‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert Says This Is Her Favorite Episode of the Classic Series

Melissa Gilbert, right, in a scene from 'Little House on the Prairie'
Melissa Gilbert, right, in a scene from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

On NBC from 1974 to 1983, Little House on the Prairie followed the trials and joys of the Ingalls family in 1870s Minnesota.

The family drama produced almost 200 hour-long episodes.

Out of all the episodes the show’s star Melissa Gilbert, who portrayed Laura Ingalls Wilder, chose the one that in her opinion outshone all the others.

How Melissa Gilbert found out she had been cast as Laura Ingalls Wilder

Melissa Gilbert and Jeffrey, known as Bandit on 'Little House on the Prairie'
Melissa Gilbert and Jeffrey, known as Bandit on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

In a 2011 conversation with the Archive of American Television, Gilbert relived the moment she discovered she had been chosen out of dozens of other actors for the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The messenger of the news was Michael Landon’s daughter, Leslie, who was about 12 years old at the time.

“I went to school with the Landon kids,” she said, “I didn’t know that. . . and I was standing by my locker one day and this really tall girl came up to me and she said, ‘You’re Melissa, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and she said, ‘I’m Leslie and my dad says you’re going to be Half-Pint [Laura Ingalls’ nickname on ‘Little House’].’”

Understandably, Gilbert, age 9 when she was cast on the show, became very excited and contacted her mother from the school’s main office. Her mother informed her later that even Gilbert’s agent hadn’t yet heard from the network with the good news.

“I, of course, got picked up [from school] because I was beside myself that I was going to play Laura. And Leslie got punished,” Gilbert said, laughing.

Gilbert’s favorite episode of ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Melissa Gilbert and Ernest Borgnine in a scene from 'The Lord Is My Shepherd'
Melissa Gilbert and Ernest Borgnine in a scene from ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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One would think that it would be difficult for an actor to choose a favorite episode from a series as long-running as Little House on the Prairie.

For Gilbert, however, it was an easy pick, as she stated in her 2009 memoir, Prairie Tale. The actor chose “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” a two-parter “…that became my favorite of that first year and still stands out as my favorite among the more than two hundred episodes we made over nearly ten full seasons.”

In the episode, Laura feels jealous over the birth of her brother and in particular, the apparent favoring of the newborn by her father, played by Michael Landon. Her brother dies days later and in her grief and guilt, Laura runs away.

“On-screen, this ultimate tearjerker was all about Laura’s relationship with her father, but the lines we said about love and devotion applied off camera, too,” Gilbert wrote. “I cherish the opportunity [Michael Landon] gave me to say such things to him.”

The actor has come full circle with ‘Little House’

Melissa Gilbert, left, with Michael Landon and cast on 'Little House on the Prairie', 1975
Melissa Gilbert, left, with Michael Landon and cast on ‘Little House on the Prairie’, 1975 | NBCU Photo Bank

In 2008 and through 2009, Gilbert played the role of Caroline Ingalls in a stage adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. It allowed her to see how far she had come from playing little Half Pint on the television series.

“Ultimately, it didn’t matter what people called me,” she wrote. “I didn’t have to be one person to anyone, including myself. Somewhere on my journey from Baby Girl to grown woman I had discovered myself. “