The Cooper children have spent nearly a year settling into life with the Ingalls family. One day, their old Uncle Jed comes to town to visit. This is the uncle who was previously in such dire financial straits that he couldn't take in James and Cassandra when their parents died. But having struck it rich mining for gold, things are different now for uncle Jed, and after visiting for a couple of weeks and rekindling his relationship with his niece and nephew, he tells Charles that he would like the children to come live with him. Charles and Caroline are naturally upset, but leave it to James and Cassandra to make the final choice. The children choose to stay with the Ingalls, who in less than a month are due to become their legal parents. Enraged and rejected, Jed tells Charles, "you leave me no choice, I'm taking you to court". A circuit judge grants custody to Uncle Jed, since the adoption wasn't yet legal. On the very day the children are to leave with Jed, he suffers a major coughing fit in front of the mercantile. Doc Baker examines him, and tells Jed that he has "consumption"--1880's talk for tuberculosis--adding that "he won't survive another six months in Minnesota", and advises him to move to the southwest.
Jed visits the Ingalls, tells the kids that he has sudden business "far from here", and that he's decided to let the children stay in Walnut Grove. He doesn't mention to anyone that he's terminally ill with this highly contagious disease, and for some reason he does give Cassandra a cheek-to-cheek hug goodbye. Mercifully, the writers took the high road and did not follow this episode with one titled "Consumption".
This is one of the last truly well-written episodes in the Little House series. It covers a lot of topics, too: love, money, illness, forgiveness, to name a few. Worth viewing.