‘Little House on the Prairie’: This Episode Was ‘Heaven’ for Karen Grassle

Little House on the Prairie star Karen Grassle became a familiar face in many homes in the 1970s and early 1980s. She rose to stardom as Caroline Ingalls on the hit NBC series. Grassle revealed the one episode that was “heaven” for her.

Karen Grassle says Michael Landon told her a ‘special script’ was in the works

Karen Grassle and Michael Landon as Caroline Ingalls and Charles Ingalls on 'Little House on the Prairie.'
Karen Grassle and Michael Landon | NBCU Photo Bank

Grassle says during Little House on the Prairie Season 2, Michael Landon told her a special script was being developed for her character. She says she was looking forward to the script because she was eager to do something different. Up until then, her character was mostly tied to taking care of children and keeping house. Grassle wanted to show what she could do and demonstrate the depth of her acting skills.

Grassle also wanted a chance to patch things over with Landon. She mentions in her book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust that their relationship had become strained because of her contract negotiation. She wanted things to go back to the way they were between them. “I hoped the thaw was coming,” writes Grassle.

Karen Grassle says this episode was ‘heaven’

Grassle has a few favorite episodes, but the one that stands out for her is “A Matter of Faith” (Little House on the Prairie Season 2 Episode 15). She says she felt like this episode allowed her to show off her acting chops.

During “A Matter of Faith,” Caroline Ingalls scratches her leg on a wire while helping Charles Ingalls (played by Landon) unload the wagon. She isn’t concerned at first, but she later develops a bacterial infection. After a day of baking pies for a church picnic, she becomes flushed and visibly ill. That night, after trying to catch one of the cows during a rainstorm, she collapses. No one is home because her family is away for the picnic.

Caroline regains consciousness and stumbles toward the house. She gets sicker as time passes. Later, she reads a Bible passage (Mark 9: 44-45, which talks about cutting off one’s hand and foot) and considers cutting off her leg. Caroline must decide what to do next.

Grassle enjoyed that the role was physically demanding. “This episode was heaven for me,” says Grassle. “Make it physically demanding, pile on the pain and suffering, and let me at it.”

Grassle was happy to have a role in an episode that allowed her to expand her range as an actor. She says she appreciated that she got to do more than send her TV children to school or do chores around the house.

The script decision that Karen Grassle called a ‘slap in the face’ by Michael Landon

Grassle says she had conflicts with Landon on the set of Little House on the Prairie. Toward the end of her tenure, she was faced with a situation she found insulting. She says her screen time was diminished soon after she announced her plans to exit the show. She made the producers aware season 8 would be her last.

Grassle was hurt and upset when she received the script for “Stone Soup” and learned she would have a limited appearance. The episode (Little House on the Prairie Season 8 Episode 12) focused on Melissa Gilbert’s character, Laura Ingalls.

Grassle says Landon told her to take her issues to NBC if she didn’t like the amount of screen time she was given. He also told her she could sue if she didn’t agree with the script. Instead, Grassle says she told Landon he was the final decision maker since it was his show.

According to Grassle, the script remained unchanged. She appeared only toward the middle and the end of the episode. Grassle felt the way Landon responded was like a “slap in the face.”

RELATED: ‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Bonded With Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson in the Sweetest Way

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