Out of shame, due to the rumors, Sylvia's father decides that they must move out of Walnut Grove. But Sylvia and Albert meet in secret and make plans to get married and raise her child as their own. Caroline (who earlier had confronted Mrs. Oleson about spreading lies about Albert being the baby's father) counsels Albert about whether he is ready to get married.
Meanwhile, after Sylvia's father calls her a whore, she runs away. Mr. Webb barges into the Ingalls house armed with a rifle, but when Albert affirms that he did not get Sylvia pregnant, Mr. Webb finally accepts this. Albert gets a job with the town's blacksmith, Irv Hartwig. But obviously unaware that Irv Hartwig is the man who raped Sylvia, Albert discloses Sylvia's whereabouts, which leads to a final and deadly confrontation in which the rapist's identity is exposed.
At the end of Act 1, Mrs. Olesen (who has listened in on Dr. Baker's telephone call to Mr. Webb) has learned about Sylvia's pregnancy. The gossip quickly spreads around Hero Township, and includes allegations that Albert is the father.
At school, Laura tells Albert what is happening and that Willie has told his friends that Albert got Sylvia pregnant. Despite Laura's pleas, Albert goes outside and confronts Willie, tells him that Sylvia is not a tramp and gives him his second bloody nose. Albert then runs off.
Caroline comes home fuming about the rumors of Albert and Sylvia. Charles tries to tell her about the power of forgiveness, but Caroline needs to go for a walk. Charles can't disagree with that.
Back at the Webb place, Mr. Webb—who only feels shame and embarrassment that his daughter got pregnant—has started to show his house and farmstead to prospective buyers. He's decided he wants to move from Walnut Grove with his daughter and start a new life. One of those who is interested is Irv Hartwig, the town's blacksmith. Mr. Webb offers to sell the land for $1,500, and Hartwig says he'll consider it, commenting that it seems to be a very fair price.
Later on, Mr. Webb notices that Sylvia has mud on her shoes and he demands to know if she was with someone that day. Sylvia begs for her father to back off, but suspecting that she may be sneaking around, he calls her a liar.
In one of the few comedic moments of the story, Caroline finally has her confrontation with Mrs. Olesen, who gleefully greets the "grandmother-to-be" at the restaurant. When she tries to rationalize her story, Caroline retorts by telling Mrs. Olesen that she eavesdropped on a private telephone conversation, added a few lies of her own and spread it around Hero Township. Mrs. Olesen is offended but offers a peace offering - baby clothes, since Caroline will soon have a grandchild to care for. Caroline loses her temper and throws a round of dough over Mrs. Olesen's face and walks out.
Albert visits Sylvia again, and proposes to the girl. She is confused at first but eventually decides that, taking her home life into consideration, she would be happier with Albert. Later, when Mr. Webb comes home and notices the hat Albert left behind, he again demands that Sylvia tell him whom she's seeing. She lets slip that it's Albert, and that she does not want to leave Walnut Grove. Instead, she wants to stay and be with Albert. Mr. Webb gets his gun and declares he's going to pay Albert a visit. When Sylvia begs her father to reconsider, he calls his daughter a whore and she runs out of the house.
That night at the dinner table, Albert's questions about when Landsford Ingalls got married (at age 14) quickly dissolves into an argument about whether Albert is really mature enough for marriage and to know what love is. Charles is unsuccessful in telling Albert he has school and college to worry about first, so he leaves it up to Caroline to counsel Albert.
Caroline reminds Albert that he is only 14 and does not really know what love is, despite what he might think. When she asks about Sylvia's feelings about the baby she's carrying, Albert admits he never asked about that, but it doesn't matter since he'll be able to care for it. Caroline says that there's more to raising a baby than meeting its physical and material needs, and that Sylvia may not love the baby because it was conceived by an act of violence.
Albert begins to cry in confusion…and just when everything is going to be OK, a gun-toting Mr. Webb breaks down the door and demands that Sylvia come home. Charles is angry that Mr. Webb invaded his home, tells him that she is not there and he had better leave. "Not until I have it out with your son," insists Mr. Webb, prompting Charles to tackle him outside, in the midst of a heavy rainstorm. Albert swears "to God" that he is not the father, and Mr. Webb now realizes the truth.
The next morning, Charles, Albert and Mr. Webb form a search party to look for Sylvia. Albert eventually finds her in an abandoned and dilapidated barn. Sylvia refuses to return to her father, and the two make plans to elope. He leaves her with a blanket and some biscuits, and goes into town to get some money and other supplies.
Back at the blacksmith's shop, Albert begins writing an IOU to Irv when he is not there. Irv walks in and, seeing the money in his hand, accuses Albert of stealing. Albert is forced to admit he wants the money so he and Sylvia can get married. After getting more details about their plans and, more significantly, Sylvia's whereabouts, Irv lets him have $80 and tells him to go home to get his things. When he returns, he'll have two horses saddled and ready to go.
Albert does as he's asked, but when he returns to the blacksmith's shop to get the horses, the shop is locked up and no horses are in sight, but the iron and fire pit are still hot. Meanwhile, Charles and Mr. Webb see the note Albert left behind and they decide to go where they think Sylvia might be…the old barn.
Which is where Sylvia is sleeping, when the masked assailant who had previously raped her sneaks in quietly. Sylvia awakens, believing Albert has returned, only to behold her worst nightmare. Desperately seeking to escape, she swings a piece of lumber, succeeding in injuring her attacker and knocking his mask and cap off, revealing him as Irv Hartwig. She tries to run but trips and falls, Irv blocking her escape.
He begins to chase Sylvia up a rickety ladder, which she climbs to try to escape. Albert races in and attacks Irv, but is quickly beaten back. Just then, the ladder breaks under Sylvia's weight and she falls to the ground, losing consciousness. Irv, unconcerned that someone was just badly hurt, picks up a piece of lumber and prepares to strike Albert. He is stopped, however, by a shotgun blast from Hector Webb, who arrived in the nick of time with Charles Ingalls.
Despite Dr. Baker's efforts to save her, Sylvia dies due to the injuries sustained in the fall.
The series does not follow up on the characters Hector Webb or Irv Hartwig. While some contend that Hartwig was killed, at least one other source – the online Little House Encyclopedia – suggests that Hartwig was merely wounded and either fled to Mexico, died sometime later due to his injuries, or was possibly later captured and tried for his crimes. Likewise, Mr. Webb's fate is unknown, although he either left town or – as the the Little House Encyclopedia suggested, due to overwhelming grief – committed suicide.
Episode Cast and Crew
- Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Jonathan Gilbert as Willie Oleson
- Katherine MacGregor as Harriet Oleson
- Sidney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls
- Lindsay Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls
- Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls
- Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson Dalton
- Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls
- Matthew Laborteaux as Albert Quinn Ingalls
- Kevin Hagen as Doctor Baker
- Terry Nani as Boy #1
- Royal Dano as Mr. Webb
- Olivia Barash as Sylvia Webb
- Richard Jaeckel as Irv Hartwig
- Bradley Greene as Boy #2
- Michael Landon, Director
- Michael Landon, Executive Producer
- Kent McCray, Producer
- Michael Landon, Writer
While two episodes treat the characters of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sylvia respectively as adult and child, the two actresses (Melissa Gilbert and Olivia Barash) are actually less than nine months apart in age.
- Ted Voightlander was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series for Sylvia", Parts 1 & 2 in 1981.
- In 1982, young actress Olivia Barash was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Television Series for her work as the title character in this 2-part episode.
- Sylvia: (when her father loads his gun to kill Albert) Pa, no! He's my friend! He was only here for a few minutes, and then he left!
Mr. Webb: What was he doing here? What was he doing?
Sylvia: Nothing! Pa, please believe me. Believe me, for once!
Mr. Webb: I can't! How can I believe a whore?
- Caroline: Please leave, Mrs. Oleson.
Harriet: Mrs. Ingalls, I am trying very hard to be your friend, and I would think you would show a little more appreciation. After all, you are going to be that child's grandmother!
Caroline: Mrs. Oleson, I will go to church on Sunday, and I will ask God to forgive me for this. (throws ball of dough in her face) On second thought, I think the good Lord would have done the same thing! (throws her apron down and walks out) (To Nellie): Tell your mother I'll be back in an hour!