Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 5 Episode 27

Alice

1
Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Mar 17, 1962 on CBS
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

8.0
out of 10
Average
5 votes
  • Another excellent episode with an interesting premise: just how does a wild town react when it grows past its beginnings? Jeannette Nolan, although only in one scene, does a marvelous job.

    9.5
    Some of the opening teasers are so-so, but this one is great. A very staid young woman enters the Carlton, looking about. She bumps into Paladin, dropping a card onto his sleeve. Paladin is a bit bemused to find that it's his own card. A moment later, a lovely young thing walks past, greeting Paladin by name. We don't actually get to see the young woman's expression, but it's one that Paladin is very familar with: This fancy-dressed fop is supposed to be a gun for hire? Paladin sarcastically describes the sort of man she was no doubt expecting to see--which sounds like the sort of character you could find in any spaghetti Western. The young woman, Maya Ferguson, despite her obvious misgivings, keeps her chin up and states her business. Her mother, Alice Ferguson, had sent her Paladin's card years before, telling her to seek him out if she ever needed help. Alice, a businesswoman from Codeyville, Arizona, and sent her daughter East for schooling at a young age (just how young, I wonder?) Maya had never come west before, at her mother's insistance; their relationship was conducted strictly by weekly letters. But now, suddenly, the letters have stopped, along with the money for her care. Travelling to Codeyville, she found no one who even knew her mother's name. Paladin has recalled who Alice is, although he never heard a last name before--or that she had a daughter. He immediately agrees to journey to Codeyville, without any mention of payment. Maya mentions one other thing: in her last letter, her mother had told her for the first time that she was known as "Blue-Dollar Alice", and Maya wants to know why. Paladin gives her a considering look, and says that he'll tell her later. The prim young woman bids him to remember at all times that she is a lady. Paladin points out that a lady should not bring up the notion that a man might not act as a gentleman. They arrive in Codeyville. Paladin observes a building, obviously a saloon by its design, all boarded up. Maya is not nearly as grown-up as she pretends to be; she smugly points out that all the saloons in town have been closed, and wonders if Paladin would have made the trip if he had known. Paladin ignores this and walks her into the hotel. The clerk, Briggs, recalls Maya from her earlier visit. Paladin mentions that the town has changed considerably from when he was there; half of it tents instead of buildings, cattle herded through the streets, rough men amusing themselves, violence and death taken for granted. Briggs states with some pride that they have grown beyond all that, and adds that the town forbids the wearing of guns in public. He gives them keys to their rooms and slips away, presumably to carry up their bags. Maya is surprised to learn that Paladin had been there before, and Paladin finally tells her how he had come to know her mother: she had hired him to kill a man for her. Obviously she had not stated it so clearly before Paladin arrived in Codeyville; once he realized it, he refused the job. Alice apparently reconsidered, and she and Paladin became good friends. Maya is outraged; her mother was a lady, even if she did control mines and ranches. She would never stoop to hiring a man to kill for her. Paladin doesn't even bother to argue.

    Briggs (before or after carrying their baggage) slipped out of the hotel and beckoned to a man preparing to enter the church. (Presumably it is Sunday morning, although not necessarily.) He whispers urgently to the man, who decides to skip church today. He waits in the hotel lobby until Paladin comes down, and introduces himself as Morgan, the town banker. Paladin seems familar to him, although he cannot place the name. He tells Paladin flatly that Blue-Dollar Alice died several months ago, penniless. Paladin, sensibly, wants to know why they didn't mention this little fact to Maya before. Morgan claims that they didn't want her to suffer, ignoring the fact that a mother vanishing off the face of the earth would be much harder to deal with than a known death. If they had shown her a grave, she would have shed some tears and headed back East to plan out her future. Paladin coldly states that the man is a liar, and heads out to start his investigations. Morgan consults with the town preacher, Reverend Biggly. Biggly may be in on whatever is going on, but he does have a conscience; if Paladin asks him, he will tell the truth. Morgan protests that if Paladin and Alice's daughter know that, they will have power over most of the town's men. It doesn't occur to him that Maya and Paladin might not want such power, and, in retrospect, I'm not sure just what power he's talking about, anyway. Morgan argues that the men of the town have worked hard to build up Codeyville; they've brought in good women and are now raising families. Without the slightest notion of how ironic he sounds, he states that they will kill to maintain what they have. Morgan slips out one door just before Paladin knocks and enters by another. Reverend Biggly knows Paladin's name, and Paladin recognizes what that means. He has one question to ask, but before he can do so, Biggly insists that he hand over his guns to comply with the town's rule. Paladin is a little startled; usually it's the sheriff who is responsible for such matters, but he is agreeable, only insisting on the right to reclaim them if the townspeople start getting rough. Biggly wants to know what Paladin has to do with Blue-Dollar Alice. She is simply a friend; Biggly can figure out what that means by a look in his Bible. This angers Biggly; what right does a gunman who consorts with THAT kind of woman have to instruct him? Paladin mildly points out Biggly's spiritual leader had no problem forgiving THAT kind of woman. This blow strikes home. Biggly unbends enough to tell Paladin that Alice is alive and safe, but Paladin's suspicions have been growing. He can understand that a newly "respectable" town might want to whitewash its wild background, but there seems to be a lot more to this mystery. Biggly agrees that there is more, but will not speak of it.

    Back at the hotel, a whole group of women are seated in the lobby, on a circular seat. All of them have expressions remarkably similar to Maya's prim demeanor. As Maya comes downstairs, one of the women intercepts her. There is something they have to tell her about her mother. (And, judging by the anticipation on several faces, they are going to take great pleasure in destroying the girl's illusions.)

    Morgan meets up with Paladin outside the saloon, and awkwardly allows as how he lied to Paladin previously--but no explanation as to why. Paladin, who, for whatever reason, had withheld his own recognition of Morgan, now speaks up. The name used to be Ferguson, and he used to bus tables at Alice's saloon. Paladin never understood what Alice saw in the man, but she had married him, secretly. Ferguson had his own reasons for keeping the marriage secret. I'm not sure what the laws would have been in the U.S. territories in the 1870's, but I know that it used to be that a woman's property, whether earned or inheirited, automatically came under her husband's control when she married. Ferguson had siphoned off as much of Alice's wealth as he could, to the point where Alice tried to have him killed. Paladin, interestingly, states that both he and Alice made a mistake, Paladin's, presumably, being that he didn't kill Ferguson when he had the chance. (This whole bit is rather confusing. If Ferguson had lived in Codeyville and worked at the saloon, then what was the point in changing his name? Even if he left town for a while, after the incident of "that night", when he returned, most of the locals would recognize him.) Morgan manages to push the matter aside, and persuades Paladin to follow him. Alice is living in a little house on one of the back streets. As Paladin walks behind the saloon, one of the other townsmen viciously clubs him from behind. They view their work with satisfaction and walk away. It's hard to say just how long Paladin was unconcious. He comes staggering out to the main street in time to see Maya and all her baggage being put on a stagecoach. (Apparently neither Maya's Eastern schools nor her mother's letters taught her that a lady does not abandon a companion without a word of notice.) Paladin might have still been groggy from the blow, because his next act was foolish, to say the least. In the most spectacular stunt I've ever seen on this show, he dives across the street, swings up on one of the lead horses, and yanks back so hard that the horse stumbles and falls, while Paladin springs clear. (Beautifully done; it's really hard to tell where Richard Boone ends and the stuntman--probably Hal Needham--begins.) Maya does not react in the slightest as Paladin opens the door and lifts her down, but once he mentions that her mother is indeed alive, she indicates that she no longer cares. Having clung to the unrealistic notion that her mother was a perfect paragon, she has now become convinced that her mother was thoroughly bad. The stagecoach driver, at this point, aims a shotgun. Quite reasonably, he has no intention of letting this crazy man abduct one of his passengers. Paladin grabs the gun, bringing the man somersaulting off the box, and hurls the shotgun away. He then angrily marches Maya off to the saloon, while Morgan, Briggs, and a couple other men look on uneasily.

    Paladin rips off the boards over the front doors and leads Maya into the musty, dusty, cobwebby saloon. He yanks the cover off a big gambling wheel. (Apart from this, the remainder of the saloon looks as if it was abandoned as it was, tables and chairs left standing, even bottles on the bar.) Blue-Dollar Alice had owned a whole block of the street, including the saloon, which housed the only honest wheel in the territory. Alice (and Paladin, I'm sure) was aware of the fact that the odds are always with the house, and there is no need to rig the wheel to cheat. An honest house can make plenty of money, and keep its customers coming back. Alice had always been honest, with herself and with everyone she dealt with (with the obvious exception of her daughter, which Paladin disregards). Maya stubbornly refuses to listen. Paladin tries to point out that different places have different standards of good and evil. He hauls her over to see her mother's portrait. Alice had been the only woman in 500 miles when she came to the baby town. Maya would not have had the strength or the character to cope as her mother had. Alice had opened the saloon, where the rough men could forget their troubles over a drink and some gambling. And her. The implication is that Alice was a prostitute, but of course the self-righteous "good" ladies of the town would put that interpretation on it. It might, in fact, have been true, but a woman selling liquor and running a gambling establishment probably would not need to sell herself, as well. She did like her customers, bringing them comfort and making them laugh--and she was not evil. The town had come to hate her not only because she represented the past they wanted to forget, but because she knew too much about them. Maya has no time to argue; the men have come into the saloon. (In spite of the comments on "law and order" there is not the faintest glimpse of a badge throughout this episode, not even when Paladin caused the stage to crash, which could quite reasonably have earned him a criminal citation.) As Paladin has refused to be reasonable, they will have to deal with him the hard way. Morgan signals the others to jump in, but Paladin manages to nail him first. After that, Morgan stays well out of the way as the fists fly. Briggs shows some concern for Maya, but quickly leaves her when his colleagues are knocked down. Morgan, seeing that Paladin is handling himself well, darts out of the saloon. Running to the stage, he snatches up the retrieved shotgun, ignoring the driver's cry that the barrels are full of mud. He slips in the saloon by another door (without pulling off any boards) and makes his way to the second floor. Paladin, still fighting, is at his mercy, but instead Morgan ducks into a nearby room. Paladin manages to throw the men clear and grabs a moment to catch his breath. The "respectable" townsmen converge on him, one with a sharp stick of wood broken off from a chair. Another has smashed off the bottom of a bottle, rendering it into a viciously jagged weapon. As Paladin braces himself, his gunbelt suddenly comes sailing into his hands. Reverend Biggly has had enough. He stands tall, sober in black, and full of righteous indignation. A loud shot grabs everyone's attention, and Paladin dives for the stairs. As he reaches the first landing, the upstairs door opens and a woman comes out, staggering a little, but quickly recovering. (She must have heard Paladin and Maya downstairs, but did not call out; one can envision her standing by the door, listening as Paladin attempted to reason with her daughter.) Morgan had attempted to shoot her (and how did he think he would get away with that?)and, with the blocked barrels, suceeded in killing himself rather messily. She looks over the situation, and catches Maya's eye. With a defiant look, she pulls off the white wrapper she has on, revealing a standard, gaudy saloon dress underneath, but she acts as though it is a Worth original. She greets Paladin with pleasure, and the other men with mockery, before making the situation clear to Paladin. She pulls a manuscript from a hollowed-out rail--her memoirs. The townsmen had been horrified at the notion, and locked her up when she refused to destroy the manuscript. Everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that she could always write it again--and, if they asked nicely, she might change the names. It is not mentioned, but it seems quite possible that Alice decided to write her memoirs to earn some money after her husband swindled her out of what she had. Alice laughs at Briggs' concerns, but less mockingly, as she reminds him of a night when he had defended his wife's less than pristine reputation by beating up a whole alleyful of men. She makes the interesting comment that men are half heros, half scared little boys. Paladin snorts with amusement, which I can't blame him for; it's very hard to visualize Paladin as a scared little boy. Paladin obviously respects this "bad" woman deeply. She's got a difficult task ahead of her, and she nerves herself up and goes to it, approaching her daughter and taking her hand. It's hard to say if Paladin's Shakespearean quote was spoken out loud, or merely thought--the second part was definitely just his thoughts. Alice backs away, but Maya, finally accepting her mother for what she is, goes to her. They head upstairs. One can only hope that Alice remembered in time that there was an unpleasantly dead man in her room, that presumably was Maya's father. (And is Alice going to be honest about that, do you suppose?)

    It would be interesting to know if Alice reopened her saloon. I'm sure that Paladin would ensure that the widow would reclaim all her holdings. And after all, a saloon, honestly run, and with a good lawman to keep order, would bring a lot of income to a town. It would also be interesting to know just how many Wild West towns tried to block out the truth of their origins. It seems to me that some of them would point to those origins with pride, as they would demonstrate how well they had improved themselves.

    Quite a fascinating episode, with the "bad" woman who isn't, entirely, and the "good" women, who aren't, entirely. The characters were very well played, with Jeannette Nolan carrying the honors, in spite of the short screen time.
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