Little House on the Prairie

Season 5 Episode 8

Harriet's Happenings

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Oct 30, 1978 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Harriet's Happenings
When Harriet Oleson's cousin Sterling Murdock comes to town, he brings his newspaper business with him. Everyone is initially excited about this, but trouble ensues when Murdock gives gossipmonger Harriet her own column - and allows her the freedom to write whatever she wants.

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  • It's never a good idea to give Mrs. Oleson a chance to gossip about the citizens of Walnut Grove, but when her cousin, Sterling, comes to town and opens a small newspaper, she gets just the opportunity she has always wanted.moreless

    Walnut Grove gets its own newspaper,'The Pen and Plow', which is owned and operated by Harriet Oleson's cousin, Sterling Murdock. Most unfortunately for the folk of Walnut Grove, after some haggling, and in return for free advertising in the paper, Sterling gives her her own column, which she titles "Harriet's Happenings", touted as a place to announce local news and events. Of course, Harriet being Harriet, nothing is ever that simple (or pleasant). Harriet uses the column to spread mallicious gossip and downright lies about everyone from a local farmer to Doctor Baker and the citizens are less than amused. Meanwhile, Mr. Murdock hires Andy and Laura to do some typesetting for him and they use this medium to announce a VERY special sale at Oleson's Mercantile - one hundred percent off everything! Needless to say, Harriet's column and the paper are soon defunct, a fact which certainly pleases the Walnut Grove citizens.

    A delightful episode with plenty of humour which is sure to keep you entertained.moreless
  • When Hariots cousin arrive in town he sets up a newspaper which allows Mrs Olsen a medium for her gossiping.

    Harriet’s cousin arrives in Walnut Grove to set up a newspaper. The Garvey and the Ingals pick up some extra work from him.

    Hariot has a column in the newspaper called "Hariot’s Happenings". Mrs Olsen uses this column to spread vicious gossip about the town’s people, in particular a young German boy who beat Nellie in the Local Spelling Competition. .

    The Ingal’s become angry with Hariot’s continual gossiping and boycott the paper. Charles also tells Laura and Albert they can no longer work for the paper. .

    Before they leave the paper, Laura and Albert decide to give Mrs Olsen a taste of her own medicine. They change the printing of the next edition of the paper to include some interesting “facts” about Mrs Olsen. .

    While Rev. Aldern is away Charles has to take the service, he decides this the perfect time to teach Mrs Olsen a valuable lesson. Charles asks Hariot to come and read a passage from the Bible, when she is unable to read it (because it’s written in German), she realises that she was wrong about the German family. .

    Charles then delivers a heretfelt service giving the whole town something to think about. .

    The confrontation between Caroline and Hariot regarding the punishment of the children is hilarious.

Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Patrick Labyorteaux

Patrick Labyorteaux

Andrew 'Andy' Garvey (1977 - 1981) (as Patrick Laborteaux)

Kevin Hagen

Kevin Hagen

Dr. Hiram Baker

Richard Bull

Richard Bull

Nels Oleson

Matthew Laborteaux

Matthew Laborteaux

Albert Quinn Ingalls (1978 -1982)

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Charles Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

King Moody

King Moody

Otto Schiller

Guest Star

Ike Eisenmann

Ike Eisenmann

Erich Schiller

Guest Star

John Hillerman

John Hillerman

Sterling Murdock

Guest Star

Ruth Foster

Ruth Foster

Mrs. Foster

Recurring Role

Carl Pitti

Carl Pitti


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • In the scene when Charles says that the eighth comandent is "Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor, he's wrong. It's NOT the eighth comandent, it's the ninth comandent as said by Mary to Miss Peel in season 4's, Whisper Country.

    • Mr. Schiller advises his son to stay in school, adding, "Why, you could become President someday!" This would only be true if the immigrant Schillers had come to the U.S.A. before Eric was born. In order to become president, a person must be born in the United States.

    • During the "100% Off" sale at the mercantile, look quickly for the woman in the pink blouse and flowered bonnet; the "new" dress she picks up and leaves with is actually one worn regularly by Grace Edwards.

    • Look quickly for Michael Landon's daughter, Leslie, in an uncredited role; that's her sitting behind and to the left of Doc Baker in the final scene in the church. She had several speaking roles throughout the series, but this time, she was just an extra.

    • When Sterling gets off his wagon, he mistakes Mrs. Foster for Harriet. This could be considered inside joke, because Ruth Foster is Katherine MacGregor's stunt double.

    • In the final overvoice of the episode, Laura says that her Pa hopes Walnut Grove will have a real newspaper one day--a newspaper that prints the truth. The town did finally get another one, but it wasn't until the Carter family moved in at the beginning of Season 9.

    • Goof: When Harriet finds out that Mrs. Garvey chose Eric over Nellie for a spelling contest, Harriet says, "Ugh, that Allison Garvey betrayed me!" It is clear that she says Allison, but Mrs. Garvey's name is actually Alice.

    • At the first dinner after Murdoch arrives, Nellie refers to him as "Uncle Sterling". Harriet introduced him to the crowd as her second cousin on her mother's side once removed. Technically, this would not make Murdoch Nellie's uncle; however, it could just be an honorarium for the children to address the older man.

    • Goof: When Charles gives the sermon, he calls the paper "yellow journalism". That phrase was coined in 1898 during the Spanish-American war, 20 years in the future!!!

    • Goof: In the spelling Bee, Eric is congratulated for spelling "repititious" when it is actually spelled "repetitious."

    • The "Pen & Plow" newspaper press moved into the abandoned bank building once commissioned by Ebenezer Sprague.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Charles: (delivering the Sunday sermon) In Reverend Alden's absence, I guess I was a little nervous this morning. I forgot my Bible. Mr. Schiller was kind enough to lend me his. The text I've chosen for this morning is Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 16. I think it's only fitting that the outstanding citizen of Walnut Grove read that text for us this morning. Mrs. Oleson? Would you mind? (she's surprised, proudly stands up and comes to the front) Exodus, 20:16.
      Harriet: Yes. (looks at the Bible, is flabbergasted) I can't read this!
      Charles: Why? Are you illiterate?
      Harriet: Well, of course not! It's written in some kind of foreign gibberish.
      Charles: It's not gibberish. It's German.
      Harriet: Well, just because I can't read German doesn't make me illiterate!
      Charles: I agree with you. And by the same token, I think you'll agree with me that not being able to read English doesn't make Mr. and Mrs. Schiller illiterate, either. (angry, she slams the Bible down and goes back to her seat) As a matter of fact, far from being illiterate, Mr. and Mrs. Schiller speak two languages, which I think is more than most of us in this church can claim. There is someone else in this church who speaks two languages: Mr. Sterling Murdock. Mr. Murdock's second language is that of his newspaper. It's a language made up of half-truths, innuendos, and outright lies. It's the language of yellow journalism.
      Mr. Murdock: (stands up) I do not think church is the proper place to discuss this sort of thing.
      Harriet: (stands up) And I most certainly agree with Sterling!
      Charles: Well, I don't! I think it's a perfect place. I don't think there's a better place in the world. Would you sit down, Mrs. Oleson? (stunned, she sits) When I talked to Mr. Murdock about the harm that his paper was doing, he shut me off. He claimed his right to freedom of the press. Well, as I see it, freedom of the press doesn't give anyone the right to print lies that blacken a person's name and cause pain. And that is exactly what "The Pen and the Plow" is doing! Direct conflict with the text that I chose this morning, the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Well, Mr. Murdock told me that is the language you all want to read, and apparently, he's right. You know, I've asked myself over and over again, why do you continue to support that paper? Do you derive that much pleasure from the pain and suffering of others, or is it because it isn't you who's being hurt? When you go out and buy that newspaper on Saturday morning, you are supporting and encouraging the very sins that you decry in this church on Sunday. Well, I think it's time that we begin to practice what we preach inside this church, outside this church, on the streets of Walnut on our farms, in our homes, with our friends, our neighbors, and our loved ones. With every human being everywhere. In the name of God, think about it.

    • Charles: Eric, Mrs. Garvey told me you quit school. We were sorry to hear that. She said you had a very good chance at a scholarship.
      Eric: I don't need school anymore. Papa's done fine without it.
      Mr. Schiller: I do not understand it. Ever since that spelling match, Eric does not like school. And he liked it before, so much.
      Charles: (to Eric) You know, nobody expected you to win that spelling bee. We all know you were trying too hard because of what Mrs. Oleson wrote in the paper.
      Mr. Schiller: She only said she hopes Eric will win.
      Charles: No, sir, she said a lot more than that.
      Mr. Schiller: What?
      Charles: I think you should let Eric tell you that. (turns to Eric) Just remember, son. You quit school, and Mrs. Oleson gets her petty revenge. The only one who's gonna suffer is you.

    • Harriet: 'Fess up, Nels Oleson. I am a success in every way.
      Nels: Including the worst way!
      Harriet: Now, what is that supposed to mean?
      Nels: (looking at her column in the newspaper) Well, now, look at this. Now, here, you say "Seven-months-married Helga Spensen gave birth to her first child, a baby boy. She claims it was premature."
      Harriet: Well? Use your arithmetic! Seems to me it's as plain as the nose on your face what happened.
      Nels: As plain as the nose on your face, not mine. It happens that I talked to Doctor Baker right after the delivery, and he says the birth was premature.
      Harriet: (shrugs her shoulders) There were rumors.
      Nels: You are supposed to print the facts, Harriet, not rumors!
      Harriet: Well, it was a fact! There were rumors!

    • Caroline: (reading Harriet Oleson's column) "Talk of the township: Claude Beacon's been spending an awful lot of time at Widow Foster's house lately. One wonders if Claude's wife knows about it.
      Charles: He's been spending a lot of time at her place, on her roof, fixing it, and his wife knows all about it.
      Caroline: Here's another choice tidbit. "Mrs. Sally Larson has left her husband to return to Chicago. Could there be someone special in Chicago? Could the separation be permanent?" (sighs) I could answer her questions. The "someone special" is her father, and there separation could be permanent. He may die.
      Charles: Well, if that's culture, then I'm Abraham Lincoln. (looks at the fireplace) You ought to use that paper to start the fire.

    • Laura: (overvoice): The Pen and Plow went out of business a month later. Pa says that he hopes one day, we have another newspaper--a real newspaper that prints the truth. Pa says that the freedom of speech is just as important as all our other freedoms, and it should never be abused.

    • Charles: You had a chance to do this town some good, Mr. Murdock.
      Murdock: This is America, Mr. Ingalls. Every business is entitled to earn a legitimate profit, even newspapers.
      Charles: Come on, this isn't a legitimate newspaper. This is a scandal sheet!
      Murdock: I resent that!
      Charles: Well, so do I! I resent that your cousin once removed uses her pen to write lies. Lies that hurt people, just to square grudges and promote herself and her business.
      Murdock: Harriet is only doing her job, reporting the news of Walnut Grove.
      Charles: It's not news. It's vindictive gossip, and you know it!
      Murdock: Call it what you will. I'm giving the public what they want, and the proof is that the subscriptions are still pouring in. So are the ads. They go hand-in-hand.
      Charles: Well, not in my hand. I don't buy garbage.

    • As Laura and Albert watch the shoppers make off with armsfull of merchandise.
      Laura: (laughedly) Now that's what I can a real happening!
      Albert: Nice thing is, it's happening to Harriet!

    • Nellie: I hate you!
      Mrs. Oleson: What?
      Nellie: I don't wanna be your daughter anymore!
      Mrs. Oleson: What's the matter?
      Nellie: What it says here: With Nellie Oleson's looks, no boy will be seen with her at night!
      Mrs. Oleson: I didn't write that! Oh, they can't do this to me!

  • NOTES (3)

    • Harriet's Happenings" is Katherine MacGregor's (Harriet Oleson) favorite episode from season 5.

    • Ike Eisenmann, who plays Eric, reappeared in the Season 10 movie Bless All the Dear Children, in a small role as a man on a train.

    • Actor Ike Eisenmann plays the son of immigrants in this episode, just as he did in season 2's "Centennial," though in this episode the family is Swedish, not Russian. Eisenmann was a well-known child actor whose face, if not his name, was well-known in the 1970's. He regularly performed on TV and in Disney productions.