Ride Into Darkness

First Impressions:    A pretty decent second season episode that unfortunately lacks Slim, but is otherwise a pretty good one.

The Story:    The sheriff of Danver’s Pass, Wyoming and his deputy, Chuck, are chasing a man outside of town. The man seems fearful and is running for his life. Chuck is new and wants to give the man a chance to surrender, but the sheriff will have none of it. When they finally catch up to him, the sheriff takes an opportunity because of the rocky terrain, and when the man shows himself on the skyline he shoots him dead. The deputy seems puzzled but doesn’t say anything. He wants to take the body back to town, but the sheriff says to leave it, he’ll have the man’s family come get him.

Next we see the man’s family at his grave. His sister and her husband are packed and are leaving town. On the way down the road, they meet up with Jess. He asks if this is the way to Danver’s Pass. They don’t answer, just keep riding on.

In town, Jess notices the people seem to be a bit inhospitable. He tries to be friendly, but no one responds. In the saloon he asks the bartender and some patrons if they know where he can find a man named Dan Preston. No one has heard of him. A drunk named Wilson begins to tell Jess, but a man named Matt Jessup interrupts him and he and his henchman, Rafe hustle the man out, put him on a horse and make him ride out. Jess takes it all in, but doesn’t say anything.

Back inside, Rafe hassles Jess, the bartender won’t sell him another drink, and Jess is more or less forced out. He goes along for now. Outside a man named Patterson comes and begins to argue with Matt Jessup. His barn was burned this morning. Patterson knows it was deliberate and he accuses Jessup, but he has no proof. He says Jessup couldn’t buy him out and now he’s trying to burn him out. Jessup is a smarmy friendly sort, but deadly too. Patterson is gunned down in cold blood in front of witnesses including Jess. Jess is the only one who tells the deputy the truth. The deputy arrests Jessup and asks Jess to come along with them to the sheriff’s office.

Jess is confronted by Rafe who is a much bigger bloke. There’s a fight and Rafe ends up on his knees. Jess leaves and goes to the sherrif’s office. Jessup and the sheriff are very patronizing to the deputy and Jess. The sheriff defends the town’s “leading citizen” and lets him go, warning the deputy to show some respect.

Jess tells the sheriff he’s looking for Dan Preston. He got a letter from him asking for help. The sheriff obviously knows Dan and so does the deputy, but the sheriff won’t let him say anything. Jess knows that something fishy is going on. He sarcastically thanks the sheriff for his help and goes out, but first asking the sheriff where a man named Wilson lives. Wilson was the drunk in the saloon. The sheriff doesn’t know about the incident in the saloon so he tells Jess where Wilson lives.

Jess goes to the café for something to eat, and the closed sign is put out right in his face. The deputy calls Jess and starts to tell him something, but the sheriff comes out and yells out to him and stops him. The deputy, Chuck expresses his opinion that this town was just fine until Jessup came along.

Jess runs into Rafe again and goads him into a fight. Jessup encourages it and the deputy allows it as long as it’s a fair fight. One of Jessup’s men, Pete, tries to interfere by pulling a knife, but the deputy stops him, thereby probably saving Jess’ life. Jess wins and Rafe ends up on the ground again. A battered Jess starts to go into the hotel but Jessup says it’s all filled up. Jessup seems to own the hotel. Jess makes it clear that he’s not leaving until he finds Dan Preston.

Inside, Jess meets the clerk, a pretty blonde named Mae. Jessup has followed him inside. Jess asks for a room, but after looking at Matt she says that they’re all filled up. It’s obvious that Matt is intimidating her. She also says she never heard of Dan Preston. She’s scared. Jess asks the lady for some water. She grows a spine and tells Matt “don’t say it”, and she goes and gets him some water. She offers to let Jess use the washstand to clean up after Jessup and his men have left.

The sheriff is under Matt’s thumb but he tries to get Matt to keep a low profile and not cause any trouble. Matt patronizes him and assures him everything is okay. The spineless sheriff also lets it slip that he told Jess how to get to Wilson’s place. Matt says he’ll “take care of it”.

Jess gets a chance to talk to Mae. She’s supposedly Matt’s “girl”, but she doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about it. She tries to warn Jess to leave. The longer he stays the more danger he’s in. Jess is still determined to find Dan. Jess leaves and heads out to Wilson’s place, but first he has to run the gauntlet of Jessup’s intimidating henchmen.

Jessup goes in and asks Mae for the key to room 7. She tries to fight him and he gets a little rough. Jessup and Pete go upstairs. In one of the hotel rooms, a man is tied to a bed frame. It’s Dan Preston. They beat him, trying to find out where his gold strike is. Apparently they’ve kept him there for weeks. Dan is stubborn, and won’t say anything. He’ll die before he’ll tell a snake like Jessup where his gold is. Jessup threatens him with torture (wonder what it is they've been doing up till now).

Out at the Wilson place, the old man is alone when Rafe rides up. He shoots Wilson in cold blood as he opens the door. Jess arrives a short time later. He finds Wilson’s body, but he doesn’t know that the killer is still there. Rafe slugs Jess over the head and then sets the house on fire.

The house is fully engulfed when Jess wakes up long enough to get out by breaking through a window, then he passes out again on the front porch.

Mae comes riding up and Jess wakes up in the barn with Mae tending him. She had heard Jessup talking about sending Rafe out here. The house is burned to the ground. Jess tells her that Rafe killed Wilson. Mae has a bruise on her cheek. Jess tries to get her to leave with him, to go back to Laramie so he can get the Marshall and come back.

Mae confesses that she knows Dan Preston. She once helped him with some money when he needed it and they had become friends. He wrote her and told her he’d struck it rich and wanted her to meet him in Danver’s Pass. She found the old man hadn’t filed his claim and that Jessup was after it. Jess asks her to get him in to see Dan. She says “You’re trying to start a war with a mighty small army.” They decide they’ll enlist the help of Chuck, the deputy. Jess kisses her to seal the bargain, and they head back to town.

Jessup and all of his men are sitting on the hotel porch when Jess and Mae go in the back way and go up to Dan’s room. Jessup is out there bragging to his men about how he had to hit Mae a few times and now she’s come crawling back. He goes inside and doesn’t see her and assumes that she went up to feed the old man. He sends Rafe up and tells him to send Mae down. Chuck is out in back of the hotel holding the getaway horses.

In the room, Rafe comes in and Jess gets the drop on him. There’s a struggle and Jess strangles Rafe. He and Mae and Dan go out. Mae has to flirt with Pete to get them out. She draws him into another room while Jess and Dan sneak out. Mae screams and brings Matt and the others in and accuses Pete of “getting fresh”. Jessup shoots him on the spot. Several times. In the commotion, Mae goes out the back and joins Jess and the others and they ride out.

Matt discovers that Dan is gone and he and the remainder of his men, and the sheriff ride out after Jess and the others. Jess, Chuck, Dan and Mae stop on the road to make a stand. Jessup rides in and there’s a gun battle. The odds are against Jess but Chuck knows the sheriff's methods. This is the same place the sheriff trapped that fella the other day. Chuck is ready now to make up for all his mistakes, and he’s willing to go all the way to help Jess. Jess comes up with a plan, Chuck helps and they get the drop on Jessup and the sheriff. Jess gets both of them and Chuck gets the others.

At the end Jess is riding out with Dan. Dan still promises Mae half of his claim. Chuck is now the sheriff and things are lookin’ up in Danver’s Pass.

Annie's Favorite Moments:   I like the scene in the barn with Mae. Jess is feeling a little sentimental and romantic here. I'm a sucker for that.

Okay, my next one might leave you questioning my taste. The scene where Rafe comes into Wilson's house and slugs Jess. Jess is such a tiger, he just refuses to go down. He grabs onto Rafe and holds on, trying to bring him down, or pull himself up or whatever. Anyway, Rafe has to slug him twice to get him off. Never-say-Die, that's our Jess.



  • Charles Drake as Matt Jessup
  • Phyllis Avery as Mae
  • Leo Gordon as Rafe
  • Kevin Hagan as Pete

    Notes of Interest:   Phyllis Avery was also in The Fugitives and Kevin Hagan has been in oodles of episodes, usually playing a part just like this- the unbalanced henchman. He later played the kindly Doctor on Little House on the Prairie. The man who plays Patterson, who gets killed early on, is Stuart Randall, the future Mort Corey.    

    The Owie Factor:   We'll give Jess two. One for that great fight with Rafe. He won, of course, but he still got pretty well nigh beat up and spent a long time on the clean up. The second family size one is for Rafe's revenge, when he clobbers Jess and then tries to burn him to death.

    Annie's rating:I'll give it three stars. It's not perfect, but it is very watchable. Jess is rough and tough and great fun to watch when he gets riled.

    Jenny's rating: One and a half stars. I definitely miss Slim here, and I generally have problems even remembering what this ep is about. I'm not sure why, but the story didn't hold my interest as much as most Laramies do.