The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Pilot Episode Is More Action-Packed Than We Realized

A lot of action took place during the pilot episode of Little House on the Prairie. If you haven’t seen the series in a while, you might have forgotten how many edge-of-your-seat moments there are.

We get to see the journey of Laura Ingalls and her family as they explore a new land. Charles Ingalls (played by Michael Landon) builds a home from scratch, fights wolves, fights a house fire, and learns how to survive in the middle of nowhere. Here’s what happened during the Little House on the Prairie pilot.

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ journey begins

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

The Little House on the Prairie pilot episode opens with a voiceover from Laura Ingalls (played by Melissa Gilbert). She talks about leaving their little house in the big woods. “If I had a remembrance book, I would mark down how it was when we left our little house in the big woods to go west to Indian territory,” says Laura. Her father, Charles Ingalls, tells her the family has to leave because so many people had come to live in the big woods that there wasn’t enough game to hunt. He was afraid they might go hungry.

This first scene is filled with emotion as Charles looks back at the home they’ve lived in for all those years. He seems reluctant to leave, but he knows it’s for the best. The toughest part is seeing Caroline, Charles’ wife, hug her parents and say goodbye. Laura’s voiceover comes up once again, letting the audience know that Ma told them they might never see their grandparents again.

Although they were moving to an unfamiliar place, Laura was comforted by the fact that her father was there to protect them, and their dog, Jack, wouldn’t be far behind. She described Jack as her “best and truest friend.”

At one point, Charles has trouble getting the horses to pull the wagon across the water. He must get out of the wagon and lead the horses. Caroline becomes frightened and calls for Charles but he’s finally able to get to the other side. All is well until Laura realizes Jack is gone. Charles goes back to look for Jack, but he can’t find him. Charles tells Caroline he thinks Jack has drowned. Laura is heartbroken.

Jack returns

Somehow, Jack finds the family. Laura cries and hugs Jack. Charles, also relieved, hugs Jack tightly and sends up a prayer. “We thank you Lord for bringing our good and dear friend back to us,” says Charles.  

In the next scene, we see Charles playing his fiddle. It was likely his way of expressing the joy he felt after Jack came home. Laura apologizes to Charles for thinking he didn’t care about Jack when he drowned. Charles apologizes for not putting Jack in the wagon during their trek across the river.

The Ingalls house catches fire

On his way home, Charles sees a horrifying sight–his house is on fire. He and the family rush to get buckets of water so they can put out the fire. One part of the house they have trouble getting to is the roof. It continues to blaze, and the fire grows larger. Caroline panics as Charles gets on top of the roof and tries with all his might to save the house.

Suddenly, a miracle happens. It begins to rain and the fire is extinguished. Charles jumps down from the roof and Caroline breaths a sigh of relief. Caroline is happy but also concerned that the Indian tribe might have tried to burn down their home to get them to leave.

The Ingalls family meets Mr. Edwards

The next day, Charles discovers they have a neighbor, Isaiah Edwards (played by Victor French). Charles and Caroline are relieved they will have someone to help them build their house. However, Caroline doesn’t like him at first. She says he’s “uncivilized” because he doesn’t have good manners. She’s disgusted when she sees him teaching Laura how to spit.

Caroline warms up to Mr. Edwards after he comes over for Christmas dinner. He gives Laura, Mary, and Carrie thoughtful gifts. He also gives Caroline a bunch of sweet potatoes for dinner. They’ve found a neighbor and a friend.

Charles receives an upsetting letter

Toward the end of the episode, Charles receives a letter saying they must leave. “The Kansas tribe petitioned Washington,” he tells Caroline. “We have to get out. The government drew a new line, and we’re on the wrong side, so we have to go.” Charles and his family pack up and say goodbye to Mr. Edwards.

RELATED: ‘Little House on the Prairie’: Worst Episodes from Each Season

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