Original air date: October 1, 1968
Synopsis – Ten year old Ben Wallace has just lost his mother. Because Ben’s mother was a Lancer employee, Murdoch feels some responsibility for the boy and makes arrangements for him to be placed with a local family. All seems fine, until Ben’s father, Morgan Price shows up. Ben has never met his father but has an idealized sense of what he believes his father is – the only problem is that Morgan Price is an outlaw. A deal is made with the sheriff of Blood Rock to allow Ben one hour of time with this father – without repercussions of an arrest, but the sheriff double crosses Murdoch and Scott and intends to take Price in custody. The plan backfires, and one of the Lancer men is in jeopardy.
Now for my thoughts, as I watch the episode.
So mount up, here we go —
The Grave sequence
- The episode begins with a solemn scene with the Lancers, and a young boy, surrounding a new grave as they listen to a Preacher as he intones all the virtues of Laura Wallace and how she leaves her son Ben behind.
- Murdoch, and then Scott as he follows Murdoch’s gaze, notice that there are men watching from a rise above the grave site.
- As they are getting ready to leave, Teresa asks about the men and Murdoch explains that he’s pretty sure it’s Ben’s father – Morgan Price the outlaw.
- Scott consoles Ben, and tells him that he will be going to live with the Taft’s. No idea who they are, or how they fit into Lancerland, but apparently they are nice people.
The Dining Room sequence
- This is the first time we see the Lancers (and I include Teresa in that grouping) sitting together at the table having their dinner. The pilot was too fraught with angst and action for them to sit and have a meal together (at least for us viewers to see).
- Is it just me, or does Johnny look like he’s really hungry as he takes a big bite of something.
- All of a sudden dinner is interrupted as Morgan Price and his men barge into the house. Johnny gets to his feet first, but he’s not wearing a gun at the dinner table so he’s not about to start anything with 2 guns pointing at them; Scott gets about halfway to his feet. Murdoch tells them to settle down. He obviously knows it’s Price.
- I had to listen closely a few times, but I just love how you can hear the tiniest little jingle of Johnny’s spurs as he sits back down.
- Morgan Price drops a bag of coins on the table and tells Murdoch that it’s $5,000 – the same amount as the price on his head. He wants Murdoch to make sure that Ben gets the money – and reminds everyone that Ben is his son. Maybe not the brightest bulb, because now two of his men are wondering how they can cash in on some of that. That’s a lot of money to just throw on the table, and they figure he can pony up another bag of cash – for his son.
The Taft Barn sequence
- Ben is in the barn, taking care of some chores. He has a wood carved gun in his waistband. Scott rides in to the barn as Ben is pretending to draw his gun. He tells Scott that someday he will have a real one.
- Scott tells Ben that the Taft’s would like to adopt him, but Ben gets upset because he says that’s for people that don’t have kin, and he knows he has a father.
- At just about the same time the two thugs, Harris and Baylor, that had earlier talked about kidnapping Ben have now pushed their way into the barn, and there is a fight between the two of them and Scott. Scott is knocked out – I mean it was two against one.
- The two men tell Ben they are there to take him to his father.
The Campfire sequence
- Murdoch and Scott are tracking Harris and Baylor, and see a campfire in the distance.
- As Baylor and Harris fill up Ben’s head with nonsense about his father wanting to see him, Scott calls out, “freeze”.
- Murdoch’s reply to the two thugs is priceless – see for yourself:
- But, as we all know, you can’t trust thugs – they go for their guns. But Scott and Murdoch are ready, and they wound both of them. They decide to take them to the Sheriff in Blood Rock – and take Ben home.
- So from the pilot we know that the closest town to Lancer is Morro Coyo. This is the first time that we hear of another town close by – but Blood Rock is never mentioned again in the series (I know I’m may be jumping ahead, but I don’t recall it ever being mentioned beyond this episode).
- Honestly, the way Ben always says “sure” – argh! (shakes fist in the air). I just find it so annoying.
The Blood Rock sequence
- OK – now we are getting somewhere – this is where we can get our teeth into this episode, because so far it’s been kind of tame.
- I am not a fan of this sheriff at all – he’s up to no good. Trying to get into the good graces of a kid by telling him he’s buying him some candy (creepy) and then – oh, what a surprise the store is closed. In his little heart to heart with Ben, the sheriff puts the idea in his head that his father is hiding out not that far away.
- Of course now Ben has to sneak out of the hotel, where he’s staying with Murdoch and Scott, to try to find his father. But oh wait, the sheriff catches him – lurking, just waiting for the kid to make that move. Again, using his manipulative creepiness to find a way to let Morgan Price know his son is in town he takes him the saloon. Queue the outlaw’s girlfriend, who is working at the saloon and joins the conversation with the sheriff and Ben.
- Seeing how Ben is so determined to know who his father is, and maybe in an effort to discourage Ben from idealizing his father, Murdoch makes a deal with the sheriff. One hour of amnesty in the town for Morgan Price and Ben to meet. The sheriff at first pretends to not like the idea, and then (surprise) decides to go along with it.
- Scott volunteers to take the news of the deal to Morgan Price. But there’s a hitch in the plan (well actually 2). First, Scott finds out that he’s to remain with Price’s gang until Price gets back from town safely, and second, we suspect that the sheriff is not going to hold up his end of the bargain.
- As the sheriff rounds up his men to lay in wait for Price, we hear a horse ride up – and it’s Johnny! Now, Johnny is no fool – and he knows something is up, even referring to it as a “mouse trap”. The deputy relieves Johnny of his gun, and at the sheriff’s bidding takes him to the saloon in “protective custody”. In the meantime, right under their noses, Morgan Price sneaks into the hotel.
- Quick jump to the camp, where Scott pulls some fancy trick and escapes!
- Back in Black Rock, the sheriff is watching from the saloon, still waiting for Morgan Price to show up. His men are spread around town, rifles at the ready.
- At the hotel, Price wakes Ben and tells him that he is a friend of his father’s and that his father is dead. Price knows he’s been double crossed by the sheriff. There is a bit of concurrent back and forth between scenes, but this is the gist of it. Murdoch helps Price sneak out of the hotel.
- Still stuck in the saloon, Johnny tells the sheriff that it looks like he’s been stood up. When he asks who he’s waiting for they hear a horse ride in to town. Johnny realizes it’s Scott just as the sheriff raises his gun – Johnny grabs the sheriff’s arm and the shot is redirected up in the air.
- Johnny yells a warning to Scott, but one of the deputies gets a shot off and Scott falls from his horse. Johnny pulls him to relative safety behind the skinniest of trees – but thankfully the sheriff yells for his men to hold their fire.
- Meanwhile as the sheriff commands his men to search the hotel and town, Murdoch is still trying to sneak Price away. But Price, dauntless, does something out of character and breaks a window to steal a jack-knife for Ben. This blows his cover, and after he tosses the knife to Murdoch runs for it – getting gunned down in the street by the sheriff (who is still a creep).
- As Price’s girlfriend cradles his head, Ben comes running and Price’s last words are for his son.
The End Sequence
- As Ben gets ready to leave Lancer to go live with the Taft’s, Murdoch gives Ben the $5,000 his father has left for him, and says that he could spend it as he wishes, or give it Mr. Taft to hold for him. Ben agrees that Mr. Taft can hold on to it for him.
- Johnny tells Murdoch that he thought he would give Ben the knife, but Murdoch explains that one day he will, when Ben is old enough to realize just how much it cost.
- J.D. Cannon as Morgan Price
- Barry Williams as Ben Wallace
- John Anderson as the Sheriff
- Charles Dierkop as Harris
- Tracy Morgan as Kate
- Rayford Barnes as Baylor
- Jack Bannon as Tacker
- Michael Stearns as Teague
- Jon Lormer as Preacher
Some final thoughts:
- When I refer to “the Lancers” in this post and throughout this blog, that includes Teresa (just for simplicity). When referring to the three men together in a sequence I will more than likely just use “Lancer men”.
- Has anyone else ever wondered how many people are buried on Lancer land. This is the first that we see, but it won’t be the last. Murdoch Lancer is very generous with his land.
- While waiting for Price to arrive, Murdoch looks at his pocket watch. Is this the same pocket watch that he gives Johnny in the next episode (jumping ahead here); and could it be that just because of a prop we see this episode and the next one in what I believe is the wrong order. Think about that for a minute. The timeline of a watch? Once again, something we’ll never know, but it’s making me wonder.
- This one was difficult for me to enjoy. After that fabulous pilot, it feels like a bit of a let down. It takes place outside of the ranch, and it revolves around Ben and his father, not the family dynamic that we should have gotten after we witnessed the signing of the agreement, and more importantly (to me anyway), the fact that Johnny decided to stay and become a Lancer. It feels completely out of place as the second episode.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – especially about my pocket watch theory – sometimes I can read too much into something, but that just seems like something that the continuity team (did they have them back then) would have noticed.
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Lots of Lancer love!