Little House on the Prairie

Season 9 Episode 8

The Return Of Nellie

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Nov 15, 1982 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Return Of Nellie
The Olesons are absolutely thrilled to learn that Nellie is returning home for a visit, but Nancy is not too pleased about sharing the spotlight. Tension flies as Nellie receives all kinds of attention from everyone in town, and despite Nellie's efforts, Nancy refuses to build any relationship with her older sister. Nancy's resentment and loneliness prompt her to run away to the woods, where she gets lost and faces serious danger.moreless

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  • Not the best LH episode, but hey, who doesn't want to see Nellie Oleson? Even if she has become sort of a Prairie-style Stepford wife? Gotta love her hair. So chic & Victorian. Nellie appears to have made it in life, despite her rowdy childhood.moreless

    Nancy was usually over-done and hard to watch. In this ep she's up to her usual stunts. So Ma & Pa Oleson hope that Nellie's visit home will be a good influence on their little incorrigible. No, only if Nellie were a Jesuit priest. It's great to watch Nellie anyway. My favorite underlying message of the whole Nellie Oleson story arc is that LOVE is what made her "good." Too bad Percival couldn't make it. He was amazing. Out of Mary, Laura & Nellie, I think Nellie landed the best man - despite being the most likely never to marry.moreless
  • A lighthearted and enjoyable episode in many ways, with psychotic Nancy portrayed as the victim.

    I have to say that whenever I pop in this episode to watch on DVD, I always enjoy it. While it's certainly no "standout," it's mostly all in good fun, and it gives Alison Arngrim a chance to reprise her role as Nellie Oleson one last time.

    The new "city girl" hairstyle wears in this episode will certainly have you laughing the minute you see it, and Arngrim has good-naturedly explained in previous interviews that because the actress playing Nancy got Nellie's old wig, they had to find some kind of upgrade for Nellie, who has, at this point, spent several months living in New York with her husband and children. Speaking of which, Percival and the twins do not appear here, which is disappointing, but we do get to watch Nellie come back and spend some quality time with her family again. Of course, it's not that easy. Young Nancy, who has been acting badly in recent days and is used to being coddled to no end by her mother, gets even worse once Nellie comes to town. Not only do Nels and Harriet absolutely fawn over their eldest daughter, but even Willie shows genuine pleasure in being reunited with his sister, and Sarah Carter asks to do an editorial about "Nellie Oleson: Growing Up in Walnut Grove"--and that is only the beginning. Nellie is the center of attention with everyone in town, and although Nancy is a far cry from being ignored, her jealousy finally prompts her to run away--and so begins the Oleson family's realization that maybe they needed to give a bit more time to the insanely attention-starved Nancy.

    One question I have is why the show didn't make more of an effort to explain exactly WHY Nancy behaves she way she does. Surely she didn't get that way for no reason at all. Realistically, she must have endured some type of abuse or trauma before the Olesons adopted her, and while screenwriter Michael Landon had a chance to explore that a bit further, he never did. What's more, the family absolutely did not ignore Nancy while Nellie was there. There was no reason why they couldn't be excited about Nellie's visit, and in the end, even poor Nels was brainwashed into believing that he was partly at fault for Nancy's decision to risk her life by running away. Things may have been more interesting if they had thought of some way to truly snap the little girl into shape, like they did with Nellie at the end of Season 6. Overall, though, the episode is harmless fun for fans of the show. Watching Nels and Nellie spend time together and bond in ways that they never did before was an obvious highlight (his toast at her birthday party was so sweet), and while Nellie and Laura's sugary-sweet reunion was a little on the cheesy side, it was pretty cute to see. After all, the two actresses claim that this is the type of positive friendship they have in real life, so they had a rare opportunity to play that out on screen for once. Nellie's transformation occurred three years ago at this point, and yet this is the first and only episode where she and Laura have a genuinely amicable scene together, so at least they didn't overdo it by turning them into the absolute best of friends over a longer period of time. Some audiences may feel that Nellie's drastic change from bad girl to nice girl was slightly overdone, but as for me, I enjoy seeing her this way, and besides, Nancy does more than a good job at taking over the "Nasty Oleson Daughter" crown.

    Nancy's horrendous behavior, which does not undergo any positive development at all by episode's end, is a tad annoying, but at times like this, I guess we have to remember that she was the writers' idea of comic relief, and a prime example of overembellishing the "spoiled rotten kid" role. So if you find yourself appalled by her shamelessly evil ways, just try to smile and laugh at the sheer craziness of it all, because that was obviously the idea with her!moreless
  • Nellie returns home for a visit and Nancy has the mother of all tantrums.

    Another Nancy episode, ugh. Why so much time and energy was focused on this horrible, mean-spirited character is beyond me. No matter how many times people try to "teach her a lesson" she is still a sorry excuse for a human being.

    When Nellie returns to Walnut Grove, Nancy is beside herself that her parents are focusing so much attention on her sister (who couldn't, what with that wig!). Doesn't she realize that Nellie was the adored one before her? How could she possibly not know that? Because she'a a self- centered, selfish person, that's why. I am delighted that she's so put out. Nellie as a grown up is a bit hard to swallow, but she's sweet and funny. This is a good episode for Willie too. It is one of the first time we see him as 'mature' and it's sweet.

    I was disappointed that the dog didn't get to eat Nancy alive, that would've been great, but alas she is found and brought home in one piece. And not one lesson learned from the entire episode. The final scene has her admitting to Willie that she lied about missing Nellie and flashing her evil grin, leaving us to wonder what her next treachery will be.moreless
  • Nancy is shocked about not being the center of attention when Nellie returns for a visit.

    I'm not sure what the writers wanted us to think about this episode. At the beginning, Nels complains to Harriet about how Nancy's behavior is just as bad as when she first came to live with them and Harriet suggests that Nancy may not be getting enough attention. Nels argues that she receives constant attention.

    After Nancy runs away, Nellie suggests that the failure of people to pay attention to Nancy once Nellie arrived helped cause the situation. I realize that Nancy was probably hurt when even Harriet ignored her, but no one who had spent a significant amount of time around her should have taken the "Why I Hate My Life" essay as a cry for help. Nancy's "You Hate Me" routine has been tried and proven effective on multiple occasions before this episode aired and is reiterated at the end.

    We are supposed to feel sorry for Nancy who ran away just because she had to spend a few days out of the center of attention? There was no change in her character or personality as a result.

    It was nice to see Nellie again, but for her to be treated as a sort of conquering hero with a news article, warm reunion with Laura, and town-wide birthday party is a bit of a stretch.moreless
  • Nellie returns to town for a visit, and in a jealous fit Nancy whines and pouts her way throught the ensuing hour.

    While it's great to see Allison Arngrim again as Nellie (even a low-key, distractingly bouffant-haired, mature Nellie), it's not worth the trade-off; to see her, you have to sit through an hour of watching the Oleson's adopted daughter, Nancy, whine, pout, and cry about the sudden decrease in the amount of attention she's receiving. When an impromptou birthday party is put together for Nellie, Nancy goes over the edge and runs away. For some inexplicable reason, the Olesons want her back and, unfortunately for the viewing audience, she is found.

    Why the writers felt so compelled to replace Arngrim's character when she left the show, rather than concentrating on further development of existing characters, is beyond me. Obviously, by the ninth season they were grasping at straws--and plotlines. I am the world's biggest LHOTP fan, but this is one of more than a few episodes that can be used to back the arguement that the show ran at least two seasons too long. Abysmal.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

Kevin Hagen

Kevin Hagen

Dr. Hiram Baker

Richard Bull

Richard Bull

Nels Oleson

Stan Ivar

Stan Ivar

John Carter (1982 - 1983)

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • While in Laura and Almanzo's house, Nellie is clearly wearing a different wig than the one she wears in the rest of the episode.  The wig she wears in this scene has curls and is much more flattering.

    • Seeing that Reverend Alden knew Nellie when she was little it's unusual that he was not at her birthday party.

    • When Nellie and Dr. Baker are talking they are talking about the events in the "Bunny" episode where she lied about her not being able to walk.

    • When Nellie picks up Nancy's essay, glances at it and asks what it is about, it's at least a full five seconds before Nancy snatches it back and says "Ask Miss Plum after I've turned it in." Later, we find out that the essay was titled "Why I Hate My Life." Given that Nellie glanced at the paper for at least a few seconds, it's surprising that she didn't notice what it was about right away--and yet she didn't seem to have a clue.

    • When Nancy leaves Nellie's party, she walks across the street and right through the mercantile doors without using a key. I understand that theft wasn't as big of a problem as it is in today's world, but it still seems very strange that Harriet and Nels wouldn't lock their store up at night.

    • Watch closely when Harriet dips her finger into the cake frosting and says, "Ooooh, that's so good, Hester Sue!" Her finger doesn't appear to touch the frosting at all, and it almost looks like it is done in fast forward motion.

    • In this episode, Laura shares with Almanzo the events of a Season 4 episode called "The Rivals." She tells Almanzo how she and Nellie competed over a boy named Jeremy Dodds, but actually the boy's name was Jimmy Hill. Big goof on the writers' part!
      Laura also said in this episode that she and Nellie fought for the boy's affections, but that's not true; the competition was between Laura and a girl named Sam.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Almanzo: (after Laura tells him about the apples incident) So, who was this Jeremy Dodds?
      Laura: Just a boy.
      Almanzo: One you liked enough to stuff apples in your dress for?
      Laura: I never tied his tie. (they kiss)

    • Nellie: (about Nancy) I know I was temperamental at her age, but I was never that bad.....was I?
      (her parents are silent for a minute, then they start laughing hysterically)

    • Nellie: Is this your essay?
      Nancy: Yes.
      Nellie: What's it about?
      Nancy: Ask Miss Plum after I've turned it in.
      Nellie: Nancy.....I would like to be friends with you, but I can't make that happen all by myself. You have to want it, too. Do you think you'd be willing to try?

    • Laura: I meant to ask you--how are things going with Nancy?
      Nellie: Don't ask.
      Laura: That bad, huh?
      Nellie: That bad.
      Laura: Well, if it's any consolation to you, she does not get along with anyone.
      Nellie: I don't blame her. It's Mother. She did it with me, and now she's doing the same thing to Nancy.
      Laura: You were never that bad.
      Nellie: I was hoping you'd say that!

    • Nels: (about Nancy) Harriet, you are finally going to have to do something about that child. I don't know what, but in the past few days, she's gotten almost as bad as when she first came here.
      Harriet: (hears Nancy slamming and breaking things upstairs) Oh dear....what's she done now?
      Nels: Well, among other things, she poured ink all over Willie's head.
      Harriet: Oh, the poor know, Nels, she probably....she probably isn't getting enough attention.
      Nels: Not enough attention? That's all she gets is attention! Harriet, something has got to be done!

    • Nellie: Look at you, you're all grown up!
      Laura: Well, so are you.
      Nellie: I've missed you.
      Laura: Oh, I've missed you, too.
      Nellie: I can't believe we're saying this to each other! Remember how we used to fight?
      Laura: I sure do!
      Nellie: I wonder if you can still beat me up.
      Laura: I don't know. Wanna fight?

    • Nellie: I can't get over that essay. Nancy truly views herself as a helpless victim, surrounded by people who hate her.
      Nels: Every day, we prove to her the exact opposite. How could she possibly think that?
      Nellie: I don't know. But Mother's always saying how much Nancy looks like me.
      Nels: It's true.
      Nellie: Well, maybe she thinks that's the only reason you adopted her.
      Nels: Well, I admit it started out that way, but it's not true anymore.
      Nellie: Then I think you need to prove it to her.
      Nels: How?
      Nellie: I'm not sure. But she did get ignored a lot since I've arrived.
      Nels: She did?
      Nellie: Think about it. I guess it was a time when we should have made an extra effort to pay more attention to her.

    • Nellie: And this must be Nancy! Oh, Mother, you're absolutely right! Why, she's just a picture of me at that age.
      Nancy: I've seen pictures of you when you were my age. We don't look at all alike. I'm way prettier.

  • NOTES (4)

    • Alison Arngrim (Nellie) has said that all the scenes where her character reunites with other characters in the episode (such as Mr. Edwards, Almanzo, and Laura) were largely improvisational. In other words, Arngrim would walk up to all of them, and they would hug and say how much they missed her and how much she had grown, and these were all comments directed right to the actress as the camera simply filmed it, because Arngrim really had been away from the show for a while, and she just came back for this one episode.

    • This is the first and only time that Alison Arngrim (Nellie) and Allison Balson (Nancy) appear in an episode together. In previous interviews, Arngrim has said, "She and I had a lot in common; she was very funny."

    • Allison Balson was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Drama Series for this episode.

    • Featured characters: The Olesen family (particularly Nancy)