Queen of Diamonds

First Impressions:    The first episode of the second season is one of our personal favorites, a delight to watch over and over. A mysterious woman comes to Laramie, Jess is suspicious, Slim is infatuated. She unfortunately, and unintentionally brings trouble with her.

The Story:    Jess is in town playing poker with two other men. One of them is the dealer for the house. Jess is losing and folds when he mentions that the dealer's hand beats his king high something 'er other. The other man at the table realizes that the dealer had three kings and Jess had one, and he had just thrown away one himself. Therefore, the dealer is cheating. Jess confronts the dealer. The owner of the saloon protests that he wouldn't hire a crooked dealer and Jess agrees, that is if he knew he was crooked. Jess asks the second man at the table to count the cards, and at that, the dealer draws. Of course, Jess out-draws him and wounds him. The card count proves there are five kings in the pack. Jess tells the dealer to get out of town and don't come back.

Later, back at the ranch, Jess is doing chores. He makes his way through a flock of angry chickens to the back door of the house with a basket of laundry. Having no hands to knock, he kicks the door and Slim, dressed in an apron, answers. Slim won't let Jess in the house with his muddy boots and an arguement ensues. (see Our Favorite Moments) After Slim and Jess talk themselves out of a donnybrook, we learn that part of the reason they're both on edge is because they're having to do all of the chores themselves. Andy is now in school in St. Louis, and Jonesy has gone with him to watch out for him. After a moment, they see a stage approaching. Seeing the way Mose is driving, Slim comments that there must be a woman on board. Sure 'nuff, Mose climbs down and begins fawning over his only passenger, a beautiful woman in a skin tight traveling dress. Slim, being the consumate flirter that he is, takes over completely. ("How are the wife and kids, Mose?" "You know I ain't got no wife and kids.") Slim escorts the woman into the house for coffee. Jess has hung back and is already looking suspicious. He follows them in the house and grills the woman on where he might have seen her before. She is very vague with her answers and we really don't learn anything except that her name is June Brown.

Outside, while changing the team, Slim asks Jess what's bothering him. Jess says he has seen her somewhere and her name wasn't June Brown. He remembers her from Carson City and there was trouble and her husband was killed. Jess says that some women are poison, and she's one of them. Slim dismisses his concerns. "If that's poison, I'm all for it." June Brown interrupts by coming out of the house, Slim helps her onto the stage and Mose drives off.

June Brown arrives in Laramie and goes straight to the saloon, where she convinces the barkeep that he should hire her as his new dealer. He is interested and hires her. That night, the place is hoppin'. Slim is sitting at June's blackjack table, not exactly keeping his eyes on the cards. Jess watches warily from the bar. When a cowpoke makes unwanted advances on June, Slim steps in, and despite Jess' warning, the inevitable brawl erupts. Jess jumps in to help Slim and when it's over, he announces he's going back to the ranch and challenges Slim to come with him. Slim casts a longing look at June and then turns to follow Jess. As he's leaving, we see a stranger come in, toss a meaningful look in June's direction, and then turn and leave.

The next morning at the ranch, Slim and Jess are washing up. Slim is still infatuated and happy as a clam. He thanks Jess for helping out last night. Jess is grumpy as an old bear and warns Slim that June is trouble. Slim is too happy to listen-not.

In town, June is sitting with the barkeep as he's counting the receipts from the previous night. The stranger from last night comes in. It's immediately obvious that June knows him, but the stranger signals her to not let on. The man introduces himself to the bartender as Jim Dark. They knew each other a long time ago. The bartender remembers Dark as a lawman. He was shot up pretty bad and has only recently been released from the hospital. His hand is partially crippled and he still has a lot of pain in it. In the course of their conversation, Dark lets it be known that he will be riding out east of town. This is a signal to June to follow him, which she does.

Outside of town, June meets up with the man who is her husband. Jim Dark was a lawman who has spent the last six months in a hospital after a shootout with the Reeves gang. June is upset that he has found her. She believes that she is bad luck for everyone and it's best that he stay away from her. He is still devoted to her and tells her the Reeves brothers have escaped and may be after both of them. He is going to stay around to protect her. He is confident that with practice, he can get his gun hand back. June thinks he's a fool and drives off in a huff.

On the road back to Laramie, June spots Slim working on fences on the side of the road. She gets an idea and begins to whip her horse into a gallop pretending that the horse is running away with her. She calls for help and Slim comes to the rescue. After Slim stops her horse and a shaken June is hugging him, Jess comes riding up. Slim explains to him that her horse ran away with her and Mr. Sarcasm replies, "You don't say." Slim gets in the buggy and drives June back to town with a thoroughly skeptical Jess looking on.

When June gets Slim alone, she admits that Jess was right to be skeptical. She pretended the horse was running away. She wanted to talk with him. Slim is flattered, but senses an underlying problem. June tells him about what happened with the Reeves brothers and "the marshal" in the last town she was in, not mentioning that the marshall is her husband. In a rather sweet, gentle conversation, Slim willingly agrees to be her "friend" which she desperately needs right now. June knows that her husband is endangering himself by staying around Laramie, and she hopes that Slim can help if the need arises. Poor Slim is starry eyed at this point, and flattered that she would ask him.

When they arrive back in town, Slim lets it be known that he'll be staying in town at the hotel. June gives him a friendly kiss and goes into the boarding house. Inside, her husband is waiting for her. He heard part of the conversation with Slim. She lets him know that he has no need to be jealous of Slim. Slim can handle himself well in a fight, and she's heard that he's good with a gun. Jim still argues that he can protect her, she doesn't need Slim. She knows that he is physically incapable of fighting all three of the Reeves brothers, and his pride is likely to get him killed.

The next morning at the ranch, Jess wakes up alone in the house. See Our Favorite Moments for details of this scene. The crux of this wonderful sequence, is to establish that Slim is staying in town for a few days, and that Jess is alone at the ranch. Later that day, Jim Dark is out practicing his draw and his shooting alone. Jess hears the shots and goes to investigate. Jim gets the drop on Jess, and thinking that he's a hired gun sent by the Reeves brothers, he tries to goad Jess into a gunfight. Jess won't take the bait though, and finally gets to the bottom of the problem. Jim tells him he was a lawman and the Reeves boys are after him. Jess has heard of them and offers to help (whatta guy!). Jim says "I'll let you know", and gets on his horse and rides away.

Later (the next day?) at the ranch, Jess is washing dishes when the stage comes in. He goes outside, still wearing his apron, and greets Mose. Three men get off the stage and start heckling Jess, calling him 'Grandma' and pumping him for information about Jim Dark and June. Jess knows these are the Reeve's brothers, and does not give them any information. The confrontation escalates and the three attack both Jess and Mose. Mose is knocked down, and Jess is beaten.

In town, Slim escorts June to the cafe and they talk over coffee. Slim has talked to the sheriff and has learned about the shoot out with the Reeves six months ago, and that there was a girl involved, but her name wasn't Brown. June admits that her name is not Brown, and she never should have asked Slim to help her. She says she brings trouble to everyone and he's too nice to involve him. Of course, being so nice, Slim refuses to back off and still wants to help her. As Slim escorts her back to the saloon, they are watched by the Reeves brothers who are already in town. They are waiting behind a wagon, watching June, knowing that eventually Jim Dark will show up.

Jim is again outside of town practicing with his gun, but soon mounts up and heads back to town. At the ranch, Jess has recovered and Mose and the stage have already gone. After Jess cleans himself up, he rides for Laramie in a big hurry. He knows that the Reeves are probably waiting to ambush Jim.

In town, all parties converge as Jim rides into town, the Reeves open fire and Jess, riding hell-fer-leather, tackles Jim and throws him to the ground. The gunfight is on. In a wonderful bit, Jess shoots the rope holding the horses that are hitched to wagon that the Reeves are hiding behind. The horses bolt, the wagon moves and exposes the bad guys. Jess and Slim, who has come out of the saloon, get two of the Reeves and leave the third one for Jim. Finally, all of the Reeves brothers are down. Slim and Jim are standing next to each other in the street when June comes out and says "Darling, are you alright?" Slim turns and smiles, thinking she's talking to him, but she runs past him and hugs Jim. Jess goes to Slim and tries to get him to go home with him. Slim, bewildered, says "you'd think a person would learn", then he tells Jess that two of the Reeves are still alive and they go off to take care of them.

The tag has Slim washing dishes while Jess sits with his feet up, kibitzing, as the stage pulls up. June and Jim arrive at the ranch on the stage on their way out of Laramie. They both thank Slim for all his help and June kisses Slim. Jess, who was watering the horses, comes over. June looks at him and says, "You don't like me very much, do you?". Jess replies with a grin, "Well, why should I? You didn't kiss me." June goes over and kisses him full on the lips. Then she and Jim get on the stage and leave. After they go, Jess turns to Slim, who is wearing the apron now and says "Okay, Grandma, back to those dishes." As he says it, Jess is bending down to pick up the water bucket. Slim kicks him in the butt, Jess throws the water from the bucket at Slim and the chase is on...

Annie's Favorite Moments:   Too many to list again here. See Our Favorite Moments for a few doozies. In addition to the ones there, there is one more little bitty moment that I love. It's at the end when Jess sees that June is only interested in her husband. Slim is a bit dazed from all that's happened, and not knowing the half of it. He tries to get Slim away fast by asking him to come home. A great friendship moment.

Jenny's Favorite Moments:   Lots of favorite moments.   I love the scenes of Jess and Slim doing everyday chores on the ranch at the beginning of the episode.   If they don't sound like an old married couple, I don't know who does.   Another scene that I particularly enjoyed was the Jess/Claude Akins scene where Claude is practicing his obviously painful quick draw and manages to get the jump on Jess.   I liked the integrity of Claude's character for not shooting Jess when he knew he had no chance in a gunfight.   Of course, then in true Jess fashion, Jess rewards that integrity with his loyalty.   This scene exemplifies what I like best about Laramie...Honor, loyalty, friendship.

Notes of Interest:    Our guest star is Robert Fuller's future leading lady in Emergency!, actress and torch singer Julie London.

Her husband is played by a personal favorite of mine, Claude Akins who made several appearances on Laramie (Among the Missing and others) and dozens of other shows and movies, including Return of the Magnificent Seven with Robert Fuller. He even had a series of his own in the seventies called "Movin' On". He hailed from right up the road in Nelson, Georgia.

The Owie Factor:   A nod of the nurse's cap to Grandma for a beating at the hands of three thugs. But then he gets up, takes off his apron and heads to town to save the day. Our hero. Also, one extra bandaid that we would put on Slim's heart, if we could.

Annie's rating: Five stars. An almost perfect episode. Great guest stars, funny, dramatic, and very entertaining.

Men of Defiance



Track of the Jackal