Little House on the Prairie

Season 9 Episode 9

The Empire Builders

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Nov 22, 1982 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

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  • When the railroad wants to build a stop-station in Walnut Grove, the residents discover that it will cost some of them their land.

    The railroad comes to town and announces that it wants to make Walnut Grove one of its largest stops in the land. Everyone is excited (except a suspicious Laura), until it becomes clear that the railroad wants to exercise the right of "imminent domain", taking land by force. The Carters and the Wilders stand to lose everything. When they refuse to give up their land, the Wilders are menaced and John Carter is beaten; a final showdown occurs on the Carter property, where the armed townsfolk have holed up, apparently prepared to shoot it out if necessary (women included). Fearing bad publicity, the railroad reluctantly agrees to re-route itself through Tracy (where the people are supposedly more agreeable), and Walnut Grove is left intact. This is a pretty good episode, with a typical, tidy LHOTP problem/solution scenario presented well. However, I kept getting the feeling I'd seen it before, even though I'd never seen this particular episode--then it hit me! This is largely just a one-hour version of "The Last Farwell" Little House TV movie, which originally aired just sixteen months after this episode did. How strange. Equally strange is the fact that the scriptwriters have John Carter lecturing the railroad foreman at the end of this episode, basically stating, "you guys can keep coming, but we'll always beat you. We'll never give up our land". Hmm...really? Note, too, Laura's overvoice at the end of the episode: "the railroad went to Tracy, and Walnut Grove remained the same little town it had always been". Yet at the end of the "Last Farewell" episode, when the town is blown up, the mayors of some of the surrounding towns are present, and the mayor of Tracy tells the railroad boss that "the same thing will happen if they try to come to Tracy". This is a pretty glaring error on the writer's part, considering they sent the railroad to Tracy a season earlier!
  • Walnut Grove is excited for the railroad to come, but soon find they will have to make some sacrifices of their own.

    Without a doubt, this episode is redone in "The Last Farewell" (except there its not the railroad that takes over). Not an original plot. But its still very enjoyable. This is how it would happen -- excitement, then a few sacrifices, only to come into complete problems. By the scene where Laura stands up to the railroad with her gun and says they'll have to take it, you are inspired to go and save your town from an evil company. In many cases in this world, the railroad is what made the towns prosper. Still, there are personal sacrifices that must be made, and that's what this episode revolves around. And when John punches the guy at the end and gives his speech, you are just ready to stand up next to him and say, "yeah! We beat you!" for lack of a better phrase. An exciting episode that you don't forget.
  • Railroad or no railroad...that is the question. My favorite part was a gun-wileding Laura stating that they wouldn't give up without a fight.

    I dind't really care for any of the storylines that revolved around the Carters. I missed the Ingalls family!

    This was well done, though, as are all Little House episodes. With everyone coming together to solve a problem.
    By the end of the episode, I was cheering for John when he belted Hobson(?)

    I do agree that it was similar to the special "The Last Farewell" but it wasn't an error. The Last Farewell was not about the railroad coming, it was a man that owned the land and wanted to take over the town. He wasn't going to destroy any of the property, and he even offered them money to remain and work their own land.