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Little House on the Prairie

Season 4 Episode 21

I'll Be Waving As You Drive Away (1)

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Mar 06, 1978 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
225 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

I'll Be Waving As You Drive Away (1)

The Ingalls family faces new trials when business slows to a halt at the mill, and a visit with Mary to a specialist reveals devastating news.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Mary is having trouble with her eyes and obviously needs new glasses but a trip to the specialist brings horror to the Ingalls family as they are dealt a devastating blow.moreless

    There were several unnecessary sub-plots in this episode which I choose to ignore in this review because, in truth, only one mattered a jot.

    When Mary begins to have difficulty with her eyes, the family believe she needs new glasses so Charles takes her to see her specialist but instead of a new prescription, he tells Charles that Mary will soon be completely blind as a result of childhood Scarlet Fever.

    The Ingalls' devastation is felt by the whole Walnut Grove community as Melissa Sue Anderson gives one of her finest performances as a terrified young woman plunged into a world of sudden darkness. Kudos to all the cast here. A fine job indeed.moreless
  • Life is full of adversity sometimes. It's how we handle it that matters.

    When Charles Ingalls learns Mary will lose her eyesight, he is in denial, but in spite of that, she does go blind. At first, she is full of anger and self pity, as anyone would be in such a situation. She gives up doing anything and just sits in a chair, clad in her nightgown, not even brushing her hair. She believes her life is over. Her family waits on her hand and foot, but she is not grateful, she is simply angry and no one knows how to help her.

    Doc Baker recommends sending her to a school for the blind. Charles & Caroline don't want to, but they realize it is for the best. Mary only makes it harder by begging to stay. Even though it's temporary, it's a difficult decision for her parents to make, but parents often do things for their children that aren't easy, but are right.

    What I like about this episode is the way all the characters react the way we would in real life. How silly the episode would have been had everyone been accepting of the changes. That's just not how humans are. When faced with major life changes, we are sad, depressed, and afraid. It's an excellent episode.moreless
  • When Mary starts to have difficulty seeing well with her glasses, it's thought at first that she just needs a new prescription, but before long, she learns she's losing her sight due to her bout with scarlet fever.moreless

    I love this episode! Yes, it's fictional, but it's so well-written and well-acted. Even after watching it hundreds (thousands?? :) ) of times, I still tear up at the scenes where she wakes up unable to see, discovers her new teacher (and future husband) is also blind, and tells her parents she wants to go to Winoka, Dakota, to help him start another school for the blind.

    The script, the acting, and the chemistry between MSA and LB is really good, and I really can't say anything bad about it except that, sadly, it's fictional. In reality, Mary lived a sad, isolated life after attending the college for the blind and died soon after her mother, having never learned to live functionally as a blind person and depended so much on her parents to see to her well-being. I wish her life had turned out this well.moreless
  • Rewriting history

    I remember when this episode first aired. When Mary started screaming and whining I was SO angry. Laura (the real one) had stated - both in her books and in interviews and other writings - that the one thing that always stood out for her was how brave and patient Mary was through the whole time she was losing her eyesight, never once cried. She also worked to be self-suffient from the very beginning, learning to do minor chores around the house, like sewing. Making such a wonderful, brave character turn into a whiny chicken just for the sake of dramatic license infuriated me, even at the tender age of 13.moreless
  • Mary\'s eye sight continues to worsen, she is going blind.

    When Mary’s eye start to worsen, Charles decides to takes her to a specialist. He is devastated when the specialist tells him that Mary will lose her sight. An emotional Charles tells Caroline about Mary’s condition, but is unable to tell Mary for a while that she is going blind. When Mary’s sight continues to worsen Charles must tell Mary the truth. During this time Charles becomes very emotional and Mary becomes very angry and withdrawn, pushing the family away.

    With Doc Baker’s help and guidance the Ingals decide it would be in Mary’s best interest to send her to a School for the Blind in Iowa.

Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Dabbs Greer

Dabbs Greer

Reverend Alden

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)

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • In the scene where Mary, already blind, is sitting in a chair, Caroline sits down to talk to her. You can see that Caroline is wearing a bra. This episode is set in the late 1870's, and bras were not invented until 1912.

    • When Mary realizes that her new glasses are not very effective, Charles says very calmly, "Even doctors can make mistakes. We'll get you in to Dr. Burke, and the sooner, the better." The thing is, Charles and Mary had just gotten back from Mankato, where Mary met with her specialist and got the new glasses. It's been said in previous episodes that this kind of trip takes about a week (three days both ways), and yet Charles didn't seem the least bit fazed that he would have to make that long trip again.

    • Goof: In the scene where Charles goes to talk to Mr. Hanson and Jonathan about the problems facing the mill, Charles calls out, "Hey, Karl!" The real name of the actor who played Hanson is Karl Swenson. It's very odd that this mistake wasn't edited out.
      Reply: If you look really closely, Mr. Hanson hasn't even come out of his office when Charles says "Hi, Karl!" Charles is talking to a guy working at the mill when he says that, as you can see when the man stops and waves to Charles. It's obvious, then, that the other character on the screen is named Karl, and coincidentally, it just happens to also be the name of the actor playing Mr. Hanson.

    • Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls) and Linwood Boomer (Adam Kendall) spent some time at the Foundation for the Junior Blind to prepare for their new roles on the show. There was also a technician on the set of Little House, who trained Anderson and Boomer to walk, behave, and position their eyes the way blind people would. In fact, the title of this 2-part episode came from one of the foundation residents, who--when the two actors left on their last day--told them that she would be waving to them as they drove away.

    • In previous interviews, actress Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) admitted that she was terrified when she read the script for this 2-part episode, because of the obvious challenges that were ahead for her character. Additionally, her first reaction was that the character of Mary Ingalls was officially being written off the show, and that really upset her. However, Michael Landon said to her, "This is going to be a great thing, Missy," and Anderson acknowledges now that he was absolutely right.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Laura: Seth, would you like to go fishing again tomorrow?
      Seth: Sorry, I can't. I have to start my job tomorrow.
      Mary: Where are you working?
      Seth: The livery.
      Laura: That's Mr. Dorfler's place!
      Seth: That's right. Mary, I get off early tomorrow. Would you like to go for a walk or something?

    • Seth: Laura! I'm happy to see you.
      Laura: (excited) You are?
      Seth: Sure. Can you tell Mary I'll be a little late?
      Laura: That's it?
      Seth: Yeah.
      Laura: Okay.
      Seth: Thanks. You're a real good kid, Brown Eyes.
      Laura: (Walks away) "You're a real good kid, Brown Eyes." (Kicks fence)

    • Dr. Burke: I didn't know your daughter had scarlet fever, Mr. Ingalls.
      Charles: Yeah, she had scarlet fever.
      Dr. Burke: How bad was it?
      Charles: (pause) It was bad, it was scarlet fever. What is it?
      Dr. Burke: The scarlet fever damaged the eye nerves. Weakened them.
      Charles: How long until she's better?
      Dr. Burke: I'm afraid she won't get better. The condition only worsens. Mr. Ingalls....Mary is going blind.
      Charles: (long silence) There must be some mistake.
      Dr. Burke: I'm afraid not. I wish there was some medicine or treatment that would help, but there just isn't.
      Charles: There....some.....something. There must be something.
      Dr. Burke: It would have to be in the nature of a miracle, beyond the skill or knowledge of a doctor.

    • Caroline: (to Doc Baker about Mary) I don't know what to do anymore. She says she's a burden to us, and she hates it. I tell her it isn't true, but it just doesn't do any good.
      Doc Baker: This might sound harsh, Caroline, but I think you're trying to do too much. She has to learn to do for herself, if she's to have any kind of life.
      Charles: But she can't do for herself, Doc. We have to take care of her.
      Doc Baker: Do too much and she'll retreat to bed, and she'll stay there. I haven't been trained in caring for the blind, and neither have you. She needs the help of people who have.
      Charles: Well, where do we find those people?
      Doc Baker: There's schools for the blind. The nearest--and one of the best--is in Burton, Iowa.
      Caroline: That's so far away! No. She needs her family.
      Doc Baker: Caroline, she's living in fear and resentment. With the proper help and training, she'll be a different person.
      Charles: The doctor's right, Caroline.....can you contact them for us?
      Doc Baker: Certainly. Believe me, Caroline, it's what's best for Mary.

    • Charles: (after finding out about Mary) You know, Jonathan, a few weeks ago, if you had told me the mill was shutting down, I would have been the most upset man in the world. Now I don't even care; it doesn't mean a thing. I just wonder how much of our lives is spent worrying about things that just don't matter.

    • Seth: All right. I haven't been out to your place lately, but it's not because Mary's blind.
      Laura: Well, why, then?
      Seth: Because if I saw her.....I wouldn't know what to say to her.
      Laura: Well, what did you say to her before? Mary needs you now, more than ever. I love my sister. I thought that you did, too!

    • Charles: I pray and I pray. Why doesn't God listen?
      Reverend Alden: He listens, Charles. And he answers all our prayers. He doesn't always answer in the way that we want, but in a way He thinks is best for each of us.
      Charles: How can taking the sight from a 15-year-old girl be the best thing?
      Reverend Alden: We are only finite. God is infinite in His wisdom. I can only tell you that there is a reason. Charles, believe me. God must have chosen Mary for some very, very special purpose.
      Charles: Tomorrow, I have to tell my daughter that she is going blind. What shall I tell her is that special purpose?

    • Mary: I've never heard of any of those schools around here.
      Caroline: It's not around here. It's in Iowa.
      Mary: (silence) Yeah, I understand. You just want to get me out from underfoot.
      Caroline: Mary, that's not true, and you know it.
      Mary: (starts crying) Then don't send me away. Please don't send me away, let me stay here! I don't want people looking at me, feeling sorry for me. Please let me stay, Ma. Please let me stay!
      Caroline: Mary, I don't want to send you away. But if they can help can't spend the rest of your life sitting in that chair!
      Mary: WHY NOT? Why not? Why can't I just sit here? There's nothing for me to see. It's matter where I go, it's just darkness. (long pause) You've already decided to send me, haven't you?
      Caroline: Yes, we have.

  • NOTES (6)

    • The real Mary Ingalls did indeed lose her eyesight as a result of scarlet fever, but she didn't really become ill as an infant, as was depicted on the television series. She caught the fever and went blind at the same time, when she was a teenager, and in fact, her mother, Carrie, and baby Grace all caught it when she did, so Charles and Laura were forced to take care of them all. The real Mary never cried over her blindness (unlike the Mary in the TV series), and according to Laura's writings, Mary was "patient and brave" through it all, even when Charles had to chop her beautiful long hair short like a boy. Laura discussed all this in the first few paragraphs of her fifth book, By the Shores of Silver Lake, and the experience really took an emotional and financial toll on the Ingalls family.

    • In reality, Mary Ingalls' stay at the blind school was not recommended by the family doctor, but by a traveling missionary, who met the Ingalls family while passing through Dakota Territory. Mary had been blind and living at home for a while at that point. In order to pay for the trip and part of Mary's tuition, Laura took a job mending shirts and earning 25 cents for each 12-hour shift. Laura also went into teaching in the first place because it would help pay for Mary's school. Charles, Caroline and Mary were so strapped for cash on the long train ride to Iowa that they actually ate meals of fried blackbird along the way!

    • This is the first appearance of Linwood Boomer as Adam Kendall, and he went on to have an impressive career in screenwriting and producing, with his first major hit coming from Malcolm in the Middle, the TV show he created himself. Boomer credits Michael Landon as the person who taught him how to work with children.

    • The emotional scene where Charles tells his wife about Mary's prognosis is not included on the DVD's--neither the individual episode DVD, nor the complete fourth season set.

    • The TV Guide ranked this episode as one of the 100 best episodes of all time for any television series.

    • Melissa Sue Anderson was nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Lead Actress" for this episode. She didn't win, though.