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NBC Broadcast - 16 September 1964
Revue Studios Production
Executive Producer Frank Price
Produced by Joel Rogosin
Written by Frank Fenton
Directed by Don Richardson
(shown on the ride in)
Lee J Cobb as Judge Henry Garth
Doug McClure as Trampas
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker (First appearance)
Roberta Shore as Betsy
Randy Boone as Randy Benton
James Drury as The Virginian
Guest Star (credited during the Ride in)
Leslie Nielsen (John Hagen)
Co-Star (credited during the Ride in)
Anne Helm (Janet Hale)
Berkeley Harris as Karns
Jan Merlin as Sam Lake
(No "Also Starring" or "With" credit on my copy) [BG]
Ron Soble...as Stackler
Russ Conway...as Hale
Ross Elliott...as Sheriff Abbott
Francis J. McDonald...as Store Proprietor
James Seay...as Cruikshank
Michael Macready...as Curly
John Bryant...as Dr. Spaulding
Raquel Welch...as Saloon Girl
Frank Sully...as Bar Tender
Chuck Courtney...as Cowboy
Director of Photography
Benjamin H. Kline
Art Director...George Patrick
Film Editor... Edward Biery
Assistant Director...John Clarke Bowman
Set Decorators...John McCarthy
and Perry Murdock
Sound...Frank H. Wilkinson
Color Consultant...Alex Quiroga
Color by PATHE
Editorial Dept. Head...David J. O'Connell
Musical Supervision...Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervisor...Vincent Dee
Hair Stylist...Larry Germain
The title "The Virginian"
by permission of EMKA LTD
Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
Ryker, Trampas, Sheriff Abbott, with two brief appearances by the Virginian, Danny the bartender
and appearances in one scene only by Betsy, Randy, Judge Garth and Dr. Spaulding
An engaging introduction to Clu Gulager's charismatic portrayal of Emmett Ryker. Each scene is alive with
character exposition and crackling dialogue. A Five star episode well worth tracking down if you can. [bg]
Detailed Synopsis (by Brendan Gardiner)
Ryker, by his own admission "a gunman, a gambler and a drifter", has been making a living for several years by having one foot in two camps; alternating between working as a lawman and hiring his gun to ranchers involved in range wars.
In the opening scenes Ryker and his sidekick, Sam Lake, are being chased from their last "job" by a troop of cavalrymen. Ryker and Lake make a desperate, but successful, attempt to escape by getting their horses to jump off a ledge into a river below. The scene is a little like that in "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid" where Butch and Sundance dive from a cliff - but less spectacular!
Laughing about it as they rest on the opposite bank, we learn that both men have acquired considerable reputations and nurture a rivalry as to which of them is the fastest.
Lake says they should have made a stand and killed off all the "soldier boys", Ryker counters that the cavalry were only doing their job, but Lake doesn't like it when someone else's job means taking money "out of his pocket". Ryker believes that it's time they split-up as "they're heading different ways".
"I'm not sure I like you Sam. Let's not wait until it turns real sour."
On his own now, Ryker heads to Medicine Bow, from where he has been contacted by a wealthy landowner, John Hagen. Stopping off at the saloon Ryker buys himself two beers (he hates drinking on his own so he'll drink with himself) Wandering over to a poker game he looks over the shoulder of a man named Stackler, whom we later learn works for Hagen.
Stackler looks up and says that you only watch if you're playing and asks if he'd like to sit in.
Ryker replies "No, why don't I just give you the money, that way it would be easier for both of us."
Stackler yells "What's the matter, mister? D'you think you saw something?"
When Ryker turns his back Stackler springs to his feet and tries to draw, but Ryker has spun round and drawn his gun before Stackler is even fully standing.
"I never said I saw anything. I never even said I heard anything."
Deputy Karns, who was one of the poker players warns Ryker that the town doesn't need any more trouble. Stackler also introduces himself, asking if Ryker is in town on business. Ryker says he's looking for Hagen, and Stackler tells him where to find him.
Ryker quickly learns that Hagen is out to cheat Hale, an elderly rancher, out of his land by stopping a vital cattle drive that will pay his mortgage. Hagen is prepared to stop Hale by any means - including killing him. Ryker asks Hagen if he'd sent for him because he'd heard he was a hired killer, Hagen replies that he'd heard that Ryker was "another Sam Lake, only better."
"You heard wrong, I'm not another Sam Lake," replies Ryker, with cold anger.
Karns who, unknown to Sheriff Abbott, is in Hagen's pay, suggests that they kill Hale themselves. The fact that Ryker is in town, and has such a reputation will throw suspicion away from them.
The following day Mr. Hale visits Shiloh with his daughter Janet to make arrangements for the drive. Trampas accompanies Hale to the Judge's study because he knows that a trail boss with experience of the long journey to Moose Jaw (see ep 1.12) will be needed by the rancher. His main reason for wanting the job is because he has taken a shine to Janet. Hale is expecting trouble from Hagen and Judge Garth says he wishes that Hale had taken out the loan with him. But Hale knows the Judge wouldn't foreclose, so it would be a gift, not a loan. He wants to do it his way.
The Judge has a little fun at Trampas' expense when he ponders over who to loan to Hale to act as a trail boss. Noting that the Virginian is going to Cheyenne the next day he asks Trampas who might be suitable. Trampas, visibly uncomfortable, stammers "Well, er...I..." The Judge looks at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, why not?" blurts out Trampas, with a list of all the reasons he should be entrusted with the task. The Judge and Mr. Hale dissolve into laughter, as does Trampas when he realises the joke.
The Judge adds "I hope he pays as much attention to your herd as he does to your daughter".
Next morning Karns lies in wait for Hale as he returns from the round-up to his ranch house, shooting him in the back. Hale manages to ride back to the house, but collapses and dies in the yard in front of Janet, Trampas and some of the hands.
Some hours later Trampas is talking with the hands and they voice their suspicion that Hagen is responsible. Trampas mentions that there has been talk of a stranger in town.
Janet makes it clear that she's going to continue the ranch, just as her father continued to build the ranch after her mother died. The hands feel uneasy about working for a woman, but Trampas makes it clear that as far as he's concerned nothing has changed. They still have cows to round up for a drive and he'll still lead them. Taking heart once again the men set about their work.
In town Ryker visits Sheriff Abbott. The two men know of each other know each other from a time Ryker brought in a prisoner at Corpus Christi. Karns is also present and Abbott describes Ryker to him as two men. "When he's broke he's a peace officer. When he's got himself a stake he trades in his badge for a deck of cards."
"Or a gun?" chimes in Karns, and points out how strange it is that when Ryker arrives in town Mr. Hale is suddenly murdered.
Ryker is evasive about why he's come to Medicine Bow, but Abbott trusts him sufficiently to offer him a deputy's badge. Ryker says he'll think about it.
On his way past the General Store Ryker sees the Hale's wagon, On her way out of the store Janet literally bumps into him, dropping a box of bullets. When he tries to introduce himself she flings the box of bullets in his face. The storekeeper is an old friend of Hale's and tells Ryker that Hale let nothing stop him "Until you did" - then seeing how Ryker maintains eye contact with him adds "...Or somebody". Ryker repeats the storekeeper's phrase "Or somebody" and walks away, leaving the elderly man to question the judgment he'd made.
Ryker confronts Hagen at the pool hall to let him know that he has figured out what he has done. Ryker knows he will remain the fall guy, because though it's common knowledge that Hagen wants the ranch, no harm befell Hale until he showed up. Hagen offers him money to leave town, an offer Ryker turns down contemptuously.
Later in the saloon Trampas approaches Ryker and asks him directly if he killed Mr. Hale. As always Ryker doesn't answer directly, but says "There isn't anywhere west of the Mississippi or north of the Rio, except here.....where an old man could be shot in the back and anyone would think it was me". Trampas believes him , though he's not certain why. Ryker even goes on to ask Trampas about a job and how much it would pay. When told the pay would be forty dollars a month plus board Ryker produces that much from his wallet and pays for their fifty cent beers with a ten dollar bill, telling the saloon girl to keep the change. Trampas says that's all Janet can afford to pay, They could both get better offers - but that's the difference between the two of them.
"Forty dollars a month?" asks Ryker.
"And board" confirms Trampas.
Next day, after the funeral, Ryker shows up to speak to Janet. He tells her he didn't have any part in her father's killing, and she confides to him and Trampas that she knows she will lose. To win she needs the kind of help that only Ryker can offer. To Trampas' dismay she cuts cards with Ryker, offering him half the ranch if he wins, or working for her for nothing if he loses.. Janet draws the jack. "You're going to meet a handsome man" muses Ryker. He draws the queen, but Trampas warns him that he's personally going to keep an eye on Janet's interests and that Ryker still needs a trail boss. Ryker grins and offers Trampas his job back, "You've got class. Forty dollars a month -and board".
Ryker loses no time in putting the word out about his co-ownership of the ranch. Beginning by informing Sheriff Abbott and Karns, he next takes the deeds to Attorney Cruikshank. He also gets the attorney to make out a will - leaving his half of the ranch to Janet in the event of his sudden death. After leaving the office Ryker hides behind the staircase and watches as Cruikshank scurries off to tell Hagen. Mark Abbott had said no bullet was recovered from Hale's body because it went right through him, so Ryker visits Doc Spaulding on the pretext of having a check-up. There he learns that a bullet was removed and Spaulding had given it to Deputy Karns.
In the saloon Ryker needles Karns about how a bullet would have been a significant clue, but clues go missing in Medicine Bow. The tactic works, as Ryker leaves the saloon he finds Stackler waiting to take him to the pool hall at gunpoint. As they reach the hall Ryker turns on Stackler, knocks his gun into a horse trough and throws him through the doors, almost knocking Hagen over. Ryker warns Hagen that he is going to round up the cattle, sell them and pay off the mortgage. If Hagen finds anyway of stopping him from doing this Ryker will kill him, simple as that. Hagen suggests that he sent for the wrong man and asks "How good is Sam Lake". Unfazed Ryker replies "One of the best. Probably been losing his money in Crater City".
Janet, Trampas and Ryker agree a plan whereby Ryker will stay in town to divert Hagen's attention while Trampas, Janet and the hands take the cattle to Moose Jaw via a short cut. In the meantime Sam Lake has arrived in town and agreed a fee for his services with Hagen. Killing a friend costs $500 extra. Hagen instructs Stackler to join Karns and his other men who are going to stop the drive, no-one is to be hurt, just the drive stopped.
Meanwhile Karns and Stackler decide to set fire to the dry grass on the route of the drive, to kill most of the cattle and stampede the remainder.
Sheriff Abbott calls Ryker into his office as he makes his way to the saloon. Doc Spaulding has told Mark about Ryker coming to see him and the bullet Karns has stolen. Word has also spread that Lake has arrived.
This time Ryker says he'd like to accept the deputy's badge, but won't wear it until he's seen Lake. He doesn't want his former friend hanged for shooting a lawman, if Ryker loses he would prefer it to be in a fair fight. Abbott reluctantly agrees to keep out of it.
In the saloon Ryker joins Lake and Hagen who are waiting for him. He asks Lake how much he's being paid. Lake replies "$250 plus a $500 dollar bonus" .
"That much?" Ryker is surprised
"You're worth it", says Lake.
Ryker then talks about how he'd dreamed of someday owning a ranch and settling down with a woman who can cook.
"That's not the way you used to talk in your sleep", interrupts Lake.
Ryker continues that he now has all this, and he got it all on the cut of a card. Now Lake can have half of his action - worth much more than three thousand dollars - on the cut of a card.
Hagen splutters protests but Lake tells him to shut up. At Ryker's insistance Lake cuts first and he takes the three of clubs. Ryker obscures the card he takes,saying Lake's card beats his own. Hagen makes a move for his gun but faces Ryker's and Lake's before he clears the holster. Ryker punches Hagen on the jaw, knocking him flat and leaves his gun with the bartender for safekeeping.
Out on the trail Karns and Stackler ignite the fire which begins the stampede. Trampas, Janet, and the Hale hands fight a losing battle to regain control, but Ryker and Lake intervene to halt Hagen's men. During the face off that follows all the men except Stackler agree to either move off or help round-up the cattle. Stackler rides past Ryker and Lake, but makes the fatal mistake of trying to shoot them in their backs. Karns, who is hiding behind a rock picks off Lake, only to be killed by Ryker.
Trampas and Janet ride up as Ryker tends to Lake. The dying man asks his old partner to show him the card he cut. Ryker pulls the ace of spades from his pocket. Lake laughs and tells Trampas and Janet that, as a lawman, Ryker would know that territorial law forbids the winning of property in a gambling game. Ryker can't understand why Lake went along with it if he knew all along. Lake explains "Men like Hagen, they use us. Hold their noses while we're doing their work. It was good - for once - to be working for myself."
Ryker rides into town - followed by Janet - while Trampas agrees to take the dead gunslinger to Doc Spaulding's. At the pool hall Janet stops Ryker and tries to persuade him that Hagen isn't worth killing. She doesn't want to see someone like him doing something like that. However Sheriff Abbott has already arrested Hagen.for his own protection.
Abbott knows Ryker will testify that Hagen offered him $2500 to kill Janet's father, however, no jury would take Ryker's word over Hagen's. The only word any jury would take regarding Hale's or Lake's deaths would be Hagen's own admission. "Let him go" Ryker says to Abbott as he stands by the door, checking the number of bullets in his pistol. Hagen refuses to budge, insisting that Ryker has already threatened to kill him, but Abbott understands Ryker's bluff and sardonically tells Hagen to file a complaint. Hagen breaks and confesses that he had Karns kill Mr. Hale.
Trampas arrives with the news that most of the cows have been rounded up. He also says there's a job for Ryker if he wants it, but Mark once again offers the deputy's star, and this time Ryker pins it on.
Some time later Trampas rides up to Janet's house to take her to the Saturday night dance. He is puzzled by the buckboard outside but as he is about to knock on the door Ryker rides up too. After exchanging some awkward hellos Ryker says he's there to take Janet to the dance. Trampas retorts that he had an understanding with her that she would go with him. Ryker counters that he had actually asked her and been accepted. Before the argument can go any further, the door opens and as the Virginian and Janet breeze past to the buckboard, they remind Trampas and Ryker that there is a dance in town and it should be a marvellous evening.
Trampas feigns righteous indignation that Ryker had lied to him that way, "You hadn't asked her either".
"Well", says Ryker, "We can always cut in at the dance". [bg]
While Janet is talking to Ryker on the trail we learn that he didn't know his mother or father. His father "lost a fight and died" and from that he learned "don't lose that fight, don't die".
Another episode in which we learn something of Ryker's early life is 3.14 "The Payment"
Leslie Nielsen can also be seen in 4.12 "The Laramie Road", 4.28 "No Drums, No Trumpets", 6.15 "The Fortress" and 8.01 "The Long Ride Home".
Anne Helm can be seen in 8.01 "Journey to Scathelock".
Berkeley Harris appears in 1.27 "Strangers at Sundown", 2.11 "The Fatal Journey", 4.12 "The Laramie Road" and 8.02 "Flash of Darkness"
Ron Soble is in 1.09 "It Tolls For Thee", 2.08 " A Portrait of Marie Vallone", 4.14 "Letter of the Law" and 9.08 "Lady at the Bar" [bg]
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Main Contributor for this episode: Brendan Gardiner [bg]