Little House on the Prairie was one of the most popular shows of the 1970s. By its final season, however, the show spiraled into bizarre plot points and storylines. In one season, Mrs. Oleson tries to off an orangutan, help a swindler get a job at the bank, and stage a coup. And this is nothing compared to the final episode, in which the people of Walnut Grove end their town with dynamite.
Based on the popular books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the show never intended to stick with the true story of the Ingalls family. But introducing morphine dependency and the mistreatment of children took the show to a much darker place than that of the books. And while Season 9 introduced new child actors, such as a young Shannen Doherty, it also launched plots unsuitable for children - like when Doherty's character tries to end her life and Laura has to stop her. Here are the weirdest things that happened in the final season of Little House.
The Series Dynamited The Entire Set
Little House on the Prairie ended with a two-hour TV movie called The Last Farewell. Viewers were in for a big surprise: during the episode, the people of Walnut Grove choose to TNT the entire town.
When a land developer tries to take over their beloved hamlet, the hearty Walnut Grovers choose to take out the place so he won't be able to do anything with his newly acquired real estate. The nonsensical plot mirrored real life when the actual set for Little House was eliminated for the finale.
As producer Kent McCray explained, the Little House creators had promised to return the land where the show was filmed to its original state. Rather than dismantle the entire set, Michael Landon - who wrote, directed, and executive-produced The Last Farewell - suggested, "What if we blow up the town?"
Landon then wrote the script to do just that. He told The New York Times in 1984:
I think it makes for a good, strong pioneer ending. It was also a nice catharsis for the cast and crew. There were lots of tears when we finally blew up the town. The actors had all become very attached to their own buildings, so it was very emotional.
Mr. Edwards Adopts An Orangutan
Little House was always a fan of adoption: early on in its nine-year run, the show deviated from the books by throwing in numerous adopted children. But by Season 9, the writers may have run out of ideas. In an episode titled "For the Love of Blanche," friendly Mr. Edwards (Victor French) agrees to adopt a baby, but he's in for a big surprise: instead of a human baby, he receives an orangutan.
During the episode, Mrs. Oleson (Katherine MacGregor) tries to off the orangutan, which saves a child from a fire while Mr. Edwards tries to fake the orangutan's passing.
How many Minnesotans in the late 1800s raised pet orangutans? The answer is probably zero. But by the end of its run, Little House leaned into the weirdness.
Mrs. Oleson Stages A Coup
The Oleson family always brings drama to Walnut Grove, and Season 9 doesn't change this fact. However, the stakes grow higher when Mrs. Oleson tries to take over Walnut Grove in the final season. During the episode, Mrs. Oleson claims the town owes her $14,000.
Leveraging the massive debt, she pressures the town to elect her husband mayor and rename Walnut Grove "Olesonville." The wacky plot ends with the town changing its name back to Walnut Grove.
The 'Wild Boy' Comes To Walnut Grove
Season 9 introduced viewers to the "wild boy," a child in a cage who gets dosed with a sedative substance and lashed by a traveling snake oil salesman. The dark storyline carries over two episodes, as the townspeople first laugh at the boy, then realize he suffers from maltreatment.
By the second hour of the two-parter, Laura teaches the mute boy sign language so he can communicate his anguish. The Wilders fight for the wild boy and he eventually argues his way out of a sanitarium and stays in Walnut Grove.
Albert Fights Morphine Dependency
From the beginning, Albert Ingalls (Matthew Labyorteaux) was a deviation from the original Little House books. Laura's adopted brother returns to Walnut Grove in Season 9, bringing a dark secret: he has a dependency on morphine. The two-hour episode hits all the beats of a 1980s "very special episode" about illicit substances.
Albert becomes aggressive and breaks the law. He ruins his relationship with his family. And eventually, Albert decides to quit his habit and become a doctor so he can help others.
But the show's writers don't let Albert off easily: they give him a terminal illness, implying he passes at the end of the series, though what exactly happens to him is never clear.
Shannen Doherty Comes To The Prairie
Before Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed, Shannon Doherty lived on the prairie as Jenny. In the Season 9 premiere, viewers learn Almanzo's brother, Royal, has declining health - and that he's hiding his condition from young daughter Jenny, whom Almanzo (Dean Butler) and Laura adopt after Royal's passing.
The premise introduced an adorable Doherty to the cast, but the character Jenny struggles with her father's passing and tries to take her life. It's one of many dark moments in the final season of Little House.