An early first season episode. Jess' presence in Andy's and Slim's lives is still new and they don't know exactly what he'll do when asked to help an old girlfriend. **New!** Pictures from the episode are at the bottom of the page.
Rancher Arnold Dewalt's wife, Laurel has packed her bags and is sneaking out of the house. Her husband catches up to her, begging her to come back, and she callously shoots him with a small derringer and rides off.
At the Sherman place, Andy is trying to teach Jess how to swim in the pond. Slim catches them and chastises them for playing when they were supposed to be working. In a rare reference to a previous episode, Jess reminds Slim what happened to him when he fell in the river up on the Lo-Lo (Fugitive Road). Slim concedes, but lays on the guilt saying that he had to do all their chores. Jess and Andy are appropriately contrite. Slim decides to take the rest of the day off and gives Jess and Andy their marching orders for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening dinner preparations are hectic. Jonesy is in town and the boys are having to fend for themselves. A stage arrives and Jess and Slim head out to change the team. Coming off the stage and right into Jess' arms is Laurel Dewalt, the runaway wife. She knows Jess and he seems a bit stunned to see her. As he escorts her into the house, Slim and Andy notice the familiarity between them.
We find out that Jess and Laurel once had an affair back when he worked on the ranch owned by her husband. He left and she claims she's been looking for him ever since. Jess doesn’t want to take up where they left off, but Laurel begs him to help her, claiming her love for him. She begs him to take her to Mexico because her husband, a jealous and powerful man, is after her.
The stage leaves without Laurel. Jess has apparently decided to help her because he's looking at maps to Mexico. She wants to go to Tumavaca "the prettiest spot in Mexico", implying that she wants to try to make things work out between her and Jess. Jess feels that it's his fault she's in trouble with her husband because of their affair. Slim can't understand why Jess wants to leave but he offers him his wages. Jess doesn’t want his leaving to be that final so he refuses them. At first Andy won't come say goodbye, but then he shyly comes up and asks Jess if he’s coming back. Jess promises that he is, but can't tell him when. Andy is dejected and he and Slim watch as Jess and Laurel ride away.
At the Dewalt ranch, Mr. Dewalt has gathered some disreputable men and charges them with going after Laurel. There are three bounty hunters, but they seem to be at odds. Two are brothers and the third is standoffish and seems to set himself apart from the other two. Dewalt offers the three of them $3000 to find Laurel and return her safely.
On the trail, Jess and Laurel stop to rest the horses. They talk about Jess leaving the ranch, about wanting to belong and be apart of something. She offers herself to him to belong to. Jess knows she's still married and doesn't want to make another mistake with her. He rebuffs her declarations of love, but still wants her and isn't pleased with himself for it.
The men that Dewalt hired are hot on their trail, but it's obvious the three are not together. The two brothers ride enthusiastically ahead seeing dollar signs, while the third one hangs back and watches.
Back at the Dewalt ranch, Dewalt tells his friend George that he’s known about Laurel's affairs but he's puzzled about why he still wants her back. He says he still loves her. George is skeptical. It’s payday for the hands and Dewalt goes to the safe to get the payroll and discovers all his cash gone, $65,000. Dewalt now knows he has to call off the men he hired because when they discover Laurel has that much money on her, they’ll kill her for it. George encourages him to let her fend for herself, she's no good. George finally confesses he knows where she's going. She’s going to Tumavaca Mexico. He didn t say before because he wanted her to be gone because of what she was doing to his friend. He heard her planning to meet a man named Rios in Tumavaca. Dewalt is determined to go after her saying he loves her and not the money.
Jess and Laurel have been riding day and night for three days. Laurel snuggles up to Jess and says she wants to rest tonight.
Back at the Sherman ranch, Slim and Andy are eating dinner and talking about Jess. Andy asks when he figures Jess will be back, and Slim says he doesn’t count on him coming back at all. They're interrupted by the two brothers that Dewalt hired to find Laurel. They’ve traced Laurel through the stage line. They ask about where she went after she got off the stage. They threaten Slim but he won't tell. But then they threaten Andy and he spills the beans about Tumavaca. They slug Slim just out of meanness and then go off after Laurel.
Jess is restless, he doesn’t talk much, but he's thinking of home. Laurel takes his mind off his troubles with a big kiss.
The next morning we see Slim is on the trail following the two that are following Jess. He's riding hard. Meanwhle Laurel is bathing in the creek while Jess stands guard nearby. Their relationship seems to have changed overnight. Hmmmmmm. Now they're rather flirty and playful, but they're being watched. The two brothers have the drop on them. They tell Laurel they're here to take her home. Laurel urges Jess to kill them. Then she offers them more money than Dewalt did to let her go. This is the first Jess knows that she has money with her. An ambush from behind kills both of the brothers. It’s the third man that Dewalt hired. Guess he's decided to eliminate his partners. In the commotion, Jess and Laurel have slipped off.
Slim comes up on the bodies of the two brothers, then follows the tracks after Jess and Laurel.
At their next stop, Jess demands an explanation from Laurel. She gets haughty with him and says it's none of his business. He gets a little rough, and she finally confesses she shot her husband and took his money. She considers her husband weak and spineless. She tells Jess about Rios, "a real man who knows what he wants and how to take it". Now Jess has finally had enough and tells her they're going back to her husband and tells her to mount up. Laurel starts to shoot Jess with her little gun, but the third bounty hunter shoots him first, knocking Jess off his horse. He's wounded in the shoulder. When he gets up, Laurel and the bounty hunter are gone and Slim is riding up. Slim patches Jess up as Jess asks, "Aren't you tired of getting me out of scrapes?" Slim says, "Good ranch hands are hard to come by, and besides you promised Andy you'd come back." Jess figures all he has to do is find Rios and Laurel will be with him and the shooter will be nearby. They ride for Tumavaca.
Laurel arrives at the Rios house and finds her husband waiting. She faints in Rios' arms. Later, Dewalt forgives her but she looks at him with nothing but contempt and says he disgusts her. She finds all men weak and stupid. Dewalt finally grows a spine and slaps her a good one. George gets his two cents in with a lecture on being a real woman and wife. George goes outside just in time to see a man riding away with the bag of money from Laurel's saddle. It’s the third bounty hunter and he runs smack dab into Jess and Slim. Jess recognizes the bag as Laurels and takes off after him. After a chase and a shoot out, they get the money back. Dewalt rides up with George. They demand the bag and Jess and Slim give it to them. Laurel comes along and tells Dewalt that shes sorry for everything and wants to come home. He figures Rios didn't want her because she no longer had the money. He refuses and leaves her with nothing but the clothes on her back. Dewalt and his friend George ride off as Laurel haughtily looks on.
On the trail home, Slim and Jess talk about belonging and going home. Slim concludes that the big open has finally lost Jess for good. Jess teases Slim that it's not so hard to get Slim on the trail. Slim agrees, “That’s true. Just you with one foot in trouble and the other in a barrel of axel grease." Jess huffs, "That aint so!"
Annie's Favorite Moments:
Jess seems like such a sucker in this one, falling for the manipulations of a wiley female. She's not my favorite character, and, as usual, my favorite moments center around Jess and his friendship with Slim. The last scene where they're on their way home and Slim is gently prodding Jess about "mooning over the word 'home'" is lovely. I also like when Slim catches up with Jess on the trail after he's been shot and Jess rather sheepishly asks him, "Aren't you tired of getting me out of scrapes?" Also, the scenes at the beginning at the swimming hole, and later at the ranch are great fun and such telling indications of the attachment that has developed between Andy and Jess
Jenny's Favorite Moments:
I definitely love the scenes above, particularly the swimming hole.  Jess is so sweet and childlike with Andy.  Very brotherly.  It's almost like Slim is the parent and Jess and Andy are the wayward children.  I also have to add the moment where Jess and Laurel are talking when they're on the trail, and Jess is obviously missing the ranch.  From the conversation, it seems that deep down, Jess has always wanted/needed a place to belong.  You can tell how much he thinks of Slim and company and that he really didn't want to leave.
Notes of Interest:
Laurel is played by actress Gena Rowlands. She's done better work. I found her voice to be extremely annoying in this. RF reports that they had a lot of fun making this episode. Gotta wonder what that means.
This one is also a good showcase for habitual bad guy guest stars, Robert Wilke, Harry Lauter and Kevin Hagan.
The Owie Factor:
Jess stops some lead with his shoulder and thank goodness Slim is immediately there to patch him up. Jess' heart gets a little stomped on in this one too. Guess that'll learn him to fool around with a married woman. Slim gets his own little pink patch for that mule kicker to the head by that no-count bounty hunter.
Annie's Rating:  A good three stars. Some nice Slim and Jess moments, their early relationship building into what it will soon become. Nothing against Gena Rowlands, but her character gives women everywhere a bad name.
Jenny's Rating:  Four stars. I love the Jess haunted by his past theme in Laramie, and this one certainly falls into that category. I like how Jess doesn't want to help Laurel, but does so anyway out of obligation. It's nice to see him missing the ranch and wanting to be someplace he belongs. Loved Slim following him to help, Jess asking if Slim ain't tired of saving him, and Slim and Jess 'storming the building' even though Slim thinks it's not a good idea. Great buddy episode!
Andy tries to teach Jess to swim just as they're caught by Slim. Later, Laurel gets off the stage and Jess is less than thrilled to see her.
Jess and Laurel on the road (a little lust in the dust). Later Slim catches up to Jess and patches him up after Laurel shoots him.