The Lawbreakers


Review written by Kerri Hammer



First Impressions:  A very interesting and amusing episode. A little bit of danger, a bit of under-cover work, and a whole lot of Jess (which is never a bad thing).

The Story:  The episode opens in town with the sheriff hauling a rowdy, staggering drunk out of the saloon in front of a crowd of laughing onlookers. As the sheriff leads the old drunk off to jail a tall man in a spotless black suit follows them down the street. The Sheriff and the old man head inside the jail and a few moments later the black-suited man raps his knuckles on the door. The sheriff steps outside and the man in the black suit asks if the sheriff knows who the man he just arrested is. The sheriff replies that, no, he doesn’t know who the man is, but he doesn’t know who this visitor is either. The black-suited man reaches into his jacket and produces credentials identifying himself as Captain Albert Reeves, Adjutant General’s Office, United States military.

The sheriff, obviously intrigued, follows the Captain a little ways down the boardwalk and Captain Reeves says in a low, confidential tone “The man you just put in jail is Judge Barnaby Cade.” The sheriff is shocked, and Captain Reeves reveals that he’s been trailing the Judge since he was released from prison a week ago. Cade had stolen government money and Reeves was in Laramie to get it back.

The sheriff asks if Reeves has picked up any leads and Reeves says that Cade has been trying to hire a guide, but doesn’t have any money. The sheriff says that he knows a young fellow called Slim Sherman who ought to be interested in this situation. Reeves asks why and the sheriff tells him that Judge Cade and his boys had killed a friend of Slim’s and Slim might be willing to pose as Cade’s guide free of charge.
Its supper time back at the Sherman ranch and Jess and Slim are happily eating away while the sheriff and Captain Reeves present their plan. The sheriff tells Slim that he has a member of the Chocktaw-Johnson gang in prison and Slim asks if he’s the one who killed Smokey, Slim’s old friend. The sheriff says that he doesn’t think so and asks if Slim remembers much about the gang. Captain Reeves explains that the gang hit wagons and army payrolls, then the sheriff asks if Slim would be willing to join up with Cade and lead Reeves and the sheriff to the money the Chocktaw-Johnson gang had stolen. Reeves suggests that Slim be put in prison and the Judge be allowed to think Slim is an unsavory character. Jonesy points out that it’ll never work with Slim. He’s too well known in town. Jess volunteers for the job and they begin planning their deception

In town Jess has had more than a couple of drinks and, as the Judge starts to wake up, Jess is hauled, shouting and kicking into the jail. The sheriff subdues him and locks him away. Later, Jess is sitting, handcuffed, in a chair while the sheriff conducts and ‘interrogation’ for the Judge’s benefit. He demands to know where Jess got the two hundred dollars that was in his pocket and Jess says that he had gotten the money from working as a guide. The sheriff points out that the guide job would only earn him twenty-five dollars at the most, and Jess says with a cocky grin that he won the rest playing poker. The sheriff says that Jess is the world’s worst poker player and Jess demands angrily if there’s some law against having money. The sheriff says that he’s done giving Jess chances and that Jess better get out of the territory. Jess protests that this is the only country he knows well enough to turn a dollar in, but the sheriff is unmoved. He puts Jess back in his cell and leaves.

In the empty jail, Jess and the Judge share the whiskey bottle Jess had stuck in his boot and the Judge offers Jess a job. Jess pretends to refuse, then lets the Judge convince him. Together they ride out of town.


Outside of town Jess tells the Judge that someone has been following them for the past hour. They climb down off their horses, make camp, and wait for their follower to ride up. The man comes into camp and wants to know who Jess is. The Judge assures the newcomer that Jess is trustworthy but the man protests the addition of a new man. Judge Cade introduces the man as Rickert and tells Jess to ignore him. While Rickert complains about the prison he just left Jess takes a swig out of his whiskey bottle. Rickert demands a drink, and when Jess refuses Rickert draws on him. Jess is faster and shoots the gun out of Rickert’s hand. Judge Cade, sitting off to one side, encourages Jess to shoot Rickert, but Jess refuses. Rickert points out that they couldn’t shoot him anyway. They need him to find the money.

Later, the three pause for a look at the land. The judge says this is the right spot but Rickert disagrees, saying they haven’t ridden far enough. Two men are waiting for them atop the hill. The judge greets them as ‘Marcy’ and ‘Dallas’ and they spend a few moments testing each other out with many veiled insinuations. Once an agreement is worked out the party continues on.

They make camp for the night and one of the men goes off to hunt for dinner. Jess checks his gun and Judge Cade asks “What do you aim to get with that pistol, son?” Jess looks at him with a confident grin and answers “Anything I aim at, pop.”

Marcy and Dallas ride off to look for food, leaving Rickert, Cade and Jess at the campsite. The Judge asks Rickert what he’s doing and Rickert confesses that he’s not needed anymore and doesn’t want to get shot in the back by one of his ‘partners’.

Out in the brush, Marcy and Dallas ponder briefly over what is in the little brown pouch the Judge is carrying and if maybe he had a map to the treasure.

Back at the camp, the Judge tells Jess that they’ll be at the treasure site soon and Jess asks pointedly if anyone actually knows where the money is buried. The Judge explains that after every raid, the Chocktaw-Johnson gang would go to the place where they left the main trail and every man would blindfold himself, except Rickert. Rickert would lead them to a designated spot, where he would blindfold himself and Marcy would carry on a guide, then it would be Dallas’s turn, then the Judge, and then Chocktaw would lead them to the final destination.
As the Judge and Jess are talking there’s a gunshot in the distance. Judge Cade comments that one of the boys must have gotten supper, or Rickert. Out in the distance, a new man comes riding over the hill…

That night, Dallas comes back to camp with the hind quarters of a calf. He looks around the camp and asks where Rickert is. No one has seen him and suspicion runs through the camp, each trying to put the blame on the other. Just then, Rickert’s horse comes back to camp with blood on the saddle.

The next day is spent on the trail, and that night at camp Marcy stands up and declares that he’s not sleeping in the camp tonight and that he’ll follow the others to where the money was buried. No one protests as Marcy rides off.

The next morning Jess finds Marcy’s body with the throat cut. Judge Cade comments that Jess almost had to know where to look, but that Dallas was the only one Marcy would trust close enough to have his throat cut. Dallas shows them his knife, which has blood on it, but everyone had cut a steak off the calf the night before, so everyone’s knife was bloody. The Judge returns to the camp to make breakfast, but before following Dallas takes a derringer out of his shirt and tucks it away inside his hat.
While the Judge and Jess are eating, Dallas very quietly pulls out his pistol and aims it at Jess, but the Judge covers him with the shotgun. Dallas points out that they can’t shoot him; he hasn’t finished his part of the trail yet. The Judge says that they might not need him. Dallas tries to cut a deal on how to split the money, and Jess speaks up saying that he wants twenty five percent of the money. The Judge calls him a thief and laments that every time he gets himself a good employee the employee goes in business for himself. He then asks if they still need Dallas. Jess considers for a moment, then decides that Dallas would save them a lot of time, if nothing else.

Dallas says that before they finish the trip they have to give up their weapons. The Judge agrees and tells Dallas to lay down his pistol. Dallas refuses to put down his gun until the Judge lowers the shotgun. Jess is exasperated and says that he’ll take the guns from both of them. Dallas says that he’s still got Jess covered, but Jess reminds him that if he shoots then the Judge will blow off his head with the shotgun and, he reminds the Judge, Jess will have a fifty-fifty chance of getting a gun on Cade as well. To prove what he says Jess counts to three and draws his gun.

The two outlaws relent and throw their weapons on the ground, but Dallas retains the derringer hidden in his hat.

As they prepare to leave, the Judge finds a baby rattlesnake and hides it away in the brown leather pouch and puts it back in his coat.

The three continue on and that night at camp Dallas soaks long rawhide thongs in the stream and returns to the fire with his derringer in hand. He ties the Judge and Jess to nearby pines, telling them that the wet rawhide will shrink in the sun and if anything happens to him in the night they’ll both be cut to pieces.

Dallas removes the leather pouch from the Judge’s coat and goes to bed. In the dark, no one notices the man watching the camp from the brush.

Jess and the Judge sit tied to their respective trees, and Jess asks the Judge if he killed Rickert and Marcy. Cade says that he did not, and Jess says that he didn’t do it either. The Judge concludes that Dallas must have done it, but everything will be fine. Jess remarks that he’s pretty smug for an unarmed man tied to a tree, and the Judge says that there are other weapons than guns. Jess asks what he means, but they are interrupted by a terrified scream.

A frantic Dallas comes running back to camp and demands if Jess knows anything about snake bits. Jess says that he’s been bitten a couple of times and Dallas begins to hastily untie Jess. Jess asks where the snake had bitten him and Dallas replies that the bite was on the wrist. Jess becomes grim and tells Dallas that there’s nothing that can be done and that Dallas will be dead in seven minutes. Dallas is irate and demands that Jess try to help. Jess does what he can, but Dallas dies quickly. The Judge asks Jess to untie him, but Jess refuses, saying that he wants a bigger percentage. The Judge agrees reluctantly and the two ride out.

The next morning they ride into a rock-walled cove and Jess declares that this is place. The Judge says it isn’t because there had been no waterfall before. Jess explains that the Judge had only been there in the summer and the water had been dried up then.

The Judge begins digging with Jess sitting casually and watching. He asks the Judge is he had ever held up a stage over by Ortega Wells and the Judge admits to it, saying that it was one of his worse jobs. Jess comments that he’s thirsty and goes to the pond for a drink. While Jess is getting water, the Judge strikes pay dirt and calls Jess over. Before Jess can get there, however, a man appears behind him with a pistol. He asks where the derringer and Jess tells him it’s in the saddle bag.

The Judge is astonished to see the man identifies him as Chocktaw. He then offers to shoot Jess and split the money. Chocktaw says that he was the one who had killed the others, then orders Jess into the hole with the Judge. The Judge grabs the derringer out of Jess’s boot and shoots Chocktaw, then tries to hold Jess, but the tiny gun only had one shot. Jess retrieves Chocktaw’s pistol and orders the Judge back to Laramie. The Judge is confused by this, and Jess tells him what had really been going on. The Judge surrenders reluctantly and returns with Jess.

Back at the Sherman ranch, the Judge eats dinner with the family while the Sheriff and Captain Reeves watch. Cade asks why Jess brought him back to the ranch and Jess tells him that the stage driver had been a friend of Slim’s. The Judge shakes his head ruefully, saying that he should have known. He then asks why he’s being held. The group has difficulty coming up with a charge to pin on him. The Sheriff tells the Judge to ride out or he’ll come up with a charge that’ll stick. The Judge agrees to go as soon as Jess signs the affidavit identifying the members of Chocktaw’s gang so that the Judge can collect the bounties on their heads. Jess agrees to sign if it will get rid of the Judge. Cade chuckles, saying that he had known that there must be some good in the law-abiding folk, but he’d never thought he’d live to see it.










Kerri's Favorite Moments:  This is a good episode, but no particular parts jump out at me as favorites. I do enjoy Jess’ performance in the jail and the scenes at the Sherman dinner table, though.

Notes of Interest:   The Judge was played by John McIntyre who was later to become Robert Fuller's "Cooper Smith" character's boss on Wagon Train. He was also in Laramie episode, The Passing of Kuba Smith    

The Owie Factor:   There are none, surprisingly. Jess rides into the middle of a band of outlaws and doesn’t even get knocked in the head. The outlaws, on the other hand, are fairly decimated.



Kerri's rating:4 out of 5 stars.





Cast
  • John McIntyre as The Judge.
  • James Best as Dallas

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