During the global health crisis, reruns of old shows have been making a comeback as the world looks for new ways to stay entertained. Our latest obsession happens to be the ‘70s classic Little House on the Prairie.
With over 200 episodes and three TV movies, the western offers up the perfect distraction during these troubling times, even though the plot features several inconsistencies. One of the historical drama’s biggest mysteries concerns the character of Albert Ingalls, who first appeared on the series in Season 5.
What happened to Albert on 'Little House on the Prairie'?
The original story arc of Charles and Caroline Ingalls’ adopted son is contradicted in the show’s first post-finale special, Little House: Look Back to Yesterday.
In the 1983 made-for-TV movie, Albert is diagnosed with leukemia after suffering from severe nosebleeds and exhaustion. He decides to spend the last few months of his life in Walnut Grove, where he presumably dies off camera — going against the events of Season 9.
Laura Ingalls Wilder previously revealed in the series’ final season that Albert returned to Walnut Grove 20 years later as the town’s doctor, a detail that fits with the first half of the movie (Albert makes plans to attend medical school), but is negated once he becomes seriously ill with cancer.
While viewers continue to disagree over whether or not Albert actually passed away at the end of Look Back to Yesterday, actor Matthew Labyorteaux has his mind made up about the fate of his character.
"He never officially died in the episode and I think maybe it’s kind of left up in the air to debate… but it was sort of an unspoken thing that we knew he was going to die," the former child star explained in an interview.
Despite Matthew’s take on the subject, some dedicated fans still have a hard time accepting that Albert died at such a young age. "I’m the first one to admit that I really want to believe that Albert did survive and became a doctor! And I really wish that the movie Look Back to Yesterday was never produced!" one commenter wrote in a Little House on the Prairie forum.
Another user added that despite all the evidence pointing to Albert’s death, he’s chosen to believe Laura’s assertion in the episode "Home Again" that her adopted brother comes back as Walnut Grove’s doctor: "The show took its fair share of dramatic license, so I will take some of my own."
The character of Albert was Michael Landon's idea.
The Bonanza alum, who starred as Charles Ingalls and served as an executive producer on the series, brought Albert into the fold for Season 5. "I think Mike wanted a boy to be part of it, so it gave the show a roundness that it wasn’t always Pa and the daughter," producer Kent McCray stated.
Casting director Susan Sukman McCray noted that hiring Matthew for the role in 1978 was a no-brainer. "[He] is the kind of talent that you’re either born with or you’re not," she said. "It’s a God-given talent and it was given to this little boy with a sweet face that you want to love."
Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura, felt an immediate kinship with the then 11-year-old. "Matt was a welcome part of the group from the get-go and instantly was my brother as far as I was concerned," she shared. No wonder this show is so good.