First impressions are everything, but sometimes, so are mistaken ones.
In the end, the lesson is that sometimes, when there's trouble in your midst, you have to deal with it immediately.
Such as what happens when "The Bully Brothers" come to Walnut Grove.
The bullies are the notorious Galendar family, brothers George, Sam and Bubba. The three don't quite seem to fit in indeed, not much is known about their past, except that they explain that other towns have rejected them (without stating why) so everyone decides to go out of their way to welcome them. Charles offers him a job at the mill, while Mr. Hanson and Nels each extend them a generous line of credit, on the promise that once a bank draft arrives they'll pay their tab. Meanwhile, Bubba is enrolled in school; it's at a time when many of the older boys are working in the fields at harvest.
If only the townsfolk's generosity was repaid with gratitude.
Bubba quickly asserts himself as a troublemaker big time. He's rude in class, and at recess, when he wants his turn and wants it now, he knocks over and kicks a little girl A LITTLE GIRL!!! and sends her home crying. Bubba laughs, and this draws the attention of both Mary and Nellie. Nellie thinks Bubba's kind of cute and, so she can get her way in town and at school, she decides to befriend him. Mary, meanwhile, is rightfully aghast and calls out Bubba. Bubba licks his chops and punches her in the face, blackening her eye.
George and Sam, meanwhile, begin to run up bills at both the Mercantile and Hanson's Mill, and there's no sign of the bank draft. Meanwhile, the two older Galendars learn that one of Hanson's customers is waiting for a load of lumber so, out of the "kindness" of their hearts, they sell it to him at a discounted rate. Not really a kind act, as, y'see, they've already started to get irritated by Hanson pressing them for their payments and decide that a way to "get back at him" was to cost him money.
Eventually, the town airs their grievances to the Reverend Alden, but he's talked with the Galendars and they've told them their sob story they've been kicked out of town after town and they don't know why they aren't accepted. And besides, their mother had recently died after a serious illness, and the Galendars are just down on their luck. Alden buys the story lock, stock and barrel and suggests to the town to "turn the other cheek."
If only that were good advice (from a pastor who normally has given excellent advice) .
Bubba accelerates his reign of terror at school, helping Nellie assert herself as the school's Alpha Bitch and pushing around everyone. Remember, no older boys at school, and none of the younger boys are able to come close to matching Bubba's strength or fighting skills. One day, when Mary who is avoiding Bubba has her homework done and Bubba doesn't, he wants to turn her work in as his own. Mary tells him no, and when she tries to walk away, Bubba punches her hard! Laura tries to defend Mary, and she, too, gets socked!
One afternoon, Sam and George whom Charles is already getting really frustrated with meet Caroline as she's on the way into town. They get fresh with her and corner her, and Caroline tries to fight her way out of things, but Sam and George like feisty, fighting women. Caroline is able to get away but her dress is torn. Sam and Bubba snicker as Caroline runs off. Charles comes home and sees Caroline's disheveled look and demands to know what happened. An angry Charles goes to the Galendars to beat them up, but they scoff at him, describing Caroline as "handsome" and "soft." Those nearly homophobic words (usually, the term "handsome" is used in reference to men) really sets off Charles, and he initially gets the upper hand, but is soon overpowered and beaten into bloody unconsciousness. Mr. Edwards eventually finds a battered Charles, with three broken ribs, a broken arm and a hairline skull fracture.
Reverend Alden visits Charles, but Charles is not exactly in a good mood. He and several of the others finally vent everything about the Galendars, and it is suggested that Sam and George had also tried to paw other women in town, and have gotten physical with both Nels and Mr. Hanson. They also reveal the truth about their mother, that she finally ran off when she could no longer tolerate what was becoming an abusive, hard-drinking family, and find out that there never was any bank draft. With everyone's patience wearing thin, Alden finally realizes he was wrong about the Galendars they aren't "misunderstood," but rather just three thugs that need to be dealt with severely.
At school, Mary and Laura again see Bubba asserting himself on the smaller girls and confront him, and again are sent away with yet more punches to the face. This time, the other girls and yes, even little Willie(!), who as it turns out didn't like Bubba either run en masse onto Bubba, and this time, he's unable to fight any of them off. Bubba eventually flees and never comes back to school.
Then, at church the next Sunday, Alden does just that. He begins his sermon by explaining that sometimes, you don't always recognize when trouble sits among you but once you do, you have to deal with it immediately. George realizes Alden is talking about him and his brothers, and Alden says, "Why, yes!" George tries to defend himself but when Alden tells him he realizes who they are and they are nothing but hooligans and thugs, George tries to storm the pulpit, but Alden is too fast for him. With the other men in the front row ready to take on George and Sam if they try to hurt Alden, the normally even-tempered pastor tells them it's time for them to leave and that they better never return, ever! "We are a congregation, and we stick together!" he shouts at them, meaning that they are "brothers" and will stick up for each other and stand up for what's right when others are bullied and pushed around.
As the defeated Galendars are escorted out of town indeed, they never do return the congregation sings, "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Tropes associated with this episode:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: When she learns that she can use him to get her way at school, Nellie falls for Bubba, the youngest of the Galendar brothers. This actually is a rare aversion for Nellie, as she'd usually have her heart set on "good" boys usually (but not always) one that Laura is also making a play for.
- Alpha Strike: The final action the town of Walnut Grove takes against the Gallenders is for every single able-bodied man to march the trio out of town immediately. Talk about guts!
- An Aesop: Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man or in this case, a town.
- Attempted Rape: George and Sam Galendar make their move on Caroline. She is able to get away. Word of God is that they also tried to make a move on Miss Beadle, doing so when she tried to rat out the teenaged Bubba.
- The Bully: Times three.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Mrs. Oleson is pushed to the limit when the Galendars refuse to pay their tab at the Mercantile (they offer excuses) and learns that (at least) Caroline was nearly attacked by the two older brothers.
- Pacifist: Reverend Alden initially comes closest to fitting the Thou Shalt Not Kill type, preaching patience and tolerance with the newcomers, thinking they merely are just coming across the wrong way and people just have to get to know them. His tune quickly changes when he learns that Caroline was nearly raped, they were stealing from local businesses, they pushed around respected townsfolk (the town's doctor, Doc Baker, mill owner Mr. Hanson and storekeeper Nels; even Mrs. Oleson is pushed around), they lied about a bank draft (that turned out to be nonexistent) and the teen-aged boy was allowed to punch girls without anyone to stand up to him.
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: What Alden becomes once he understands the truth about the Galendars.
- Would Hit a Girl: Bubba brutally beats down a small girl during a game at recess, and later slaps Mary and even later, Laura.
- You Wouldn't Hit a Girl With Glasses: Oh yes, Bubba would and he does when he tries to steal Mary's writing tablet.
- You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: What the Galendars learn the hard way when Reverend Alden calls them out at church on Sunday. When George tries to storm the pulpit when he sees the sermon is about him and the trouble he and his brothers have caused, Alden quickly puts his arm in a chicken wing and very angrily tells him that he and his family had better leave Walnut Grove now and never return or else.