Little House on the Prairie

Season 9 Episode 1

Times are Changing (1)

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Sep 27, 1982 on NBC

Episode Recap

As the episode begins, Laura walks down the hill toward her childhood home. Her voice-over narration explains that it is now the Spring of 1887 and that the previous year's hardships had forced her father to sell the farm and move the family to Burr Oak, Iowa. He has returned to retrieve the remainder of the family's possessions. Though Charles is trying hard to put a positive spin on things, Laura knows he's hurting. Reflecting on what an incredible livelihood his family built in Walnut Grove makes it all the more difficult.
Charles greets the new owners - John and Sarah Carter - who invite him to supper. He declines as he has a long trip ahead of him, but asks to see the inside of the house one more time.
While inside, he wanders through the rooms of the home he built and in which he raised his children. He is joined by Laura who shares memories with him and encourages him to let his feelings show.
Their emotional hug is disrupted by the Carter boys. Jeb and Jason are arguing over a pencil box and are interrupted by their parents who apologize for the intrusion. They offer to let the father and daughter have a little more time, but Charles is determined that he needs to leave.
Sarah comments to her husband that Charles appeared to have been crying and makes him promise that they will never move again.
Charles offers Laura a ride home and, on the way, they discuss the Carters. John is an accomplished blacksmith, while Sarah is planning to publish a newspaper in Walnut Grove. Times are surely changing with a woman running a newspaper!
Laura has nothing personal against the Carters, but it feels strange to have another family living in the home she grew up in. Charles understands how she feels, because he was the one who watched her grow up in that house. She pursuades him to come inside for a moment where he is surprised by Almanzo, Dr. Baker, Reverend Alden, Mr. Edwards and Nels Oleson. His friends want to give him one last farewell, as well as a gift. Having heard he will be working in a fancy men's store in Burr Oak, they have given him a new suit to wear. Overcome with emotion, he goes outside where Edwards comforts him and assures him he will look after Laura and her family.
Charles stays late into the night, with Edwards on the harmonica and Baker on the accordian, dancing and laughing with his friends.
The departure of the Ingalls family coincides with the beginning of a new school term which brings about additional change - Laura will no longer be teaching. She introduces the to her replacement - Miss Etta Plum. Laura is moved when Willie and Nancy present her with a card decorated and signed by the whole and is asked by Willie to send him to the corner one more time, for old time's sake.
In the meantime, Almanzo is thrilled when he receives word that his brother, Royal, and Royal's ten-year old daughter, Jenny, will be arriving in three days. He hasn't seen Royal for ten years and immediately begins working on the extra room he had been planning to build onto the house. When the day arrives, Almanzo is overjoyed to greet his brother, but is shocked at how much older Royal looks. Young Jenny is happy to meet her father's family and they quickly settle into the Wilder home.
Royal explains that he has not taken care of himself since the death of his wife about a year ago. Jenny took charge of getting him back on track and they are looking for a change. He is considering establishing roots in Walnut Grove and Laura offers to take Jenny to town the next day and get her enrolled in school.
They pass Mrs. Oleson on the way into town and Laura explains Mrs. Oleson's penchant for gossip to her young niece. That hobby has not diminished with time as Harriet is interested in the newspaper equipment and attempts to insinuate herself into Sarah Carter's good graces by embellishing her previous experience at writing a gossip column for Walnut Grove's first, short-lived newspaper some years ago. Sarah maintains that her paper will not print gossip, only news and weather. Harriet, with her Farmer's Almanac, manages to get herself a job reporting the weather and immediately begins thinking up catchy names for the column.
Jenny begins her first day of school and catches the eye of Jeb Carter who talks to her afterwards and offers to show her his homing pigeons. When the other students decide to take advantage of the hot day to go swimming, however, Jeb declines and is left behind.
Laura takes a long time to get home and Royal relieves Almanzo's chopping of wood so he can take care of Rose. Even a small amount of chopping exerts Royal tremendously and he is soon sweating profusely. When Laura returns, a concerned Almanzo takes the chopping back over again.
The Olesons are forced to deal with leftover restaurant food as Harriet is writing her column. Nels is displeased to discover his wife has creatively inserted town gossip into her weather report for a hot and sunny day. She leaves the dishes to him and he attempts to have the children finish them. Unfortunately, Nancy manages to manipulate her way out of them by complaining she doesn't feel well. She explains that Jenny Wilder was mean to her at school and, when Nels presses the matter, gets upset and leaves the table. Willie explains that Jenny didn't actually do anything, just be pretty. That is enough for Nancy.
Jason Carter has to comfort Jeb who is crying because he can't swim and is afraid to try. Jason attempts to encourage Jeb to learn.
The next morning, Laura mentions to her husband that Royal looked very tired the night before when they hear a noise. They rush into Royal's room and find he's collapsed and is having difficulty breathing. Almanzo rushes into town to get the doctor.
In the meantime, Harriet is furious. The newspaper has been printed and her column has been reduced to the simple lines: sunny and hot. She asks Nels if he's ever read anything so stupid and he agrees - as a freak thunderstorm erupts around them.
Almanzo arrives and tells Baker the symptoms; the doctor believes it may be a heart problem. At the Wilders', Baker discusses the matter with Royal and suspects that this is not the first time this has happened. He recommends to Almanzo that Royal rest and keep from exerting himself. When he is able to travel, Royal should be seen by specialists in St. Paul.
Almanzo tries to discuss this with Royal who explains that he has had all of the tests. His heart is bad and he is not likely to live long. He came to Walnut Grove to get Jenny acquainted with her family and them with her. They will be all she has left. He asks Almanzo not to tell Jenny as he wants his last days with her to be happy, not marked by a hurt and sad child.