Man From Kansas

Man From Kansas

First Impressions:    One of the best if you like episodes with both Slim and Jess together. A man comes to Laramie and stirs up controversy. Slim and Jess have opposite opinions about what the man is and does. Their friendship is put to the test.

The Story:    Jess is returning home after an apparent hunting trip. He has game strapped to his saddle when he is beset by three indians intent on stealing their dinner. The three of them attack and pull Jess off his horse and are about to have their way with him, when a stranger rides up and scares the indians away with a few shots. The stranger turns out to be Clay Jackson who has just come in from Kansas. Jess is very grateful and invites Clay home to supper, but Clay declines. He says he has something else he has to do. They part company as friends.The next we see Clay, he is putting a black hood over his head and approaching a stage coach. The driver and passengers offer no resistance as they must hand over their valuables to the polite and charming bandit. The passengers are the Willoughby's, an older couple, and Mr. Simpson, the banker from Laramie. The Willoughby's are returning from a trip to borrow money from some family to pay the mortgage that they owe the bank. The bandit gives their money back and adds some from the banker's money belt to it. He then leaves the grateful stage driver and passengers behind. Well, everyone is happy except for the banker, Mr. Simpson.

The next day ( a few days later?) at the ranch, Slim and Jess are having a philosphical difference of opinion. In the aftermath of the stage hold up, Slim is concerned about the stage line being vulnerable to more robberies after the recent successful one. He also thinks the M.O. of the bandit is that of Clay Jackson, a well-known and well-liked Robin Hood-style bandit in Kansas.

Jess likes Jackson's style and the fact that he helps out poor people. He also says Jackson had an outstanding war record. Slim is opposed to theft in any form, even if it's to give to the poor. Jess finally reveals to Slim that he encountered Clay Jackson a couple of days before and that Jackson had saved his life and his venison steaks. There is no resolution to the friendly difference of opinion.

In Laramie, we meet the sheriff's deputy, Russ, who is a reformed card shark. He's now settled down with a wife and doesn't gamble anymore, but he's showing some of the townies a few tricks of his former trade. Clay Jackson comes in and orders a beer and strikes up a friendly conversation with the local town drunk. After a few minutes, Slim comes in for a drink. He and Jackson begin talking and Clay realizes that Slim is the proprietor of the Stage line relay station. He asks Slim, "How were the venison steaks?". This puts Slim on the alert. The only one besides himself and Jess who would know about that, would be Clay Jackson. Slim is good at putting two and two together. Slim makes it clear to Clay that he is not an admirer, but he's grateful that Clay helped Jess out of trouble.

The sheriff comes in with Mr. Simpson, and Simpson identifies Clay as the one who robbed the stage. He reconizes his voice, his clothes and his horse. Willie, the drunk tries to give Clay a lame alibi, but the sheriff arrests Clay anyway. Clay argues that he can't take the word of one man. The sheriff says there were others on the stage and there will be a trial.

At the trial, Sarah Willoughby refuses to identify Clay as the man who held up the stage, as does her husband, Gus and the stage driver, Bill. The judge has to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Clay is free. Slim is clearly angry and confronts Bill, the stage driver. He asks Bill if he did or did not recognize Clay as the bandit. Bill reckons he wouldn't want to say anything that would get a nice man like Clay in trouble, and is proud of himself for getting Clay off. Slim fires him on the spot. Bill commiserates with his friend Clay and Jess says he'll speak to Slim. Bill says don't bother, he doesn't want to work for a man who doesn't like Clay.

That night at supper, Slim and Jess have another arguement about Clay. Slim maintains that Clay is a thief and that he has everyone hoodwinked and that they may all soon regret it. Jess says he doesn't know anything except what he heard in court and is not going to judge the man who saved his life. Some great dialogue here.

Later (next day?), in town, Clay seems to have made friends with most of the people in town. Jess and Slim are eating dinner in the saloon when Clay comes in and stops at the poker table. His buddies want him to play, but he says he'll join them later when the stakes are higher, and he moves off to the bar. Meanwhile, Russ comes to Slim's and Jess' table and asks if he can sit down. Jess leaps at the opportunity to have *someone* to talk to, looking pointedly toward a silent Slim. The look that Slim shoots him could melt bullets.

After a moment, Clay comes over just to let Jess and Slim know that Bill got another job in town. Slim is rude to him, not once but several times. Russ chimes in that he too is wise to Clay and agrees with Slim. Clay feigns innocence and just can't understand why Russ and Slim don't like him.

After Clay leaves, Jess says Slim must be looking for a fight. Russ says he thinks Clay is yellow and won't fight anyone. Jess warns him that Jackson handles a gun like he was born to it. Slim accuses Jess of having a case of hero worship. Jess says, "Boy, you don't care who you pick a fight with, do ya?"

Before Jess drags Slim out of there, Russ tells them he has a plan. He wants to get in the poker game with Clay and his buddies. He can beat anyone playing straight or cheating. He thinks that if he can make Clay lose all his money, he won't be able to play 'big man' anymore, and he'll have to find money somewhere else. He asks Slim to stake him twenty dollars to get into the game. Slim agrees and he and Jess leave. One of Clay's poker buddies at the table overhears this transaction.

As the poker game progresses, Russ cleans Clay out, but unfortunately he can't leave it at that. Russ goads Clay into a fight as well, and Russ is shot. The townspeople all agree that it was self-defense and Russ was asking for it. Poor Clay. Clay makes sure to tell them to be sure that Slim gets his stake money back.

The next morning Slim and Jess ride to the sheriff's office where they learn that Russ has died and that the townsfolk think that Slim put Russ up to the fight by staking him the money for the game. Slim is hopping mad and leaves the sheriff's office to find Clay. Jess trails after him and tries to stop him. "Clay is faster with a gun than you'll be on your best day." Finally, realizing that he can't get through to Slim, Jess tells him that he saw Clay's horse tied up at the cantina outside of town. Slim goes off to find him. Jess uses the opportunity to go to Clays room to have a talk with him.

Clay declines Jess' advice to leave town. He says he likes it here and people have been real friendly. Jess says that he's in Clay's debt, but Slim has been like a brother to him and "he wouldn't stand a chance against you." Clay replies, "and you would?" Before the words are out of his mouth, Jess has drawn his gun. "Maybe you would at that." Clay gets the message and cordially says he'll be moving on. A relieved Jess thanks him and they wish each other luck. Jess leaves.

Outside the motel, Jess waits for Slim to come back. When he does, Slim is mad as a hornet for being sent on a wild goose chase. Jess tells him that it's all over and that Clay is gone. Slim argues that it's not over. Clay will be desperate for money and he'll rob again soon. Slim leaves and follows Clay out of town. Jess gets himself deputized and follows Slim. They meet up and reckon that Clay is headed for the Willoughby's ranch. Slim reasons that Clay would go there because he knows for sure that they have money. Jess is still not convinced, but he goes along to help Slim and to see for himself.

At the Willoughby's ranch, Clay is charming the pants off of Gus and Sarah. They think he's just come by to bid them goodbye. Slim and Jess ride up and Clay convinces the Willoughby's that Slim wants to kill him because of what happened to Russ. They hide him and tell Slim and Jess that they haven't seen Clay. Outside, Slim tells Jess that he noticed that there were three sets of dishes in the sink and he knows Clay is there. Jess agrees and they double back to the Willoughby's ranch.

Meanwhile, Clay is getting greedy and his true colors are coming out. He shocks the Willoughby's by demanding that they take him to their stash of money in the barn. They had bragged earlier that they don't trust banks or bankers.

In the barn, Clay is forcing Gus to dig out his money, when Slim and Jess bust in from either side of the barn. Clay shoots Slim and he falls by the back door. Jess busts in the front door and he and Clay shoot it out. When the smoke clears, Clay is dead. Jess goes to see how Slim is. He's been grazed on the forehead, but he'll live. Jess has a hole in his vest that wasn't caused by moths. Slim says, "You mean he was darn near better than both of us?" Not a told-ya-so in sight.

The tag has Slim sitting and reading "Robin Hood" by the fireplace. He has a bandage on his head. Jess comes out of the bedroom, dressed to the teeth for a dance in town. Slim is still "too shakey" to help with the chores, but when he finds out there's a dance, he gets better real quick. We find out that the Willoughby's tried to give the money Clay gave them back to Mr. Simpson, the banker, and that Mr. Simpson didn't accept it. All is right in Laramie once more.

Annie's Favorite Moments:   Not only a favorite moment in this episode, but for the whole series. Slim comes striding angrily out of the sheriff's office and Jess is hot on his heels, struggling to keep up. As he continues to walk away, Slim looks back and says "Where are you going?" and Jess replies, "I'm tryin' to keep up with you but you've got them long le...." BAM! Slim has suddenly stopped and turned around and Jess plows right into him "Did you say 'whoa' or somethin'?". See Our Favorite Moments for some pictures of this moment.

Jenny's Favorite Moments:   I just love the 'Did you say Whoa' scene.   It still makes me laugh every time I watch it.   My favorite moment has to be the showdown between Jess and Clay.   Jess and Slim are the reason I love Laramie, and Jess confirming that Slim was like a brother to him and standing firm with Slim against Clay just made my day.   It's another scene I love to watch over and over.   An overall wonderful ep.   Definitely a favorite!

Notes of Interest:    Jackson is played by one of Robert Fuller's all time favorite cowboys and heroes, Jock Mahoney who is also Sally Field's step-father. Russ, the deputy is played by future Batman, Adam West, and Sarah Willoughby is played by Jocelyn Brando, sister of Marlon.

The Owie Factor:   A won't-stick-to-the-owie bandaid to Slim for barging in where angels fear to tread, and getting a bullet graze to the head for his trouble. Thank goodness our Jess was there to save the day.

Annie's rating: Another five stars. A tight, well done drama. The conflict between Jess and Slim is real and interestingly points out their different personalities.

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