CTVA - The Virginian 5.05 [125] "Jacob was a Plain Man"  12-Oct-1966

The Classic TV Archive - TV Western series
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5.05 [125]
"Jacob was a Plain Man"

 Original NBC Broadcast - 12 October 1966
Universal TV
Executive Producer Frank Price
Produced by Joel Rogosin
Written by Eric Bercovici
Directed by Don McDougall

(shown in the ride in)
Charles Bickford as John Grainger
Doug McClure as Trampas (not in this episode)
Don Quine as Stacey Grainger
Sara Lane as Elizabeth Grainger
James Drury as The Virginian

Guest Star:

Aldo Ray
[Jake Walker] (terrific performance [rho])

Complete Ending Credits:
Alfred Ryder as Ketch
Robert Pine as Curley
Edward Faulkner as Packer
Peter Duryea as Nicky [the man Jake killed in the bar]
Ross Elliott ... Mark Abbott [recurring character]
L.Q. Jones ... Belden [recurring character]
Larry J. Blake ... Barker
Harry Harvey, Sr. ... 1st Bartender
Frank Scannell ... Ticket taker
Timothy Donnelly ... 2nd Cowhand
Cal Bartlett ... 1st Cowhand
Frank Sully ......... Danny the bartender, (recurring)(uncredited)
Harper Flaherty ..... Harper ((recurring)(uncredited) (spotted in one of the bunkhouse scenes)
Music score Leo Shuken and Jack Hayes (nice use of familiar themes throughout the episode [rho])
Theme by Percy Faith
Director of Photography Enzo A. Martinelli
Art Director ... George Patrick
Film Editor ... George Ohanian
Unit Manager ... Abby Singer
Assistant Director ... Jack Doran
Set Decorators ... John McCarthy and James M. Walters
Sound ... Earl Crain, Jr.
Color Consultant ... Robert Brower
Editorial Supervision ... Richard Belding
Musical Supervision ... Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervisor ... Vincent Dee
Makeup ... Bud Westmore
Hairstylist ... Larry Germain
The Title "The Virginian" by permission of EMKA LTD.

Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
featuring Stacey, with John, Elizabeth, the Virginian, Sheriff Mark Abbott, Belden,
brief appearance by Danny the bartender, and a brief glimpse of Harper in the bunkhouse.

Detailed Synopsis:
The episode opens with John and Stacey Grainger sitting at the breakfast table
talking about a man Stacey had befriended but was now in trouble with the law
and on the run. From their snippets of conversation we learn that the man had
killed another man in Rock Falls. The killing was in self-defense, but he
broke out of jail and ran away. "I still can't understand why he ran away
like that--why he didn't trust me," says Stacey, "I could have helped him tell
his story. In a couple of months he could have learned how to read and write."
"Learning how to trust," says John, "That's a lot harder."

"To learn how to trust," muses Stacey as he begins to tell the story in flashback.
Through his narration we're taken back to Rock Falls, where we see the man
working in a saloon doing his chores. "To learn how to trust. That's kind of
a strange way to put it, but I knew what Granddad said was true," Stacey's
narration continues, "We'd been teaching him how to trust us from the beginning.
No telling who he'd run into in his life or how they treated him. I knew
one thing for sure: it hadn't been easy for him. He was a big man, strong,
but that's about all anyone could know about him, even if they cared enough
to ask. Jake's deaf and dumb. I don't know what happened in Rock Falls that
day. I wish I did. But I do know that somehow it had to do with Jake being
all locked up inside himself. Not being able to hear, talk, not being able to trust."

In the saloon we see Jake pouring a drink for a customer. The customer tells
him to leave the bottle, but Jake doesn't hear him. The patron grabs Jake
from behind and Jake shows him a piece of paper he carries with him explaining
his disability. "I am deaf and dumb. My name is Jake Walker. I am a good
worker," reads the customer from the paper. When Jake tries to get the paper
back, the smart-aleck customer laughs, rips it apart and throws it on the floor.
Jake attempts to pick up the pieces, but the customer steps on them. Jake
tries to push him away, but the customer starts swinging. Jake picks him up
and throws him against the wall, killing him. The bartender calls for the
sheriff, but Jake runs outside, gets on a horse and rides away.

Jake somehow eludes a posse and finds himself on the Shiloh range where Stacey
is trying to pull out a heifer that's stuck in a creek. Jake walks into the
water and extracts the animal for him. Stacey calls out his thanks, but Jake
doesn't hear him. He rides off, leaving Stacey surprised at his unresponsiveness.

Jake rides on and arrives at the empty Shiloh bunkhouse. Seeing no one around,
he rides up to the main house and sees some wood that needs chopping. He
knocks at the kitchen door and is greeted by Elizabeth. Through hand signals,
he makes her understand that he wants to chop wood in exchange for breakfast.
Later, at the breakfast table, John compliments Stacey for "all that wood
chopping." Stacey says he didn't do it and Elizabeth explains that it was
done by a man who showed up at the back door; "He's in back. I don't think
he's eaten for days ... He's deaf and dumb." Stacey goes out to have a
look and finds that Jake is the man who helped him pull that heifer out of
the creek. He discovers that Jake is able to read lips and introduces
himself and Elizabeth. He asks if he'd like a job and takes him down to
meet the foreman.

Jake shows off his physical prowess to the ranch hands by breaking a piece
of timber over his head. The Virginian says, "Well, we don't have much
call for people breaking fenceposts in half, but I reckon we'll find something
for you to do." Stacey suddenly realizes he doesn't know his name and asks
him to write it in the dirt. Jake takes the stick and draws an "X."

The next couple of scenes show Jake hard at work around the ranch. Since
nobody knows his name, the other hands refer to him as "Silent." He helps
Belden unload some heavy sacks and then rushes to retrieve a piece of mail
that Elizabeth has dropped. She tells him it's the latest installment of
a magazine serial and asks if he'd like to see it, but he politely declines.
Later we see him digging fence post holes while two other Shiloh hands,
Curley and Packer, are goofing off. Apparently the two hands have some
kind of cattle-rustling operation going on on the side. Packer warns Curley
to "keep his big mouth shut" lest anyone overhear them. "Now who am I
gonna talk to--him?" laughs Curley, pointing at Jake.

A few days later, we see Jake alone on the bunkhouse porch. Someone has
dropped a copy of the Medicine Bow Banner. Jake picks up a stick and begins
drawing something in the dirt. Stacey walks up and asks him if he wants to
go into town. Jake declines and via hand signals tells him that Medicine
Bow is "good for you but not for me." He walks away and Stacey notices what
he has been drawing in the dirt. It's the word "MEDICINE," which he apparently
copied from the front page of the newspaper. It dawns on Stacey that maybe
Jake would like to learn to read and write.

The next morning Jake is in the barn feeding Elizabeth's mare. Elizabeth walks
in and strikes up a conversation. She tells him how much she loves horses
and relates a story of how when she was a little girl, she used to talk to
her granddad's horse all the time because she was sure he could talk back.
She stops and realizes what she has just said, but Jake smiles and waves
his hand indicating that it's all right. She asks him if he likes it at
Shiloh. He smiles and nods affirmatively.

At the breakfast table, John is telling Stacey that the Virginian told him
some cattle are missing. John is not sure if it's rustlers, but says that
they'd better start looking for strays and keeping a running count. John
changes the subject when Elizabeth walks in. "How's the foal?" he asks.
Elizabeth tells him that "the man who can't talk" has been feeding the
mare. Stacey asks what she said to him. "I told him he could," she
replies, "He must be a very lonely man. It must be terrible to live all
alone inside himself like that ... Not being able to talk or hear. Not
being able to tell anyone what you want or how you feel. Just silence
all the time." "I guess he's used to it," says Stacey. "It would take
a lifetime to get used to something like that," says John, "He must have
something special inside him to get along the way he does." Elizabeth
asks if there isn't anything they could do for him. Stacey replies,
"You can't teach him to talk and you can't teach him to hear, but ..."
"What?" asks Elizabeth. "Excuse me," says Stacey, jumping up from the
table. He races upstairs to Elizabeth's room and begins looking through
her boudoir. "Stacey! You just get out of my room!" Elizabeth says,
having followed him upstairs, "What do you think you're doing? Those
are my personal things!" "Fine, fine," says Stacey, "Now where's your
old school books? I know you kept them in here somewhere." "School
books?" she asks. "School books," Stacey repeats, "That's what you
learned how to read and write with, isn't it?" She joins him in the
search and finds the books in the bottom of the trunk.

Stacey discretely leaves the reading primer in Jake's bunk. He comes
back later and finds him looking at it. Jake tries to hide it, but Stacey
tells him, "It's all right. I was the one that left the book and other
stuff there for you. I figured you could look it over and then, if you
want to, well, then maybe I could help you with it." Jake nods in
agreement and the two shake hands on it. Stacey then tells him that he
was talking to the foreman today and he thinks that he's working out
fine. In fact, he wants to try him out as a regular hand. Jake beams
with delight.

We next see Jake working as a cowhand. The Virginian compliments him
on his work and tells him to go check for strays over the ridge. While
doing so, he discovers a bunch of cattle corralled in a box canyon.
Packer and Curley ride in. Packer reaches for his gun, but Curley
stops him and tells him, "Smile and he'll eat right out of your hand.
We're big pals!" The smooth-talking Curley tells Jake that they've
been cutting out sick animals because there's "some kind of cattle
disease" and they're doing a quarantine. Jake believes his story and
leaves to go back to his regular work. After he's gone, Curley tells
Packer, "We've got a good thing going. Why take a chance on a killing?
Rustling's one thing. Killing's something else. Anyway, what are
you worried about? He isn't going to tell anyone."

Next we see Jake reading his primer outside the barn. Packer rides
up with a wagonload of supplies and asks for Jake's assistance. While
unloading the supplies, Jake tosses a flour sack to Packer, who catches
it and falls over backward into a water trough. Belden and Curley,
who have witnessed this, begin laughing. A livid Packer gets up and
goes after Jake. Belden tries to hold Packer back and Packer starts
swinging at Belden. The Virginian and Stacey ride up. The foreman
breaks up the fight and asks how it started. Pointing at Jake, Packer
says that he pushed him into the water trough and "Belden bought himself
a piece of it." "Aw, come on, Packer, you fell in all by yourself!"
laughs Curley. "He threw a flour sack at me!" says Packer. Jake
vigorously tries to deny this accusation via hand signals. The Virginian
tells them to forget it and get back to work. "Well, I guess that's
how it always starts," Stacey says, "Trouble for Silent. Something
happens and he can't tell his side of it. No wonder he's afraid to go
into town." "I understand you're teaching him to read and write,"
says the Virginian, "I'd say you've got your work cut out for you."

Stacey's narration picks up again as we see him later that evening in
the living room: "It was hard to get Jake out of my mind--the way he
looked after that fight with Packer. I guess if he bumped into someone
on the street, it'd be just enough to start a fight. Couldn't even
write out an explanation. Just stand there helplessly (with) a storm
inside him. I began to realize that just giving him a book wasn't enough.
The Virginian was right. I had my work cut out for me." John enters
and senses that something is bothering Stacey but all he'll admit is
that "I never realized how quiet it can get with no one around. You
can almost hear the silence."

With all the men having gone into town, Jake is alone in the bunkhouse
reading the primer. Stacey enters and begins giving him a lesson.
John walks down to the bunkhouse and through the open door observes
what is going on. He smiles in approval and silently walks away.
"My name is Stace," Stacey reads aloud as he points to himself and
letters he has written on a page. Jake is catching on and writes,
"My name is Jake," on the page. "Your name is Jake!" says Stacey
triumphantly, but Jake frowns and shakes his head, indicating he doesn't
want Stacey to tell anyone. "Why not?" asks Stacey, "Everybody's got
a name." Jake crumples up the paper and Stacey asks, "Are you in
some kind of trouble?" Jake shakes his head. Stacey pauses and says,
"All right, it's our secret. Do we have a deal?" The two shake hands on it.

We next see the Virginian and Stacey following cattle tracks into the
box canyon we saw earlier. The corral is now empty. "Looks like we
just missed them," says the Virginian, who notes that they're missing
about one hundred head so far. "Probably taking them a few at a time
and holing them up here," says Stacey. "Couldn't be too easy to find
a buyer," says the foreman, who then tells Stacey to go tell his
grandfather while he goes and checks the other spreads to see if they've been hit.

Back at the bunkhouse, Jake is openly working on his reading and writing.
Packer notices this and tells Curley that this presents a problem.
If "Silent" learns how to write, he'll be able to tell others about seeing
them in the canyon that day with the stolen cattle. A suddenly serious
Curley asks him what they're going to do about it. He wants to cut their
losses and ride out, but Packer says it will look suspicious. They're
going to have to do away with Jake, but Packer doesn't even want to wait
for the chance to do it out on the range. He tells Curley he's going to
have to bring him into town with them. "He'll never go," protests Curley."
"You can talk the skin off a snake," says Packer, "You make him go!"
Curley walks over to Jake and says, "You know what I'm going to do, Silent?
I'm going to take you to town!" Belden walks in unexpectedly and says,
"Hey hey, that's great! It's about time you started socializing a little
bit more. I'll ride in with you as soon as I get cleaned up. I hear
they've got all sorts of things going in town. A tent show, everything!"
As he goes off to clean up, Curley asks Packer what they're going to do
now. "We'll do it," says Packer, "One way or another."

Up at the main house, John is telling Stacey that he wants a man posted
at that box canyon at all times to see who goes in and out, but they're
not to be stopped. "A dead rustler can't tell us who's buying cattle
with the Shiloh brand," he says. Just then Elizabeth enters, all set to
go into town and enjoy the festivities. John begs off, but tells Stacey
to look up the sheriff when he goes into town with her and tell him of their plans.

In town, Stacey walks into the saloon, where he sees Sheriff Mark Abbott
talking with a man named Ketch. Mark has apparently had previous dealings
with him. Ketch tells him he's stopped in town only to give his tired
horse a rest. The sheriff doesn't believe him and does nothing to hide
his contempt for the man, telling him to "drink up and move on." Ketch
insists he can't leave because of his tired horse and "coincidentally"
shows him a wanted poster for Jake Walker; "A real vicious fella. Killed
a man with his bare hands over at Rock Falls." Stacey's ears perk up
when overhears Ketch describe him as "a big deaf and dumb fella." After
Ketch leaves, Stacey asks Mark who he was. "A bounty hunter," says
Sheriff Abbott, "Sure hate to see his kind around Medicine Bow." Stacey's
face turns gloomy. "Something wrong, boy?" asks the sheriff. "I think
we'd better have a talk," Stacey answers.

Meanwhile, Jake is walking around the festival with Belden, Curley and
Packer. They're lured by a carnival barker who offers a fifty dollar
gold piece to anyone who can stay three minutes in the ring with a boxer
named Angel. The Shiloh hands persuade "Silent" to give it a try. He
appears to be winning, but Stacey races in and stops the match. In order
to get him to stop, Stacey calls him "Jake" publicly for the first time.
Ketch, who is among the onlookers, hears this and tries to make a claim
on Jake as his bounty, but Sheriff Abbott intercedes and says his "deputy,"
Stacey, found him first. The sheriff apparently temporarily deputized
Stacey to hold off Ketch. "Now Stace, I'm gonna take him in. I don't
want trouble," says Mark. "You've got to go with him, Jake. Trust me,"
says Stacey. Jake nods uncertainly and is led off. Belden asks Stacey
how he knew his name. "He told me," Stacey answers glumly.

Stacey's voiceover narration picks up again: "He told me. He trusted me
and now he was in jail. Ketch was still there waiting. Figuring out how
to get him." We see Curley and Packer sitting in the saloon. "Who'd
have thought it?" says Curley, "I never would have guessed it in a million
years ... a wanted killer. And there we were--frightened like a couple
of old ladies." "Nothing's changed," says Packer, "He's not dead yet.
Somebody asks him, he can still tell them. Too bad that bounty hunter
didn't shoot him and save us the trouble." Seeing Ketch standing at the
bar, he adds, "You know? I just had me an idea!" Packer walks up to
the bar and offers a proposition to the bounty hunter.

Later, we see Curley visiting Jake in his cell. Turning on the glibness
once again, he tells him that Stacey has betrayed him and turned him in
so he could collect the bounty himself. Jake at first doesn't believe
him, but Curley further tells him that he's going to be taken to Rock
Falls to be hanged, but that since he is his one true friend, he'll deliver
a gun through the cell window which Jake can use on the sheriff the next
evening while being served supper. Jake wants no part of this, but
Curley insists, "It's the only way!"

Back at Shiloh the next day, Stacey is saddling up his horse to ride into
town while John is trying to convince him that he did the right thing by
telling the sheriff; "From what you tell me about that bounty hunter, he
could be dead. With the law, he's got a chance ... There'll be a trial,
witnesses. Somebody must have seen what happened. They'll tell."
"That may not be enough," says Stacey, "Look, suppose he does tell them
it was an accident. Do you think they'll believe him?" "I think I would,"
says John. "That's because you know him," Stacey says, "What if it was
a stranger or a jury of strangers, do you think they would?" "If he's
telling the truth," answers John. "Well, that's just the point. Unless
somebody asks him the right questions, he's not going to tell them
anything," says Stacey.

Stacey rides into town and visits Jake in his cell. He bluntly tells him
that he's going to have to tell the truth about what happened in Rock Falls.
Stacey says he's going to ask him a series of yes-or-no questions, to
which he'll write down the answers. "Jake, I'm trying to help you," says
Stacey. Jake responds by walking over to the cell door and indicating
that he wants Stacey to break him out. "Not that way," says Stacey, "Now
Jake, you're going to have to stand trial, but if you tell me, I'll write
it all down." Jake hesitates and Stacey continues, "You trusted me when
you told me your name. When I found out that bounty hunter was after you,
I came to help you. Now what is it?" Jake again points to the door.
"Not that way!" repeats Stacey, shaking his head, "I'll go with you to
Rock Falls and to the trial, but you're going to have to tell me!" Jake
turns away. Sheriff Abbott walks in to tell them, "Time's up." Stacey
reluctantly walks out but leaves his notebook and pencil behind.

That evening, Curley drops a gun through Jake's cell window. It falls to
the floor, but Jake doesn't hear it. The sheriff brings him his supper,
tells him to stand back, leans over and notices the gun on the floor.
Jake sees it, too, and knocks the sheriff out with a single punch. He
runs out of the jail leaving the gun behind. Curley intercepts him as
he's leaving the jail and takes him to a horse tied out back. Meanwhile,
Mark comes to and walks over to the saloon, where he finds Ketch. He
first thinks Ketch might have had something to do with the escape, but
the bounty hunter has an alibi for his whereabouts all evening. "Hey,
that means he's fair game again!" says Ketch. "That means you've got
no more need to hang around here, Ketch. You move on!" says Sheriff Abbott.
"Sheriff, you've got no reason to ..." "I'll find a reason!" snaps Mark.

Curley brings Jake to a hiding place in a canyon. Packer wants to kill
him on the spot, but Curley convinces him to "let the bounty hunter take
the blame." Curley tells Jake to stay put and they'll bring him a horse
and supplies the next day. Meanwhile, Sheriff Abbott has arrived at Shiloh
to question Stacey about the jailbreak. "Only two people have any interest
in Jake Walker, you and Ketch. Now you had different reasons, I know that,
but he spent most of the night in the saloon. He couldn't have done it,"
says Mark. "Then that leaves me!" says Stacey, "Well, why don't you arrest
me? I didn't give Jake that gun, but it sure might not have been a bad
idea!" John tries to calm him down by saying, "Stacey! I know you believe
in Jake. And what you've been doing for him, the books, I'm proud of you
for that. You've tried to give him something he's never had before--a
chance to be alive. But whoever broke him out of that jail took that chance
away and made sure he'd never have it back!" Stacey glares at him and walks away.

The next morning, Stacey rides into town looking for Ketch. The sheriff
tells him that he left town about a half hour ago and headed north. Stacey
is certain that he is out looking for Jake. Mark tries to remind him that
Jake is a wanted man and that, while he was able to keep Ketch in tow when
he was in Medicine Bow, out on the range he has every right to go after him.
"To bring him in or kill him?" asks Stacey. The sheriff, who has been up
all night looking for Jake, says he'll go with him as soon as he freshens
up. "Good!" says Stacey, who leaves without him.

Stacey's voiceover narration starts up again: "I don't know who helped Jake
get away, but he must have run because he was afraid. Afraid to face a
bunch of strangers in a courtroom; afraid that when the time came even with
help, he couldn't explain himself. I had to find him before Ketch did or
I had to stop Ketch. And then I had to find out who had worked on Jake's
fear--and why." Out on the range, Stacey has picked up Ketch's trail and
follows him to the canyon where he thinks Jake is holed up. Stacey manages
to get the drop on him, and Ketch confesses that Curley and Packer were the
ones who set this up. They head back to Shiloh, but Jake still hasn't been found.

Back at Shiloh, we see Curley and Packer ride up to the bunkhouse where they
are greeted by Stacey and Ketch. "I tried to figure out why you'd want to
see Jake dead," says Stacey, "No reason except he knew something!" Packer
goes for his gun, but the Virginian comes up from behind and says, "Don't
try it! The sheriff wants to talk to you about some cattle we've been missing."

The scene fades back to where we were at the beginning of the episode--Stacey
and John sitting at the breakfast table. Elizabeth bursts into the room
yelling, "Stacey! Stacey! Somebody fed my mare!" The three of them run
outside and find that Jake has indeed returned. Jake hands Stacey the notebook
and pencil he had left behind and indicates that he is ready to tell his story.
Stacey responds by smiling at him, patting him on the back, handing him the
pencil and walking him up to the house. [rho]

Comparisons are inevitable between this episode and *2.09, "Run Quiet." Both
center on a deaf-mute working at Shiloh who is unjustly accused of murder
and unable to communicate his innocence. Both episodes feature actors playing
against their usual "tough-guy" types as the lead character; a pre-Ryker Clu
Gulager in "Run Quiet" and Aldo Ray as Jake Walker in this episode. But
whereas the Gulager character has something of an anger problem in "Run Quiet,"
Jake Walker remains fairly docile throughout this one. He's quick to forgive
when subjected to the "new hand" bunkhouse pranks and stays out of it when
Packer comes after him after falling in the water trough. Even when Jake kills
the man in the bar, it is obviously an accident (he was just trying to pick
up the pieces of his note) and was not done out of sheer rage.

Using Stacey's narration to tell the story in flashback is quite effective.

We never do learn who is buying the stolen cattle "with the Shiloh brand" from Curley and Packer.

Guest Star Notes:
Aldo Ray may also be seen in 1.06, "Big Day, Great Day."

Robert Pine
appears in 3.19, "Six Graves at Cripple Creek," 3.26 "Dangerous Road,"
5.29 "The Strange Quest of Claire Bingham," and 7.19 "The Ordeal."

In my opinion, Aldo Ray's performance as Jake, if not one of the best by a guest
star in the entire run of the series, is certainly one of the most touching.
Alfred Ryder is also very good as the bounty hunter, Ketch. [rho]

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Main Contributor for this episode - Robert Henry Ohlemeyer [rho]