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!