Season 5 Episode 7

Duel at Judas Basin

Aired Tuesday 7:30 PM Jan 30, 1961 on ABC

Episode Recap

Cheyenne, season 5, episode 7, "Duel at Judas Basin" combines the trinity of Cheyenne, Bronco, and Sugarfoot in one episode. This 'summit meeting' provides an exciting episode for young fans knowing that the bad guys didn't have a chance. But one gets framed for murder, jailed and broken out; another is working undercover to infiltrate the bad guys, is almost taken prisoner, gets away, and all the while Cheyenne has to hold it all together as the three fight the local law, Crazy Horse and the bad guys.

In the opening scene, Bronco Lane disturbs the peace around the chuck wagon with a wild ride into Cheyenne's campsite, making a running dismount as Indians chase him into the trail driver's camp. Bronco picks off one of the Indians and recovers a 'brand new' Winchester repeating rifle. Bronco does his fancy holstering spin as he puts his Colt away. Bronco and Cheyenne haven't met one another since Laredo, as they recall. Cheyenne hires Bronco on for $40 month on this trip to Ft. Benton. (Note the interesting appearance of Max "Jethro" Baer, Jr as Pete, a likable work hand.)

Tom "Sugarfoot" Hutchins, working as a surveyor for a wealthy gentleman cattleman, Mr. Stewart, places a bet with his boss as he shows off his pistol accuracy, but is framed for murdering his boss man by the master mind of the gun-running trapper Hanson, who aims to foil a 10,000 acre land deal that will interfere with the his illegal dealings with Indians. Brewster is thrown in jail. Upon hearing this, Cheyenne, knowing this runs against Brewster's character, goes straight to defend his friend in jail in Benton.

The Army finally reveals to Cheyenne Bodie that Bronco is an undercover US Marshall working with the military to stop gun running to "hostiles." Before that was revealed, Bronco had appealed as a sassy mouthed trouble maker for Cheyenne, who had knocked Bronco to the wall with a big round house for accusing him of taking their slain boss's money. Bronco also gets to both over act his 'cocky swagger' and do some fancy shooting, making a can dance in the air, as he goes double under cover and works for the bad guys -- the real ploy for his antagonistic ways toward Cheyenne.

Cheyenne breaks Brewster out of jail that night just in time to avoid the hanging judge. Meanwhile, Bronco is on the inside and finds out none other than Crazy Horse is the buyer of the rifles. This makes an earlier reference to "General Custer" vouching for Cheyenne ring a toll on the viewer's mind.

With Brewster free, his own plan of staking squatter's rights claim to the essential pass for gun running is set in motion, bringing the show down, first with the law who are acting for trapper Hanson; then with the bad boss man himself with brave Bronco in tow, in a hard spot, and unable to flee. Bronco is soon exposed by the crooked stage driver, but flees under a hail of rounds fired, jumping into a convenient swamp. Cheyenne and Brewster split up to help Bronco. Some close action occurs and Bronco gets away but Brewster is caught and has to talk himself out of trouble then and there, yet back into even more trouble later, with Crazy Horse. So, Bronco is free, and Brewster is prisoner. Still, Cheyenne is the silent hunger, waiting patiently to pounce, after a deal is made with Crazy Horse thus proving the crime.

Hanson's quiet wife is pretty Yellow Moon, a Cheyenne squaw, which seems to give him protection from Crazy Horse, along with his value as a gun runner. The final show down begins with a powder keg exploding as Cheyenne shoots it after Brewster rolls it out into the open. Crazy Horse takes flight without the added weaponry. Trapper Hanson surrenders and is arrested.

In the denouement, Cheyenne receives an Army dispatch from Custer summoning him to be a civilian scout for the 7th Calvary as they move into the Black Hills. Cheyenne notes that is where the rifles would have been headed. He invites Bronco and Brewster to ride along. They do, and as the show ends there is a bit of competitive riding as the three ride abreast going into a tight turn where first Cheyenne cuts through brush then Bronco ducks a tree limb on the inside to get ahead – racing together toward danger and into history – on the way to Custer's Last Stand… or so it could have been, which would have been an end to the trilogy of Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, and Bronco Lane, but gladly, it was not, or was this episode a glimpse of the way it ended for the threesome?

Overview of production values: As happened in the old days of TV shows, a few heavy rocks jiggle like paper Mache, the ground is too flat, and the studio backdrops are not to be stared at, but the stars shine brightly as our heroes act out high principles we fans learn to live by. I know I idealized them. Some stock western footage is interlaced with the various scenes, keeping the mood believable. The music was never a hindrance, better than many over-done western movies of the era. The persona of the actor, the value of the writers, and the hour long develop of both made this episode and this series timeless. Enjoy it.