I love this episode. I know that they did the whole Kitty-being-kidnapped thing time after time (after time after time after time), but this really is one of the better ones.
The episode opens with Breck Taylor, a young lawyer from the east, stepping off the stage in Dodge City. His first stop, of course, is the Long Branch, where he challenges Matt’s authority to throw Sled Grady out of town. Breck decides to defend Sled in court, and manages to get him one more night in town. Unfortunately, Sled uses his allotted time to plan a robbery of the Long Branch, and when Kitty walks in on him, he forces her to come with him. When Matt discovers Kitty gone in the morning, he immediately suspects Sled, and tells Breck as much. So Matt and a guilt-ridden Breck set out to find her. Meanwhile, Kitty makes several attempts to escape from her violent—and lustful—captor. Things come to a head when all four end up at a farm house, and Sled tries to escape by using Kitty as a human shield. His plan obviously doesn’t work, since Kitty lives to be kidnapped dozens more times, but I won’t spoil the surprise solution.
“Breckinridge” has quite a few merits. As I said before, it is one of the best Kitty kidnap episodes. The development of Breck’s character is nothing short of amazing. The writers manage to fit his history, goals, moral and intellectual traits, and all the other attributes of a well-developed character into the hour long show without making the story seem awkward. The Sled Grady character was just as well developed.
Kitty’s strong personality comes across really well in this episode. For once, she is allowed to make escape attempts of her own (and intelligent ones, not just trying to run away when no one is looking) instead of just waiting for Matt to come rescue her. I’ve always liked it when this kind of thing happened, partly because it was such a rare occurrence. I’m sure it would have been more common, because she could obviously handle herself well in these situations, had it not been for the 1950-60s stereotypical female TV character. Not that Kitty didn’t break the mold, but still.
All this is great, but the best scripts and acting can be ruined by details, whether there are too many or not enough. “Breckinridge” hit a perfect balance between the two. From Hank having to spit out his corn husk gag before speaking to Matt, to the elderly couple Kitty and Sled meet on the road (the woman mumbling about “baggage... running about with the likes of him... those two are trouble... I knew it the moment I laid eyes on them”), to the farmhouse kitchen stocked with the most essential and time appropriate ingredients and utensils, the details make the episode.
And finally, the show has a great twist at the end. I mean, it's Gunsmoke, so you expect Matt ride up and be the knight-in-shining-armor and save the day, but in this episode, he comes across as, well, human, and just has to let things play themselves out.
Overall, a superb episode. Very original, with wonderful writing and acting. And the best part? It’s in black and white, so you can pretend that Kitty’s dress is not that hideous shade of chartreuse that is shown in the colors! :)