It starts rather surprisingly. It's an unpleasantly soggy night out, and a wet and weary messenger is attempting to complete his mission, only to have Hey Boy rudely shutting him out, covering window after window as he walks along the Carlton's dining room in search of the recipient of his telegram. Meeting up at the door, Hey Boy confiscates the message, and then tells the poor man that he doesn't deserve a tip because he didn't hand over the message personally! Fortunately Paladin, seemingly concentrating on his meal and his lady, is quite aware of Hey Boy's uncharacteristic spitefulness (well, let's hope it's uncharacteristic) and hands over a tip with a stern admonition to give it to the messenger.
It takes Paladin only a few moments to deduce who has sent the wordy message, dripping with flattery and one teasing insult. By an odd (Hollywood) coincidence, his dinner partner, Viola, is the same lady who was present when Rivka Shotness imposed her presence on Paladin. She is amused by the telegram, and interested to know that Rivka is getting married, and that Paladin is requested to serve as best man to the bridegroom, who has no family or friends available to perform that service. However, while previously she had been gracious and understanding, sending Paladin on his way to assist a young damsel in distress, here she is more interested in her dinner, and is quite shocked when Paladin elects to leave immediately. (Without an apology, either. Perhaps Paladin has been getting tired of her.)
In the previous episode, we only got sight of the Shotness' kitchen. Here, Paladin comes riding to what looks like a nice little ranch spread, with a decent sized house and barns in the background. Paladin is understandably startled when Nathan jumps out the front door armed with a gun. We quickly learn that Billy Buckstone, who, due to Nathan's brave testimony, should have been hanged six months ago, had managed to wangle a second trial with a more bribeable judge. Since then, Buckstone has been waging a war of nerves, nipping at Nathan and his daughter here and there. The upcoming nuptials will provide Buckstone with a wonderful opportunity to wreak havoc, so Nathan has decided to send the affianced couple to San Francisco to be wed, while he remains to protect his property. The same community that had knuckled under to Buckstone's bullying, then cheered Nathan for standing up to him, are now back to their timid self-centeredness. It's no concern of theirs if their good neighbor is being harrassed. Paladin, of course, immediately offers his services, but Nathan is insulted; he asked Paladin there as a guest and friend, not a gunfighter. Paladin points out that Rivka is certainly not going to run off and get married without her father present. Nathan grumbles about these disobedient American children, not to mention Rivka's choice of husband, a young man who foolishly lets Rivka have her way in everything. Paladin is rather amused by the whole situation, but, learning from a worried Nathan that the couple had been gone for three hours on a shopping trip to town, decides to go in himself and see if there's trouble.
In town, Rivka places the first of several parcels in her father's wagon. Presumably to indicate her change from young girl to engaged woman, she is no longer wearing her hair in braids. As she turns to fetch another basket, a man drops a frog in on top of the first one. Billy Buckstone seems to be pulling the sort of obnoxious pranks you would expect from a young boy, not a grown man. I would not have thought that Rivka was the type to start screaming at the sight of a frog--but perhaps she would not have done so if she had been alone. However, having a man at hand, she calls urgently for Fievel to come to her rescue. A diffident young man, loaded with packages, and dressed in an outfit that instantly proclaims his heritage, makes his appearance. (Mike Kellin, like Richard Boone, possesses the knack of looking either quite handsome or outstandingly ugly, depending on what's wanted.) A whole gang of men promptly surround him as he politely tries to get around them, then knock him to the ground. Rivka, who screeched at the sight of a frog, instantly leaps to his defense, but is held fast by one of the men. It would seem that one of the bones of contention here is that Fievel had managed to claim the "juciest" available woman around. (As in the previous episode, there seems to be no hint of anti-Semitism. On the other hand, it seems likely that Nathan would have had something to say if Rivka had set her sights on anyone but a nice Jewish boy.) Buckstone drops a gun in front of Fievel. Clearly, no one really expects him to do anything with it, and no one comments on the "fairness" of a man lying on the ground trying to confront a man on his feet with his gun already in hand. Naturally, it is at this point that Paladin makes his presence known, although he looked as though he might have been standing there some little time. He tosses his card down in front of Fievel, where Buckstone can see it as well. (I wonder how much time the man spent practicing that card toss?) The next instant, the gun is in his hand, causing everyone to back away from the young couple. Paladin, always fair, offers to face Buckstone properly, holstering his gun and then sinking menacingly into his gunfighter's crouch, like a cat about to spring. Cowardly, like all bullies, Buckstone and his cronies slink away.
An interesting point here: Paladin came to town because of Nathan's anxiety, the couple having been gone three hours already, and yet, when Paladin arrived, Rivka had only just completed her shopping. So what was going on? There are several possibilities. The male viewers would think that Rivka, as women will, took far more time over the shopping than was needed. The women viewers would think that Nathan, as men will, underestimated the time necessary for Rivka to look over the goods and make her selections. Many viewers might think that the young couple, as young couples will, took the opportunity for some private time together, as the horse slowly ambled into town.
Back at the house, they all share a meal in the kitchen. Nathan and Fievel wear their usual hats, but Paladin has been given a yarmulke to cover his head during the meal. He did not wear one the first time we saw him at their table; perhaps this indicates that they now consider him a member of the family, or his status as Fievel's best man. They don't really say what Fievel does for a living. He's obviously the scholarly type, even bringing his book to the table, and perhaps he's planning to become a rabbi. He challenges Paladin's use of his gun. Paladin answers slowly; he seems quite uncomfortable. Possibly if Fievel had been pushier he would have started getting angry. He refuses Rivka's suggestion that he teach Fievel to use a gun. Fievel casually stands up. Borrowing Paladin's gun, he steps to the door and begins accurately picking off targets. Paladin leaps to his side, staring in astonishment. He of all people should have known better than to make assumptions about a man based on appearances. Fievel mildly comments about Paladin's use of oils on different parts of his gun, and quietly returns to the table. I suspect that it was this display that convinced Nathan to go ahead with the wedding.
The reception will be held outside, and various couples arrive and happily make themselves at home. Paladin is a little irked that the men, while carrying their weapons to the party, promptly lay them aside. If anything happens, none of them is going to interfere. Nathan is quite certain that something is going to happen, but he and Paladin agree that once the ceremony begins, nothing will disrupt it. Inside, Paladin exchanges quips with the rabbi, who no doubt rides circuit around the area, as lawyers, judges, and clergy did when necessary. The witnesses are called in. From their attire, I would guess that they were not Jewish, and were, no doubt, fascinated by the ceremony. Paladin, his head properly covered, summons Fievel, who has a rather "let's get this over with" expression, until he reaches the doorway, at which point the best man has to shove him through. He takes his place under the canopy, with the rabbi in front and Paladin behind. Nathan escorts his daughter to the canopy, and just as she begins circling around her groom, the chaos begins. Buckstone and company have shown up. The ceremony progresses to the sounds of yells, screams, and crashes, as the gang knocks over the food and dishes laid out. A lesser woman might have burst into tears, but Rivka gamely completes her circling, and the rabbi begins chanting. (I wish they had provided a translation for the benefit of the witnesses--it sounded lovely.) Buckstone responds to being ignored by doing still more. One man, out of the whole guest list, finally tries to speak up, but Buckstone quickly cows him. There is no indication of anyone trying to retrieve their guns. Wine is given to the couple, and Buckstone breaks one of the windows, and ends by tossing a torch through. Paladin is on the verge of heading outside, but there is the matter of the ring. The witnesses, taking their cue from the indomitable wedding party, stand their ground, although they must have been getting very nervous by then. Furious at Nathan's refusal to react, Buckstone finally has his men start to set the house on fire. The guests, while doing nothing themselves, all start to scream warnings to Nathan. Nathan finally speaks up, and the rabbi, knowing that things will rapidly get worse if nothing is done, puts the ceremony on "pause". I loved how Paladin distanced himself from the sacred ceremony by formally removing the yarmulke, handing it to Rivka, and bowing before diving out the door and hurling himself on two of the bully boys. Nathan and Fievel were close behind. Fievel wasn't seen to do very much, but he did land at least one shrewd blow. Nathan proved that he had learned more than marksmanship and tactics in the Czar's army (may a black ear take him).
Once they had seen how three unarmed men dealt with the Buckstone gang, the others belatedly found a little courage and sent the battered bullies on their way. Hopefully, they will keep going, and hopefully the town has learned a lesson, although I wouldn't hold my breath. The three return to Rivka, who looks as though she's been restraining herself considerably, Paladin gets himself re-capped, and the rabbi takes up precisely where he left off. They pay tribute to the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem with Fievel smashing a wrapped glass underfoot. Once the kiss is out of the way, they instantly swing into celebration, Nathan and Paladin beginning a dance, which the newlyweds quickly joined as the fiddle sang. I think Richard Boone must have welcomed opportunities to dance on this show. They all looked like they were having a marvelous time.
An entertaining and educational episode. It would be interesting to know just how, and where, Paladin picked up his considerable store of knowledge on Judaism and Hebrew.