Original air date: October 22, 1968
Synopsis – Murdoch’s old friend, Marshal Joe Barker, arrives at Lancer with a prisoner and an old letter from Murdoch that once promised him a share in Lancer. When Joe Barker realizes that Murdoch’s two sons have returned home, and his dream of owning a portion of the ranch has vanished, he puts a plan in motion that could cost Johnny his freedom – and even worse – his life.
Now for my thoughts, as I watch the episode.
So saddle up, here we go —
The Opening sequence
- The episode opens with four men on horseback riding toward Lancer property. We see that the lead man is wearing a badge, along with two of the other men that are flanking a man that is clearly their prisoner. One of the men in back asks how far it is to Lancer, and the lead lawman answers that it’s just over the next rise. The prisoner calls out and asks for water – calling the man in the lead, Barker. Barker rides over a crest and looks down at the valley below – Lancer. He takes a letter out of his pocket and smiles. One of the deputies tells the prisoner that once they deliver him to Sacramento, Barker no longer has a job as Marshal.
- The three men catch up to Barker as he returns the letter to his pocket. One of the deputies asks Barker if he really believes that Murdoch Lancer would split his ranch with him. Then he tells Barker that the letter fell out of his pocket when he was sleeping. Barker tells the Deputy, whose name we learn is Thompkins, that he’s lying. Thompkins continues to mock Barker quoting from the letter. Barker tells Thompkins that Murdoch is all alone, and could use his help on such a big spread. Barker sounds pretty full of himself. While Thompkins presses Barker, the prisoner makes a run for it. Barker yells for the two deputies to go after him.
The Outskirts of the Lancer Ranch sequence
- Teresa is struggling to remove a calf from a tangle of brush. Johnny is on his horse watching and teasing her. As Murdoch rides up she’s yelling at Johnny telling him to get down off his horse and help her, but Johnny says that every hand has to carry his own weight. Teresa yells for Murdoch to make Johnny help her. Murdoch quietly says “help her”, and with that Johnny immediately obeys, jumps off his horse and helps her free the calf. Murdoch applauds. It’s a great scene with Teresa and Johnny interacting very much like a brother and sister, and one where we get to see Teresa out of the house doing some ranch related work.
- They hear horses quickly approaching, and see a rider coming up fast and two men in pursuit. Johnny runs over and makes contact with the first rider, pulling him down from his horse. The prisoner falls to the ground and looks up surprised and says “Madrid, Johnny Madrid”. Johnny replies “no, it’s Lancer, Johnny Lancer”. Psst – by the way…he doesn’t lose his hat!
- Barker and his deputies ride up, and so does Murdoch. He recognizes Barker immediately, and they have a manly hug – one of the most awkward looking man-hugs on TV. Either way, Murdoch is very happy to see his old friend. Barker tells Murdoch he has a real fine top hand as he points to Johnny, and Murdoch breaks the news that it’s his son Johnny, and he introduces Teresa as his ward. Barker looks a little perplexed, and asks, “Did you say your son?”. Murdoch answers, “Maria’s boy”. This is the first time that we hear the name of the second Mrs. Lancer.
- Barker begins to reminisce about something that he and Murdoch had done in their past, but looks over at Teresa and stops a bit short. I sure wish I knew what that story was, but considering the time frame of the series, I guess there were certain subjects that were not discussed in mixed company. I’m sure it was a bit too bawdy to repeat in front of a young girl. This is where I really wish I had some insight into the actors – Murdoch’s reaction with Teresa here is so sweet and father-like, that I often wonder if Andrew Duggan added that affectionate hug on his own. It seemed so natural.
- The prisoner speaks up and tells Johnny that he must remember him, and tells him his name is Al Evans, and that they met in Sonora or Pasco. Johnny continues to insist that he doesn’t know him, but he looks very uneasy. Is Johnny lying when he says he doesn’t know him, or is he familiar enough that it’s nagging at him that maybe he does know him. Either way, Johnny was very quick to tell Evans his name is Johnny Lancer when he first recognized him as Madrid.
The Lancer Ranch sequence
- Everyone is riding up to the guardhouse, Teresa in the lead. In fact, this is the first time we actually see Teresa on a horse. Episode five, and Teresa is finally starting to look like someone who was raised on a ranch. Interestingly though, I don’t see Johnny ride up. Teresa comes up first, and there are five riders behind her. Murdoch to the far left is only recognizable by his horse with that unique white patch on its face; then there are four riders to the right of him. They are one man down, and it appears to be that Johnny didn’t ride in with them. Even though the shot is too far to see faces, I don’t see Johnny’s horse, which tells me that he’s not in that shot.
- Barker tells his deputies, Thompkins and Gibbs to lock up Evans and to see to the horses, they may be staying over. Murdoch asks Barker how long he can stay. Barker says overnight, and Murdoch tells him the longer the better – he has a lot he wants to show him.
- Barker lies and tells Murdoch that he’s ready to retire, even though “they” want him to stay on and even offered him a nice raise. He’s quite full of himself. Murdoch asks about his plans for the future, and Barker explains that he’d like to talk to Murdoch about that – but then Scott walks in and interrupts the conversation.
- Murdoch introduces Scott to Barker, and Barker mistakenly assumes that Scott is just visiting his father. When Scott tells Barker that he’s staying Barker’s face is priceless – his dream of retiring at Lancer has just disappeared. Barker looks a bit baffled saying that when he got the letter from Murdoch he was all alone and that he seems to have acquired quite a family. Murdoch answers that they were always a family, just not together. Murdoch and Scott leave Barker alone with Evans as they go to pay the hands.
- Evans starts to mock Barker telling him that he’s never going to get part of the ranch, that he’s got nothing. He tells Barker that he knows he’s been fired; and tries to make a deal and offers to bribe him with $5,000.
- Evans complains that his shackles are painful, and Barker opens the cell to remove them. Evans continues to try to make a deal with Barker. But Barker drops the key to the shackles and Evans makes a break for it. At that moment Thompkins and Gibbs arrive in time to stop Evans from breaking out.
The Dinner sequence
- The Lancers and Barker are sitting at the table having supper, and Teresa asks Barker to stay an extra night. The Lancers are having a social and he could meet some of their friends. Barker is non-committal.
- Johnny asks Barker what Evans is accused of, and Barker tells him that he held up a stage and killed the driver. He asks Johnny if he is still wondering if he knows Evans, and Johnny says that he did mention Sonora and Pasco.
- Barker tells Johnny to forget him, and Johnny replies that it’s hard to forget someone who is going to hang, and begs for your help. Johnny leaves the table seemingly annoyed.
The Guardhouse sequence
- Johnny goes to the guardhouse and asks to see Evans. Johnny tells Evans that he does remember him, but that it wasn’t Sonora or Pasco, but Cordova.
- He sees that Evans is beat up and asks how it happened. Evans lies and tells Johnny that they worked him over – and does not explain that he punched and pushed Barker while attempting to escape the guardhouse. He tells Johnny that he didn’t do anything, and asks for his help. He explains that the lawmen will kill him before they get to Sacramento.
- Evans tells Johnny that Barker was fired and that Murdoch once offered to cut Barker in for a piece of the ranch.
- Johnny tells Evans he’s got a couple friends in Sacramento and doesn’t mind taking a ride with them. I love how he plays with his spurs in this scene. It’s these funny little quirky things that look so natural – not like acting at all. James Stacy always had that innate instinct that made every scene his. He was such a natural talent and so believable – always seemed very relaxed, never contrived.
- Barker walks in and asks “then he is the guy Johnny?” Johnny ignores the question, instead saying “he’s been pretty badly beat up”. Barker tells Johnny he tried to escape – Johnny says he doesn’t want anything more to happen to him, and Barker right away asks, “what did he tell you?” Johnny answers, “nothin’, nothin’, he didn’t tell me nothin. You just make sure he stays alive.” Somehow that doesn’t sounds too convincing. Johnny leaves.
- Thompkins tells Barker he thinks they should move out now – he seems suspicious of Johnny. Barker says no, they’re staying overnight. Thompkins again mocks Barker telling him that Lancer is a working ranch – not the poor farm.
The Great Room sequence
- Johnny and Scott are with Murdoch. Johnny confronts Murdoch and asks if he ever offered Barker a piece of the ranch. Murdoch, of course, answers yes. Johnny spills the beans and lets Murdoch know that Barker expected to get a piece of the ranch, and that he needs it – he didn’t quit his job, he was fired.
- Murdoch wants to know how Johnny can take Evans’ word, and explains that he offered part of the ranch to Barker a long time ago, before he and Scott came back, and that Barker must understand that the offer is off now. Johnny asks Murdoch if he can spare him at the ranch so he can ride with them to Sacramento, just to be sure. Murdoch asks Scott if he can take Johnny’s work for a couple of weeks, and Scott says he thinks so. Murdoch tells Johnny he can go on one condition – that he gets to know Barker and then bring him back to the ranch when they are done. Johnny answers, “if he’ll come back just for a job”.
The Confrontation sequence
- Murdoch comes upon Barker in the courtyard as he’s marveling at the beauty of the ranch, and tells Murdoch he’s going to hate to leave.
- Murdoch asks Barker why he never answered his letter – when he offered him a partnership. Barker responds that he felt what he was doing was important, and not quite ready to quit. Again Barker lies and tells Murdoch he has other offers, but Murdoch tells Barker that he hopes he considers a job at the ranch. Barker kind of scoffs at the word “job”, and Murdoch kindly explains that he just doesn’t have the partnership to offer him now that the boys are back and they each have a third share.
- Murdoch tries to get Barker to tell him what’s wrong, but Barker deflects again and mentions other offers and that he may even keep wearing the badge a bit longer. He needs time to think about it, and Murdoch tells him to take all the time he needs. This must have been a difficult conversation for Murdoch, knowing that Barker is embellishing his situation, but also still having so much respect for his old friend.
- Murdoch asks Barker to ride with him out to the north range but Barker declines, and after Murdoch leaves he wistfully pulls out Murdoch’s letter.
- We now see Barker out riding on his own, checking out the area known as Needle Rock on the outskirts of the ranch. How did I know it was called Needle Rock? OK, I cheated – you’ll see how when you read my final thoughts below.
- Barker seems to be making a decision. Hmm, quite suspicious looking. (BTW – the score here is beautiful)
The Second Guardhouse sequence
- Barker enters the guardhouse and tells Gibbs they’re staying for the social, and to go tell Thompkins.
- He’s now alone with Evans, and apparently about to take him up on his offer for the $5,000 – but it’s clear that Barker is not happy about it.
The Social sequence
- The scene starts with Teresa making Murdoch hold his promise to dance with her – and off they go, whirling to the sound of the fiddle.
- Everyone’s dancing and having a good time – except Johnny. Scott comes out of the house and sees him standing alone. He asks if he’s still worried about Evans – and Johnny says that he just doesn’t feel like dancing – he doesn’t have his dancing shoes on.
- Scott leaves Johnny alone, and although Johnny said he wasn’t in the mood for dancing, you can see him slightly nodding his head to the time of the music.
- Barker takes this opportunity to leave the dance and go back to the guardhouse. He tells Gibbs it’s his turn to go dance.
- Barker unlocks the cell door and motions for Evans to move out, and takes off his handcuffs.
- In the meantime, back at the dance, we see Johnny all by himself doing his own little shuffle to the music.
- As he’s walking to the dance, Gibbs notices that he has left his tie and goes back to the guardhouse – where Barker is showing Evans a map and planning where they will meet up after Evans is let go. Gibbs walks in on them.
- Evans grabs Barker’s gun and shoots at Gibbs. More gunfire, and Evans is shot in the leg and Gibbs is shot dead.
- Johnny hears the gunfire and goes running in the direction of the guardhouse.
- Barker tells Evans to go on and he’ll meet him in the cave. Evans is on Gibbs’ horse but Johnny sees him. Evans fires at Johnny barely missing him (this was the guy that was going to ride with you to help you out – and you fire on him – hah! I knew Evans was a weasel). Johnny fires back as Evans takes off. Johnny runs to the guardhouse (a couple of great sexy moves as Johnny leaps over the corral gate, not once – but twice!).
- Barker drags Gibbs into the cell and hides. Johnny sees Gibbs lying on the floor and stoops down to check on him – and with that, the oldest trope in TV and movies, Johnny is hit from behind by Barker. He’s unconscious laying next to a dead man – and his gun is still in his hand. To give him some credit, but not too much, Barker looks horrified – but leaves Johnny there to take the fall.
The Third Guardhouse sequence
- Back at the guardhouse Johnny wakes up, rubbing his head, his gun still in his hand. When Thompkins walks in and tells Johnny to drop the gun. Johnny explains that he didn’t shoot Gibbs, but Thompkins tells Johnny to drop his gun or he will kill him. Johnny drops his gun.
- Johnny is now locked in the cell in the guardhouse – and Barker is telling him everything is going to be alright – take it from him – yeah, like we’d believe him now. Scott standing by quietly watching Barker very closely. I love the look he gives Johnny at one point – once again, the subtlety in Scott speaks volumes.
- Barker tries to convince Thompkins that Johnny had no reason to kill Gibbs and let Evans escape, but Thompkins is having none of it. He tells Barker that Evans and Johnny were friends, and blurts out that Barker is still trying to buy his way into the ranch.
- Murdoch interjects and says the only way to clear Johnny is to go after Evans. Barker tells Murdoch he’s taking a posse out first thing.
- Scott is alone with Johnny as everyone else leaves. Johnny has a little smirk on his face, and asks Scott, “you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” and Scott replies, “don’t trust Barker”. I love the look of aggravation on Scott’s face. I also noticed in this scene that Scott is very Madrid like with his crossed arms, leaning and listening intently. I love these two together – they are like peanut butter and jelly – so different, yet when put together – just yum!
The Posse sequence
- The next morning the posse is out looking for Evans. Barker looks up at Needle Rock and leads the team in the other direction. Scott, hanging back, also looks over at Needle Rock but continues to follow the others.
- Barker tries to convince the posse that Evans is heading to the river – Scott wonders if he may have doubled back to the ranch. Barker reluctantly agrees and they both head back the way they came, while the rest of the posse goes in the direction of the river.
- Looking back again at Needle Rock – Scott says there’s enough rough terrain to hide, but Barker convinces Scott that he’s wrong. They both go back to the ranch – Scott wants fresh horses, Barker wants to talk to Murdoch.
- When they arrive back at the ranch – with no news, Murdoch looks quite dejected. Teresa tells Scott that she’s scared, and Scott replies (as only he can) with “welcome to the club”.
- He is not deterred; back on his horse, he rides out again.
The Discussion sequence
- Murdoch tells Barker that they can’t give up. Barker, however tells Murdoch to face facts, and that it might just be time to let Johnny go, if not, the jury will find him guilty.
- Murdoch confronts Barker, and asks Barker if he thinks Johnny is guilty. Barker says he’s not sure, and that he’s only thinking of Murdoch. And then the conversation turns to Johnny being away all those years – kind of like Barker trying to convince Murdoch to toss away his son. Murdoch stands firm – and with such an anguished tone he says “he’s my son”….this says it all…….
- In the meantime, Scott is still out looking for Evans at Needle Rock. He sees blood on one of the rocks. Thank goodness Scott is so determined. One of his traits that I most admire – he really never gives up (well, almost – stay tuned for a future episode).
- Evans, high up top one of the rocks is taking aim at Scott – and shoots. Scott falls from his horse. Yikes!
The Fourth Guardhouse sequence
- Murdoch goes to the guardhouse to see Johnny. Tells Johnny that Scott is still out with the posse.
- Murdoch in a round about way begins to tell Johnny that it may not look good. When Johnny tells Murdoch that with a fast horse Evans could be in Mexico in a couple of days, Murdoch replies, “so could you Johnny”. Of course Barker is listening.
- Johnny is adamant – he is not running.
- Barker bursts in and tells Johnny he’s a fool – and that once he’s in Sacramento he’ll be railroaded.
- Murdoch tells Johnny they will clear him – but doesn’t look very convinced. This scene with the father and son in the guardhouse is so well acted. Both James Stacy and Andrew Duggan do such a fine job – it tugs at the heartstrings!
The Second Posse sequence (kind of)
- Murdoch is looking for Scott, Teresa tells him that he’s been gone for about an hour. Barker also comes out looking for Scott. When he hears that he headed out already Barker tells Murdoch he’s ready to go as well. Murdoch yells for Frank (one of the hands) to saddle a couple of horses. Oh no, Murdoch (and Frank) will be joining the hunt. What will Barker do now?
- Eagle eye Frank finds some tracks (good on ya Frank). But again, Barker tries to dissuade Murdoch from heading in that direction. Oy vey! (shaking my fist in the air) the you-know-whats on this guy. I can’t believe that he really thinks he can get away with this. I feel bad for Murdoch. He was so happy to see his friend.
- But Murdoch is no fool – and decides to follow the tracks. Whew!
- Murdoch sees the same spot of blood that Scott did, and heads in the direction. Frank calls out – I’m not exactly sure if he’s able to see Scott laying on the ground, or if he just sees Scott’s horse, but either way he points in the direction of where Scott is. And Evans is watching from above.
- Barker of course tries to sound like he knows it all, “the horse must have thrown him”. UGH!!! But of course Murdoch sees that he’s been shot. Barker is looking a little worried – is everything about to fall apart?
- Frank stays with Scott as Murdoch starts to move ahead. Barker wants to wait for the posse. As Murdoch continues on, Barker pulls out his rifle. It’s all about to crack wide open now. Poor Murdoch is starting to catch on. Barker is grasping now, trying to convince Murdoch that Johnny would be better off in Mexico, that he was never really cut out for this kind of life. Murdoch sounds alarmed and replies, “better off, without my son?” The tone in his voice says it all!
- And now it comes out – the truth that Barker has nothing. That he has no job and that he owes money. He starts grovelling. He’s trying so hard to convince Murdoch. But Murdoch has finally seen through it and continues ahead.
- Barker aims at Murdoch but then notices that Evans is up above taking aim at Murdoch as well. He spins and shoots – taking out Evans. Murdoch hears the shot and has his gun out and ready. Barker takes aim at Murdoch again, but he can’t seem to do it. Murdoch lowers his gun.
The End sequence
- Back at the ranch, Barker is now in cuffs, lamenting how things ended up.
- Murdoch tells Barker he’d go to Sacramento – likely to speak on his behalf, but Barker doesn’t seem convinced and tells him to just write him a letter sometime.
- Scott wonders how someone who devoted himself to the law could fall so fast; but Murdoch also wonders that maybe it didn’t happen that fast, and says that when a man’s alone and has nothing and no one to have faith in him, that maybe he loses faith in himself. As Murdoch says this, the camera pans to Johnny, and he gets a look on his face, that maybe just hints at how he used to live his life – alone, with no one to have faith in him.
- The episode closes with Murdoch, Scott and Teresa heading into the house, and Johnny lagging a little behind, staring in the direction where Barker and the deputies rode off.
- James Gregory as Marshal Joe Baker
- Robert Doyle as Al Evans
- John Milford as Deputy Thompkins
- Jack Garner as Deputy Gibbs
- Lloyd Haynes as Frank
Some final thoughts:
- I noted above in the scene where they deliver Evans to the guardhouse that Johnny is nowhere to be seen. That made me wonder, so I decided to go to the script (thank you Charlene and Lancer Gateway for preserving these wonderful documents). Apparently the script describes how Johnny leaves, explaining that he has a stray calf to bring in. It’s just a tiny bit of dialogue, but it explains why we don’t see him riding in with everyone else.
- At the guardhouse Barker asks Murdoch who built it, and Murdoch tells him “the Spaniards”. That line always leads me back to my curiosity from the pilot – did Murdoch purchase the house and outbuildings all as one package with the land, or did he build the hacienda himself. Either way, it takes quite a bit of money to build something or buy something that vast.
- James Gregory had quite a career. I remember seeing him in so many shows – he’s certainly not hard to miss with that unique gravelly voice. His IMDB page shows his career going back as far as 1948, and he was just everywhere – in 1968 alone he had 9 TV appearances, this episode of Lancer of course being just one of them. Always a favorite actor of my father, we watched him in just about everything he ever did.
- So I did go to the script on this one – I haven’t done that before, but it was driving me crazy when Evans mentioned Pasco – I just couldn’t figure out if it was Pasco or Pascoe – so I cheated by looking at the script. As I continued to look over the rest of the script I was pretty surprised to see that it mentions Johnny smoking when Scott approaches him at the dance. Kind of interesting. Wonder if the network changed that. I’m curious now to see if there are other mentions of Johnny smoking. I kind of recall seeing it before. It wouldn’t seem unreasonable.
- Lloyd Haynes is also someone that I remember fondly. One of my family’s favorite shows was Room 222, where he played the beloved history teacher. Another actor with such a great, although short, career. It was sad to see that he died so young of lung cancer. He was only 52 years old.
- This is one of my favorite episodes. Sure it’s more Johnny-centric, but Scott and Teresa are involved as well; and we all know how this tends to taper off in future episodes. It showed a lot of promise of what to build on. I am going to finish reading the script to see where there are other changes, but I have decided that I will only go to them when stuck with something that I can’t hear clearly, or only when I’ve finished watching and discussing the episode. I wouldn’t want anything from the script that didn’t make it to the screen to accidentally sneak into my episode discussions.
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