Laura really falls out of character in this episode by deliberately stealing a toy from Nellie's bedroom. Of course, we are all human and make mistakes, but Laura never stole before, and she never did it again after this.
In this episode, Nellie engages in one of her meanest tricks yet by forcing stuttering Anna to say a tongue twister in front of a bunch of laughing classmates. "That scene even gives me the creeps!" actress Alison Arngrim (Nellie) has said.
Think back on the scene where Nellie shows up at the Ingalls' place and catches Laura with the music box. First, Nellie was struggling to get past Jack the dog, who was barking wildly, and Nellie kept screaming for him to get away. Then she ran into the barn for safety, and that's where Laura was caught red-handed. However, given that Nellie was being so loud with Jack before, you would think that Laura could have heard her and quickly hid the music box.
Katherine MacGregor (Mrs. Oleson) appears only briefly in this episode: for a few seconds at the beginning, and then a little bit in Laura's dream sequences. I wonder where she was when Mr. Oleson was constantly stepping up and dealing with Nellie as she behaved cruelly toward Anna. It's nice to see him have an opportunity to discipline his kids as they deserved to be, but one has to be curious about where Mrs. Oleson is through all of it.
In the scene where Nellie catches Laura with the music box in the barn, look closely at Alison Arngrim (Nellie)'s wig. It seems as if it was not placed on her head properly--it doesn't cover her whole head as it should, and the bangs are all messed up. In the next scene, however, when Nellie goes over to see Anna, the wig looks just fine.
When Laura is entering her dream sequence about being hanged, it shows her in bed with a branch hitting her bedroom window in rhythm which then goes into the dream and the hangman's drum being beat in rhythm. Yet from the outside, you never see a tree anywhere near her window, or anywhere near the house at all for that matter.
Charles: (about giving Laura a dictionary for her birthday) I bet I'll be using that dictionary a lot myself.
Caroline: I certainly never had anything like that when I was little.
Charles: Me neither. (pauses) Who am I kidding? She hated it.
Caroline: Charles, she didn't hate it!
Charles: Oh, of course she did. Me and my bright ideas--I should have let you be the one to pick out her presents.
Caroline: It's exactly what I would have picked out. Don't feel bad. She's got to learn to be happy getting what she needs. Besides, years from now, when things like fancy mirrors are broken and long forgotten, she'll still be using that dictionary and thinking what a beautiful gift it was.
Charles: All right, what's going on up here?
Laura: Nothing, Pa.
Charles: Well, it doesn't sound like nothing to me! Come on, what is it?
Mary: Laura was mean to Anna!
Laura: I didn't do anything mean to her!
Mary: Anna thought you were her best friend, and then you hurt her, just like all the others! You made her cry. And don't try to lie! I was there!
Laura: I didn't mean to make her cry. I just......wanted to play with Nellie today, that's all.
Charles: But you did promise Anna?
Laura: I guess so.
Charles: You guess so? Now, either you did, or you didn't!
Laura: Yes, sir, I did.
Charles: Nellie and Anna are both your friends. I don't see why Anna can't be in the club, too.
Mary: The club doesn't want Anna because she stutters!
Charles: Is that true?
Charles: I can't hear you! Is that true?
Charles: I'm surprised you'd want to be in a club like that. It doesn't sound very good to me.
Laura: Well, all my friends are in it.
Mary: Not Anna!
Mary: Did you tell Pa how mean you were to Anna?
Laura: I wasn't mean to her. I still like her--but I like Nellie, too.
Mary: You didn't like Nellie at all until she gave you that music box!
Nellie: (to Anna) A chicken can squawk, and a bird can flutter, but Anna can't talk, all she can do is st-st-st-st-stutter!
Laura: (to her classmates, who laughed at and teased Anna) I hope you're proud of yourselves! That was the meanest thing anybody ever did! You never wanted her in your club. You just wanted to trick her so you could make her cry again. What did she ever do to you? She just wanted to be somebody's friend--anybody's friend. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!
In Quarantine, an episode which aired shortly before this one, Laura helps Alicia through a bout of guilt, after Alicia confessed to Laura that she stole a hair ribbon from the mercantile. Laura must have believed her own advice ("God will forgive") as she boldly stole Nellie's music box in this episode.
Although "Little House on the Prairie" was always perceived as a clean and wholesome family series (particularly in the early seasons), Laura's three nightmare sequences in this episode are not very suitable for children. They grow increasingly violent as the episode progresses, straying quite a bit from the show's typical "warm and fuzzy" image. We all know that the storylines grew more dramatic and hard-core in the later seasons, but that was not so common in the first few years--but Michael Landon's bravery with certain plot threads really shines through in this episode.
Stuttering will also be tackled in Ep 172, "No Beast So Fierce"
Katy Kurtzman will return to play young Caroline in Ep 82, "I Remember, I Remember"
In a way, this episode addresses hazing, an issue that gained mainstream media attention in the 1980s and 1990s following lawsuits against colleges and their fraternities. Nellie doesn't use sex or alcohol to pull her hazing-like stunt, but forcing Anna to quickly read a tongue-twister (the "Peter Piper" one) without stuttering is wickedly cruel.
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