The character of Dr. Hiram Baker has always been a favorite of mine and any episode in which he is featured rates a little higher in my book. I always thought that the character was written very well, with an appropriate mix of humor and humility. Kevin Hagen was a fine actor and he played this role like it was a favorite old hat; fits so well, you don't notice it's there. In other words, he was at home playing Dr. Baker and it showed.
This episode is one of his rare emotional ones and it's a treat to get to see him flex his acting muscles. Notice the contrast between how easy-going he is in the beginning to the very tense scenes during Rose's illness where there is very little dialogue. Some actors cannot play such extremes in the same character without it coming across like two different people. But Kevin had the ability to take Hiram from devil-may-care to despondant and frustrated without us ever feeling that he wasn't the same guy. And *that* is what made you really care about what happened in the end. You knew this man who had treated and healed so many in Walnut Grove (and lost a few too, but more on that later)and couldn't stand to think that he was just going to walk away from it all because of one hysterical grieving mother. (I didn't care for Laura's character in this episode; I thought she was written as far less reasonable than she usually is. Then again, she had never lost a child before......)
The ending is great, but the best scenes are the ones I mentioned earlier; the tension filled days and nights of treating the baby and waiting to see what the outcome would be. The steady monotany of hand washing and bathing and medicating is finally broken along with Rose's fever and as we heave a sigh of releif, Doc Baker's chest heaves with sobs. He's exhausted and broken, but glad that she's OK and grateful that the whole ordeal is over. It's a marvelous, heartwrenching moment. And so it is a relief when Laura makes her big speech at the end and he stays. (OK, we knew he would, but I was still relieved. And bawling.) This is not the first time that Dr. Baker has almost left because he lost a patient. He actually quit his practice for a few weeks after he failed to examine a pregnant patient's husband after a fall. Turns out he had internal injuries and died as a result. Doc beat himself up pretty badly over this, but was drawn (dragged actually) back into practice when it was time for the woman to give birth and Caroline ran into problems. He delivered the baby and went back to doctoring. He's a very "all or nothing" kind of guy, but I think that's a by-product of how much he cares about what he does and the poeple he treats.
This was a great showcase episode for Hagen, and well deserved for his many years of devotion to the show.