Melissa Gilbert starred as Laura Ingalls for nine seasons on Little House on the Prairie. Often sharing scenes with executive producer and co-star Michael Landon (Charles Ingalls), Gilbert recalled a heart-wrenching episode that she finds too difficult to watch.
Season 1 – ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’
In the first season of Little House, the two-part episode “The Lord Is My Shepherd” features Charles and Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle) welcoming their fourth child and first son. Laura feels her close relationship with her Pa is threatened by her new baby brother and struggles with feelings of resentment and jealousy.
When the baby falls ill and dies, Laura is riddled with guilt and seeks guidance from their minister, Reverend Alden (Dabbs Greer). When he tells her to draw close to God, Laura takes the advice verbatim and runs away to the mountains where she is befriended by a kind older man, Jonathan (Ernest Borgnine).
The emotional episode puts the spotlight on the unbreakable bond between Charles and Laura and remains one of the series’ most famous storylines.
“This is one of the stronger, if not the strongest, episodes we ever did,” Gilbert wrote in My Prairie Cookbook. “Michael Landon’s writing was perfect. Although it’s full of important themes about faith and forgiveness, the show is written from a child’s perspective. The fact that Laura literally takes Reverend Alden’s advice – ‘The closer you are to God, the more likely He is to listen’ – shows how forceful a simple message can be.”
Melissa Gilbert worked with A-list actors in the two-part episode
Gilbert performed the majority of her scenes in the two-parter with Landon and Borgnine. Victor French, who played family friend Isaiah Edwards, also had a major part in the emotional story. Gilbert expressed her appreciation for sharing the screen with such seasoned actors.
“For me personally, this episode was an absolute joy,” the Little House alum remarked. “Working with Ernest Borgnine, Mike, and Victor on location in Sonora, California, was like a dream come true.”
Grateful for the many fond memories of her close connection with Landon, Gilbert noted one particular scene as a realistic reflection of their real-life bond.
“The climactic scene where Pa and Laura are reunited on Jonathan’s mountain is the quintessential example of my relationship with Mike,” Gilbert wrote. “The tears were mutual and real – the love between us is clear and obvious. This is the one I just can’t bring myself to watch.”
Former ‘Little House’ star praised Michael Landon
Gilbert and Landon stayed in touch after Little House ended in 1983. Landon died in 1991 from pancreatic cancer, but his impact on Gilbert’s life remains.
“There really hasn’t been another person like him in our business,” Gilbert noted of Landon. “Nor has there been another person like him in my live. I loved him – I loved him as a mentor, as a friend, and as my Pa. I always, always will.”