Season 1 Episode 20

The Fear Merchants

Aired Saturday 7:30 PM Jan 30, 1960 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • Not even the Cartwrights are able to save Virginia City from some deplorable acting, stereotyped ethnicity, and a mickey mouse script.

    Watching this again recently, I would have to rank it among the worst of Bonanza's episodes that I have seen. The positive message of this episode in standing up for racial injustice was diluted with poor acting, haphazard plot twists, and one-dimensional characters. The firt glaring problem is the stereotypical portrayal of the Chinese, replete with language skills and accents that don't match up to the alleged amount of time they've spent in the United States. The notion that the Chinese would collaborate not to interfere with Jimmy's pending execution due to their own financial and personal involvement in Virginia City also seems highly unlikely, and horribly selfish.
    Another aspect that made this plot so bizarre was Jimmy being in the same place as Sally (what was she doing hanging out at the livery?) and then her father showing up two minutes later, and then her sister arriving on the scene exactly 30 seconds after that, just in time for her father to have accidentally blasted Sally. It appeared as though they were all just hanging around outside the stable with nothing better to do. Yet no one else in town heard the shot and came running?
    Then there's the issue of Mr. Ridley, who accidentally pulled the trigger on his own daughter. He wants to believe he didn't do it, but he knows he did, and at the drop of a hat his emotions are manipulated back and forth, back and forth, between the reality and what people who weren't there tell him. It makes the audience want to scream, "Enough! Make up your mind, meely-mouth!"
    Transparent acting on everyone's part in this episode - with the exception of Pernell Roberts as Adam - is what really tanks the plot. Sally's sister, Amanda, is portrayed as bitter and defiant at the inquest involving the shooting, showing no remorse for her sister's death. When Adam comes to talk to her, all the ugliness in her evaporates in roughly 15 seconds. She then convinces her father in about half that time to come forward with the truth (hence another change of mind on his part). At the end of the episode, Amanda's father gets blasted in the back by one of Fulmer's men right in front of her, but she seems unphased by the violent death of what was the last remaining member of her family, and is able to calmly walk over to the sheriff and pronounce Jimmy's innocence. Amazingly, the entire town turns on Fulmer immediately following this declaration by Amanda and the mobs that were about to vote him into office instantly turnn and trample his election posters, so I guess they were just fickle, too!
    The bright side to this episode was that it is so awful, it makes for some good comedy.
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