CTVA - The Virginian: Men from Shiloh 9.22 [247] "The Town Killer" 10-Mar-1971

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9.22 [247]
"the town killer"

 Original NBC Broadcast - 10 March 1971

Universal City Studios, Inc.
executive producer norman macdonnell
written by elroy schwartz
directed by harry harris

(shown in the opening sketch sequence)
stewart granger [Col. Alan MacKenzie] (not in this episode)
doug mcclure [Trampas] (not in this episode)
lee majors as tate (not in this episode)
james drury as the virginian

guest stars:
peter lawford [ben hunter]
howard duff [stuart masters]
brenda benet [susan masters]
lloyd bochner as abel wilks

Full Ending Credits:
sean mcclory as harry post
leonard stone as tom wagner
bill fletcher as greer
willard sage as barrows
l.q. jones as belden [recurring character / last appearance]
ben wright desk clerk
buck young carter reed
bill catching weldon
tom middleton bert
script consultant robert van scoyk
theme ennio morricone
director of photography enzo a. martinelli
art director william j. kenney
set decorations john sturtevant
unit manager henry kline
assistant director jack terry
film editor john elias
sound frank h. wilkinson
main title design jack cole
titles and optical effects universal title
editorial supervision richard belding
costume supervision vincent dee
make up bud westmore
hair stylist larry germain

Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
featuring the Virginian, with Belden [former regular making a one-time return appearance]

Detailed Synopsis:

The Virginian and Belden are enjoying an evening in the saloon. The Virginian suggests they call it a night because they have to start a long trip the next day. Belden pleads to stay for one more drink and the Virginian leaves. Sure enough, Belden gets into a brawl and injures his foot, rendering him unable to make the trip.

Traveling alone, the Virginian stops at a water hole where he's promptly bushwhacked. The Virginian is able to turn the tables on the bushwhacker by flipping him into the water and a fight ensues. The fight is broken up by the arrival of Ben Hunter and his men. It turns out the bushwhacker is one of Hunter's men who has been indulging in a little extra-curricular activity, like robbery, on the side. Hunter fires him and sends him on his way, but not before reclaiming the man's horse, which belongs to Hunter. Hunter invites the Virginian back to his ranch. While plying him with fine drink and cigars, he inquires about the Virginian's business in the area. Hunter explains that he sells his protection services to six towns in the area to protect them "from what I used to be." He goes on to explain that he once was an outlaw who robbed banks and held up trains and stagecoaches but later decided there was more money to be made by selling "protection." The Virginian says he has to leave and head for the town of Rutledge where he has business. Hunter is disappointed to see him go, but asks the Virginian to deliver a message to Stuart Masters at the general store in Rutledge. Hunter wants him to tell Masters that he's changing the collection date to tomorrow because he's thinking of adding another town and wants to spread out the collection.

The Virginian rides into Rutledge after dark and stops by the general store where he meets Masters' daughter, Susan. Susan tells him that her father is over at the saloon and asks if he is one of Ben Hunter's men. The Virginian says he is not but has had the "dubious pleasure" of meeting him. The Virginian and Susan hit it off instantly by their mutual dislike of Hunter. Susan tells the Virginian that the store will be open for another hour in case he needs any supplies. The Virginian answers that he doesn't need anything now, but he'll "keep the closing time in mind when I come through town on my way back."

Over at the saloon, Stuart Masters is playing cards with banker Abel Wilks, barber/undertaker Tom Wagner and Harry Post. Wagner says he gave a haircut to a fellow with the Beryl Mining Company who said the Beryl Company just struck a new vein of silver. Wilks says that should be good for the local economy because "we need the business and we all know why." The Virginian arrives with the message from Hunter about the change in the collection day. The four men grumble about what a hardship it will be to come up with the money on such short notice. The Virginian suggests they not pay, but the four men are afraid to do that. We learn that there's no sheriff in town and the nearest federal marshall is several hundred miles away. They'll come up with the money somehow, even if it means borrowing the money from Wilks' bank. The men tell the Virginian that this is none of his business, so he shrugs it off and walks away. The Virginian checks into the hotel and asks the desk clerk if he knows Ben Hunter. The desk clerk cringes in fear and recounts how he'd gone up against Hunter before in another hotel in another town. "There's not much left of that town any more" as Hunter and his men burned it down. The desk clerk adds, "I borrowed money from the bank to buy into this place and I aim to hang on to it. And you won't find a man in this town that don't feel the same way...We want to keep what we've got!" "At what price?" asks the Virginian. "That's up to Mr. Ben Hunter," is the reply.

The next morning the Virginian goes downstairs where he runs into Susan Masters, whom he joins for breakfast. He leaves the table briefly and while he's gone, Barrows, one of Hunter's men, approaches Susan and makes advances toward her. The Virginian returns, pulls Barrows away from Susan and throws him into some tables. Barrows draws his gun but he's not fast enough for the Virginian, who shoots him down. Greer, another of Hunter's men, arrives and says that Hunter is not going to like this. Stuart Masters enters and attempts to give Greer the monthly protection payment, but Greer says he has a hunch that Hunter will want to collect it himself. Masters admonishes the Virginian; "I don't think you realize what you've just done!"

Greer rides back to inform Hunter of the shooting. Hunter agrees that "we can't let him get away with it." Back in Rutlege, Masters, Wilks, Wagner and Post are commiserating about how to handle this situation. Susan, who is also present, says that Barrows drew first and they should act like men and stand up to Hunter. They tell her it's not so simple and she walks away in disgust. The men ask about the Virginian's current whereabouts. Post says he's in his hotel room packing and getting ready to leave town. Wilks says that Hunter probably won't want him to leave, so they'd better hold him. They attempt to "arrest" him as he heads for the livery stable, but the Virginian is able to turn the tables on them and get them to admit that the only reason they're trying to hold him over is that they're afraid of Hunter. The Virginian says, "Well there's a reason I can understand for your wanting me to stay. Come to think of it, I'm glad you gentlemen stopped me from leaving!" and returns to the dining room to finish his breakfast.

Later that day Hunter rides into town. Masters and the others attempt to pay him, but Hunter says the price has gone up from $1400 to $2000 now that Barrows has been killed. Hunter joins the Virginian in the dining room and offers him a job. The Virginian says he's happy where he is. Hunter is disappointed in the Virginian's answer and tells him that it puts him in a precarious position because he can't allow one of his men to be killed and do nothing about it. Having the Virginian come to work for him would be the only way he could avoid having to kill him. He'll double the Virginian's salary and maybe, in time, make him a partner. The Virginian says no thanks, "but I am flattered. Especially coming from a man like you for whom I hold nothing but contempt."

Hunter angrily leaves the dining room and tells Masters, who is waiting outside, to bring the rest of the money to him over at the saloon in one hour. Masters protests that he can't come up with the money that fast and that he's bleeding the town dry. Hunter slaps him and says, "You haven't begun to bleed!" He also insists that Masters turn over "the stranger" (the Virginian) for killing Barrows, even though Susan protests that Barrows drew first. Wilks, Wagner and Post are all in favor of turning over the Virginian to Hunter while Susan and Stuart Masters are not, but Stuart goes along with the others anyway.

Susan intercepts the Virginian as he's about to leave the hotel and warns him that her father and the others are going to try to capture him and turn him over to Hunter. She expresses regret over what has happened to her town; "These used to be good people." She then informs her father of the Virginian's "getaway." Over in the saloon Hunter and Greer are waiting. Wilks has drawn more money out of the bank to meet Hunter's increased price, but Hunter still isn't satisfied. There were two conditions needed to satisfy Hunter and the money was just one of them. They were also to produce "the stranger" whom Masters tries to explain "got away." Hunter says he's holding the town responsible, takes the money and says he'll return at sunup with the rest of his men. Just then, the Virginian enters from the back of the saloon. "I understand you're looking for me," he says. The others step aside as the Virginian confronts Hunter and Greer; "If you're both thinking of drawing against me, I'll warn you in advance, I'll take you." Hunter and Greer back down and start to leave. The Virginian tells them to "hold it" and leave the money on the table, which they do. Wagner, Wilks, Post and Masters run after Hunter pleading with him that they had nothing to do with this latest confrontation. Hunter says that his threat still holds: he'll be back with the rest of his men at sunup. They'd better produce the money and "the stranger," dead or alive, or he'll be forced to write off Rutledge as a total loss. As they're riding out, Greer asks Hunter why they didn't try to take him. Hunter answers that since he was able to outdraw Barrows, he's probably faster than either one of them, but not to worry, he'll let the "good people of Rutledge" kill him for them. Sure enough, Post, with the assistance of the hotel desk clerk tries to bushwhack the Virginian from the hotel roof. The Virginian suspects something, however and is able to prevent the ambush by shooting the rifle out of Post's hands. Susan then appears and once more pleads with the Virginian to leave town. He says he can't because he's the one who stirred things up in the first place. He says it's time he had a talk with her father and the others.

The Virginian enters the saloon and asks Masters and the others what they propose to do "outside of killing him." Wagner says that if they kill him, Hunter will stop bothering them. The Virginian tells him that if he believes that, he's a fool. Masters argues that Hunter wouldn't destroy Rutledge because the town means too much money to him. The Virginian counters by saying that he'd have to destroy Rutledge as a lesson to the other towns and he'd make up the lost money by increasing the monthly fees to the other towns. "Gentlemen, I'm willing to fight your fight. I'm asking for help in getting rid of Hunter once and for all," says the Virginian, to which there is no reply. "Thanks," he says disgustedly and walks away.

We next see the Virginian walking down the street deep in thought. He stops to light a cigar but quickly puts it out when he looks up and sees that he is standing by the Beryl Mining Company warehouse which has a warning sign that there are explosives inside. This gives him an idea.

He goes back to the general store and fetches Susan after purchasing safety pins and a ball of string. "Am I running away with you?" she asks. "Would you?" he asks in reply. "Yes!" she says. "We're not!" he answers. Instead, he takes her out to a nearby river so he can go fishing. Susan is stunned: "Most men that were about to fight alone against twelve men in the morning would be too nervous to do anything, or they'd be out getting drunk. But you, you take a girl fishing!" That evening, while cooking the fish they've caught, Susan tells the Virginian that her mother and sister died when she was 14. They were murdered by a gang of outlaws. Their deaths "left scars" on her father and that's probably why he's so afraid of Hunter. The Virginian says he can understand and then makes a few insightful comments about his own past (see notes below).

Later that night, we see the Virginian breaking into the Beryl Company warehouse where the explosives are stored. He sneaks past the sleeping guard and steals several kegs of black powder. Later on, in the early morning, we see him digging a trench across the town's main street and filling it with water. Wagner, who has spent the night watching the Virginian's strange nighttime activities rouses the bartender at 5:30 AM and demands a bottle. The two of them speculate on what the Virginian has been doing all night. We next see the Virginian putting black powder into the water filled trench. He then places a lighted oil lamp at one end of the trench. He follows this up by rigging some heavy netting under a tree situated in a prominent position on Main Street. Meanwhile, Ben Hunter and his men are shown galloping down the road to Rutledge and Susan is shown back in the general store loading bullets into a bunch of rifles. Stuart Masters enters and asks about Susan's whereabouts during the night. At first she refuses to tell him but then admits she was down at the river giving comfort and encouragement to the Virginian "while you and the others, (are) letting him fight your fight, not even lifting a hand to help!" She then takes the loaded rifles outside and hands them up to the Virginian who is on the hotel roof. The Virginian places the rifles in several strategic locations on the rooftops and tightens up a rope which is attached to something unseen across the street. He sticks a knife in the wall next to the rope. He jumps down from the roof and gives further attention to the rope, which we now can see is attached by various pulleys to the netting beneath the tree across the street. The Virginian makes one last stop at the general store to pick up another rifle and thank Susan for her help and goes off to hide in a hay wagon while awaiting Hunter's arrival. Meanwhile, Masters, Wagner, Wilks and Post are all in the saloon sharing a bottle waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Hunter and his men ride up to the edge of town, pause, and proceed cautiously. Not cautiously enough, however, for two of the men are clotheslined by a rope stretched across the street. The Virginian fires at the others from the hay wagon and Hunter and his men start riding more forcefully with guns blazing. As they gallop down the street, the Virginian shoots at the oil lamp next to the gunpowder laden trench setting it ablaze just as the men are crossing. He then drives the hay wagon past the hotel, where he jumps up onto the roof and starts using those rifles he's stashed. He has one more trick up his sleeve as he uses the knife to cut the rope holding the netting across the street, ensnaring several more of the gang. Hunter then tells one of his men to sneak up and get him from behind. Susan comes out and dodges bullets crossing the street to the saloon where she again pleads with her father and the others to please help. The Virginian, now having apparently run out of tricks, has his last rifle shot out from his hands. He jumps off the rooftop but sprains his ankle in the process. Hunter now has him trapped. Just as Greer is about to shoot him point blank, gunfire comes from behind as Masters and the others have finally developed a spine and have joined in the fight. A hobbled Virginian follows a fleeing Hunter into the livery stable and manages to subdue him. The vanquished Hunter still manages to laugh at the Virginian for suggesting that he'll be going to prison; "For selling my protection services? There's nothing illegal in that!" "I'm not talking about that," replies the Virginian, "When I turn you over to the marshall, I'm going to ask him to look into all those bank robberies and train holdups you were telling me about. I'd say ten years at the very least!"

As the Virginian prepares to move on, Masters and Wilks say they wish he'd stay on as sheriff. "If we paid you half what we were paying Hunter, you'd still be the highest paid lawman in the state." "I have a good job and right now that's the only one I want," replies the Virginian. He shakes hands all around, bids a fond farewell to Susan and rides out. [rho]


This is my favorite "Men From Shiloh" episode. The story, action and quality of writing are on a par with the best episodes of "The Virginian." It is also the last episode to feature the Virginian as the lead character, although he was to make a brief appearance in the series finale, "Jump-Up" (9.24[249]).

The Virginian gives us a vague look into his past at the cookout the night before the big showdown when Susan asks him if he has any family. "No," he replies. "You haven't lived your entire life alone, have you?" she asks. The Virginian replies, "There were people I loved, folks who meant a lot to me. And a woman, nice and pretty, but that was a long time ago and I don't believe in looking back. Maybe because I can't." "Because it hurts too much?" she asks. "Something like that," he answers.

Belden makes a special one-time return appearance in the episode's first two scenes. He disappeared from the show sometime during season 5 or 6. I only wish we could have seen more of him. His appearance here is all too brief.

Like the other characters who were in both "The Virginian" and "The Men From Shiloh", Belden also has changed his physical appearance. He now sports a moustache and wears a bright red shirt. [rho] 

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