Original air date Nov 8, 1964
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel
Written by John McGreevey
John McIntire as Chris Hale
Robert Fuller as Cooper Smith
Terry Wilson as Bill Hawks
Scott Miller as Duke Shannon
Michael Burns as Barnaby West
Frank McGrath as Charlie Wooster
Lola Albright as Leonora Parkman
Peter Brown as Ben Campbell
Bruce Dern as Jud Fisher
Jay North as Tom Blake
Dennis Holmes as Danny Blake
Russell Thorson as Simon Landis
Walter Coy as Ord Whaley
Barbara Wooddell as Martha Landis
Laurie Mitchell as Annie Tolleson
Gale Berber as Kate Campbell
Michael Beirne as Lt. Thaxter
Willa Pearl Curtis as Clemsie
We soon discover Ben has an unfortunate past. He just got out of prison after serving four years for robbery. Only his love for Kate kept him going and now he wants to go straight. When his friend Jud Fisher tried to enlist him for another robbery, Ben turned him down. However, when Jud is caught, he's sure Ben turned him in. He wants to get out of jail to escape the gallows and to kill Ben.
Several other stories intertwine with the story of Ben and Kate. Two young boys have run away from a cruel guardian and hope to blend in with the wagon train until they get far enough away that their "guardian" Whaley won't find them. They find a champion in Charlie. Simon and Martha Landis, a loving older couple are going west to be closer to their children. (Anyone with emergency medical training will guess right away that the old folks will be making way for Ben and Kate as Simon keeps clutching his left arm, the first sign of a heart problem.)
After apprising Chris and Coop about the Indian situation, a soldier lets Coop know that Leonora's husband was killed a month previous and she was notified personally. When Coop confronts her with the information, she gets angry. Clearly she's been tormenting herself with the fact that she refused to join her husband in the wilderness and is trying to make up for it by believing he's alive and traveling to meet him. Coop makes her face the truth and now we see Ben and Kate have yet another empty spot they can take.
When Whaley comes to find his "apprentice," he alienates Charlie with his harshness and lack of feeling for the boys. When Charlie locates the boys, they struggle to get away so they won't have to go back. In the struggle, Tom's shirt is ripped and Charlie sees the mark of a severe beating. He's determined now that they won't go back. While Tom is scrounging for food, Danny meets Leonora Parker as she's crying in the woods. Elsewhere in the camp, Mrs. Landis cares for her gravely ill husband.
In the meantime, Jud has managed to escape from jail and comes to the wagon train to get revenge on Ben. The law comes to the train to warn Ben and offers protective custody in jail. Ben refuses. He wants to stay with the train. The sheriff hangs around to protect Ben and see if Jud shows up. Kate confesses to Ben that she overheard Jud asking him to help in the recent robbery and she turned Jud in. Although Ben told her to get rid of it, she still has his revolver and now thinks he might need it. Ben is not happy that Kate brought his gun, but is soon thankful.
Jud shows up and tries to shoot Ben, catching Kate in the shoulder which, as any western fan knows, is never fatal. All the stories come together in an action filled ending. Jud gets into a running gun battle with Coop. Ben joins in so we get to see Peter do one of his trademark dive, roll and shoot sequences. (Actually Coop gets Jud so Peter only rolls and comes up gun ready.)
The boys see Simon go down with some kind of attack and get caught by Whaley when they run for help. Leonora intercedes and lets them know she's going to fight to keep them. As Ben and Kate leave with the wagon train, Mr. and Mrs. Landis sadly look on and the boys appear to have found a happy home with a woman who needs to be needed.
Cast Notes: Robert Fuller is a western hero to those of us who grew up on the television of the 1960s. He put in two years on Wagon Train after his four years on Laramie. He also made many guest appearances on westerns from Rin Tin Tin (where he dies of anthrax) to shows like Lawman, The Big Valley, The Virginian, etc. He made several western features: The Return of the Seven (we liked him better than Steve McQueen in the role McQueen originated); The Gatling Gun; Mustang Country and the first of the two attempts at making a new Bonanza series. Most of us were not thrilled when he became a doctor hiding in a white coat in Emergency any more than we were when Peter Brown became a doctor in a daytime drama. But what could they do? Westerns had bitten the dust.
Jay North is best known for his 1959-1963 series Dennis the Menace. His only other stab at a series was Maya, a short-lived series (Sept 1967 - Feb 1968) about a boy looking for his missing father in the jungles of India with the help of a native boy and his elephant. This was Dennis Holmes' third Wagon Train episode. He also appeared in "The Jed Polke Story" (1961) and "The Dick Richardson Story" (1958). He previously played orphan Mike Williams, who came to live with Slim, Jess and Aunt Daisy for the second two seasons of Laramie starring Robert Fuller, John Smith and Spring Byington. Neither of these child actors made the transition to adult roles.
In its final season, Wagon Train went back to the one hour, black and white format, following one season of ninety minute episodes in color. This episode starts with the formation of another year's train and the usual banter among the regulars who tease Charlie about his cooking.
Hale has set a limit on the number of wagons he will allow to join the train. The final wagon belongs to Leonora Parkman who says she's traveling to Fort Defiance with her maid to join her husband, the commandant of the fort. Next up would have been Ben and Kate Campbell. Ben isn't able to persuade Hale to take "just one more" so he decides to camp with the train for the night in case one of the other wagons drops out.
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