Meanwhile, Pa and the girls are playing Blind Man's Bluff, which is kind of insensitive considering what happens to Mary later. Pa catches Carrie, and everyone giggles and carries on. Reverend Alden rolls up and everyone runs over, expecting to see Ma. Reverend Alden reports that Ma's pies made four dollars for the church. Four dollars! Everyone is excited. Pa asks if Ma changed her mind about coming, and Reverend Alden says that there was no one home, and that the door was locked, so they just took the pies. Pa is kind of worried that Ma didn't leave a note or anything. Reverend Alden supposes that Ma went to help a neighbor. Pa is still worried, and says that they should leave right away. Reverend Alden says that he'll stay and have a picnic with the girls and Pa can take his buckboard, which will be faster than Pa's big old wagon. Pa takes off.
Meanwhile, Ma is trying to work up the nerve to amputate her own leg. She ties a tourniquet just above her knee, but she's so modest that she ties it over her nightgown. She reaches for the knife and drops it in the fire, I guess to sterilize it, although did they know about sterilizing and such back then?
Pa doesn't seem to be hauling ass or anything. He acts like he's out for a Sunday drive. As he passes his neighbor's farm, the neighbor flags him down and reports about the wandering cow. Pa is surprised that Ma didn't come to get the cow. The neighbor is all defensive and bitching about the cow, but Pa is having none of it and just takes off, leaving the neighbor in the dust. Which was pretty awesome.
So Pa is now hauling ass across the prairie, and he practically does a donut in the front yard before sprinting to the house, where he finds Ma passed out on the floor in front of the fire. He tries to wake her up.
And then you think the episode is over, but it's not. Laura looks through a window as Doc Baker tends to Ma in her bed. Pa and Mary stand nearby, looking sad. Laura says that she's never seen Ma so sick before. Pa says that Ma is really strong and that Doc Baker will help her, but he doesn't sound very convincing. Laura starts crying, and Pa sheds a tear or two as well, but reminds the girls to have faith in God. I wonder if this episode aired before or after the one where Ma and Pa's baby died and Laura felt guilty because she wanted the baby gone, and she ran away and saw God on the mountain. I would guess that after meeting God, having faith would be a lot easier.
Pa goes inside and sees Reverend Alden sitting in front of the fire, holding Carrie. He gives the Reverend the stink-eye and walks right by him without a word. Pa! Hating on the man of God! I don't know if that's supposed to represent Pa being mad at God, or Pa being mad at Reverend Alden for not checking on Ma.
Some time later, Ma manages to pull herself up to the table using only her upper body. She opens a cabinet, which is filled with old-timey medicine like horse liniment and paregoric. I think I saw some of those same bottles in Glark and Wing Chun's bathroom. ["They're good enough preparations for us simple folk, dadgummit! Just kidding; they're empty, for somewhat creepy decoration." -- Wing Chun] Ma takes a big swig of paregoric, and then spots some keys on the table. She grabs them, and manages to stumble to the door and unlock it. Great. So now the next time she's unconscious, someone can come inside and beat her up or something. Little Aggravated Assault on the Praire. Little Breaking and Entering on the Prarie. Ma staggers outside, and we get a shot of her leg, which is increasingly purple. She grabs some wood from the pile and heads back inside.
Once there, she heats up some rags in boiling water, and then drops one on her leg. Since it's boiling, it hurts quite a bit. Or at least that's what I got from her tight grip on the arm of the chair.
Meanwhile, Pa and the girls are swimming in a creek somewhere. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but Pa is looking pretty hot in his soaking wet red long johns. Laura swings out on a rope and giggles. Pa and Laura coax Mary onto the rope, but she doesn't want to dunk her head underwater. God, Mary is such a killjoy. I'm kind of glad she went blind. At least then she had a reason to be so sour all the time. Pa doesn't even try to catch her, and she gets dunked, but doesn't care. Pa says that they all need to dry off before the Reverend gets there. Where is Carrie during all this? Probably in a well somewhere.
Ma examines her leg, which is even more puffed up than before. She picks up her Bible for some guidance and turns to a verse that says, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter halt into life." The camera focuses in on the words "cut it off" in case you didn't get it. Ma nods as she reads this passage, like she knows what she has to do. They flash back to "cut it off." Man, I remember watching this episode as a kid and being so freaked out at this part. Ma looks around the room and staggers over to the drawer where she finds an extremely sharp knife, which gleams when she removes it from the drawer. The music gets super-dramatic as Ma makes her way back to the table and places the knife on top of the Bible. I guess we're supposed to think that amputation is her Plan B. I wouldn't even want amputation to be my plan Z. I don't want it on the plan list at all.