The Stranger

First Impressions:  A very nice Season 4 episode with both Slim and Jess. Although they're not together the entire time, they are both working toward the same thing from different angles. Two great guest stars in Karl Swenson and Geraldine Brooks.    

The Story:  Slim and Jess are perplexed over the loss of several of their beef cattle over the last few weeks. Each time they find it slaughtered, but with a gold piece with it as if the rustler was meaning to pay for it. At dinner, they are discussing with Mike and Daisy what to do, when Mike admits that while doing something he shouldn't have been doing, he met the stranger. He says the man was very kindly, and saved his life by pulling him out of a pit he had fallen into.

Later, Mort Corey comes to the house with a man named Maddox, who is from a town that is owned by his family. He is hunting a man named Emil Victor for murdering his father. He has a posse of unsavory looking folks with him (including Lee Van Cleef). He tells them that Victor is an Swiss immigrant and an expert mountaineer and will be hard to catch. Jess, Slim and Mort agree to go with them. Jess and Slim are sympathetic to Victor because of what he did for Mike. They soon realize (like, 2 seconds soon) that Maddox is out to kill Victor rather than bring him in. During the hunt in the mountains, Mort falls, is hurt and has to be taken back to town.
Jess decides that he has to go after Victor alone. He says he won't have a chance with Maddox and Jess can do better alone. Slim lets him go reluctantly (yeah, like he had a choice)

In the mountains, Jess is climbing when he has an accident and falls. He's hurt bad, but fortunately, he was close to Victor when it happened. Victor finds him, picks him up and takes him to the cave where he's been hiding.

Jess spends that night, the next day and part of the next night in that cave with Victor. He's getting sicker and sicker the whole time, but he learns Victor's story and wants more than ever to help him. Victor and his family lived in Maddox, the town, and old man Maddox wanted to buy his ranch. Victor wouldn't sell and he had to kill Maddox in self defense. He was convicted of murder in an unfair trial. He took an opportunity to escape and ended up near Laramie where his family is living in a cabin. He goes there when he can, taking them food, but spends most of his time living and hiding in the mountains. Jess has an injured leg and arm and is running a high fever. He tries desperately to convince Victor to give himself up to Mort Corey and when that doesn't work, he tries to escape from Victor. He's too weak to make much of an effort though.


Meanwhile, Slim and Daisy are worried about Jess so they go to Victor's house and talk to the wife. She has not seen Jess and doesn't know where Emil Victor is. They leave and Slim goes to re-join the search team.

After Slim and Daisy leave, Victor shows up carrying Jess. He has had to bring Jess to his cabin so his wife can take care of him. Jess' leg is infected.

While Jess recovers, Maddox leaves his posse (telling his men to keep Slim there) and sneaks to the Victor house, convinced that sooner or later, Emil will show up.

Jess has recovered enough to overpower Maddox.

Jess has to convince Victor to not give into his hate and kill Maddox. They leave Maddox tied up and go into town so Victor can turn himself into the sheriff and Jess can see the Doctor. Now why do you suppose they didn't just take Maddox with them? Because, they wouldn't have been able to have the neat shoot out at the end.

In town, Jess is patched up by the doctor and he, Victor and Mort go out to meet Maddox, who rides into town with his men. Slim is with them, but is apparently their prisoner. Maddox wants to trade Slim for Victor.

There is the obligatory shootout. Maddox is killed. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail. The tag has the Victor family loaded up and ready to head to Californey, oops sorry, Canada, which apparently is very much like Switzerland, yah. He is now a free man, the town of Maddox has been re-named Victorville, and all is right with the world. A-men.

Annie's Favorite Moments:   I like the scene between Jess and Slim, when Jess is determined to find Victor on his own. Poor Daisy is so worried, she flutters outside and finds Slim and asks him to try to stop Jess. Very good scene. Jess is determined, Slim has to let him go.

Another favorite moment, and this one is just because I have a perverse sense of humor, as they're readying to take Jess into town, Emil kisses his wife's hand. Not the back of her hand, but the palm. As she turns to walk away, she wipes her hand off on her dress as if "ick! kissed in the hand!" I laugh every time I see it.

I also like the fact that Victor, not knowing Jess from Adam's off-ox, has to finally trust Jess and do what Jess wants him to do against all of his own instincts. Jess has that affect on people.

Jenny's Favorite Moments:   Hmmm... my favorite moment?   My hurt/comfort junkie self is warring with my Jess/Slim friendship self on this one.   I guess I'd have to go with friendship and say my favorite scene is the one Annie mentions where Slim is worried about Jess following after Emil.   However, I do like worrying about poor hurt Jess after he falls off of the mountain, and I absolutely love it when the doctor tells Jess to stay off of that leg and Jess tells him he shouldn't have done such a good job then.   Another wonderful Jess line and definitely a favorite moment.

Notes of Interest:Karl Swenson was also in Trial By Fire and A Grave for Cully Brown. Apropo of nothing, all three episodes were Jess-centered. Okay, so he was also in Night of the Quiet Man, but his role was so small it almost doesn't count. That role is also one of the very few times you will ever see Karl Swenson speak without an accent.
If you look real carefully when Victor first finds Jess after he has fallen, Victor lowers himself by rope to the ledge on which Jess is laying. As he lands and then walks over to Jess you can see the "rocks" rocking under his weight. Either they were having a mild earthquake at that moment, or they were actually up on a scaffold with paper-mache cliffs. I vote for the latter.    

The Owie Factor:   Jess gets a pretty bad owie in this one, but recovers fairly quickly. His fall from the mountain is just plain Klutzy!Jess, but we forgive because he's so good at so many other things.

Annie's rating: If I had to base my rating on whether I'd ever give up my copy of this episode, then it gets a five. I love this one. A likeable guest star, Jess and Slim doing everything they can to help against all odds. Slim kinda works from the outside, Jess from the inside, but they're both working toward the same goal.

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