Little House on the Prairie

Season 1 Episode 5

The Love of Johnny Johnson

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Oct 09, 1974 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
76 votes

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Episode Summary

When a new boy named Johnny Johnson arrives at school for the first time, Laura is immediately smitten. Johnny is a friendly boy--if not a bit scatterbrained--and although he is oblivious to Laura's crush on him, he certainly makes it clear that he is interested in Mary. Even though Mary does not share the same feelings, the "love triangle" is enough to cause tension between the sisters.moreless

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  • GREAT Episode!

    Michael Landon is pure genius. This is a very touching episode to me, extremely well done with a timeless theme. Laura falls for a slightly older boy in school named Johnny Johnson, who is also having a little bit of trouble learning. He needs helps with various things like his reading words. Laura does everything she can to win his attention. She asks Ma what she and Pa did back in the days when they were "courting", and Ma told her the story of how she invited Charles to a picnic- and Pa shyly told her his yes. Laura invited Johnny to the pond to go fishing, and he comes-but to her disappointment, he isn't as romance stuck as she is. Laura is something of a tomboy, which may be the problem. He is too busy chasing Mary her sister, but she has absolutely no interest in her. (And we see a classic love triangle). He asks Mary to help him with his spelling words- a job Laura is dying to do. She is really bummed because she keeps getting the rejection slip, and Ma gives her a comforting talk on the bed. I don't wanna grow up to be a woman, Laura says-It hurts. Well, we never do completely, says Ma. "Because in every woman there's a little girl, and in every little girl there's a woman." Laura feels better, and at school the next day she gets really excited-Johnny has asked her to meet by the sweetheart tree where the schoolkids carves their names.We finally think she won her man! Until she sees the other side of the tree, and Johnny really just wanted her opinion on his and MARY's name that he carved! What a blow!!!! Laura runs all the way home, and accuses Mary of stealing her man, which leads to a small fight. Laura goes back down by the pond, and Pa comes to comfort her. Laura apologizes for her nasty words to Mary-saying that she was jealous of Mary. Pa says he guesses he felt the same way-a little jealous that a new boy wanted to take his "best girl" Half Pint. But he tells her not to worry-that someday Johnny Johnson will find her again-and so will a lot of other interested boyfriends.moreless
  • Episode 5 - The Love of Johnny Johnson - My review

    This episode mainly focuses on Laura Ingalls.

    Laura falls in love with Johnny Johnson, a new student. Johnny compliments Laura as a good runner and Laura can’t seem to take her eyes off him. Johnny however notices Mary and starts to like her. Laura decides to impress Johnny in many ways like how high she can throw something, or how fast she can run. Johnny however notices how smart Mary is with her studies and how hard working she is. Laura even starts asking her parents how they first fell in love to get some ideas on how she can impress Johnny. Charles tells Laura that he first noticed Caroline as a good cook. Laura thinks the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so one day she invites Johnny Johnson to go fishing with her and takes a lot of oatmeal cookies with her. Johnny is disappointed that Mary didn’t show up, and soon even Laura gets disappointed because her plan didn’t work. One day Johnny comes to the Ingalls’ home and asks Mary if she can help him with his reading. Laura becomes upset but doesn’t give up. Caroline finds out about the love triangle when Ms. Beadle tells her about Laura’s infatuation. Laura starts having fights with Mary when Mary passes remarks about Johnny. One day Johnny asks Laura to meet her by the sweetheart tree (where couples scratch their initials). Laura becomes upset to see Johnny print out his and Mary’s initials. She throws out her anger on Mary. Later Charles meets Laura by the river and has a good talk with her.

    This is one of my favorite episodes of this Season. I think Melissa Gilbert acted wonderfully in this episode. It was fun to watch her looking at Johnny all the time, and the ways she tried to impress him. I would definitely watch this episode more than once.moreless
  • Half-Print has her first (and there's more to come) crush on an "older man." Mitch Vogel, with his mid-seventies, teen magazine good looks, plays good natured but not-the-deepest-thinker-in-the-world, Johnny Johnson. His very name conjures up rubery.moreless

    It all starts with Johnny's casual remark to Laura, "You're a pretty good runner, for a girl," and she's head-over-heels. Throughout this episode, Laura gets frustrated with Johnny's utter cluelessness as he consumes all her oatmeal cookies while drooling over her Marcia Brady-esque-on-the-prairie sister, Mary. In this particualr episode, we get a more in-focus look at Laura and Mary's differences: "I thought Reverend Alden's sermon on the mission in China was interesting," remarks Mary. Ma asks, "What did you think, Laura?" "I thought the sermon was too long. My legs fell sleep!" Pa's jealousy, upon learning of the love triangle between the girls, is quite hilarious. "Caroline, he's 15! That's not a boy, that's man! Do you know what a man's like when he's 15?" "No, Charles, what were you like at 15?" "I gotta go feed the stock." Towards the end, knuckleheaded Johnny asks Laura to "meet me by the sweetheart tree" and you will laugh out loud when you see Laura's wide eyed, gaspy reaction, "Oh, yes!" But she's devestated when she sees that he carved Golden-Haired sis's initials on the tree instead. But all is well again as Pa reassures his little one that time will heal, she'll grow into a swan like her Ma did, and all the while he'll love her madly.moreless
  • Melissa Gilbert is just precious in this First Season episode about young heartbreak. Crushing on (much) older Johnny Johnson (who only has eyes for Mary), Laura learns the hard way about unrequited love.moreless

    I marvel at this early episode because it really showcases the acting abilities of the two Melissas. The nuances in both their emotional expressions throughout are amazing, given their young ages. I also appreciated the parents for the sensitivity they show towards Laura during this difficult time. One thing: when Maw and Paw are talking about their youthful experiences and how Charles was older than Caroline, it appeared that the age difference was about five years. It was obvious to me that the actor playing Johnny was waaay older than Laura OR Mary! Was Melissa Gilbert 10 when she starred in that episode? She looks way younger (like 8).moreless
  • Laura experiences a crush on a boy for the first time and she doesn't find it at all pleasant.

    Laura finds herself attracted to a boy at school named Johnny Johnson and does whatever she can to be in his company in order to spend precious time with him.

    Unfortunately for Laura, Johnny only sees her as a friend due to the fact that his romantic aspirations are headed in another direction - towards Mary to be exact!

    To say that Laura is crushed when she realises that Johnny prefers Mary is an understatement and Mary, who isn't at all romantically interested in Johnny, simply does not know why Laura is making such a fuss.

    The two sisters do a fair bit of quarrelling but nothing they can do or say could make this episode interesting in my opinion. The acting was good, as usual, but the script was terrible, which is a rare thing indeed.moreless
Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Melissa Sue Anderson

Melissa Sue Anderson

Mary Amelia Ingalls/Kendall (1974 - 1981)

Charlotte Stewart

Charlotte Stewart

Miss Eva Beadle/Mrs. Simms (1974 - 1978)

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Charles Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Karen Grassle

Karen Grassle

Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Lindsay Greenbush

Lindsay Greenbush

Carrie Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Mitch Vogel

Mitch Vogel

Johnny Johnson

Guest Star

James Vincent McNichol

James Vincent McNichol

Harry Baker

Guest Star

Tracie Savage

Tracie Savage

Christy Kennedy

Recurring Role

Alison Arngrim

Alison Arngrim

Nellie Oleson

Recurring Role

Jonathan Gilbert

Jonathan Gilbert

Willie Oleson

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Before filming the part at the end where Charles and Laura have a heart-to-heart, Melissa Gilbert (Laura) had trouble connecting with the emotions that the scene called for. This was rare for her, because she was used to crying at some point in nearly every episode. To help her out, Michael Landon (Charles) knelt down in front of her, tears rolling down his face, and he said, "Do you have any idea how much I love you?" Gilbert said that was all it took to get her to start crying, and then she was ready to film the scene. Contrary to the beliefs of some people, Gilbert swears that she never felt "manipulated" when Landon did things like this. She says it made her feel "so special" and "so loved".

    • Continuity Error: In the middle of the episode, Caroline reminds Charles that she was younger than Laura is now when she started pursuing Charles, which would mean she was younger than 9 years old. But then, in the final scene of the episode, Charles tells Laura that he was 15 when he met Caroline, and she was 4 years younger, making her 11--to say nothing of the fact that Charles was clearly nowhere near the age of 15 when he and Caroline met in the flashback sequences for Season 4's I Remember, I Remember (he was more like 10). But you'd think that they would at least maintain continuity for one full episode, which they did not do here.

    • The fast song that Charles plays on his fiddle early in the episode was the same one he played in the pilot, when the Ingalls family spent their first evening with Mr. Edwards.

    • In the final scene, young Laura has a crying scene with Charles. Melissa Gilbert (Laura) has said in previous interviews that sometimes, when she really needed to get in a crying mode, Michael Landon (Charles) would call her over and crouch down in front of her, with tears pouring down his face, and he would say, "Do you have ANY idea how much I love you?" and that was enough to make Gilbert tear up. "He'd say, 'Okay, are you ready'?" Gilbert once said in an interview, "and we would just nail these scenes. I didn't feel manipulated in any way. He made me feel so special, and so loved."

    • Notice the look on Charles' face when Laura storms out after Mary has insulted Johnny Johnson. Charles looks genuinely sad and heartbroken, which seems unusual that he would take this reaction from Laura that hard. On the other hand, it's a first glimpse at the pangs Charles feels as he watches his little "Daddy's girl" grow up and take interest in other boys. Charles would visibly feel this pain later on in the series, when Laura developed crushes on other boys and eventually fell in love with Almanzo at the age of 15.

    • Goof: When Laura sits down and has the argument with Mary at the table, then tells her to shut up, look closely after Ma comes in to break up the fight and say to Laura, "I want you to hear your sister out." Before Laura runs upstairs, there is a close-up shot of her looking at Mary, as if she is about to burst into tears. Notice that in that single shot, there is a window behind Laura--the window right next to the front door of the house. Actually, Laura was sitting in the chair near the wall on the other end of the table, so Laura was sitting on the complete opposite side of the table for just that one shot. The change is very obvious from one shot to the next.

      Correction This is incorrectly regarded as a goof. There used to be a window behind where Ma sat at the table, after Ma got her new stove they moved the hutch in front of the window, or we can assume Pa removed the window as it wasn't needed any longer. The window you're seeing actually existed in this scene, and the very early episodes.

    • The song that Pa plays on his fiddle "that's guaranteed to put Carrie to sleep" is the theme music from the end credits of the show.

    • This is the first time that Laura dresses up for school to impress a boy, but it's not the last. She also does it in Season 4's The Rivals and Season 6's Back to School.

    • When Charles notices a falling star, he tells Laura that he's going to give his wish to her, because he already has everything he wants. This might be nitpicking, but Charles' desire to have a son of his own was clear throughout the series, so I'm not so sure he was being completely honest in this moment.

    • Laura's infatuation with Johnny in this episode is only the beginning of her obvious preference for older men in the series. When she falls in love with Almanzo, he is also a significant amount older than she.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • Mary: (to Caroline) You know, I think that what Reverend Alden said about the missions in China was interesting. I hope he tells us more next Sunday.
      Caroline: What did you think, Laura?
      Laura: I thought the sermon was too long.
      Caroline: Well, why?
      Laura: Because my legs went to sleep!

    • Laura: Did you know right off that you loved Pa?
      Caroline: I think so.
      Laura: Did he know it, too?
      Caroline: I'm not sure. Your Pa was never one to make sheep's eyes at girls. Why, he was so shy, I didn't even know if he liked me.
      Laura: So what did you do?
      Caroline: Well, I finally decided that if I kept on waiting for him, I may never find out.

    • Mary: Here, Carrie. Let's make letters.
      Carrie: Pictures.
      Mary: No, Carrie, we're going to make letters.
      Carrie: Pictures.
      Mary: Letters.
      Carrie: Pictures!
      Mary: Letters!
      Carrie: Pictures!
      Laura: Let her draw! Why do you always have to spoil everything, anyway?
      Mary: I don't know what you're talking about.
      Laura: You do too. We always used to have fun walking home, and now all you do is show off playing "teacher."
      Mary: That's silly.
      Laura: It's not silly! And you're two-faced, Mary Ingalls! Saying one thing about Johnny Johnson behind his back, and acting another to his face!
      Mary: It wasn't my idea to play "teacher," it was his! You're just all--
      Laura: SHUT UP! You just SHUT UP!
      Caroline: (walking in) Laura! I don't ever want to hear you speak that way to your sister, nor to anyone else! All right, now what's this all about?
      Mary: (quietly) Just a little argument.
      Caroline: Well, nothing is solved by shutting out the other person's argument. Now, Laura, I want you to hear your sister out. (long pause, Laura stands up and runs out)

    • Laura: Ma's smart. Do men like smart girls the best?
      Charles: Well, some do. Some like them sweet and gentle, and some like them full of vinegar. Your Ma's kind of like all those things rolled into one.
      Laura: What did you like best about Ma?
      Charles: Well, I think what I liked best about her was that she knew when to be quiet and not bother a man while he's trying to do his work.

    • Laura: One more question. Please, Pa?
      Charles: All right, one more.
      Laura: Did you ever like any other girls before Ma? Did you ever write her initials on a sweetheart tree?
      Charles: Well, now, that's two questions, Half-Pint. As for the initialing, I don't know....although I might have if I had thought about it. As for me liking any other girls, I wouldn't answer that question for you or your Ma!

    • Laura: I guess I was kind of jealous.
      Charles: Well, so was I.
      Laura: You were?
      Charles: Mm-hmm. Some young sprout was trying to steal my best girl.
      Laura: Oh, Pa! (hugs him)

    • Laura: Pa, will you tell me about way back when, when Ma asked you to go on a picnic? What did you think?
      Charles: Who told you about that?
      Laura: Ma told me.
      Charles: Oh, she did, did she?
      Laura: Mm-hmm. What did you think?
      Charles: Well, you promise not to tell?
      Laura: Cross my heart!
      Charles: All right. Well, I knew your Ma would just die of a broken heart if I didn't go along, so I accepted--and prayed to Heaven that she was a good cook.
      Laura: You're teasing!
      Charles: No, I'm not. Haven't you ever heard that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach?

    • Charles: How was school today?
      Laura: (glumly) It was fine, Pa.
      Mary: Not for me. My day was awful--and it's all because of that numbskull Johnny Johnson!
      Caroline: What on Earth? Why, he seemed like such a nice lad.
      Mary: He went off and put my initials on the sweetheart tree, for everyone to gape at. I don't even like him! Willie's right, he looks like a scarecrow, and he's scatterbrained as well!
      Laura: (standing up) How could you be so mean? Johnny Johnson's the best-looking boy in the whole school. You're the numbskull! (runs out)

    • Caroline: It was on that picnic that your Pa and I discovered we were kindred spirits.
      Laura: What's a kindred spirit?
      Caroline: Well....that means that you can read each other's thoughts, without putting them into words.

    • Laura: (about Mary and Johnny) It's not fair, Pa. She doesn't care a hoot about him, and it's her name he put on the tree. I could have died--it was the most tragical thing that's ever happened in my whole life!
      Charles: Like the time we lost our old dog Jack?
      Laura: Jack found us again.
      Charles: And Johnny will find you again.

    • Charles: Has Laura been asking you any strange questions lately?
      Caroline: She asked me how we met, and about our courtship.
      Charles: I don't know....when I was working in the barn earlier, she was asking me the same kind of thing. What men like about women....
      Caroline: Really?
      Charles: You don't think she's got a case of puppy love, do you?
      Caroline: Laura?
      Charles: Yeah.
      Caroline: Well, Charles, I remember chasing after a man when I wasn't much older than Laura.
      Charles: And I remember slowing down so you could catch me.

    • (Laura and Ma are talking on the bed)
      Laura: I don't want to grow up to be a woman. It hurts.
      Ma: Well, we never do completely. Because in every woman there's a little girl, and in every little girl there's a woman.

    • Laura: (referring to Johnny Johnson) I think he's like Pa.
      Mary: Well, he's downright homely compared to Pa!
      Laura: I think he's the best looking boy in the whole school.
      Mary: That's not saying much!

  • NOTES (4)