Ben and Little Joe stop in Los Robles for a few beers and a night's rest before continuing their delivery route. While at a saloon, a rude customer and his friend demand immediate service and bully the waitress. Ben tells this customer that he does not appreciate his behavior and manages to avert a potentially ugly fight (all over beer). The customer and his friend leave.
This customer turns out to be John Walker, the autocratic boss of Los Robles who has cast fear in every one of the locals. When Garth questions why he didn't fight, Walker explains that "he just bought him (Ben) his last drink."
Walker nearly does make good on his plan to kill Ben; hiding behind a wagon, Ben walks outside to close a business deal when he is shot in the back. Before lapsing into unconsciousness, Ben manages to fire back, fatally wounding Walker. Joe immediately summons a doctor, who manages to stop the bleeding but is unwilling to remove the bullet lodged in his back.
Joe keeps a vigil at Ben's bedside, and the only one to show any notion of courage is the town priest, Padre Xavier. You see, the residents are so afraid of the Walkers that they will not admit Ben shot Walker in self-defense, fearing retribution from John's son, Jed.
Xavier explains that the Walkers have always ruled Los Robles with an iron hand and have killed anyone who dared to stand up to them. Now, with John dead, Jed will surely be out for revenge, warns Xavier. Sure enough, Jed is hell-bent on revenge and wants Ben arrested. Now!
It isn't long before a Los Robles deputy arrives to arrest Ben (who lies in coma). Joe brushes the deputy aside and decides to speak with Jed himself. Unlike countless others who have dealt with the Walker family, Joe refuses to be intimidated by young Jed's threats.
Later, Jed arrives with a posse, demanding Ben's arrest. Ignorant and uncaring that Ben is clinging to life, Jed again demands the Cartwright patriarch's immediate arrest, and adds that if Joe does not comply with his wishes within 24 hours, he plans to kill the residents of Los Robles, one by one, until Ben surrenders to authorities.
Meanwhile, Jed's foreman, Garth, declares that Ben shot Jed's father in cold blood, hoping that Joe will kill Walker and that he (Garth) will run the Walker ranch.
With time running short, Joe and Xavier try to mobilize a few citizens to fight Walker and his posse. However, Joe winds up having to teach the cowardly townspeople about courage, and at first, only the waitress from the saloon (in the first scene) agrees to stand up to Jed and his henchmen.
While the others are debating whether they want to fight the Walker gang, Joe finds the doctor and demands that he operate. The doctor admits he deliberately wouldn't operate, hoping that Ben would die within 24 hours and avert a potentially ugly confrontation between the Cartwrights and the Walkers. The doctor completes a successful operation.
Jed, after learning that Garth had lied to him, comes up with an alternate plan if Ben is not placed in custody by the deadline. Since he has enough dynamite to blow up Los Robles, that's what he's going to do.
One by one, several of the citizens decide that Joe might be making sense and that it is OK to at least try to fight Walker and his band of thugs. Joe concocts several schemes to take out members of Walker's army (including one where the waitress plays easy to get with some of the thugs, calling them into the back room under the promise of a good time before Joe knocks out the baddies).
The deadline arrives, and much to Jed's chagrin, Joe refuses to blink. Jed restates his demand for Ben's surrender and arrogantly states it's his town and he is the sole voice of the people. But then Joe has his adversary look around to find all of the residents pointing guns at Walker. His men, one by one, drop their guns, even Garth.
Now woefully outnumbered, a smug Jed - calling everyone cowards - apparently decides to fight alone. Ben comes out of the hotel, and Jed tries to shoot at him. He misses, and so does Ben, but Joe manages to gun down Walker.
Walker doesn't die immediately. Unlike past Bonanza episodes, where the bad guys often admit they were wrong, a dying Jed rants that Los Robles is his town and he rules it.
In the coda, the grateful people of Los Robles thank Ben and Joe for helping them standing up to Walker and his men. But it's Joe who returns the gratitude, by thanking all of them and Padre Xavier.