Gun Duel

First Impressions:    A not bad but rather pedestrian fourth season episode with some interesting elements. Jess is playing sheriff once again, this time abetted by Mort's nephew, and together they have to rid the town of some bad guys.

The Story:    Robbers are holding up an express office in Casper, Wyoming. The lone clerk is nervously filling saddlebags with the loot. When he's finished, one of the masked bandits slugs him over the head. One of the others says, "I didn't mean kill him!", and they all leave. So much for the teaser.

In Laramie, Mort is preparing to leave town and is giving Jess his last-minute instructions. Their only prisoner is "The Parson" (Jack Elam) and he is standing at the stove helping himself to some coffee. He is a tall, grave looking man wearing all black and sporting a black eye as well. Jess asks if there's anything he should watch out for. Mort replies that with the Parson in residence, things should be quiet. Apparently The Parson has quite a reputation as a drinking man and pugilist. Mort and Jess are amused by him and allow him to freely run the place as apparently, he is also a cooperative and reliable prisoner when he's sober.

Mort warns Jess to not let his nephew, Johnny get in his hair too much, and thus begins the obligatory exposition. Johnny is Mort's nephew and he is an enthusiastic young man who wants nothing more than to be a lawman. He wanted to take over while Mort was away instead of Jess, but Mort didn't allow it. He did tell Johnny that he could help Jess out, but only if he was needed.

During the exposition, we find that Johnny is newly married and has a good education. Mort doesn't understand how a well educated and smart young man would want to carry a gun. Shaking his head, he prepares to leave for Cedar Bend, leaving Deputy Harper in charge.

Outside on the street, Johnny and his new wife drive up in a buggy. They are very lovey-dovey and it's apparent that they're newlyweds. Carol tells Johnny not to forget to invite Jess home for supper. Johnny rather importantly tells her that he won't forget, but sometimes things get busy so don't be surprised if they're late. He gets out of the buggy and unties his horse from the back, and she drives off.

As Johnny crosses the street, a rider on a horse races by and almost runs him down. The rider comes back and confronts him, telling Johnny to watch where he's going. He goads him, trying to make him draw, but Johnny doesn't. He backs down and the townspeople who have gathered around snicker.

Johnny steps up to the front of the sheriff's office just as Jess and Mort are coming out. Johnny reminds Mort that he promised to talk to the sheriff of Cedar Bend about a job for him as a deputy. Mort says he will, but don't get his hopes up.

Johnny goes inside and Mort says his goodbyes to Jess and gives him the usual admonisions. After Mort leaves, Jess hurries back into the office when he hears a disturbance. Johnny is holding a gun on the very indignant Parson. Johnny is appalled that the Parson has let himself out of his cell. Jess calms Johnny down and tells him to put his gun away and then with his most long-suffering sigh asks the Parson just what he thinks he's doing. The Parson imperiously explains that he assumes he has a right to the use of the facilities.

Jess almost, but not quite does a slapstick exasperated hat pull and tells him to go ahead and then get right back in his cell. The Parson officiously dons his black hat, pointedly ignores Johnny and strides out the back door, presumably to the outhouse.

Johnny can't believe that Jess just leaves the cell open and lets the Parson wander around. Jess explains that it's the way Mort wants to handle it. Johnny is okay with that (sorta) and settles in, excitely wanting to start on law enforcing. He wants to study the flyers and do all that sheriffin' type stuff.

Meanwhile Jess is industriously cleaning off the desk looking like he's about to get down to some serious work, when actually all he's doing is clearing off a place to put his feet up. He does so and pulls his hat down for a nap.

Over in the saloon, we see the bad guys. We know they're the bad guys because they're the ones that humiliated Johnny earlier and besides that, the bad guy music starts up. Del and Bart (DeForrest Kelley) are waiting for their business associate, Ray to meet them with money they are expecting.

Del is anxous that Ray won't show up. After all, why should he? He's out there all alone with ten thousand dollars. The calmer of the two, Bart explains that there are two reasons Ray will show up. For one thing, he made a deal, and for another, he has the inevitable girlfriend in a boarding house down the street. The girlfriend comes as news to Del and he decides they ought to pay her a little visit. If Ray is planning on cutting them loose, she'd know about it. Bart reluctantly goes along.

As they leave the saloon, Jess and Johnny are coming out of the sheriff's office to start their rounds. Jess very innocently says, "Looks like we're in luck, Johnny. Looks like we're gonna have a nice quiet weekend." Uh huh.

At the boarding house, Del and Bart go see Lottie who naturally answers the door in her undies. She's obviously expecting Ray and is surprised when it's Bart and Del.

Bart introduces Del and asks Lottie where Ray is. They force themselves in and grill her about Ray. She doesn't know anything, but Del doesn't believe her. It's obvious she's been packing a bag and they now both think that she was leaving to meet Ray and cut them out of the money.

Del and Bart get a bit rough and start slapping Lottie around. Lottie insists she and Ray are going to be married and she doesn't know anything about their business with Ray.

The boarding house maid hears the screaming and yelling and runs for Jess. Jess bursts in and holds Del and Bart at rifle point. He asks Lottie what's going on and she denys that anything is wrong, even though she's crying and her face is messed up. She says it was a mistake and won't press charges.

Everyone seems to have a bad case of 'nothing happened-itis'. Jess is unbelieving, but has no choice but to let them go. Del pushes Jess and wants very much to take him on, but they stroll out and leave Jess with Lottie.

Lottie still has nothing to say about the incident but tells Jess the two men's names and says they have a mutual friend. Then she makes Jess leave. Jess warns her to lock her door.

Back in the office, Jess is going through posters looking for Bart and Del. Johnny doesn't understand why they can't just arrest them. Jess explains that they can't because Lottie won't file a complaint.

The Parson comes out and wishes to inquire about his supper. He asks that it is properly prepared and descibes what he means in detail. Jess is at his exaperated wits end and gets up to leave with Johnny following. Outside they see Bart and Del across the stree laughing at them. "No law against laughing", Jess says. After he gives his badge back to Mort, he can make his business with Bart and Del personal and not until. Jess changes the subject and asks about that supper he was invited to.

They close up the office and leave a sign on the door that Jess will be back in an hour. They ride out to Johnny's place as Del and Bart watch. Del says one of these days, Jess is going to trip over that badge. He has a real thing against Jess now and decides to do something about it. They follow Jess and Johnny out of town.

After dinner, Carol walks a satisfied Jess out to the barn while Johnny stays inside to start on the dishes (now that demonstrates the fictional side of this!). Carol wanted to get Jess alone (now that I can buy!). She's worried about Johnny and doesn't think Johnny is cut out to be a deputy and thinks he can do so much better for himself. She thiks he's trying to prove something to her. She's afraid Johnny can't do the things Jess and Mort can do so easily. She wants Jess to talk him out of being a deputy.

Jess doesn't think he can talk Johnny out of anything and says he'll have to find out for himself what he want to be. A man has to make his own decisions. Carol hates to say it, but she agrees with him. She kisses Jess goodnight and starts back to the house as Jess goes to the barn.

Inside the barn Jess is jumped by Del and Bart. It's dark and he can't see them real well. Now normally, our Jess would lick those two sidewinders in a heartbeat, but he's blindsided and besides, he's stuffed full of chicken and dumplings.

Jess tries to fight them off and Carol, hearing the ruckus calls for Johnny. Johnny shows his ineptitude by being slow to respond and foolishly fiddling with his gun while Jess gets the poo beat out of him.

After Jess is down, Del wants to kill him but Bart stops him and they hear Johnny and Carol approaching. Carol comes in with Johnny right behind her as Jess is getting up. Johnny gets a few shots off, but misses the fleeing baddies. "I tried to stop them. They were just too fast for me." Yes, well, can we say c-l-u-m-s-e-y?

Jess says he doesn't know what they wanted, but he thinks they were the two that beat up Lottie. Johnny wants to go into town and take them. Jess tells him to relax and let him handle it his own way. Johnny is afraid they might be waiting for Jess in town. Carol rather condescendingly tells him that she knows he tried his best, but Jess doesn't need him now.

The next morning, Jess leaves the office and sits on the bench watching the street. Del and Bart ride by and stop to chat. They ask what happened to Jess and Jess shoots back that they don't looks so good either. Del says he tripped on the boardwalk last night and is thinking of suing the town for damages. They have a snarky converstaion with Jess prying for information and them giving smart assed answers. They said they were playing poker last night and if he doesn't believe them, they can ask Lottie. Jess still can't touch them.

After they leave, Johnny rides up and asks what happened. Jess denies that anything happened. Can NO ONE give a straight answer in this episode?! Anyway, Jess decides to go talk to Lottie again. Johnny is eager to go, but Jess won't let him. Johnny apologizes to Jess about not helping him last night. Jess tells him it's not his fault. Yes it was! He was an inept idiot! But I digress...

In the office, the Parson greets Johnny heartily but Johnny is no mood for the Parson. He angrily tells him to get back in his cell which the Parson does saying he will meditate and seek forgiveness for Johnny's anger.

Johnny sits at the desk and the telegraph man, Cy, comes in obviously looking for anyone other than Johnny. Johnny gets no respect. Cy has a telegram for Jess from Mort. He says Mort has captured one of the men that held up the express office in Casper. He's got him and the money and is on his way back to Laramie. He wants Jess to watch out for the other two that were in on the robbery. The guy he caught confessed and said there were two others in on it and they're waiting in Laramie to divide up the money. Isn't that special?

Johnny promises Cy he'll give the message to Jess, but you can tell Johnny is getting ideas of his own.

Meanwhile Jess is in Lottie's room. He's asking her about Del and Bart's alibi for last night. Lottie agrees with whatever Bart and Del said and won't give Jess the time of day. Jess knows she knows something and decides he's just going to wait her out. He sits down in a chair by the door and won't budge.

Meanwhile Del and Bart come out of the saloon and Del is getting impatient. Johnny confronts them on the street and pulls a gun. He says they're under arrest for the Casper express office hold up. They deny any involvement. Johnny tells them Ray has been captured and confessed. Del won't be taken. He and Bart separate, forcing Johnny to hold the gun on one or the other, not both.

Inside Lottie's room, Jess sits as Lottie looks out the window. When she sees what's happening on the street she yells out just as a shot is fired. Johnny is down in the street and Del and Bart ride off. Jess runs out to the street.

Later, Jess rides out of town trailing Del and Bart. I gotta say, Jess does some fine riding going after them boys. He finally loses their trail and gives up and goes back to town. He goes to the doctor's office where Carol is waiting in tears. Johnny is unconscious but the doctor gives him a fifty-fifty chance.

Jess tries to reassure her and apologizes for not looking after Johnny. Carol says Johnny had to prove something to himself.

After Johnny wakes up, Jess goes in and Johnny gives him his badge. Jess has already seen the telegram and admits Del and Bart may be the robbers, but Johnny was jumping to conclusions. Johnny admits he's not cut out for lawin'.

Jess goes back to see Lottie again. I think he likes it that she's always wearing lacey stuff. Anyway. she morosely tells Jess about her pitiful life and her hopes for marrying someone who was going take her away from all this. He says all this wouldn't have happened if she'd just told him what was going on. She says he's found his answers, where does he suggest she find hers? Philosophical Jess says, "Stop looking out the window and try looking in the mirror." Ain't he a caution?

Jess goes back to the office and Cy meets him in the street. Jess wants to know when the telegram came. They figure that with the time it came and where it came from, Mort and Ray could be riding in at any time. Jess goes into the office and Del and Bart are waiting for him. They take his gun and want to wait until Mort shows up with Ray and the money.

They start to lock Jess up in a cell next to the Parson, but change plans and want Jess out in the middle of the room where Mort can see him. The Parson tells Jess to "Have faith, Brother Harper, and be ready for the summons." Nod nod, wink wink.

Del spots Mort and Ray riding in. While they're occupied at the door, the parson picks up a stool and eases out of this unlocked cell and hits Bart while shouting "Now, Brother Harper! Smite with a vengeance!"

Jess takes the opportunity and lunges for his gun and smites Del. According to the Parson "righteousness has triumphed". Mort bursts in and wants to know what in blazes is going on in here! Jess says the Parson may not look like Samson, and that chair might not be a jawbone, but between the two of them, they sure took care of the Philistines. The Parson is looking rather pleased with himself.

Later, Jess gives Mort Johnny's badge and Mort says it's just as well, there wasn't a job in Cedar Bend anyway. Jess says he'll probably be looking for different employment anyway. Then they both look over as several men come barreling out of the saloon. The Parson is at it again, brawling with three cowboys. Mort says, "Not again!", as Jess happily takes his leave, saying "Glad to have you back, Mort."

Annie's Favorite Moments:   Any and all moments with the Parson. Jack Elam steals the show.


Notes of Interest:       Ben Cooper, while playing a younger character, is actually several years older than Robert Fuller. This is the second member of Mort's family that we meet.

Being a fourth season episode, it's predictable that it focuses on one of our heroes only. John Smith got the week off that week as did Spring and Dennis apparently. We don't see hide ner hair of Slim, but he is mentioned as being at home with a lot of whitewashing to do.

The Owie Factor:
    One small one for Jess getting beat up in yet another barn. Barns and storerooms on Laramie are like bathrooms on The X-Files: nothin' much good ever comes from going into one.

Annie's rating: One star. Very predictable. Lottie was overly melodramatic and insipid. I hate weak women who are victims by their own stupidity. I love to watch Angry!Jess though. Talk about flashing blue eyes! Really missed Slim. Ben Cooper is solid, as always.

  • Ben Cooper as Johnny
  • DeForrest Kelley as Bart
  • Richard Devon as Del (Sexton Joe for all you Lancer fans)
  • Gail Kobe as Lottie

  • Time of the Traitor



    Naked Steel