Branded

Season 2 Episode 18

This Stage of Fools

Aired Sunday 8:30 PM Jan 16, 1966 on NBC

Episode Recap

Jason arrives at the Gold Nugget Mining Company to get a job, only to discover that it's gone out of business. As he walks away, he sees that Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth is performing readings at the town meeting hall. Men throw eggs at the sign, saying that Edwin's brother John was a traitor and a killer. There's another sign up for an experienced bodyguard at the Palace Hotel, and Jason goes to the designated room. There are five men in line, and Edwin's manservant Hannibal escorts the next one in. He tells one applicant that he's too young, but the youth insists on talking to the employer first.

The first applicant comes out with Edwin, and tells the others that it's the brother of the man who shot Lincoln. He dismisses the applicants as loafer and bumpkins, saying that he has no work for them. Edwin goes back to his suite, and everyone leaves except Jason. Jason goes in and introduces himself, and Edwin recognizes him as the Coward of Bitter Creek. Edwin warns Jason that people spit on him and Jason will get his share as well, and Jason tells him that it isn't new to him. He admits that he has a mortal enemy: turns to the mirror, and says that it's Edwin Booth.

That night at the performance, Jason stands guard at the door and demands that everyone check their firearms. The MC introduces Edwin, and many in the audience boo. Edwin comes out and begins reciting. One man throws a rotten fruit at him, and Jason shoves the man down and tells him to listen to genius. Edwin continues and when he finishes, everyone applauds.

Afterward, Jason tells Edwin that everyone has left the theater. Once he goes, Edwin asks Hannibal what he thinks of Jason. Hannibal says that Jason is quality and Edwin agrees. The manservant asks when they're going back to New York, and Edwin says that they'll go back when he finds the man he's looking to kill.

Jason is sleeping lightly at 2 in the morning when Hannibal comes in and tells him that Edwin is gone. Going out, Jason finds Edwin. Edwin asks how Jason goes on, and Jason tells him that he doesn't feel sorry for himself. The actor puts up his fist and demands to know if Jason considers him a coward. Jason tells Edwin that his fight is back East where the audience deserted him, and Edwin says that he's come East to seek vengeance on the man who went unpunished for Lincoln's assassination. He laughs and walks away.

Edwin continues from town to town, performing in each one. The three of them arrive in Gold City and a man, John J. Parker, sees them arrive. The sheriff tells Edwin that they have a welcome for him, and Edwin calls out Jason. When the man calls Jason a coward, Jason punches him and a fight breaks out. Edwin notices Parker watching, while the townsmen beat Jason. The actor then steps forward and says that he requires a more experienced bodyguard, tells Hannibal to look after Jason, and walks away.

Jason wakes up at the hotel as Hannibal tends to him, and the manservant gives Jason his final payment and Edwin's thanks. Hannibal explains that Edwin doesn't know how to carry his burden like Jason does, and that Edwin plans to kill Parker. Jason recognizes the name as one of Lincoln's bodyguards the night of the assassination. Parker left his post, and Edwin blames him for not stopping John. Edwin had a Pinkerton detective track Parker there and hopes to smoke him out for advertising for an experienced bodyguard. The search is the only thing that keeps Edwin going, and Hannibal wonders how he'll save the actor from himself. He asks Jason to make Edwin go back East where he belongs. Once Jason leaves, Hannibal takes out a newspaper clipping with a photo of Parker.

At the opera house, Parker claims that his name is Dude, and says that he protected Grant, Crocker, and the McCormack family. Edwin, recognizing him, tells him that he's hired and meets Parker's fee. He asks to see Parker's pistol, secretly takes out the bullets, and tells him that he'll advance Parker the money to get a bigger gun. The actor hands it back and says that they should inspect the theater together. As they go up the stairs, Edwin says that John reached Lincoln the same way.

As Jason heads to the theater, a man attacks him and Jason easily knocks him out.

Edwin and Parker go up to a private booth and Parker admits that he has the shakes. The actor tells him to step out for a drink like he did, and addresses him by name. When Parker tries to run, Edwin draws his sword cane and explains that Parker was a policeman who volunteered for White House duty to avoid the draft. He demands to know where Parker was when John shot Lincoln. Jason comes in and tells Edwin not to do it, and Parker shoves Edwin away and leaps down to the stage. He twists his ankle, and Edwin jumps down and draws his gun.

Jason tells Edwin to put the gun away, and Parker says that he's crazy. As Edwin hesitates, Jason asks him if he's mad or so sane that he'd welcome madness to blot out the tragedy. Edwin insists that Parker must be punished, and Parker sobs in guilt. Jason tells Edwin that Parker is a poor contemptible excuse for a man, and asks Edwin if Parker is worth the price of revenge. The actor puts his gun to Parker's head, and Jason asks him if that's how he wants to end the story with a cheap melodrama. After a moment, Edwin loses the gun.

Later, Hannibal tells Jason that Edwin is going back to the theater in the east. The old man says that he'll be remembering Jason, and Edwin comes down and thanks Jason for his advice. He says that he's fleeing from the sins of his brother, and thanks to Jason he hopes to look forward to a rebirth for his career and his life of vengeance.