"A Small Taste of Justice"
Original air date Dec 20, 1967
Directed by Don McDougall
Written by Edward J. Lakso
James Drury as The Virginian
John McIntire as Clay Grainger
Doug McClure as Trampas
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker
Don Quine as Stacey Grainger
Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger
Peter Brown as Tom Conlan
Susan Oliver as Ellen Cooper
John Lupton as John Cooper
Virginia Christine as Mrs. Conlan
Vaughn Taylor as Doc Kane
James Gammon as Cal Mason
Eve Plumb as Kathy Cooper
Peter brought along his Laredo horse Amigo (his own horse) when he guested on this episode of The Virginian. This story brings us a common western plot, a town terrorized by one powerful man and his gang of rowdies.
After a horse roundup, the Virginian gives Trampas and the other men a few days off while he returns to Medicine Bow from Rawlins alone. He admits in the opening voice over, he should have chosen pleasure over business for once. As he stops to water his horse, a rowdy group of men start horsing around nearby. When the leader, who introduces himself as Tom Conlan, comes over carrying a bottle of whiskey to apologize, the Virginian tries to go on his way.
Peter plays the son of a wealthy rancher who is running his late father's legacy into the ground. He spends more time carousing than working the ranch. The Virginian is the courageous outsider who stands up to the powerful man but doesn't want to get involved when he's offered the sheriff's job. Of course, something drags him into the fray, he wins a round, the bad guys threaten the town, the cowardly townsfolk back down and finally there's a showdown during which at least one of the townsfolk show some courage, usually someone who has been heretofore thought weak.
When he refuses to sell his horse and then refuses a drink so they can talk it over, the Virginian is roped off his horse and left beaten while Tom rides off on his pretty white appy. The Virginian makes his way into town where he gets patched up by the Doc, telegraphs Shiloh for some travel money and runs into an old friend. The wife of the telegraph operator is apparently someone with whom he was previous involved seven years earlier. She invites him to recuperate at the house where she lives with her husband and with a daughter a bit too young to suggest she belongs to the Virginian. But her father is just too obviously loving and demonstrative. That usually bespeaks the eventual news that the child isn't his.
Everyone he comes in contact with lets him know he was lucky he didn't get worse from Tom Conlan. They are amazed that he plans to stay in town until he gets his horse back. We realize his old flame Ellen doesn't think much of the courage of the townsfolk, including that of her own husband. We have him pegged right away as the weak character who becomes courageous.
When Tom rides home on the Virginian's horse, his mother is suspicious. She's also berates him for letting the ranch work slide while he and the men go out drinking and looking for women. We get the impression Tom's father was a harsh taskmaster and Tom is enjoying his freedom. When one of Conlan's men rides the stolen horse into town, the Virginian takes it back and is forced into killing the man in the process. The town leaders are so impressed they ask him to be their sheriff. He declines.
Racing into town to get "his" horse back, Tom runs into cousin Cal who tells him the Virginian claimed his horse and killed Jerry in the process. Tom knows they can't let Jerry go unavenged. Finding the Virginian in town, they surround him and generally try to terrorize him. They lose their momentum when little Kathy, chasing her dog, is run down by Cal's horse and badly injured.
To give him some credit, Tom appears to be genuinely distressed about the injured child. But as we will soon see, not enough to reform. As we have throughout the episode, we continue to see what an especially devoted father John Cooper is. The Virginian decides to accept the sheriff's job.
Tom continues to be distressed as he and cousin Cal eat dinner with his mother. But he blames the Virginian for the whole thing. His mother doesn't accept his excuse. They argue and Tom leaves. When the Virginian and John Cooper come to arrest Cal and Tom, Mrs. Conlan lets them take Cal. She says Tom has a place where he went as a boy when his father disciplined him and that he'll probably come home drunk. She says she'll make Tom turn himself in.
Instead of turning himself in, Tom lets the townsfolk know they'll be big trouble if they don't release Cal. The cowards who hired the Virginian, decide they'd better fire him and let Cal go. The Virginian decides to turn Cal over to a U.S. Marshal in another town. On the way there's a shoot out with Conlan's gang. The Virginian is winged and Cal gets away. To give Tom credit again, when Cal urges that they finish off the Virginian, Tom declines on grounds that killing him would require killing John and after what happened to Kathy, he doesn't have the stomach to kill her father.
At the saloon, Cal gets his handcuffs removed and then starts to terrorize people in the saloon. Leaving the Virginian in the care of his wife and the doctor, John loads his rifle and announces his intention to go to the saloon to arrest Tom and Cal. Ellen, who previously derided John's lack of courage, now tries to stop him. She doesn't want him killed. She tries to stop him by telling him Kathy is Tom's daughter not his. Doesn't work. John shows up with a rifle and takes the two into custody, temporarily.
Tom and Cal get the drop on him and he goes down. However, the Virginian despite his wound manages to disarm Tom and Cal with his firepower. But the real opponent for Tom comes in the form of his angry mother. She expects him to own up to his misdeeds. She insists his father was strong not mean. Tom's terrorizing of the town is halted while he's in custody.
The Coopers decide to leave town and the Virginian rides along with them. Before they leave, Mrs. Conlan stops by. She knows that Kathy is actually Tom's daughter. She wants permission to tell Tom in the hope that when he realizes he almost got his own daughter killed he'll reform. Ellen agrees.
NiteOwl Review: Nothing new here but who can complain when it's Peter Brown versus James Drury, however a little more Doug McClure would have been nice. To anyone who's watched a lot of westerns, it was very predictable. It was an hour's worth of story stretched to fill the ninety minute timeslot. While it's a worthwhile acquisition for Peter collectors, it's not a top twenty favorite for Virginian lovers.
Cast Notes: Little Kathy was played by Eve Plumb who went on to play Jan Brady, the middle girl on The Brady Bunch. John Lupton was probably best known to westerns fans for his role as Tom Jeffords, Cochise's friend in Broken Arrow (1956-1958).
Our Favorite Scene: Since Peter didn't get to drop, roll and shoot or vault onto Amigo, we settled on a "gee, how did they do that" scenes of a type we see frequently. Tom is standing with a horse at his back when the Virginian shoots the gun out of his hand. The trajectory of the bullet should have taken it right through the horse, but luckily the horse was wearing a bulletproof saddle.
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