A trip to the swimming hole with Mary and Laura sets the stage for tragedy when a fierce undercurrent takes 11-year-old Ellen Taylor’s life. As the girl’s mother withdraws in denial, she blames Laura for the accident and alienates everyone around her. With Eloise now disconnected from the entire Walnut Grove community, Laura attempts to cheer her up with a home visit and some flowers, but the woman’s emotionally unstable condition puts Laura in some real danger.
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After several days of being annoyed by her beloved dog Jack, Laura is shocked and devastated to find him dead in the barn. After an emotional burial, Charles brings home a stray named Bandit to curb his daughter's pain, but after experiencing such an immense loss, Laura refuses to bond with the new dog. Meanwhile, the Walnut Grove townspeople have mixed reactions to the idea of welcoming an eccentric new townsperson into their Church community.
When Charles gets the opportunity to visit Chicago on business, he hopes to turn it into a romantic getaway for him and Caroline, but he ends up escorting Mary, who longs to visit her fiance John. As father and daughter navigate a city that is very different from their simplistic Walnut Grove, unexpected revelations are on the way for both of them.
A trip to the swimming hole with Mary and Laura sets the stage for tragedy when a fierce undercurrent takes 11-year-old Ellen Taylor's life. As the girl's mother withdraws in denial, she blames Laura for the accident and alienates everyone around her. With Eloise now disconnected from the entire Walnut Grove community, Laura attempts to cheer her up with a home visit and some flowers, but the woman's emotionally unstable condition puts Laura in some real danger.
Charles begins building a kitchen onto the back of the house, but a sudden business trip leaves him unable to complete the job. This brings a charismatic handyman named Chris into their midst, and while Charles is away, the man bonds with Caroline and the girls. Needless to say, this causes several rumors to sweep around town, and nobody is more affected than Mary, who fears that Chris may be breaking their family apart.
Laura and Andy come across an injured female wolf and her pups. When they bring them back to the Garveys' barn, Jonathan reluctantly agrees to let them stay until Doc Baker nurses the mother back to health. As the town gradually finds out what's going on, they are concerned that more wolves will show up, threatening their families and livestock.
Laura and Andy are determined to find out who has been robbing the mercantile and stealing food from people. The "Garvey and Ingalls Detective Agency" is officially in business, but it ultimately causes more harm than good.
After miscarrying two babies, Beth Novack is thrilled to be experiencing a healthy pregnancy, but when her loving husband takes a dangerous tumble from the roof one afternoon, she becomes a widow within 24 hours. Devastated that he could not save his patient, Doc Baker decides to retire from doctoring and pursue a farming career. Obviously, his shoes are very difficult to fill, which the community quickly learns when his replacement, Doctor Logan, arrives in town.
Jesse and Frank James hide out in Walnut Grove. The people of Walnut Grove find out who they really are when bounty hunters come looking for them.
Jonathan Garvey is convinced that he has a great crop coming up, but as he is celebrating with his family at the dinner table, a fateful fire burns their entire barn down. With all their plans destroyed, Alice has a plan to help them get back on their feet, but Jonathan's pride threatens their marriage.
Fourteen years after being abandoned by his wife and son, a famous boxer named Joe Kagen passes through Walnut Grove. When a fighting match goes horribly wrong, Doc Baker and the townspeople learn that the ailing man, who sacrificed his family for his career, will only survive if he agrees to never enter the boxing ring again. It is a difficult decision, and ultimately, it is one that he cannot make by himself.
The Ingalls and Oleson families are spending the day at a county fair, and there is plenty of fun and excitement in store for everyone. While sparks fly between Mary and a smoothtalking balloonist, Caroline and Harriet face off in a pie-baking contest, and Charles and Nels enter a gritty competition of their own. As for Laura, she wastes all her spending money in a surprising way, and Carrie faces serious danger when Laura fails to supervise her.
Adam Simms and his son Luke move into town. Adam and Miss Beadle quickly fall in love, while Luke and Nellie develop a whirlwind romance of their own. Luke is a decent young man and very loyal to Nellie, but when Harriet does not approve of his "farm boy" status, the young couple make secret plans to elope.
A Native American man arrives in Walnut Grove with his tribe, seeking medical attention for his ailing father. Doc Baker provides his best treatment for the Chief, but when certain community members to refuse to let them stay in town temporarily, Charles proposes a secret plan with Doc Baker to keep the tribe safe - but it could have deadly consequences for everyone.
Charles and Jonathan depart from Walnut Grove on a business trip that will greatly increase their incomes, but they both have a change of heart when they regret the extensive time being spent away from their families. Meanwhile, Laura develops a huge crush on a classmate and finds herself requesting help from Nellie. Laura's desperate efforts lead to personal humiliation, but just like her father, she is about to learn an important lesson about being herself.
Reverend Alden offers 15-year-old Mary her first temporary teaching position in a backwoods community. Unfortunately, it ends up being one of the most difficult jobs a young girl could ever encounter. Now she must decide if her career - not to mention her family values - are worth putting up the fight of her life.
On the cold, rainy evening of his wedding anniversary, Charles is stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken wagon wheel. While Caroline and the girls wait at home--with a special celebration dinner all prepared--Caroline passes the time by reminiscing with her daughters about her youthful beginnings with Charles. The stories revolve around young Caroline's efforts to woo the socially inept Charles, who initially didn't know quite how to express his romantic feelings.
While playing near the creek, Laura finds a note inside a bottle that simply reads "Be my friend." She begins searching for new messages each day, and before long, this "friend" starts sending more than just letters, which prompts Charles to get involved.
Charles inherits the entire estate of a wealthy uncle. Within 24 hours, the Ingallses, who are seemingly rich, suddenly become Harriet Oleson's best pals. They are pressured to make various contributions throughout the community, and they even receive newspaper article offers to chronicle this tremendous change in their lives. Things get even worse when this newfound fortune threatens the family's relationships with their real friends.
An work-obsessed man, who is unable to pay any attention to his son Peter's troubling behavior, sends the boy to his cousin Nels Oleson for the summer. The idea is to expose Peter to some human values that were representative of his father's childhood, but with Harriet's constant pampering and Peter's self-pitying attitude, Nels decides that Charles is a better candidate for this job. Charles does what he can to support and guide the child, but the real challenge will be getting through to Peter's father, the only man capable of saving his son.
Charles and Caroline are thrilled to be expecting their fifth child, but Caroline causes anxiety for both herself and Charles by becoming obsessed with delivering a son. Meanwhile, Carrie believes she is going to be a mommy when she brings some some dead eggs and attempts to hatch them herself.
When a friendly young man named Seth arrives in Walnut Grove, the much younger Laura is smitten, but she is upset to find that he is interested in Mary. Charles faces some problems of his own over the mill's financial sufferings, but through all these trials, it will all become quite trivial when Mary's eye specialist delivers devastating news that will promise huge changes for the entire family.
Charles drops Mary off at a top-notch blind school in Iowa. Her initial resentment causes pain and grief for herself and her family, but her love for learning is eventually rekindled through an unlikely source. Back in Walnut Grove, financial issues are hitting everybody hard, and several of the townspeople, including the Ingalls and Olesons, are preparing themselves for the possibility that they will have to start a new life elsewhere.