A second seasoner with very little Slim again. Jess takes off (again) to help an old friend (again). Screen caps at the bottom of the page.
The Story:    It’s late and Soldier Billy is writing at his desk while his commanding officer is preparing to leave for the night. The officer tells Billy to try and “forget it” and he shouldn’t let it get to him, he’s too good a soldier. We don’t know yet what “it” is, but dollars to donuts, it’s a woman.
The officer leaves and Billy is alone. He checks to be sure no one is watching and then he goes to the safe and takes a bag of money. He wraps it in his coat and leaves.
Back at the ranch, Slim has just ridden in from town. He comes into the house to find Jess taking a bath smack dab in the middle of the parlor. Slim yells “You ladies better stay outside!” and Jess hollers and takes a dive under the suds.
When he comes up, it’s just ol’ Slim. The scalawag has done played another joke on poor Jess. Slim looks concerned because Jess took a bath a couple days ago. He figures it must be because the school marme has invited him to dinner. Jess says that just to get away from Slim’s cookin’, he’d take two baths a day and six on Sunday.
Slim picked up a telegram in town for Jess. Seeing as how Jess is all covered with Mr. Bubble, he asks Slim to read it for him. It’s from Fort Laramie.
The telegram is from Major Stanton, and he says it’s about their mutual friend Billy Jacobs and Jess must come at once. Jess explains that Billy was his first Sargeant in the army and he and Stanton were all in the same outfit and they were pretty close friends. Jess has to go because Billy pulled him out of a lot of scrapes back then.
Jess gets up out of the tub and we see that he’s wearing his long-johns. Slim looks a bit taken aback. Jess says “You didn’t think I was gonna heat up all this water without washing my clothes too didja?” and he reaches in and pulls out more laundry. Slim rubs his head and says nothing.
At Fort Laramie, Jess goes straight to see Stanton. Stanton first says that everything they talk about has to be held in strictest confidence. Jess promises and they have a drink.
Stanton goes on to explain that Billy took off two days ago with a $30,000 payroll. Major Stanton hasn’t reported it yet. He wants Jess to find him before he has to. Jess is disbelieving, but it’s true. Billy had just been turned down for a field commission and was upset about that. Jess says that still wouldn’t have turned Billy bad.
Ordinarily, Stanton would agree with him, but there’s something else. On top of that, his father was killed recently by the Sioux. Stanton also tells Jess that Billy got married six months ago.
Stanton has his suspicions about Billy’s wife. He says that since they’ve been married, Billy has changed. He has no evidence, but thinks she may have something to do with Billy’s disappearance.
The first we see of Mrs. Billy, she’s in the company of her dude-ish boyfriend. They are obviously planning on vamoosing, because he she is admiring a music box and he says “You aren’t going to take that with us are you?”
Mrs. Billy is obviously a woman of extravagant tastes, in frippery and in men. Extravagant, Billy ain’t. In fact, Billy is old enough to be her father. Her boyfriend is young and duded up.
Jess rides up just as Mrs. Billy and the Dude are about to suck face. Jess notices the horse out front. It’s a black and white paint. Why that scoundrel stole Little Joe’s horse! Mrs. Billy hustles boyfriend out the back door and goes to let Jess in. Jess kind of pushes his way inside. The house is ornate and Jess notices.
Mrs. Billy tells Jess she doesn’t know where Billy is but she’s sure it’s just a misunderstanding that will clear itself up. Mrs. Billy is a bit nervous as Jess keeps pressing.
Jess mentions Billy’s father, knowing that he’s dead, but Mrs. Billy doesn’t seem to realize it. She talks as if Billy may go there and perhaps his father will talk to him.
Mrs. Billy dismisses Jess telling him that she’ll be sure to tell Billy he called when he gets back.
After Jess leaves, boyfriend comes back in. They are in cahoots with Billy and are supposed to meet him at a cabin. Jess has put a monkey wrench in their plans. Mrs. Billy decides she’d better stay around town for now. Boyfriend is going to follow Jess, and if he heads towards Billy’s parent’s ranch, he’s to “do what you have to”.
After Mrs. Billy plays the loyal wife for the army for a few days, she’ll meet boyfriend at the cabin. And she adds coyly, “By the time I get there, make sure Billy is out of the way.”
Jess meets back up with Stanton and tells him she’s too young, and she’s too pretty and she lied about Billy’s father being dead, probably to keep him from going out there.
Jess decides to go up to Billy’s mother’s place. It’s just her and Billy’s younger brother left. Stanton says payday is a week away. The money has to be back by then.
Jess rides out of town with boyfriend on his tail.
Boyfriend decides that Jess is one complication too many and he decides to bushwhack him. On the trail he takes a shot at Jess, and knocks him off his horse. Jess is hit in the shoulder, but a stage is coming and boyfriend can’t stop to finish him off.
The stage stops for Jess and the passengers patch him up and get his horse back for him. The bullet has gone straight through his shoulder clean. While the driver is patching Jess up, Jess asks if he’s seen a duded up fella in Fort Laramie that rides Little Joe Cartwright’s horse. The driver says his name is Cal Mason and he’s seen him hanging around with Billy Jacobs and his new wife. He thinks he’s a cousin or something.
Jess sends a message via the driver to Billy’s mother in Danville. Jess thanks his new friends on the stage and takes his leave, following a trail that leads up to the Canadian border.
Meanwhile, Billy is at his father’s grave being all bitter about the fact that his Dad was killed by renegades while he was away being a hero for the army. Bitter much?
In the house with his Mom, Billy greets his younger brother, Ryan O’Neal. Billy tells them he wants them to sell the ranch and move to town, and he tosses $5000 on the table just to get them started.
Mama already knows where Billy got the money. Remember that message Jess sent to her? Well apparently the stage and the message got there before Billy did.
Billy now knows that Jess is after him, and that Jess has been shot, but he’s defiant telling his Ma and brother that he deserves this money. Mom is not happy. She says Billy may think he deserves this money, but she knows better and she don’t want any part of it. She knows that Mrs. Billy talked him into it. Billy acknowledges it and tells his Mama that Jess shoulda stayed out of it.
Mama gives Billy a wonderful speech about how Jess is his friend and he may get killed because of this. What has happened doesn’t surprise her a bit. She expected something like this the minute she set eyes on Ellie (Mrs. Billy). She’s no good for him. Ma knows about Ellie and her boyfriend and even says “what would a young thing like Ellie want with you?” Why would she look at him unless she could get something out of him?
Billy tells his Mama to shut up. She has already figured that Ellie and her boyfriend will probably kill Billy as soon as they have their hands on the money.
Billy is hearing none of this. When Billy poo poos his father’s “honor”, Mama slaps him and tells him to pick up that money and take it back, or don’t ever come in this house again.
Out on the trail, Jess, with his bleeding shoulder has arrived at a cabin near the Canadian border. He sneaks up and finds boyfriend Cal inside. Jess goes all tough and mean on him telling him what he thinks is going down. Cal denies everything and says he’s just a hired hand. He tells Jess to take him back to Fort Laramie so they can get it all cleared up.
Jess knows he wouldn’t last on the trail bleeding like he is, so he decides to stay put. Cal knows that all he has to do is wait Jess out because he’s losing blood and weak. Jess gets a rope and trusses Cal up on the bed and holds the other end of the rope. Jess is acting all tough an’ all, but Cal says he won’t kill him because Jess is a do-gooder. That’s what got him into this in the first place. Okay, so Cal is right about that.
Jess tosses Cal’s gun out a window, sits in a chair, and they wait.
That night, Billy stops Ellie on the trail. She’s riding to the cabin and Billy stops her. They go to his campfire. Billy tells her about the message from Jess to his Mom. Jess is on Cal’s trail and they can wait there until morning and hope for the best.
Ellie confirms that Billy has the money and asks how much he gave his mother. Billy tells her she wouldn’t take it. He also tells her about his mother’s suspicions about her and Cal. She mollifies him with a bunch of kisses and wiles. They settle in for the night and talk. She talks about the poverty she grew up in and how she stole money from her father, and how much she hated her father, and what she wants to do with the money now. Ellie, Ellie, Ellie. It’s all about Ellie.
In the cabin, Jess is getting weaker while Cal feigns sleep. Jess tries to perk up with some coffee but he eventually falls asleep.
Outside it’s morning and Cal and Ellie arrive figuring Jess is inside with help. Billy goes off the trail and buries the money. Meanwhile inside, Cal makes a break for it. He gets untied and rushes Jess. Jess puts up a pretty good fight, and gets the upper hand, but just then Cal and Ellie come in. Jess turns around startled and Cal slugs him.
Billy helps Jess over to the bed while Cal and Ellie make plans. Billy says they’ll tie Jess up and take his horse and go get the money. By the time he gets another, they’ll be in Canada.
Jess tries to appeal to Billy’s once-decent side, but to no avail. Billy tells Jess than when he gets back to the fort to tell Stanton to get himself off the hook, and don’t try to follow them. Jess says the army will hunt him down like an animal, and if they don’t kill him, she will (meaning Ellie). Cal wants to kill Jess right now, but Billy won’t let him.
Billy says that when they get away, he’ll send word back and someone will come get Jess. Then he kneels by Jess’ side and gets close. He tells Jess to remember that things aren’t always what they seem. Jess just turns away and Billy leaves.
Cal doesn’t like keeping Billy around, but Ellie reminds him that she doesn’t know where he hid the money so they have to keep him around until they get they’re hands on it.
Out on the trail, Billy digs up the money, and the vultures immediately turn on him. Cal wants to kill him there but Ellie wants to take him back to the cabin. They’ll bury Jess and let the army think he killed Billy and took the money. Cal likes that idea.
They mount up and head back to the cabin. Inside, Jess is trying real hard to get loose when he notices the knife that Billy slipped into the bed with him. He cuts himself loose and waiting when Cal walks in. A fight ensues and Jess uses the knife to its best effect. Cal is sushi.
Outside, Ellie tries to struggle with Billy, and he shoots her accidentally. As Ellie is dramatically dying, Billy tells Jess to open the saddlebags. The bags are full of paper. The money’s on it’s way back to the fort with Billy’s brother, Ryan O’Neal. He had to know the truth about him and Ellie. She dies and I guess now he knows the truth.
Back at the Sherman ranch, Slim and Jess are eating and philosophizing. Jess says that on account of her Pa, Ellie couldn’t care for any man. All she cared for was money. Payroll’s back, Billy’s back at his desk, a little older and a little wiser.
Jess comments on Slim’s cooking and how he must have been taking lessons. From whom you ask? The school marme. An argument ensues that stops abruptly when Slim tells Jess that there’s no point arguing because she’s getting married to some lawyer. What a fool. I never saw her, but I know she’s a fool. Speaking of being philosophical, Jess says, “Look at it this way. I’m losing a wife, but I’m gaining a cook.”
Annie's Favorite Moments:   I loved the two scenes with Billy's mother. She is strong and has a lot more sense than her son. A marvelous actress.
Who wouldn't like the scene with Jess in the tub at the beginning. Slim was afraid he was taking so many baths he'd begin to look like a prune.
One additional prop for the scene with the stage driver and passengers. The driver (Chubby Johnson), and the old woman (Doris Packer) who gives Jess a piece of her petticoat, are priceless.
Notes of Interest:   You’d think Billy was a youngster, what with a Mama, and being a newlywed and being named Billy and all. Forty-ish Billy is played by Dick Foran who was about 53 when he made this. He was miscast to the extent that it drew me out of the story. The woman playing his mother seemed about his own age.
Having said that, I did like the episode and I especially liked Billy’s mother.
Cal was played by Ed Nelson playing the same sort he usually plays. Did not like Ellie at all. Why is it that when actresses want to play coy and flirtacious they always affect a Southern accent? Hate it, hate it, hate it. She was so-so.
Chubby Johnson played Clyde in the Bonanza episode about when Hoss and Little Joe breed rabbits. He was also selected to replace Eddy Waller (Mose) in the Rocky Lane series in the early 50s. Small world, eh what?
The Owie Factor:   Jess gets one right through the shoulder and a boink on the head.
The Tumbleweed Wagon