Little House on the Prairie

Season 8 Episode 2

The Reincarnation of Nellie (2)

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Oct 12, 1981 on NBC
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Episode Summary

The Reincarnation of Nellie (2)

Nels and Harriet's newly adopted daughter Nancy seems to be the reincarnation of Nellie - except for one thing: Nancy is worse than Nellie.

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  • When Nellie and her family decide not to return to Walnut Grove, a devastated Harriet Oleson decides to adopt a little girl. The result is a spoiled brat named Nancy.

    This is another example of the many times "Little House on the Prairie" was guilty of "jumping the shark". It is a common tactic of long-running television programs to add children when the original ones get too old to be cute.

    The Ingalls family added three children (by the time they leave Walnut Grove, three of the five children going with them are not biological) themselves. While adoption was not unheard of in those days, the constant adding of children on this show by adoption bordered on the ludicrous.

    There is a tender moment when Harriet Oleson speaks to Nancy through the door at the orphanage and tries to convince her to come home with her. We find that Harriet herself was raised as a spoiled child and acknowledges that she did the same with Nellie. Her statement that she will love Nancy exactly the way she is is moving, even though it's misguided.

    Props to the scene where Willie chokes on his sandwich when introduced to his new sister, "This is my surprise? You finally got Nellie married and out of the house and you bring home another one!"moreless
  • Nellie & her family have to move, so her mother get's so depressed, the Olsen's end up adopting another girl much meaner than Nellie at her worst.

    If you thought Nellie was a mean, lying, spoiled brat, you haven't seen anything once you've met Nancy. This episode shows the best and worst about parenting. Of course, Mr. Olsen is the sensible one, while Mrs. Olsen just wants to spoil her. After locking a classmate in the ice shed overnight and lying about it, she proceeds to tell a tale of woe about why Nancy became a troublesome orphan. After Charles, Mr. & Mrs. Olsen and all the others find out she is a big liar. They hold a bazaar with a special dunk tank for Nancy's "mermaid" character where she gets dunked by the classmate she locked in the icehouse and admits to it. Mrs. Olsen hears this and also dunks her, then tells her she loves her and will not tolerate her behavior any longer. Nancy learns her leson for the time being at least.moreless
Dean Butler

Dean Butler

Almanzo James Wilder (co-star prior to season 7)

Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Dabbs Greer

Dabbs Greer

Reverend Alden

Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman

James Cooper/Ingalls (1981 - 1982)

Kevin Hagen

Kevin Hagen

Dr. Hiram Baker

Richard Bull

Richard Bull

Nels Oleson

Susan Bjurman

Susan Bjurman

Mrs. Stevens

Guest Star

Melora Hardin

Melora Hardin

Belinda Stevens

Guest Star

Lawrence Bame

Lawrence Bame

Mr. Stevens

Guest Star

Ivan Bonar

Ivan Bonar

Mr. Case

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • On the Mermaid booth, "Mermaid" was mispelled as "Mermade."

    • If Belinda never came home after school, you'd think that her parents would have, at the very least, gone to schoolteacher Laura and asked where she was. It's possible that they didn't know where she lived, but in a town that small, don't you pretty much know everyone?

    • This is the second time that an Oleson daughter gets doused in a dunk tank. In Season 4's Meet Me at the Fair, Nellie had her turn getting soaked in one of those tanks. Also, in both cases, Laura was responsible for setting the whole thing up without Nellie or Nancy's knowledge.

    • After working on Belinda, Doc Baker tells her parents that she's awake, but she has difficulty talking. But when her parents go in to see her, Belinda talks just fine and even manages to tell them the entire story about how she came to be locked in the ice house.

    • Albert tells Willie that all the other kids agreed to boycott the school pageant because of Nancy, but when the voting is taking place in the classroom, it's clear that not every child says no. Carrie, for instance, looks shocked and unhappy over what is happening, and there are some other children who don't vote, either. If James and Cassandra knew, you'd think they would have at least informed their sister Carrie about it.

    • As you watch the final scene, notice how Allison Balson (Nancy)'s entire body is trembling when, after being dunked in the tank a third time, Harriet tells her she loves her. Either that's really impressive acting, or poor Balson was forced to be completely immersed in water on a chilly day.

    • Since Belinda was locked in the ice house by Nancy after school (4:00 at the latest) and was not discovered until sunup the next day (maybe about 6:00), it's implied that she could have been in there for about 14 hours, which could have easily left her dead in real life.

    • Nancy sings embarrassingly off-key in front of the mirror in one scene. Ironically, Allison Balson (Nancy) went on to be an accomplished musician, so this scene is not at all reflective of her real singing voice.

    • Notice Allison Balson (Nancy)'s face when she looks at the big pile of dirty dishes that Hester Sue asks her to wash. Just as she starts to fake-cry to get out of doing the work, you can clearly see that Balson is trying not to laugh. It correlates somewhat with the situation, since Nancy is probably amusing herself with her manipulative ways, but it's still clear that Balson was cracking up in the middle of filming.

    • Nancy asks Cassandra who that boy she's sitting to, and she respond that it's her brother Albert. When did Cassandra start sitting next to Albert? When she and James first started school, Laura says James can sit with Albert, and Cassandra can sit with Carrie.
      Reply: It's possible that they switched seats at some point since then. It is common for teachers to do this often throughout the school year.
      Reply: It also exposes an interesting practice of the show to sit school-children next to each other when convenient. For example, Nellie and Andy Garvey repeatedly sat together in The Cheaters, even before she began tutoring him, despite them not being seat-mates at all in the past. In this case, the writers needed a way to put Nancy and Cassandra at odds with each other (obviously to re-create the long-running Laura/Nellie conflict), and this was a quick way to achieve that.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Nancy: (after finding out the truth about the mermaid booth) You let me out of here NOW!
      Albert: Nope. You wanted to be the mermaid.
      Nancy: You lied to me!
      Albert: You're the last one to talk about lying. All I said was that it would be the most popular booth. Look around. Did I lie?

    • Albert: Why would Nancy want to hurt Belinda?
      Willie: Who knows with her? She'd like to hurt everybody. It's like having Nellie for a sister all over again, but the only good thing is, I can beat her up!

    • Nancy: How do I look?
      Willie: Like a 50 pound guppy.
      Nancy: I hate you, you know.
      Willie: Yeah, I know. But I don't care. I'm used to it. I had another sister once, too.

    • Harriet: Nels, I don't think it's right to be taking one child's word over another.
      Nels: Why not? You've been doing it ever since Nancy came here.
      Harriet: That is incorrect!
      Nels: So is this homework. Problem #3 is incorrect on Willie's paper, also on Nancy's. #7 is inccorect on both. #11 is incorrect on both. Coincidence? No! (turns to Nancy) If you're going to choose someone's homework to copy, you need to choose someone who's good in math. Your brother isn't.

    • Nancy: You ripped my homework paper!
      Willie: That's right, I did. And I'm gonna rip your lips off if you don't stop lying!
      Nancy: MOTHER! MOTHER!

    • Laura: (overvoice) Nancy stayed in the dunk tank for the rest of the day, and a lot of people said she was a good sport to do it. Oh, we knew she'd still be nasty, but she'd be better, because she knew folks cared enough about her not to let her get away with things she shouldn't. So think about that the next time your folks punish you.

    • Willie: Nobody's jealous of Nancy. Nobody wants to be in the pageant because nobody likes her!
      Mrs. Oleson: Willie!
      Willie: It's true! She's mean and she's nasty--nastier than Nellie ever was. She knew Belinda was in the ice house when I closed the door. She wanted her to get sick so she could be the star of the pageant.
      Nancy: That's a lie!
      Willie: No, it's the truth!
      Mrs. Oleson: Willie, how dare you make up a story like that. Go to your room right now!
      Willie: I didn't expect you to believe me--I'm only your son!

  • NOTES (1)

    • Although Nancy's horrid antics are meant to be humorous, writer Michael Landon's dark side is also unleashed in a lot of ways, like when Nancy rather violently twists her rag doll's head completely around, complete with chilling music in the background.