Comedy is not something Gunsmoke pulls off well, but this episode was just loads of fun to watch. The darkly serious Quint is revealed to have a dry sense of humor and a deeply compassionate side as he helps the young nephew Haggen with his quest.
This is also the first episode in which Quint is referred to as the acting marshal, although he has assisted Matt Dillon on cases several times before. Without Dillon's presence in most of the episode it gives the supporting characters a chance to really shine.
Eliab makes a touching and interesting bit character. His love of his uncle and the commentary he makes about trapping the animals whose pelts he harvests reveal a boy of great compassion and sensitivity balanced by earthy humor and practicality. You couldn't help but like him.
The friendly feud between the two Haggens, so reminiscent of many sibling rivalries, kept me smiling. You just couldn't take their argument seriously at all. Ken Curtis' acting in this episode was right on target; it's not the first time the audience gets to see his flexibility in terms of serious and comedic roles but it's certainly the best. His comedic attempts to evade his young nephew and the widow are highlighted with some rare thought provoking moments.
I'll never be able to look at an earlobe without hearing the characters reiterate that it's just "the hangy down part" Eliab wants to shoot.