When Harriet Oleson’s cousin Sterling Murdock comes to town, he brings his newspaper business with him. Everyone is initially excited about this, but trouble ensues when Murdock gives gossipmonger Harriet her own column – and allows her the freedom to write whatever she wants.
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Poor economic conditions have forced many of Walnut Grove's residents to move elsewhere. Charles and Caroline settle their family in the bustling town of Winoka, where they manage a hotel that's located near Mary and Adam's blind school. Later, a few more Walnut Grove residents show up unexpectedly.
Life in Winoka grows increasingly difficult for the Ingalls family as they encounter cruel people and challenging situations. Meanwhile, Caroline and Alice open a new school in a barn for children who cannot afford the private setting. Charles bonds with a troubled young orphan that has come into his midst, and everyone attempts to plan a surprise party for Mary's 16th birthday.
Albert challenges the obnoxious Winoka School football team to a game, and everyone gets ready for a heated competition. Elsewhere, Adam faces a difficult situation with an unmotivated blind student and his widowed father.
Laura befriends a classmate named Amelia Bevins, who is ashamed of her obese father. When the man realizes how much pain he is causing his wife and daughter, he leaves them temporarily for a "business trip" that will change their family forever.
Living in Winoka has become nearly impossible for the Ingalls family, but it will take a serious intervention to convince Charles that they should move back to Walnut Grove and leave Mary behind at her blind school. Meanwhile, Toby Noe--a kindly old man who strikes gold in the lottery--plans on using his earnings in a noble way, but someone in town is determined to take it all away from him.
As everyone prepares to return home, Charles realizes that just one thing is missing - a young orphan named Albert who has what it takes to complete their family. All are thrilled to be back in Walnut Grove, but there's a lot of work to be done, and one of the town's most beloved residents has lost the will to live.
Charles brings home a baby calf for aspiring farmer Albert, who is delighted to take care of the animal and enter it in the upcoming county fair. As Charles and Albert's relationship starts to really resemble the bond between a father and son, Laura feels threatened and doubts her place in the family.
When Harriet Oleson's cousin Sterling Murdock comes to town, he brings his newspaper business with him. Everyone is initially excited about this, but trouble ensues when Murdock gives gossipmonger Harriet her own column - and allows her the freedom to write whatever she wants.
Adam proposes to Mary, and they plan a wedding in Winoka. Charles and Caroline cannot afford to send the whole family to the event, so they are forced to make the trip by themselves. All seems to be going great until Mary, who fears that she and her Adam can never be proper parents, calls the whole thing off.
Exasperated by Albert and Andy's lax attitudes toward school and personal cleanliness, Charles and Jonathan present them with a unique challenge - one that will test their manhood and (hopefully) make them more respectful in the future.
Now that she is the new teacher in Walnut Grove, one of Alice Garvey's biggest worries is her son Andy, who is currently her weakest student. Alice reluctantly agrees to let Nellie Oleson tutor him, but this ends up being a grave mistake.
Former fighter Joe Kagen settles in Walnut Grove and would like to attend Sunday services, but the color of his skin is off-putting for certain community members. As all this is going on, Mary and Adam's school building in Winoka is sold to someone else, prompting them to move their school elsewhere. Miraculously, there is a place in Walnut Grove that can belong to them, but with no money for transportation, they must all make the journey by foot.
As the journey from the last episode continues, a woman by the name of Hester Sue Terhoun is prepared to help teach at the new school, and she quickly gets into Joe Kagen's good graces - but not Harriet Oleson's. Meanwhile, Adam reveals a dark secret about himself, and issues concerning racism affect everyone.
Charles and Jonathan take a job on a telephone crew that is working in southern Minnesota, which requires them to be away from home for several weeks. As they gain success and earn more money than expected, they must decide if the job is worth keeping for the long term. Back in Walnut Grove, little Carrie, who misses her father and craves attention, creates an imaginary friend to pass the time.
Lonely after his grown son moves back east to start a life of his own, a widowed old craftsman named Isaac Singerman hires Albert Ingalls as his apprentice. As the two work together and become close friends, Albert faces one of the greatest challenges in his young life when he is harassed by classmates for spending time with a Jewish person.
Devastated by his parents' impending divorce, a young boy finds some comfort in performing dangerous stunts--until his daredevil ways cause a serious accident, and he is left completely blind. Trouble is, there's more to the story than anyone ever imagined.
While returning home from a business trip, Charles and Jonathan run into former Winoka buddy Toby Noe. The man has no money and no job, so Charles invites him to live with them temporarily in Walnut Grove, which ends up causing a few problems. Trouble escalates later when Toby becomes obsessed with romancing Amanda Cooper, an angry old spinster who has no interest in him or anyone else. Meanwhile, Laura wants to attend an upcoming dance with a classmate named Jason, but they are both having a hard time expressing their feelings for each other.
Adam and Mary are expecting their first child, and Mary, who knows that Adam has a strained relationship with his father, secretly writes a letter to the man. Ultimately, Thomas Kendall arrives in Walnut Grove for a visit, and when he desires to be closer to his son and grandchild, Adam and Mary are left with an important decision to make. Meanwhile, Albert Ingalls is smitten with Miss Bennett, a beautiful young woman who is substituting for Mrs. Garvey at school.
Eccentric, yet kindhearted townsperson Kezia is living happily in her house right outside of Walnut Grove, but when she continuously neglects to pay her taxes, her property is put up for auction, then sold to none other than Harriet Oleson, who is looking to flaunt her wealth by purchasing a "summer home." With absolutely no regard for Kezia's feelings, Harriet moves into the house with her kids and allows Kezia to remain as a resident, but only if she agrees to work as a round-the-clock maid. Desperate to do something about this, Laura, Albert, and Andy hatch a plan to help Kezia reclaim her home.
Trouble erupts when a local farmer, who is hateful and bigoted, refuses to set a fair price for wheat, since black farmers would be entitled to the same price. The whole thing escalates when the farmer assaults Jonathan's young son and is later accused of setting fire to the Garveys' barn.
Mary begins to see a bright light every time she stands in front of a window. The possibility of regaining her vision is there, but she and Charles must pay a visit to Mary's eye specialist in Sleepy Eye to get a definite answer. While they are away, Laura and Albert start working on a surprise project for Mary, and the Ingalls family becomes concerned about Adam's strange behavior recently.
While out of town for some business on the purchase of new horses for his farm, Charles spends increasing amounts of time with the Harpers. The family patriarch is an emotionally unstable man who uses alcohol to cope with the death of his oldest son. His wife and remaining two children find solace in Charles' kind friendship, and he soon feels obligated to help them heal somehow.
Determined to make it through the winter season, a pair of men earn money by selling tainted meat to the Walnut Grove community. Several townspeople later become infected with anthrax, including Laura, Albert, Adam, Alice, and Nels. The victims are confined to the blind school, and with time running out to help them, Charles and Jonathan go out to retrieve some medicine.
A 12-year-old boy named Dylan has leukemia and has only been given a few weeks to live. His only dream is to see the Pacific Ocean, and when his overprotective mother is too afraid to take him, Laura and Albert decide to help him get there.