacks of something and the customer drives off. Reverend Alden stops by and tells Charles that he stopped by the Taylor place this morning. Wait, are we time traveling now? Alden says that Heloise still doesn’t want to talk to him or her husband, so there's no continuity issue. Anyway, Charles is surprised that Cal is getting the silent treatment, and the Reverend informs him that she blames her husband for Ellen’s death also. Alden says that there is no rational reason for any of these accusations and that Heloise is a woman on the verge. His suggestion: Send Caroline over to chat with the bereaved. No good could possibly come of that. His reasoning is that sometimes a woman’s understanding is far more helpful than a preacher saying “be strong.” women in the clergy because of the competition? Charles agrees that this might help and says he’ll ride home right away and ask Caroline.

It looks like Caroline agreed since we now see her walking over to the Taylor house. Cal is outside loading the wagon. She greets Mr. Taylor and explains the reason for her visit. He warns her that she’ll probably be wasting her time. I do love it when the tertiary characters are the smartest ones in the room. It turns out the reason he is loading the wagon is because Heloise asked him to leave. I’m guessing it was more like “demanded”, but it’s the same result either way. Caroline grimly nods and he goes on to say that he’s tired of the fighting and he too needs time to grieve. He mounts the wagon and tells Caroline that he’ll be at his cousin Clay’s if Heloise wants him for any reason.

After Cal rides away, Caroline knocks on the front door. “I told you to go and not come in,” Heloise says. I assume she is mistaking Caroline for Cal, but I’m not 100% positive. Caroline announces herself and says she was hoping they could talk. “Go home to your family,” Heloise says, “take care of your children; you’re not welcome here.” Caroline leaves dejected.

The girls are walking by the same fenced area as that fateful Friday. Carrie is slowing the girls down and Mary tells her to hurry up. Carrie says she doesn’t want to go because she doesn’t have a present. “We’ll tell Miss Beadle it’s from both of us,” Mary says. Are they going to school or a birthday party? Laura calls “No Fair” on this since she has flowers and the other two have a “real gift”. Mary decides to say the gift is from all three girls, but then Carrie calls “NO FAIR” because they’re back to the 3:2 present ratio. Oy. Laura comes up with the compromise that they’ll give the gift to Miss Beadle and she’ll give the flowers to Mrs. Taylor. Mary reminds her sister that Mrs. Taylor still isn’t very social yet, but Laura says she’ll leave them at the doorstep then. Laura decides to take the shortcut through the Busby land, even though Pa said not to go that way.

Laura reaches the Taylor house without any trouble and knocks on the door. There’s no response, so she knocks again. Somehow her gentle rapping causes the door to swing all the way open. She walks in while calling out for Mrs. Taylor. Laura looks straight ahead the whole time and doesn’t notice Mrs. Taylor standing in the doorway to Ellen’s bedroom. Heloise asks Laura what she wants and Laura offers her the flowers. Mrs. Taylor slowly walks over, takes the flowers and holds them the way one would hold a newborn baby. Laura watches this, cautiously, as Heloise muses on how Ellen always brought her flowers. Heloise looks over at Laura and smiles. Laura has been replaced with a soft focus version of Ellen. Uh oh.

The smile quickly vanishes and Mrs. Taylor says she’ll put the flowers in water. Laura is unsure of what to do and notices Ellen’s school supplies sitting on the table. Heloise explains that she got the supplies ready out of habit and then begins to ask “why? Why did it happen?” Oh good, we’ve progressed to the bargaining phase. “She was such a good girl,” starts Heloise who turns around and sees Ellen once more. Ellen is wearing Laura’s outfit, which I hope was not a regular occurrence because Ellen doesn’t really mesh with Laura’s aesthetic. She gives the kid a once over, but when given a second over she reverts back to Laura.

Laura gets sufficiently weirded out by this display and says she needs to go to school. Heloise asks Laura for a favor before she goes. She says she’s gotten her appetite back and was wondering if Laura could fetch some apples from the root cellar. Laura agrees, not fully comprehending the crazy in Heloise’s eyes. As soon as Laura is in the cellar and heading to the corner for the apples, Mama Taylor pulls up the ladder and shuts the door on Laura. Heloise grabs the flowers and Ellen’s belongings and walks out the door. It looks like she pulled the table over the cellar door as well. The scene ends with a close-up of a photo of Ellen, which will probably end up here at some point.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Ellen 2/5

After the funeral, Mr. Taylor guides his wife to their bedroom. Is that the Travelocity Gnome on their night table? Cal sits his wife down on the bed and offers to make her some tea. Reverend Alden walks in and offers a highlighted bible to comfort Mama Taylor. Mama Taylor is rather unresponsive, so the Reverend puts the book on her dresser. Before he leaves, she lets him know that she prayed for a miracle – specifically, that God raise her daughter from the dead. “He’s done greater things than that,” she claims. The Reverend starts to caution her, but she tells him not to tell her not to question the ways of God. Mama Taylor stands by the window and declares that God doesn’t care about her or Ellen. She tells the Reverend not to come by their house anymore. Mr. Taylor comes in to see what’s going on. Reverend Alden respects her request and starts to take his leave. “And take your damn book with you!” she screams as she throws the Bible at the Reverend. See if God does you any favors now, Mama Taylor.

The Ingalls family is riding back from the funeral. Laura is sitting in the very back of the wagon and looks to be still devastated by what Mama Taylor said to her. She hops off the wagon and slowly walks into the barn. Pa follows to console his crying daughter. He explains that people sometimes over react when they are mourning, which Laura acknowledges. He tells Laura that it wasn’t her fault but she says that swimming was her idea. Pa tells her that people can’t predict the future and sometimes things just happen. They hug, but it’s pretty evident that Laura is still processing the rapid series of events.

That night, Mr. Taylor comes out of his bedroom and checks on his wife who has set up camp in Ellen’s bedroom. He offers to heat up some soup, but she doesn’t want any since it was made by “that girl’s mother.” “She thought she’d cover up her daughter’s guilt by being nice,” she states, much to Mr. Taylor’s disgust. Mine too; that’s incredibly tacky.

Before he can say anything, Mama Taylor, AKA Heloise, holds up a picture Ellen painted for her birthday. She muses on the interesting color choices for a bit before asking Mr. Taylor why he wasn’t home that fateful Friday afternoon. He’s taken aback by the question and says that he was still at work. “If you had been home she wouldn’t have gone. You wouldn’t have let her,” Heloise concludes. He says he would have, but Heloise says he would have told Ellen to do her chores first. Ergo, it’s his fault that Ellen is dead. Before he can even respond to this, she screams “Get out of my baby’s room!” He can’t believe that she would blame Laura, then him, but before he can get out any more of his disbelief she accuses him of accusing her. Oh, jeez. This would be the anger phase of the grief process. He leaves the room and she grabs all of the drawings and holds them to her chest. The music suggests that the corpse of Ellen is living in the attic, but I’m not sure that is the case. Yet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Ellen 1/5

Carrie is running through a field with her sisters and their friend Ellen as this episode opens. Carrie manages to stay upright, though not running downhill probably helps. The girls eventually reach the Taylor homestead and Ellen gives her Ma a hug. Mama Taylor surmises that since Ellen is so excited when she arrived, she must be super excited to do her chores. Ooo, and if she behaves herself, Santa might let her roll pennies. Ellen clarifies her good mood by telling her Ma that the “Ingall [sic] girls are going swimming” and she has been invited to join them. Ma sort of hems and haws and asks if Ellen did well in school today. Laura chimes in that Ellen did better than Mary. Way to oversell, Half-pint. Mama Taylor tells Ellen to be home before dark. The girls run off, leaving Carrie in the dust again. The youngest Ingalls girl asks “Don’t we ever walk anywhere?”

As they run down the road to the swimming hole, Laura suggests cutting through a fenced in area. Mary reminds her that Pa said not to do that and that she’ll tell if Laura does it anyway. “You would, too,” Laura responds. Her words, not mine, honest. Laura rejoins her sisters and friend and takes the long way to the water. The camera then zooms in on a boy watching the girls through some bushes. That usually means trouble.

We rejoin the girls at the swimming hole and they are already in the deep water, splashing and having a good time. We then see a couple of heads pop up from above the crest of the hill. Oh, it’s the boy from earlier and his little brother. They’re just peeping. I’m not condoning the activity; it just could have been a lot worse. The younger boy notices that one of the girls is getting out of the water. “Never mind,” he says, “it’s only Carrie.” This scene is so wrong. The boys decide to sneak down for a closer look. They find a better vantage point behind some brush about two-thirds of the way down the hill. After about fifteen seconds of watching, the boys hear Carrie ask “WHATCHA DOIN?” Busted! The younger kid lies and says they’re fishing. “WHAT ARE YOU FISHING WITH?” Carrie asks. The boys stammer that they are looking for pole-making supplies, but Carrie, who is wrapped in a towel, tries to help. “LAURA HAS AN EXTRA POLE HIDDEN AROUND HERE SHE’LL LOAN IT TO YOU LAUUUUUURRRRRRAAAAA THERE’S SOME BOYS HERE THAT WANNA SEE YOU.” The other girls look over and scream, realizing they’ve just been peeped on. They dive underwater until the hill near the coast is clear.

Soon after, Laura and Mary pop up near the marshier part of the watering hole. They check to see if the boys are still there and look around a bit before Laura sees them running away. It should be noted that the boys appear to be running in a desert. But besides that, how is Laura able to see them when she is downhill and several hundred yards away? Anyway, Laura decides that they should get dressed and leave. Mary agrees and yells for Ellen. The girls look around as Mary calls out for her, but there is no response. Mary Ingalls sucks at Marco Polo. Laura wonders if Ellen is trying to play a trick, but I’m not that optimistic.

Neither is the search-and-rescue party that has assembled that night. There are a couple of boats floating around, one with a guy casting a net onto the water. Laura and Mary are wrapped in blankets, watching the scene unfold with Caroline by their side. Ellen’s parents are also standing nearby and are holding onto a torch and hope. After a few moments someone calls out that they found something. It’s Ellen.

We rejoin Laura and Mary, dressed in their Sunday best, listening to Reverend Alden’s eulogy. To review the last six minutes: Opening credits, school’s out, swimming, peeping, drowning, and now a funeral. This episode must have a hot date because it’s not wasting any time. Once the Reverend concludes his remarks, Mama Taylor throws herself on the coffin. Mr. Taylor manages to pull his wife off the pine box and escorts her away. They pass Mary and Laura and Mama Taylor stops. She looks Laura right in the eye and says “You did this. It was you. Well it was! She was always asking my Ellen to go swimmin’. If it hadn’t been for you, Ellen would be home with me.” She starts to wail and is taken away as Laura bursts into tears. Charles and Doc Baker share a glance, recognizing that this is just the grief talking. Reverend Alden, on the other hand, walks over and doesn’t bother trying to console Laura and gives her a look that says “she sort of has a point.” First: No she doesn’t. Second: Way to do your job, Alden.