Stolen Tribute

First Impressions:    A monster of a Jess whumper. Jess is forced out into the desert by an old acquaintance to find a stash of gold of which Jess supposedly knows the location.

The Story:    Jess is apparently home alone. He's in the corral working with an un-broke horse when a stranger rides up and distracts him. The horse takes advantage and starts acting up and Jess ends up on his backside. Just as he's about to be pummelled (everyone's against him in this episode, mark my words), the stranger steps in and helps him get out of the corral. As soon as Jess dusts himself off, he recognizes the stranger as Clint Wade who has been in prison for the past five years. At first Jess thinks Clint is there to kill him, but soon learns that Clint has other plans.

After they go in the house, we learn that Clint, his brother Roy and their gang stole a shipment of gold five years before. Jess killed Roy and searched the place where he found him, but never found the gold. Two other gang members were killed, leaving Clint and Tully. Tully is still loose somewhere and Clint served five years in jail.

Clint is convinced that if Jess takes him to where he found Roy, Clint will be able to find the gold because his brother would have left him a sign that only he could recognize. Jess says he tore the place up after he buried Roy and was never able to find it. Clint forces Jess to leave with him for Utah territory.

Out in the desert, Jess guides Clint to the best of his recollections, but his memory is vague about the landmarks. As they go, Jess notices a rider following them. He doesn't let on that he knows, but later, Clint catches on to it too. Clint thinks the rider may be Slim coming to rescue Jess. He ties Jess up and leaves him out in the open as bait, while Clint waits in ambush. Clint says he'll let Slim get close enough to find Jess and then he'll kill him and make Jess bury him. While Clint isn't watching him, Jess gets loose from the ropes, takes the gag out of his mouth, shouts a warning to Slim and then proceeds with a knock-down drag-out fight with Clint. As Jess is just about to get the better of Clint, the rider comes in. It's not Slim.

The rider is Clint's former prison cell mate, Deke Beldon. Deke knows about the money and wants a cut too. Clint is not happy to see him, but has no choice but to take him along. Deke is more menacing than Clint, but he recognizes that they need Jess to get to where they're going. Now Jess is at the mercy of both of them.

Jess realizes that the two are snakes and it will probably work to his advantage to just let them do each other in. He takes their constant abuse and plows on across the desert. The water runs out and the only water hole Jess knows about is dried up.

At one point, Jess tries to escape. While the other two are dozing in their saddles, Jess spurs his horse and makes a run for it. Unfortunately, his horse stumbles and throws him. He's hurt, but alive. Deke is so mad he almost kills Jess, but Clint intervenes. They don't have the gold yet. Later, Jess manages to find the place where he killed Roy Wade. It's an old deserted Spanish fort and mission in the middle of the desert.

Clint separates from Jess and Deke and goes to the place where Jess says he found Roy. Clint comes back and says he has found the sign that Roy left him pointing to the gold. Clint and Deke then decide that they don't need Jess any longer. They are preparing to hang Jess, when a shot comes from one of the buildings, hitting Clint in the leg. Deke and Clint take cover in one building, while Jess heads for another.

Jess is hiding in one of the buildings, with no gun, when someone puts a rifle to his head. It's Tully Casper, the other member of Roy's gang. Tully has been in the fort for five years looking for the gold and has never found it. We learn that the reasons Jess was after Roy five years ago, was not because he was a lawman, but because Roy killed a friend of his. It was personal with Roy, and Roy had already killed the other two members of his gang himself. Tully survived because Jess rode in and interfered with Roy's plans. Tully shows Jess the underground wine cellar that he has made his home. They watch and wait for Deke and Clint to make a move. Tully tells Jess that the bullet he put in Clint's leg was the last one he had.

Meanwhile, Deke and the injured Clint argue. Clint knows where the gold is, but he's hurt and he needs water, which is back outside. Deke bargains with him for the water. Finally, Clint concedes, Deke gets the water, Clint tells him where the gold is, and then kills Deke just after he digs it up.

Finally, Jess and Tully get the drop on Clint as he tries to escape with the box of gold. Jess leaves Clint with Tully and goes looking for Deke. While Jess is inside, he hears a shot and runs out to find that Tully has killed Clint because he was "trying to escape". Since Deke is dead too, there's nothing to do but pack up the gold and leave. The likable Tully tries to talk Jess into splitting it with him, but Jess will have none of it. He says they will ride together and turn it in at the nearest town. Jess lets his guard down for just a minute and Tully slugs him over the head and takes off.

Five days later, a bedraggled Jess finds Tully in a town, buying drinks for everyone. Jess puts an end to Tully's short but enjoyable spending spree.

Annie's Favorite Moments:   The last scene of this one is classic pissed-off-Jess, and provides one of my all-time favorite deliveries by Robert Fuller. He's just walked for five days across the desert to catch up with Tully (Edgar Buchanan). He's tired, he's thirsty, he's hungry and he's in no mood. "....I been thinking about it a lot for the last five days walking across that desert..." and without missing a beat he adds, "Tully, you reach for that gun, an' I'll make you eat it." Fuller's delivery is absolute perfection.

Jenny's Favorite Moments:   It's kind of hard for me to pick a favorite moment in this episode.   I enjoyed it, but no particular moment stands out.   I mainly remember cringing and hurting for poor Jess throughout.   At risk of sounding like a broken record, I'd probably have to agree with Annie again.   The 'I'll make you eat it' line was perfect and is what I remember most.

Notes of Interest:   All three of the guest stars in this episode are frequent repeaters. Jan Merlin is one of the best of the bad guys--slimy, shifty and downright weasly. Dennis Patrick is his usual smarmy, grinning self. Edgar Buchanan usually plays lovable old coots, and this one is no exception. Edgar later played the ultimate lovable old coot, Uncle Joe, in Petticoat Junction.    

The Owie Factor:   A whopping five bandaids for this slug-fest. There is Jess-whumping on a Biblical scale. In just about every other scene, Jess is getting slugged, whacked, slapped, punched and thrown by everyone in this episode including his own horse. And, like a Timex, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking. The guy deserves a Purple Heart after this one.

Annie's rating: A four star wonder. I may have a sadistic streak, but I loved this one from start to finish. The only thing that would have made it better, is if Slim were in it.

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The Lost Dutchman