Marshal Dillon's Boot Hill preamble goes well with the episode, and it almost seems like Dillon is actually looking back on the events we are about to see. Maybe that's the idea of these introductions, but for the first time, it really seems to fit this concept. Dillon is angry, almost bitter, calling the dead men "trash" as gazes across the graveyard.
The episode gets underway with a couple of liquored-up Texas drovers riding wildly into Dodge City, causing panic to the citizens. Dillon rushes out the saloon and demands their guns. The drunken drovers don't care for that idea, but Dillon is in no mood for their shenanigans, and he conks one drover on the head and shoots the other as he tries to draw on Dillon (how much has Dillon had to drink...why doesn't he have his usual diplomatic way of diffusing such situations?). Dillon soon finds out that the dead man's brother, Howard Bulow, will no doubt be coming along to revenge the killing...and Dillon is warned that Bulow has no qualms about shooting him in the back.
Dillon is apprehensive as he waits for Bulow's appearance. Every stranger seems a menace to Dillon, and every shadow is a potential danger. The writing and direction is fabulous in this sequence, as we can see the nervousness of Dillon as he constantly scrutinizes his environment. He comes close to cracking-up, to the point of threatening an innocent but suspicious man. Suddenly, Bulow does appear, and informs Dillon that he will indeed shoot him in the back, sooner or later.
For once, Dillon does the right thing, and immediately puts the troublemaker in jail. It might be pointed out, that this time Dillon himself is threatened and not someone else in the town...could that be the difference in Dillon's behavior?
Very soon, Bulow's trail boss, Jacklin, shows up and demands the release of Bulow. Dillon refuses, and Jacklin promises to return with the rest of his drovers to get Bulow out of jail. For the moment, Dillon stands firm.
But when Jacklin does return with his 14 rawhiders, Dillon is faced with a dilemma...either free Bulow, or have a pointless shootout with the drovers, in which case, they will not only free Bulow but also burn the town after Dillon is dead. Again we have some excellent film-work here...slowly, Dillon realizes he has to back down, and does. Bulow is freed.
The next morning, Dillon visits hotel-keeper Riesling (who had ridden out earlier to tell the drovers that they were still welcome in Dodge City, even though they had threatened to burn his hotel!). Bulow had followed Riesling into town, and takes a shot at Dillon's back from upstairs. There's a moment of hide-and-seek in the hallway, but finally Dillon nails Bulow with four bullets...it's a good thing for Dillon that Bulow is a terrible shot, as he had the drop on Dillon twice!
This was an excellent episode, as we see a side of Dillon that we rarely see...a Dillon that is nervous, at times helpless and even scared. Dillon and Chester face a violent world that's too big for them to handle alone, and there's not even a glimpse of Kitty or Doc to provide support. It was a well-directed Sam Peckinpah screenplay and one of the best in this first season.