Friday, July 2, 2010

The Music Box 5/5

Laura finds Anna crying in a field. Her tears are either made of Vaseline or her nose is running up her face. Laura apologizes saying that she didn’t know that Nellie was going to be a horrible person. “I trusted you,” Anna says. At this point the stutter is indistinguishable from the sort of staggered speech someone Anna’s age would have when sobbing uncontrollably. Anna says she just wanted to be a part of the club because Laura was in it. Laura tells her she isn’t in the club anymore. Laura promises to spend her time after school helping Anna with her stutter and exacting revenge on one Nellie Oleson. Anna smiles and hugs Laura. The girls run home while singing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.”

That evening, back at the house, Mary and Caroline battle a ball of yarn while Charles worries about Laura’s whereabouts. We hear thunder as Laura walks in totally soaked. Wow, who knew that song worked? Caroline guides Laura to the fire and asks Mary to get some dry clothes for her sister. As Pa wrings out Laura’s pigtails, Laura decides to confess to stealing the music box. Ma and Pa are disappointed, but Laura recaps the entire story. Oy! That’s my job! Laura finishes by saying that she tried to figure a way out and couldn’t. Pa lectures that Laura couldn’t find a way out because she avoided the easiest way: telling the truth. Laura says she’s ready to face her punishment, but Pa says he’ll leave that up to Mr. Oleson. Laura apologizes to Mary and they hug.

The next morning, Laura hands the music box to Mr. Oleson and apologizes. “I know I was wrong,” she says. “Not as wrong as somebody else,” Nels says before yelling for his daughter to come downstairs. Charles tells Nels that he should be the one to decide Laura’s punishment. Nels says he can’t condone stealing, but Laura may have been punished enough. Did she tell him about the dreams? Because really, that’s the only actual negative consequence she has experienced.

Nellie comes down the stairs and almost runs into the music box that Nels is holding up to her face. Nellie pretends to yell at Laura for being a thief, but no one is buying it. Nellie tries to continue to school, but Nels tells her to go to her room. Looks like option A again. Whoops, nope, Nels grabs the strap as he goes upstairs.

As Laura and Anna run down the Mercantile steps, Willie commands Laura to carry his water buckets for him. Laura refuses, but Willie starts doing his “dum dum” impression again. No, the music box one. Laura and Anna look at each other and smile. Laura agrees and they both grab buckets. They both dump the water over Willie’s head. The two girls head to school arm in arm.

So I guess the lesson here is if you are going to steal, make sure you have a tenuous friendship with someone who has a speech impediment, that way you can live your life without consequences.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Music Box 4/5

Laura runs through some woods and slows down when she reaches a clearing. She creeps up to a tree and tags Willie. “Gotcha,” says Laura. “No you didn’t,” says Willie. Sounds to me like Willie is planning on a career in soccer refereeing. Laura says she just tagged him, shaking his shoulders a bit to illustrate her point. Willie still claims that Laura didn’t find him. Has Willie started reading up on existentialism? I already have to deal with the dream sequences; don’t throw philosophy into the mix, show. Instead, Willie mimes holding a box and singing “dum dum dum, dum DUM dum, dum dumdumdumdumdumdum.” Laura recognizes the Nerd March and her eyes widen. Willie smiles. “You’re right,” Laura says catatonically, “I didn’t find you.” I think this episode is slowly turning into The Manchurian Candidate.

That evening at dinner everyone is quiet. Charles asks how things are at school, but both Mary and Laura mumble, “Fine, just fine.” Charles asks if the girls are using the new dictionary. “Some,” they both answer. Yeah, evidently. Charles asks about the music box, but this causes Mary to ask to be excused. Mary heads up to the loft. Pa asks if the two girls had a fight. Laura hems and haws, but Charles doesn’t press the point. He sends Laura upstairs.

When Laura gets up to the loft, Mary asks her why she didn’t tell Pa how mean she was to Anna. Laura denies that she was mean and that she likes both Anna and Nellie. Mary calls BS on this, saying that Laura didn’t like Nellie until she received the music box. Isn’t that how gifts work? Laura throws out the “you’re just jealous” but leaves off the “I’m not here to make friends.” Mary snaps back that she doesn’t want to be in the club.

At this point Charles comes up to see what all the fighting is about. Mary says that Laura and Nellie were being mean to Anna. Laura says she didn’t do anything mean, which I think I agree with based on what we saw. “Anna thought you were her best friend,” Mary snarls, “and then you hurt her just like all the others.” Come to think of it, Laura has gone through quite a few “best friends” on this show. Mary might have a point. Mary says Laura made Anna cry, which Laura denies doing on purpose – she just wanted to play with Nellie. Charles reminds Laura that she made a promise (she did?). Laura says, “I guess so,” which fails to impress Pa. Also, he doesn’t understand why Laura can’t be friends with both girls. Mary explains that Nellie’s club doesn’t like Anna because she stutters. Indoor voice, Mary, please. Pa asks if that is true and Laura reluctantly agrees. He tells Laura to tell Nellie that she can’t be in the club unless Anna can be in the club. Everyone leaves grumpy. Laura sits on the bed and contemplates the music box.

Oh no, not another dream. This time the Nerd March has some sort of dragon breathing sound effect accompaniment. That’s a bad sign. A battalion of redcoats beat on drums as a wagon carrying prisoner Laura approaches. Is that a gallows? A man in a hood leads Laura off the wagon and past her family gathered at the foot of the gallows steps. Laura hugs Caroline, but the hood pulls her away. An executioner sucking on a candy cane watches from above. Laura walks up the steps and the executioner (played by Nellie) grabs Laura and puts her into position under a noose. Nellie pulls the rope down and places it around Laura’s neck.

Time-out! There is no way in hell that a scene like this could get on TV today. The Parents Television Council would throw a level five shitfit if this were on broadcast TV. You know anyone who describes ‘Little House’ as “quaint” or “banal” has never watched an episode because you have this, which was on during the family hour in its original broadcast. And there was no “viewer discretion is advised” or “TV-14”.

Time-in. Nellie tightens the rope around Laura’s neck(!). Laura glances over to the lever as a drumroll starts to play. Nellie stands for a moment and grabs hold of the lever. Laura watches. Nellie pushes the switch.

Laura, who is wearing a pillowcase over her head, rises out of bed and grabs her neck. Mary just glares at her sister. “Good night, Laura,” she says flatly. What the friggity frig, yo. “Goodbye, Mary,” Laura says. Mary does a slight double take before both girls nod off.

Nellie spots Laura on the front steps of the Mercantile the next morning. Laura tells Nellie what Charles told her about Anna’s membership. Nellie says he can’t force Anna into the club. I don’t think Charles really cares about your bylaws, Nellie. Laura says she’ll have to quit, but Nellie says Laura better talk to her father or she will. I realize Nellie wants control over Laura, but what is so important about needing Laura in the club? Anyway, Laura says her hands are tied. Nellie thinks for a moment and a sly smile crosses her face. Uh oh. She says that maybe Anna can be in the club. Laura is not suspicious at all and the two girls run to tell Anna the news.

After school the club gathers in Nellie’s room. It is time for Anna’s initiation. Nellie asks why Anna wants to be in the club. Anna says it is a good club and the girls are all her friends. Laura is smiling while the rest of the girls look stoned. The girl to Laura’s right looks like the guy that Wayne and Garth pick up at the beginning of Wayne’s World. Nellie asks who makes the rules (the prez and VP) then hands Anna a sheet with the club’s secret password. Anna looks at the sheet and her face falls. She looks at Laura whose smile fades quickly. Apparently the VP didn’t know about the password rule.

“This isn’t a password,” says Anna. Nellie says it is and tells Anna to read it. The password is “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.” *ding* That’s going to be difficult to convey with just one-word clues. Even Betty White would have trouble with that. Anna struggles through the phrase as an evil smile creeps on to Nellie’s hateful face. “No, no,” Nellie scolds, “you have to say it fast.” The girls start to giggle as Nellie heckles the girl. Laura looks mortified. “No Anna,” Laura says, “take your time. You can do it if you take your time.” Anna nods and tries again. Nellie keeps screaming “fast!” Anna struggles to the point of tears and runs out of the room. Laura runs to the door and calls after the girl. She then turns to Nellie. “I hope you’re proud of yourself,” she says. “That’s the meanest thing anybody ever did. “ Laura deduces that this was all a ruse by Nellie to make Anna cry. Laura says Anna just wanted to be friends. Stoner girl looks to Nellie as if to say “where’s your mom with the snacks?” Laura leaves. Nellie rushes to the door and threatens to tell if she doesn’t come back. Nellie slams the door.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Music Box 3/5

Laura, Anna and Mary are carrying their books as they walk past the Mercantile on their way to school. “Laura Ingalls!” Nellie races down the front steps as Laura stops in her tracks. Nellie sneers that she wants to talk to Laura then offers her a gumdrop. Willie observes the bi-polar action from the porch. Laura accepts the gumdrop while Nellie invites Laura to eat lunch with the club. Laura says she is still mulling over her membership. Anna volunteers that she will be in the club, but Nellie says Anna can’t be a member until she learns how to talk. Laura doesn’t take too kindly to this, so she returns the gumdrops and tells Nellie she won’t be joining. Laura and Anna walk away arm in arm. Nellie screams after them. “A chicken can squawk, a butterfly can flutter, but Anna can’t talk, all she can do is st-st-stutter.”

Nels is out on the porch at this point and yells at his daughter while Willie giggles. Nels tells her to get in the house and get the strap ready. Yikes. Nels looks at Willie who says he didn’t do anything. Nels pulls Willie into the shop anyway. The kids run to Harriet and hide behind her. She doesn’t know what is going on (as usual), but begs her husband to give the kids another chance. Nels brandishes the strap saying that Nellie doesn’t deserve another chance. Nellie apologizes and even vouches for her brother that he didn’t do anything. Nels tells Nellie that she will be grounded from school for the day and will go to Anna’s house that afternoon to apologize. Harriet is horrified, insisting that her daughter will be humiliated. Nels says that’s the point. He gives Nellie the choice between the strap and a half-assed apology. Nellie says she doesn’t know where Anna lives, but her father says to ask Laura. Nellie doesn’t like that idea, but Nels brandishes the strap again and tells Nellie to choose. To recap, the choices are A) Stay home from school for the day and then walk over to Anna’s house to “apologize”, or B) A whuppin’. Nellie chooses A. Nellie goes upstairs and Nels tells Willie to clean his room. Today is a school day, right?

That afternoon, Laura is in the barn trying to fix the music box. It isn’t going very well. Outside, Nellie approaches the homestead and Jack goes into Cujo mode. Good for him. The sound isn’t great, as they play barking sound effects when Jack’s mouth does not show any sort of barking or growling, just drooling. Nellie rushes into the barn to hide from the dog. Laura is caught off-guard (she didn’t hear the dog?) and Nellie realizes that it is her music box that Laura is tinkering with. Laura tries to lie that it is her own box but Nellie calls BS on that instantly. Laura insists that it’s hers, so Nellie suggests asking Laura’s parents. Laura, realizing that she’s caught, confesses. Nellie says she is going to tell, but Laura says she will do anything that Nellie says. Nellie verifies this incredibly stupid statement, but Laura insists that she will do anything that Nellie says. Nellie tells Laura that she is going to be in the club and warns Laura that if she steps out of line, Nellie will tell and possibly try to have Laura put in jail. Laura promises to follow Nellie’s orders.

At this point Pa walks in. He asks what’s up and Laura says they were just listening to Nellie’s music box. “Oh it’s your music box now, Laura,” Nellie says. Pa is pleased with this news, especially since it appears that the two buried the hatchet -- and not in anyone’s skull. Nellie leaves but as she exits she asks Mr. Ingalls if Laura can go to her house after school tomorrow. Charles is okay with this. Nellie asks Laura how to get to Anna’s before she leaves. Once she is gone, Pa says he is really happy to see this new development. Laura catatonically agrees.

Nellie’s arrival at Anna’s house is inexplicably framed through the arms of a chair on her porch. Inside, we see that the props office used the “LHOTP – Generic” item list, which includes a shawl, butter churn, rocking chair, and a woodpile. Anna’s mom answers Nellie’s knocking by opening the door, but answers Nellie’s questions in Swedish. I wonder what obnoxious schoolyard rhyme Nellie has for that linguistic trait? Anna comes out of her room and asks Nellie what she wants. Nellie apologizes, but Anna doesn’t quite believe it. Anna’s mother asks, through Anna, if Nellie would like to stay for dinner, but Nellie politely refuses. Anna gets the door for Nellie and walks her outside. Nellie apologizes again, but the insincerity starts to drip when she tells Anna that she is talking much better. Anna doesn’t have an insincerity detector, so she is thrilled by this development.

That evening at the homestead, Laura puts down her dictionary and asks her Pa what it’s like to be in jail. Did Charles do hard time? That would be amazing. Aww, he says he has never been. Charles asks why Laura wants to know and she says it’s for homework. Did Miss Beadle ask the kids to write prison letters? Charles said he met a couple of guys who went to jail during the War, but he isn’t inclined to repeat their stories. Laura asks what sort of crimes lead to jail time – cheating, hurting somebody, and stealing are what Charles list. Laura speculates that stealing only applies to big things like horses, but Charles says you can hang for a crime like that. “No, they put you in jail for stealing just about anything,” Pa continues. This does not ease Laura’s nerves.

The Nerd March plays as we enter another one of Laura’s dreams. A fire burns in the center of a medieval prison. One prisoner is stretched on a rack while several others sleep on the stone floor. Someone is laughing as Harriet enters wearing a hood and carrying a giant bucket. Laura is looking even more bedraggled than in her previous dream. Harriet reaches into the bucket and pulls out a wad of breadcrumbs that she chucks to the ground. All of the prisoners scramble to the food except for a Leif Garrett impersonator chained to the wall. As Harriet feeds the birds, Nellie walks in wearing a hood and eating from a chicken bone. She laughs as Laura notices the meat. Laura crawls towards the Oleson jailors who continue to laugh at the girl. Once Laura reaches Nellie and begs for food, Nellie bludgeons the girl with the chicken. Nellie leaves and slams the door.

Laura starts to bang on the door and we fade out of the dream. Back in reality, Laura is banging on the wall screaming, “I’m hungry.” Mary wakes up her sister and tells her to knock it off. Charles yells up to the loft to find out what’s going on. Laura and Mary say nothing, but Charles yells up again demanding an answer. Mary says flatly, “Laura rolled over and fell out of bed.” Mary Ingalls sucks at plausibility. Charles asks if she is all right and Laura responds just as flatly that she is okay. Pa tells them to go to sleep.

The next morning outside school, Nellie explains to the club that she will decide who is "it" and, as president, she will never be "it". That’s not much of a game, whatever it is you’re playing, honey. Nellie calls over to Laura and Mary, who have just arrived, that they are going to play Hide N Seek. Mary declines, which Nellie is okay with. Nellie then commands Laura to join her. Nellie has decided that Laura will be “it”. Mary and Anna are shocked by this. Laura apologizes to Anna and promises to play with her after school and dejectedly walks towards Nellie and the girls. Anna is deeply disappointed by the development.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Music Box 2/5

Laura and Anna walk home through a field. Laura asks Anna to name all the items she can in Nellie’s dollhouse. Anna rips through the list without a stutter or stop. Laura has Anna go through another list, this time shouting it as loud as possible. I forgot that Laura has a knack for speech therapy. You go girl! Both of you!

As Laura returns to the Ingalls barn, she remembers she has a music box in her petticoat. She rushes up to the loft to play with it. She winds up the music box and enters into an almost drug-induced euphoria as the music plays. Laura sets the music box on a shelf and starts to sway to the music. She then gets up and pretends to waltz. I guess she didn’t get dance lessons for her birthday either – she is a bit rhythmically challenged. Suddenly, the barn door slams and Laura panics. She tries to close the music box but knocks it to the floor instead. The door squeaks and slams a few more times and Laura realizes that it was just the wind. She goes back to the box but the music is all warped. Laura realizes she may be in big trouble.

That evening Charles entertains the rest of the family with his fiddle while Laura contemplates her fate next to the hearth. Charles asks if there is anything wrong. Well for starters the scene is shot at a weird angle that I don’t recall seeing on the show before and the lighting is just wrong. Oh, he was talking to Laura. She murmurs that there’s nothing wrong. Caroline also asks if Laura is okay and gets a meek “I’m fine” in response. Mary speculates that Laura has a stomachache from a candy overload at Nellie’s. Laura snaps at her sister. Before the fight escalates, Caroline notices Carrie entering into sleep mode and decides to take the youngin’ to bed. Charles decides that it is bedtime for everyone. Mary gives Pa a good night kiss and heads upstairs. Er, upladder? Laura follows without any affection for Pa – he calls her down. Pa asks again if Laura is all right, and she says again that she is fine. Charles kisses her forehead and she goes up to the loft.

We join Laura as she appears to have a bad dream of some sort. Uh oh, the screen is getting all wavy and a harp starts to play – we’re going in! Oh, I just realized that the music box song is the Nerd March! Now that it is being played in a minor key I totally recognize it. Anyway, we see that Laura is dressed as a serf and is standing in handcuffs in a defendant’s stand. The camera pulls out until the top of a judge’s bench can be seen. A gavel comes down. The judge asks for a verdict from the jury. Madame Foreperson (who sounds an awful lot like Harriet) declares a guilty verdict. Um, mistrial? The judge affirms the verdict and sentences Laura to 100 years of school where she will have to write “I will not steal” 10 million times. Laura begs for mercy, but she is met with an awkward close-up of the judge just nodding like a bobble-head. It’s a good thing fisheye lenses were still in the development phase when this was produced or this would have been a really freaky scene instead of just weird.

After fog shrouds the judge, we see Laura back in the house saying she didn’t mean it. Mary wakes up her sister to get her to shut up. Mary Ingalls sucks at sympathy. “Try to dream of something different,” Mary tells Laura. Laura lies down again and says she’ll try.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Music Box 1/5

Oh God! Bees are chasing the girls down the hill! Oops, I hit the soccer ball button by mistake on YouTube. Damn vuvuzelas. No worries – the girls are safe. See, a closeup of a bunny rabbit ornament opens the show – everything is super. We pan across the window display and see all sorts of toys. Uh oh. This one is directed by Michael Landon. I take back what I said about the girls being safe – some bad shit is about to go down.

Deep breath. Okay.

Laura stands outside the Mercantile as she looks through the window display. Mary comes out from around the corner and tells her sister that they are going to be late. Laura is anxious not because of Mary’s tardiness but because her birthday is coming up and she wants to know what she is getting for a present. Mary says she isn’t going to tell, mainly because she doesn’t know. This angers Laura. The girls leave for school.

That evening, we see Charles exit Carrie’s room with a wrapped square-shaped item. Hmmm, too thick to be a DVD. Too light to be a laptop. Too small to be an N64. I wonder what it could be? Laura opens the present and it’s…it’s…a dictionary? What the frick kind of present is that? I can see Mary finding 101 uses for it, but it’s Laura’s birthday. She politely thanks her Pa, but you can hear the disappointment in her voice. Pa talks up the book saying that it has all the new words and a science section. As I paused the video to write that last sentence, Mary is giving Charles a look that says “really old man? Even I think that’s pretty square.”

Later on we see Charles and Caroline talking about the book as they get ready to go to sleep. Charles can’t get over the astronomy maps or the atlas. I will admit that does sound like a handy reference tool, but it ranks right up there with a sock-making kit as “most boring present to give a 10 year old”. Caroline smiles and nods, causing Charles to realize his folly. Caroline tries to coddle her hubby by saying she would have picked out the same thing. She justifies this by saying that Laura needs to be happy with getting what she needs rather than what she wants. Although I can agree with that sentiment, I still think this would have been a much more appropriate gift for Mary, especially if the whole family will be sharing the reference material. Actually, the sock-making kit would probably have been a better choice for Laura. Caroline also suspects that years from now Laura will still use the dictionary more than any fancy doodad from today.

The next day Laura resumes her post outside the display window. A blonde girl named Anna runs up and stands by Laura’s side. Laura asks which toy Anna would choose if she got to take one item home. Anna struggles as she says she would take the doll. As Anna stutters through her answer, Laura advises her friend to take her time. Eventually Anna says that she would want a doll, because it would be like having a sister, and she would name it Laura. Aww, this is so sweet – something horrible is going to happen to this girl, I just know it.

Just then, Nellie and a group of girls enter through the back of the Mercantile. Nellie calls over to Laura and demands that she come upstairs to play. Laura politely refuses, but Nellie says they are starting a club – no boys and only Nellie’s bestest friends are allowed. “Why did you invite me?” Laura asks. Nellie’s eyes narrow and she repeats her invitation. Laura says she’d rather play with Anna. Nellie grumbles that Ann can come along, causing the nice blonde girl to perk up. Laura considers for a moment before reluctantly agreeing.

Upstairs the girls browse through Nellie’s toy collection. While the extras murmur about the dollhouses, Laura focuses all of her attention on a music box playing atop Nellie’s desk. Nellie slams the box shut before calling the meeting to order. Nellie recites the agenda that includes roll call followed by election of the vice president. Laura point-of-orders that there needs to be a president, but Nellie says that the club will meet at her house therefore she is President. First, that would make her a dictator. Second, that sounds more like a qualification for Secretary or Sergeant-at-Arms. Nellie nominates Laura for VP, but Laura suggests Anna instead. “She can’t be in the club,” Nellie states. Laura asks why. “Y-y-y-y-you kn-kn-kn-know w-w-w-w-why.” Anna looks down as the other girls giggle. What a b-b-b-b-b-bitch. Before things get really awkward, Harriet barges in and announces that she has snacky snacks ready for all the girls. Laura and Anna stay behind. Anna suggests that they join the others before she leaves the room, her head still hanging down. Laura follows but stops to look back at the music box. She waits a moment before she snatches it from the bed.