Little House on the Prairie

Season 1 Episode 19

Circus Man

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Jan 29, 1975 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Circus Man
The Ingalls receive a midnight visit from Will O'Hara, a traveling circusman who, with his irresistably charming demeanor, persuades Charles to let him set up in front of their home. Whether he's pulling eggs out of people's ears or proudly toting around his congrilla, O'Hara's tricks are all in good fun--until he introduces a slew of "magic powders" that supposedly heal a variety of illnesses. When O'Hara's little theory nearly costs an appendicitis-stricken Mrs. Oleson her life, Charles asks him to leave town--only to track him down again in the wake of a family crisis.moreless

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  • After the excellence of the previous episode, I found this one to be terribly disappointing with a lacklustre script and predictable events.

    A travelling showman by the name of O' Hara charms the Ingalls family with his magic tricks, few circus animals and a story about being the possessor of 'magic powders' that will cure any ailment known to man. His first 'patient' is Mr. Hansen, who has been suffering from a headache for days. One dose of O' Hara's strange powders and he announces that the heacache has gone. So to are O' Hara's supposedly broken ribs, but things become a little more critical when Harriet Oleson develops appendicitis and believes that the powders will cure her. Naturally, they don't, and Doc Baker has to perform emergency surgery to save her life.

    Laura, who has become very fond of O' Hara, refuses to see him as a fraud and when Jack gets run over by the wheels of a stage coach, she insists the little man come and help Jack get better. Even though he has already left, and against the better judgement of Charles, he, (Charles), brings O' Hara back, and the next day, Jack is his old self again so Laura's blind faith is rewarded and Jack is once again a happy camper. A week episode over all, but good work by Melissa Gilbert and Katherine McGregor.moreless
  • Landon Genuis

    One late night, the Ingalls family hears a gunshot outside, much to their fear. Man of the house Pa goes out to investigate, and it turns out to be harmless. A traveling circus man with a one-man circus wagon has come thru town, and claims he was trying to be neighborly by shooting bobcats in their yard. But it turns out it is juts a ploy to get their attention so he will have someplace to stay for the night.

    The next morning on their way to school, Laura and Mary (or as the magic man calls them "Pixies") are fascinated by the thickly Irish accented Mr. O'Hara and his magic tricks-and his two-animal circus-a talking crow named Mr. Poe and a "Congrilla"-a small chimp inside the wagon cage. Laura is especially taken-but Mary reminds her they are just tricks. Mr. O'Hara also amuses Mrs. Ingalls by pulling real chicken eggs out of various places, including placing one by "magic" in her pocket.

    That night at the Ingalls house, the girls are fascinated even more by what Mr. O'Hara says is a magic powder from India that can cure almost anything-including his broken ribs(which he faked for the demonstration). But wise Ma and Pa know he is only trying to impress the girls.Now he has others believing him about his magic powders-which are really just sugar, baking soda, and effervescent-including a man with a chronic headache and now Mrs. Olson who has some side pain. The doctor in town is upset-he knows these powders are only a placebo,and Mr. O'Hara's believers are in great danger if they rely on these and not proper medical care, including Mrs, Olson, who is discovered to have appendicitis. The doctor wants the circus man to tell Harriet they are only fakes-and he comes over-and says the powerd swill cure her-"If the Good Lord Willin'". But an operation is also necessary-and when Mrs. Olson becomes afraid, he tells her she will be kin to royalty-who have also had their appandicxes out-and her leftover scar from the operation as a mark of pride.So Mrs.Olson agrees.

    Seems the circus man is doing more harm than good, and Charles asks him to leave town at the doctor's suggestion. He was even going to show "The Wee Ones",like Laura-some magic tricks this Saturday morning, but a dissapointed Laura finds out he has left before day's light. But she feels better when Charles gives them each a penny to buy striped candy at the general store when they go to deliver Ma's eggs to town.

    Laura tells faithful dog Jack to stay in place while she goes into the store,and he sits. But Jack sees a cat in a tree across the way, and decides to chase it--only to be run over by a passing wagon and get injured!

    Back home, the family is watching a very weak jack in his box-at least he's not bleeding now but his breathing's slow.Laura wishes that Mr. O'Hara were here-cuz he can cure anything-but Pa tries to tell her he was only pretending with his magic poweders, but Laura insists he can heal him. There's only one thing to do for heartbroken Laura-and that's for Pas to go get the circus man!

    Mr. O'Hara returns, and doesn't have the heart to tell Laura his powers are worhtless-but she begs him to try,and he aplies a little mixed with water to Jack. Do you think Jack will get well? If the Good Lord Willin'. Pa is not please that O'Hara has not told the truth to his daughter, but neither did Pas when she thanked him for getting the magic man. And Mr. O'Hara reminds Charles that we shouldn't steal that one bit of hope from Laura until they see if the dog gets better.The family-and O'Hara,spend a restless night sleeping-only to have Laura be awakened by Jack's whimpering--he's well again! And she couldn't be happier that O'Hara has cured him! But just when we think Laura will believe in his powers forever, O'Hara has to spill the truth-that he did not cure Jack, in fact, nothing about him is real.Not his tricks or his accent or even his name. Laura tearfully asks him why he would fool so many people,and he says the road was lonely. He eventually turned to magic and such to make people think he was a little taller-a little stronger-and a little wiser than he really is.He leaves Laura with one last rick-he dries her tear and an egg appears. But it seems to do more harm than good to the upset Laura.

    O'Hara is going on his way, and he doesn't know who is more upset-him or the "wee one".But he knows the strong Laura will eventually get over it. But just as he's ready to go, Pa says if he's ever back in tonwn-they would love to have him stop by again! The circus man gives a happy smile knowing that all is forgiven, but will he be back? "If the Good Lord Willin'!"moreless
Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Melissa Sue Anderson

Melissa Sue Anderson

Mary Amelia Ingalls/Kendall (1974 - 1981)

Kevin Hagen

Kevin Hagen

Dr. Hiram Baker

Richard Bull

Richard Bull

Nels Oleson

Karl Swenson

Karl Swenson

Mr. Lars Hanson (1974 - 1978)

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Charles Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Huge Error: Dr. Baker performs surgery and removes Mrs. Oleson's appendix in this story. This is in contrast to the season 6 episode The Faith Healer, where he wants a young boy in town to get his appendix removed by a surgeon in the city. In Season 3's To Live With Fear, Doc Baker acknowledges that he's not capable of performing surgery on an ill-stricken Mary Ingalls, and in Season 9's Dark Sage, he admits that his surgical skills don't come close to matching those of Dr. Ledoux's. If Doc Baker was able to perform an appendectomy on Harriet in Season 2, surely he could do the same in future years.

    • Goof: After Jack is hit by the wagon in town and Pa has brought Mr. O'Hara back, he is sitting at the table talking to Laura who is standing in front of him. There are two camera angles in this scene, one from behind Laura (showing her back and his face) and one from behind him (showing his back and her face). Her braids are not correctly situated from one camera angle to the next.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Laura: It was your powders. It was your powders that made Jack well again! You can't leave now. If you stay, you won't ever have any sick people or
      animals in Walnut Grove. We won't even need a doctor! Someone's feeling just a little bit sick, and all they have to do is go to you, and you can give them
      one of your secret powders, and they'll be all well again. Promise. Say that
      you will!
      Mr. O'Hara: (long pause) No, child. I didn't make Jack well.
      Laura: You're teasing.
      Mr. O'Hara: No, Laura. Your father said that what I mostly did was tricks, now didn't he?
      Laura: All tricks, he said.
      Mr. O'Hara: Nothing about me is real. Nothing. Not even my name, or the way I talk. All circus tricks.
      Laura: Not the powders?
      Mr. O'Hara: Especially the powders. Sugar and soda, and a bit of fizz. And that's all they are.
      Laura: Why, Mr. O'Hara? Why do you fool people like that?
      Mr. O'Hara: All the roads were lonely. I guess that's why I gave some
      of them the magic powders, to make them feel beholden to me, to think that I
      was......a little better, a little taller, and a little wiser than I really am.

  • NOTES (2)

    • Filming Locations: Filmed at Big Sky Ranch, Simi Valley and Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California.

    • Sara Gilbert, the younger sister of Melissa Gilbert (Laura) and Jonathan Gilbert (Willie Oleson) was born on the original air date of this episode. Sara was best known for portraying the sarcastic middle child Darlene on the popualar television series Roseanne. All three Gilbert children were adopted from different families.