Little House on the Prairie

Season 5 Episode 11

The Cheaters

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Nov 20, 1978 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
73 votes

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Episode Summary

The Cheaters
Now that she is the new teacher in Walnut Grove, one of Alice Garvey's biggest worries is her son Andy, who is currently her weakest student. Alice reluctantly agrees to let Nellie Oleson tutor him, but this ends up being a grave mistake.

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  • Alice Garvey is the new school teacher at the Walnut Grove school but her biggest problems seems to be Andy's poor grades.

    There was a lot to really enjoy about this episode, but the reason I have given it such a relatively low score is because Alice Garvey was not just worried about Andy's poor grades, she was clearly ashamed and embarrassed and I feel that this sent out a very poor and irresponsible message from those behind the episode. It is not ok for a parent to be ashamed of their child for something like. Be ashamed of what he did later, absolutely, but not just because 'the teacher's son' doesn't do as well at schoolwork as some others, regardless of the reason behind it.

    Anyway, Andy's bad grades lead a frustrated Alice to have the best student in the class, Nellie Oleson, tutor him after school. Clearly a VERY bad move! Naturally, Harriet is crowing because the teacher's son is doing badly, blissfully unaware that her own daughter is gaining such grades due to cheating. When Andy finds out, he goes along with it and is soon caught, but not before he also puts Nellie in the soup with her mother.

    This would have been a good episode were it not for Alice feeling the way she did and making Andy feel even worse.moreless
Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Patrick Labyorteaux

Patrick Labyorteaux

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

Matthew Laborteaux

Matthew Laborteaux

Albert Quinn Ingalls (1978 -1982)

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Charles Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Alison Arngrim

Alison Arngrim

Nellie Oleson/Dalton (1974 - 1981)

Karen Grassle

Karen Grassle

Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (16)

    • The dress Nellie is wearing in the first scene in the mercantile (a black jumper over a white blouse) is her uniform that she wore when she attended The Winoka School. She wore it for a while at the Walnut Grove school, but she eventually stopped.

    • It is mentioned early in the episode that Albert was earning very high marks on the tests, and Mrs. Garvey acknowledged that out loud. Later, though, we see the grades on the board, and indeed, Albert's percentages are in the upper nineties. However, so are Laura's, and yet nothing is ever mentioned on what a good student she obviously is. If her grades were that close to matching Albert's (and some of them were even higher), why wouldn't that be talked about?

    • Albert has been getting poor grades for quite a while by the time Laura mentions it to their father, and it's obvious that it's the first time he's hearing about it. You'd think that if Albert's grades slipped that much and weren't improving, Mrs. Garvey would have talked to his parents about it--or, at the very least, Laura or little Carrie (who was known to be a tattletale) would have told them. The grades were, after all, posted in the classroom for all to see, so you know they were aware of their brother's problems.

    • In a schoolroom that small, it's a bit of a stretch that nobody except Laura noticed Andy peeking at the answers balled up in his fist, or Nellie sneaking a look inside her sweater. For that matter, nobody ever seemed to notice anything strange about the fact that she was wearing the exact same sweater every day, even on hot days. You'd think that at the very least, one of the younger students would have seen this and tattled on them.

    • Look really closely in the scene where Andy and Nellie are acknowledged for getting the highest test scores. The camera gets a close-up of Albert smiling and clapping for them.

      Then look at the final scene of the episode, where Albert receives the highest score on the final exam. They show another close-up of Albert, which is the exact same shot from the scene described above, inserted for the sake of convenience. You can tell because of the different clothes that Albert is wearing in that one shot. It's strange that they put that there, given the fact that it makes it look like Albert is clapping wildly for himself--and yet in the very next shot after that, Albert just smiles modestly and shrugs his shoulders. It's very noticeable and a poor editing job.

    • Whenever Andy Garvey threatens to tattle on Nellie about the cheating, she smirks and says "Your mother would never believe you!" It's a bit of a stretch for Nellie to be so confident about that. What reason would Mrs. Garvey not have to believe her own son, particularly with favor toward Nellie?

    • In the scene where Andy is at the kitchen table copying the test questions, the viewer can clearly see a set of glass salt and pepper shakers with shiny chrome tops on the table. These props are clearly out of place. Such shiny chrome lids weren't even readily available until the 1940's. Before that, lids were pewter or punched tin, which had a dull, non-reflective surface. Salt in particular was almost always kept in a salt pig (a container the size of a lidless sugar bowl), because of the large quantities used on a daily basis.

    • Apparently, Alice Garvey places her written tests and other important teacher materials in an easily accessible drawer in the house. Even if she did trust her son and could not imagine him cheating like that, you would think she'd be a little more careful about hiding those things. It's human nature for children to grab a quick peek at something like that if given the opportunity, even if they're good kids.

    • During the first part of the exam, the chalkboard on the side of the schoolhouse does not have the columns of test scores on them. In the next clip of Laura looking at Andy and catches him cheating, the scores are back on the board.

    • Alice puts the "big" exam in the drawer before going into town. She does not shut the drawer all the way before leaving the house. In the very next scene, Andy goes to the door to watch his parents leave, and the drawer is fully closed.

    • While we understand that Charles is only trying to nudge Andy's conscience by telling him stories of his own misdeeds as a child, doesn't it seem unlikely that growing up in the 1840s, Charles would write notes and sign his parents' names to excuse himself from school? Attendance was not mandatory in most schools and, even in cases where truancy was forbidden, most neighbors knew each other well enough to know whose child was sick and who wasn't. Sending a note to school was probably a practice that developed much later.

    • The final exam results beg some questions: * Albert has been intentionally doing poorly for a long time, taking at least one part of the final exam before having his talk with Charles. Yet one perfect exam puts him in the number one spot. * Was Nellie's score on the first part of the exam negated due to her cheating? She must have done very poorly on the second part to have her standing affected so much. (Also, Mrs. Garvey passed out the test results before awarding the ribbon. Odd that Mrs. Oleson didn't look at the grade on Nellie's paper then) * Mrs. Garvey announces that all of the students have been promoted--including Willie? It seems unlikely that his grades improved significantly enough during this test to promote him to the next grade. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

    • Harriet, as just one member of the school board, demands that a ribbon be given to the student with the highest-score. Even in this time period, Harriet is over-stepping her authority.

    • In this episode, Alice Garvey writes down everyone's grades on the blackboard for the entire class to see. Maybe that was more common back then, but needless to say, in today's world, a teacher would be in pretty hot water if they tried to do that to the kids. It's just one of the many "signs of the times" that you see on the show!

    • It seems odd that Mr and Mrs Oleson would let Nellie and Andy in Nellie's bedroom with the door closed doing homework.

    • Nitpick: Nellie tells Andy to mess up a question once in awhile so the teacher doesn't get suspicious. Yet when one looks at the chalkboard with all of the students' test scores, Nellie clearly has an abundance of 100% scores.
      REPLY: That's likely because Nellie has been doing well in school for so long, it wouldn't be as suspicious for her to get 100% scores as it would be for Andy, who has been getting bad grades recently. Also, Nellie's scores on the board show that she has a few 98's along with the 100's, which shows that she in fact did mess up a question or two; just enough to throw off the suspicion of always having a perfect score, while also still keeping herself at the top of the class.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Laura: (after advising Andy to tell his parents the truth about the cheating) The worst they could do is give you a licking.
      Andy: They'd be ashamed of me. They were so proud, me getting good grades and all. How would you like it if your Ma and Pa were ashamed of you?

    • Willie (Speaking to Andy about his grades): What'd you get?
      Andy: A "D."
      Willie: That's not so bad. I got an F minus!

    • Mrs. Garvey: Why, Andy?
      Andy: I don't know, Ma.
      Mrs. Garvey: You don't know, or you just don't want to tell me?
      Laura: I know why. (turns to Andy) You want to tell your Ma, or should I? (he doesn't reply, so Laura turns to Mrs. Garvey) Andy wasn't the only one who cheated. Nellie Oleson cheated, too. She showed him how. She made him steal the answers, and she said she'd tell on him if he didn't.

    • Mrs. Oleson: Nellie Oleson! What have you done, embarrassing me like this?
      Nellie: You said I'm just like you!

    • Mrs. Oleson: Why, it's impossible that my Nellie did not win. Obviously, you graded the papers incorrectly!
      Alice: Well, you may be right. You can check the answers, if you'd like. They're right here, inside Nellie's jacket, the same jacket she has worn for every exam I've given, except today's. I kept it here on my desk. Have a nice day.

    • Charles: Do you think it's possible for a fellow to deliberately get lower grades, just to be one of the boys?
      Albert: I guess it's possible.
      Charles: How about probable? Because that's what you've been doing, ain't it? Isn't it?
      Albert: Yes, sir.
      Charles: All right. Then you've been cheating.
      Albert: I never cheat!
      Charles: Now, hold on. There are a lot of ways of cheating. Some of them are just as bad, or maybe worse.
      Albert: I don't understand.
      Charles: The only thing I have ever asked of one of my children is that he do his best. Just work the hardest he can, in any job that he has. That's all a parent ever asks of a child. When you don't use the ability and the brain that God gave you, you're cheating. You're cheating God, and you're cheating yourself.
      Albert: I'm sorry, Pa. I guess I never thought about it that way.
      Charles: Well, you better start thinking about it that way. And I'll tell you something else, there are a lot of things in this world that are more important than being popular. Being true to yourself is one of them.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Alison Arngrim (Nellie) once discussed the final scene of this episode in an interview. She said that Katherine MacGregor (Harriet) was supposed to fold the jacket in such a way that when she whacked Nellie on the bottom with it, the side with the buttons would not make any contact with her. However, that's not how it worked, so when Harriet kept hitting Nellie, the buttons really made it even more painful for Arngrim than it needed to be. Arngrim even joked that as her character was screaming and running away, she wasn't really "acting," because it truly hurt.

    • Featured characters: Andy Garvey and Nellie Oleson

    • Karen Grassle (Caroline) was credited but did not appear in this episode.