Little House on the Prairie

Season 8 Episode 11

A Christmas They Never Forgot

5
Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Dec 21, 1981 on NBC
8.2
out of 10
User Rating
51 votes
1

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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A Christmas They Never Forgot
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Mary, Adam, Hester Sue, and the Wilders all make a special visit to Charles and Caroline's for Christmas Eve. An unrelenting blizzard prevents everyone from heading home after dinner, but they all pass time by recalling Christmases of personal significance in their lives.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Christmas at the Little House gets crowded when everybody gets snowed in on Christmas Eve. I mean everybody.

    8.0
    This is an interesting episode in several ways. First of all, it is a rare Christmas episode. In 9 regular seasons and 4 two hour movies (Pilot, Look Back..,Farewell..,Dear Children..), this is one of only 5 Christmas themed episodes. And coming as it did in Season 8, it was the first of its kind in 5 years.

    What also strikes me as odd are some of the character's behaviors and the way they relate to each other. Although this ep centers around an evening of reminiscing, neither James nor Cassandra seem to register any trace of emotion on this, their first Christmas since losing their parents. And although Mary and Adam have come all the way from New York for this holiday (and for their last appearance in the series), not much attention is paid to them after the initial reaction to their arrival. Of the many folks sharing Christmas memories that night, neither of them has a contribution. Even Hester Sue has a story for heaven's sake! Adam is brushed off by Charles in favor of Almanzo's company on a trip to the barn and later falls asleep at the table where the action continues around him! It's very odd.

    Also interesting is that Carrie has more lines in this episode (4 or 5) than she has in a long time.....one wonders why.

    The stories are, for the most part, charming or sweet, or in Hester Sue's case, bittersweet, but I had trouble concentrating because I spent most of this episode doing math in my head. Trying to decipher the year (settled on 1885), figuring out that if that's the case, then Hester Sue is only 34 (can't be!), and realizing that when Almanzo was 6 in 1863, Santa was still referred to as Saint Nicholas, or Saint Nick. The name change came around about 10 years later. I know it is not unusual by any means for historical fact and dates to be rearranged for dramatic effect on this show, but it bothered me more than usual in this episode. I did think the ending was sweet, though, with Caroline and Charles in the loft, holding each other and looking out at the snow. A lovely moment with which to close the episode.moreless
Dean Butler

Dean Butler

Almanzo James Wilder (co-star prior to season 7)

Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman

James Cooper/Ingalls (1981 - 1982)

Ketty Lester

Ketty Lester

Hester-Sue Terhune (1982-1983) (co-star 1978 - 1981)

Matthew Laborteaux

Matthew Laborteaux

Albert Quinn Ingalls (1978 -1982)

Linwood Boomer

Linwood Boomer

Adam Kendall (1978 - 1981)

Newell Alexander

Newell Alexander

Mr. Holbrook

Guest Star

Tom Lester

Tom Lester

Mr. Wilder

Guest Star

Eddy C. Dyer

Eddy C. Dyer

Poppa Terhune

Guest Star

Victor French

Victor French

Mr. Edwards

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (14)

    • The star on top of the Christmas tree at the Ingalls' home is not the star that little Carrie bought at the mercantile in Season One's "Christmas at Plum Creek," although Carrie stares at it with wonder in the same way.

    • In the scene where Hester-Sue notices Caroline's necklace, and says, "Caroline, I was just noticing your necklace. Is it new?" And Caroline says that it's not new and that she only wears it at every Christmas. Now, that can't be true. Because if you remember the flashback that Laura talks about which took place in the pilot movie, she did not have that necklace on. And in season 1's Christmas At Plumb Creek she was not wearing the necklace and same thing for season 3's Blizzard which was a Christmas episode and she wasn't wearing it then either. So she shouldn't have said that she only wears it at Christmas, because the only episode that you see her with that is in this episode A Christmas They Never Forgot.

    • "Landsakes!" seems to be the favorite (and only) expression everyone chose to use. Hester Sue says it, then Almanzo's father in the flashback sequence says it, then Hester Sue's father says it, then Hester Sue's mother says it.

    • Goof: Right after the scene in which Caroline asks about the livestock being okay in the barnand Charles says, "All we can do is pray" and the camera pans out to a shot of the little house covered in snow with wind howling around it, and then there's a break. The next shot is from the exact same angle and distance of the house, but this time, to the left on screen the wagon suddenly appears, covered in snow.

    • Almanzo's story revolves around his belief in Santa Claus at the age of six. In 1863, Santa was still referred to as Saint Nicholas. The name "Santa Claus" emerged in the next decade.

    • No mention is made of the fact that James and Cassandra lost their parents six months earlier in a horrific accident, nor does anyone ask them about traditions that they used to do. Both children seem to have forgotten them and their grief entirely.

    • This is the first Christmas episode where the entire Ingalls family isn't together in the final scene. The last scene belongs to Charles and Caroline alone.

    • Notice that Laura and Almanzo's house is used for two of the flashback sequences: the one with young Caroline Ingalls, and the one with young Almanzo and his family. In Caroline's flashback, Laura and Almanzo's parlor and guest bedroom (the same one that was used in Season 7's "The Nephews") are shown, and in young Almanzo's flashback, the parlor is used. They didn't try very hard to make them look different in each of the respective flashbacks, because you can totally tell it's Laura and Almanzo's house.

    • Goof: Listen carefully when Laura says, "I'm not the least bit tired!" Hester Sue responds by saying, "I'm like Laurie--I'm not tired a bit." If you listen closely, you can tell that she clearly says Laurie, not Laura.

    • Laura's story of a former Christmas is the only flashback in this episode that came from a previous episode. It was featured in the pilot movie 9 years ago.

    • In Almanzo's flashback sequence, we see that when he was 6 years old, he had three older siblings--Royal, Eliza Jane, and Alice. At different points in the series, we got to see Royal and Eliza Jane all grown up, but never Alice. We even met Almanzo's kid brother Perley Day (who obviously wasn't born yet at the time this flashback took place) in Season 6's "Wilder and Wilder," but this is the only episode where we see or hear anything about Alice.

    • Watch closely for some evident favoritism that Charles displays for Almanzo over Adam in this episode. Charles is constantly asking Almanzo for help, not Adam. Then, when Adam offers to help Charles and Almanzo get to the barn in the blizzard, Charles makes a rude remark about Adam never being able to make it with his "city coat." Then Almanzo says "Let's go, Pa," and Charles replies, "Right behind you, son!" They head out to the barn together, leaving Adam just standing there. This was extremely insensitive, and out of character for Charles.

    • The young Caroline in this episode is portrayed quite differently in this episode than in Season 4's "I Remember, I Remember." In this episode, Caroline dresses and behaves much more like a child from a wealthy family, and she also appears to be a bit of a spoiled brat. This was not captured quite so much in "I Remember, I Remember," where young Caroline wore "farm girl-like" clothes and had a much different demeanor.

    • Goof: Hester Sue recalls Santa wearing red, and her memory took placeat the very beginning of the Civil War when she was supposedly ten years old. Therefore, we can assume it was about 1861. At that time, Santa Claus was still predominately referred to as St. Nicholas and drawings of the character with a flowing beard and red suit didn't surface until about 1863, when Thomas Nast was drawing him for Harper's Weekly.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Caroline's Mother: (in flashback) Caroline......darling, I can't stand to see you feeling this way.
      Caroline: I miss Pa so bad.
      Caroline's Mother: I know. So do I.
      Caroline: No you don't! How could you miss Pa?
      Caroline's Mother: Caroline--
      Caroline: How could you miss him at all, and marry somebody else?
      Caroline's Mother: Your stepfather is--
      Caroline: Don't call him that! He'll never be my stepfather! I hate him!
      Caroline's Mother: Don't say that!
      Caroline: I do! I hate him!
      Caroline's Mother: The other children don't feel that way.
      Caroline: Yes they do! They're just afraid to say it!
      Caroline's Mother: That's not true! Frederick is a fine man!
      Frederick: (walks in from the rain, smiling) I'm absolutely soaked. (Caroline runs to her room)
      Caroline's Mother: Frederick, I'm so sorry.
      Frederick: She'll get over it.
      Caroline's Mother: I'm not so sure she will.

    • Mr. Holbrook: (in Caroline's flashback) This is about the worst Christmas I can imagine for a child. A stranger you barely even know is where your father used to be. I'd surely feel the same way. And on top of all that, it has to rain.
      Young Caroline: I don't want to talk to you.
      Mr. Holbrook: Maybe it is all wrong. Maybe your Ma and I shouldn't have gotten married. A man like your Pa.......the likes of me can even begin to take his place. Not a man like him. He was the finest I ever knew. We were friends. I guess you knew that. I don't know if he felt the same way, probably not, but I thought of him as my best friend. When he passed on, I cried. God, I cried.

    • Boy 2: (in Hester Sue's flashback) Wishing is all you can do.
      Boy 1: How do you know? I've been good!
      Boy 2: You think Santa Claus cares if you're good?
      Boy 1: Sure he does.
      Boy 2: You'll learn when you get older. Santa don't bring nothing like that to black children. It's all for the whites.
      Boy 1: How do you know that?
      Boy 2: Just look at him! He's a white man! He takes care of his own.

    • Young Hester Sue: (in flashback) We ain't never gonna get anything like that.
      Mother: Now, how do you know that, missy?
      Young Hester Sue: Cuz I know. Cuz Santa Claus is white.
      Father: Now, who told you that?
      Young Hester Sue: Everybody knows that.
      Father: I don't. Why, Santa Claus lives all the way in the North Pole.
      Young Hester Sue: Then who was that in the store?
      Father: That was just a man pretending. Why, nobody knows what the real Santa looks like.
      Young Hester Sue: I do. He's a big jolly man, with a white beard and a white face. That's why we ain't never gonna get nothing good for Christmas!

    • Almanzo: (talking about a Christmas he had as a boy) There were lots of presents on Christmas morning, but none for Royal. I was sure my Pa was right--Santa Claus got mad at old Royal for poking around where he shouldn't have. Royal never said there wasn't a Santa after that. That was about the best Christmas I ever had.
      Laura: And when did you stop believing in Santa Claus?
      Almanzo: I never have. And you better not go poking around!

    • Hester Sue: (about how her father dressed up as Santa in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve) You know, I never knew that was Papa until years later, after he was gone. And I still have that doll wrapped and put away. It's something I will never give up.
      Caroline: I can see why that's a Christmas you'll never forget.
      Hester Sue: And so is this one, because I'm with people I love.

    • Charles: You know what? I'm glad we got snowed in. I mean, what more can a man ask for? A beautiful morning, a house full of loved ones....and a brand-new scarf.
      Caroline: Charles Ingalls! You peeked?
      Charles: Well, of course I did. You're always telling me I act like a child.

  • NOTES (9)

    • Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh, who played Grace Ingalls, said that they really enjoyed this episode, and they joke about how they fought over who got which scenes. Wendi got to play Grace in the scene where she falls asleep in Ma's lap, and Brenda got the really good part--licking on a candy cane and opening presents on Christmas morning. To this day, Wendi always tells Brenda that she "stole all the good parts."

    • The adorable blonde boy who plays young Almonzo in this episode is Jerry Supiran, one of many child actors who seemed to have little cameos in every TV show throughout the 1970's and 1980's. He is best known for playing the young son Jamie Lawson in a show called Small Wonder. At one point, it was rumored that Supiran had gone on to become the lead singer of the band Smashing Pumpkins, but that was later proved to be false. He was also rumored to have died in 2004, but actually, it was his brother Tony Supiran (also an actor) who passed on.

    • Adam, James, Cassandra, Albert, and baby Grace are the only people present in this episode who does not appear in any of the flashback sequences.

    • This is the last time we see Mary and Adam in the series.

    • This is the last Christmas episode where we see the entire Ingalls family together. In Season 10's Bless All the Dear Children, only Laura appeared.

    • Sheri Strahl, who portrayed a young Caroline in a very emotional flashback sequence, was nominated for Young Artist Award Best Young Actress, Guest on a Series for this episode.

    • Victor French is credited as a Special Guest Star as an earlier episode with him in it is shown.

    • This is the fourth of five Christmas episodes in the series, the first three taking place in the pilot, in Season 1's Christmas at Plum Creek, and Season 3's Blizzard. This episode is also the last Christmas-themed one to feature the whole Ingalls family.

    • In addition to Laura's reminiscence of the Ingalls' first Christmas in Kansas (reviewed via clips from the original LHOTP movie), other stories revolve around Caroline's first Christmas with her stepfather as a part of the family; the first time Almonzo stopped believing in Santa Claus; and Hester Sue's tale of a memorable Christmas.

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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