Little House on the Prairie

Season 6 Episode 1

Back to School (1)

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Sep 17, 1979 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (4)

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  • The wheels start turning as a bridge is built for Laura's impending adulthood in this very special, not-to-be-missed episode.

    This two-part episode is one of those charming, irresistable little gems that you find yourself watching over and over again, not just because of its beautiful storytelling and excellent acting, but because of its powerful character development. Throughout Season 5, it was obvious that Laura was no longer a little girl, but the plot material given to her did not reflect anything too mature or indicative of her growth spurt. With this Season 6 opener, however, we get a glimpse of a character who is now ready to show the world that she is a woman, thanks to a very special young man that she meets on the first day of school.

    Some new characters are introduced here, including Eliza Jane Wilder, who takes over as Walnut Grove's newest teacher (a hilarious moment takes place when young Albert comes to school dressed in his Sunday best, convinced that the new teacher will be physically attractive). I can't say that Eliza Jane was ever my favorite character, but she was certainly a unique one, and actress Lucy Lee Flippin did a nice job of making the role her own (even though the real-life Eliza Jane Wilder had very little in common with the show's interpretation).

    Then, of course, there is the unforgettable Almanzo Wilder, Eliza Jane's handsome and charismatic younger brother, and from the moment 15-year-old Laura lays eyes on him, she is smitten, to the point where she immediately carves their initials on Walnut Grove's "Sweetheart Tree." If you didn't know the real story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you might be tempted to believe that this is another case of hapless puppy love for young Laura, but of course, we all know the story, and we all know that these two eventually become husband and wife. So begins Laura's somewhat long and exhausting journey of finding her footing as an adult, which ends up being about much more than just her actual age. Poor Laura certainly wants everyone to see her as a mature young lady, and she thinks that wearing her hair down and giving up playing baseball at recess will do the trick, but it's going to be much harder than that, especially since Nellie Oleson has her eye on Almanzo, too. Speaking of which, the Oleson family experiences some drastic changes in this episode, as well. Nellie has now officially graduated from school, and to help her daughter find a man pronto, Harriet stuns everyone in town--including her clueless husband--by opening "Nellie's Restaurant" right next to the mercantile! The trouble is, Nellie isn't particularly eager to catch a guy, and she most definitely isn't willing to flaunt her "availability" by cooking and establishing herself as a successful businesswoman, which is exactly what her mother wants.

    I could go on forever about this episode, but in short, it is a great deal of fun to watch from beginning to end, and when you reach Part 2, you will witness one of Laura and Nellie's most dramatic and hilarious fist fights yet! Interestingly enough, both girls are on the brink of womanhood now, but you may not be so convinced after you watch that scene. Overall, the 2-part episode shows us that while Laura is still young and has a lot to learn, she is well on her way to becoming the adult, wife, and schoolteacher that she strives to be. Enjoy watching, and be assured that it is definitely one of the series' finest!
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