The episode opens with the business manager for Menken attempting to nail a poster advertising a play on a tree on the Ponderosa. The three Cartwright brothers catch him in the act and make him think they are going to hang him for trespassing. This is all a big act, of course, but the little man doesn't think so. He offers the best seats in the house for the play that night, which he drops as Hoss eyeballs a tree limb to hang him from. Later, after the man has run for his life, Joe tucks the tickets into his gunbelt, thinking he has hidden the fact from Adam.
Joe and Hoss sneak out of the house to see the show that night, only to find Adam waiting for them at the opera house. Adam, however, has not come to drag them home, but to join them in watching the play, the Mazzepa. Menken stars in the play as the female hero and, at one point, is stripped down to a body stocking, meant to feign nudity, which is of particular interest to Hoss.
Later, at a saloon, he asks both Joe and Adam, "Was she or wasn't she?"
Both respond, "Was she or wasn't she what?"
With a blush and a sheepish smile, he replies, "naked".
While the boys all think that Ben would be displeased with his sons going to such a show, they are shocked to see Ben come into the saloon with none other than Adah Menken on his arm. She comes in and tosses her garter to a throng of adoring men, but is disturbed to see John Regan, her old flame and former boxing heavyweight champion of the world, rise from the crowd. He holds up her garter with a smirk. She then has Ben quickly escort her to her hotel, insisting that she is tired.
Later, Ben guesses why Adah wanted to leave the saloon so suddenly. He and Adah are old friends, so he knows her history with Regan. He counsels her to forget about Regan as he is no good and he reminds her of his past bad treatment of her, including beatings. She asks that Ben not interfere and he leaves her with the champagne, pheasant and lobster that he ordered from back east when he heard she was coming to town. He then makes arrangements to stay in town to protect her.
The next day, the boys are concerned that Menken "sure works fast", when Hop Sing reports to Joe that their father stayed in town, that he and Menken had champagne in her room and that she is coming to dinner that night. Adam determines, "Guess we better have a little talk with our Pa," as the brothers decide that Ben doesn't have any experience with women like Menken. That night, at dinner, the boys are cool toward the woman and tell Ben they want to speak with him in private before he takes Menken back to town.
When Ben repeatedly asks the boys what is wrong, Hoss finally articulates their concerns by saying "She's an actress!" Ben assures his boys that he can take care of himself. The sons are not convinced, so Adam decides he needs to talk with Menken after her performance that night.
Adam's meeting with the actress ends with him saying that words are not necessary for him to communicate what he came to let her know and, with that, he kisses Adah passionately. We next see Adam as he exits the theater and encounters his anxious younger brothers. When they ask what happened, he merely replys, "None of your business."
Joe decides that means his older brother didn't make out so well, so he goes to see Menken in her room. He follows the hotel bell hop into her room with flowers and champagne and begins to woo the actress. She, however, calls his bluff and acts as though she is going to give him a bit of an education. This pretty much scares Joe to death before Adah tosses him to the floor and tells him off for coming there with the ideas he had about her. Joe is sufficiently chastised and the two end the encounter with Adah saying he is sweet and they are quite a family.
When there is a knock, Adah and Joe think it is Ben, so Joe hurries out the back way. Unfortunately, it is Regan. He saw Joe come there and he is there to beat him to a pulp. Adah gives Regan some jewelry to try and buy him off and get him to leave town. Regan takes the jewels and asks if Ben has asked her to marry him yet. She says he has no such intention, but Ben enters and says that is exactly his intention. He then tries to get Regan to either draw a gun or get out. Regan wants to fight, but Ben orders him out at gunpoint, instead. Regan's parting words are, "I hope you know what you're doing, Cartwright".
Ben and Adah then have a heart to heart. She tells him she won't marry him because she would "rather have half a life than come between you and your sons".
Meanwhile, Regan reaches the street to find Joe getting ready to mount up and go home. Regan asks if his name is Cartwright. When Joe says it is, he tells the much smaller man who he is and that he should tell his father that when he asks. Joe says "Sure", with a shrug and turns away. Regan then hits him from behind, knocking him into an alley, when he proceed to beat Joe nearly to death. Later, Hoss finds his unconscious brother and carries him into the hotel lobby. Ben is just preparing to check out when Hoss brings him in.
Adam arrives at the hotel, obviously having been told what has happened to Joe. The doctor is telling Ben that there may be damage that could blind Joe. When Joe comes to, Ben asks him to blink twice if he can see him, Which Joe slowly and painfully does. Adam wants Ben to ask who did this to him, But Ben says he knows and the three leave Joe with the doctor and head for the saloon.
The Cartwrights find Regan at the saloon and Ben challenges him to a gunfight. Regan shows him his hand, bruised from the many blows he pummeled on Joe and says that he couldn't fire a trigger; if he wants to settle for what he did to his boy, he'll have to do it with his fist. As Ben starts to take off his gun to accept the challenge, Hoss does the same and gives a nod to Adam to restrain Ben so that he can fight Regan, who is every bit as big as Hoss if not bigger.
Ben isn't happy that Hoss is fighting Regan and it doesn't look as though Hoss has much of a chance at first. After Hoss has been knocked down multiple times and bloodied, Adam yells to wrestle him instead of trying to box. Hoss follows the suggestion by grabbing Regan around the torso and squeezing the stuffing out of him. Then he proceeds to land a number of blows, repeatedly knocking the villain down, picking him up and hitting him again. As Hoss is yelling breathlessly at Regan to "Get Up!", Adah rushes into the saloon and pushes Hoss away. She then embraces Regan and tells him everything will be alright.
Ben, Adam and Hoss go outside and, as Ben wipes blood off Hoss' face, Hoss says he can't understand Adah with a man like that. Ben says she loves Regan and that there are many kinds of love. They then head to the hotel to see about Joe.