The Carlton is swarming with excited men, who seem to be preparing to go off hunting. One of them (surely not by chance) is dressed in an outfit strikingly similar to the popular idea of Sherlock Holmes--although Conan Doyle would not start publishing his stories until the 1890's. Hey Boy brings Paladin a newspaper with a headline that explains the situation--a lady bandit has struck again. This time she has robbed a stagecoach, killing the driver and making off witha $50,000 payroll. Quite an achievement. Paladin is contemptuous of the amateurs who propose going after her; the woman will be caught by professionals after the $5,000 bounty. He makes it clear that he doesn't think much of this woman--he considers her to be like an animal. Funny thing, that--he's run into dozens of male criminals, but has only considered the most psychopathic among them to be "animals". On the other hand, Paladin is aware that, for that much money, the bounty hunters are not going to be too fussy about how they bring her in. Instructing Hey Boy to prepare his gear is only a matter of form; Hey Boy already knows that Paladin is going to get involved.
The next scene is quite a spectacular one; the camera is looking up from the base of a very high hill, as a tiny, skirted form appears and springs down the slope, rolling and sliding most of the way. It's also a sneaky shot--as the woman hastens to conceal herself in the scrub at the bottom of the hill, a horse and rider appear at the top. The natural assumption is that it's Paladin in pursuit, but as the woman crawls along the base of the hill, Paladin suddenly springs on her. There's a brief wrestling match before Paladin throws the woman down and grabs for the chains on his belt. Paladin seems deeply offended at the very notion of a woman robber, and even more outraged that she struggled with him--which is no more than any male fugitive would do. He demands that she put on the chains, and then, before she's scarcely had time to lift her hands, bellows at her to get it done. The woman, naturally, had expected him to simply shoot her. They both tuck into the scrub and keep still as the horse and rider come down the slope and pass by. The horseman had shot her horse out from under her--although she seems fairly certain that he had been aiming at her, not the horse, and just fired too hastily. Paladin informs her that thestagecoach company wants it's money back, and besides, thebounty will be higher if he brings her in alive (which was not mentioned in the newspaper article, or at least not the part he read).
They head for...somewhere. Presumably the nearest town with a lawman in it. The girl rides behind Paladin on his horse. They stop for the night at what looks like an abandoned shack, or perhaps it's a waystation--there are bunks, a table and chairs, and candles. Although it's quite light when they stop, they seem to just sit around for a while--it's getting dark and Paladin lights a candle as the girl grouchily asks if she's to be left chained all night. Paladin releases her. We get a good look at her grimy, stained outfit as she lights a candle on the mantel, then squats to put together a fire. Paladin, who is using a blanket to cover over a window, sees what she's doing and yells as he jumps over to put the fire out. (Or perhaps it just didn't catch properly.) He angrily asks if she's trying to summon all the other hunters out there with the fire. By the expression on her face, that thought hadn't even occurred to her--she probably just wanted to get warm. As Paladin turns from her, she grabs a large chunk of wood from the fireplace, and cracks him with it. Every other time we've seen Paladin hit like this, he drops like a rock, but this time he's hardly affected at all. The fight is as hard and intense as any he's had with a male opponent--the girl does her best to throttle him, before he finally throws her across the room. He narrowly avoids getting clobbered as she grabs up a sturdier piece of wood (looked like an ax handle or something) and knocks her to the floor. This next part probably raised more than a few eyebrows. The girl's rump is at center stage, with Paladin grabbing at it, and finally ripping off her skirt. Underneath, however, she is wearing a pair of trousers ripped off at the knees (which may have been a disappointment to some viewers). She scrambles up, ready for more. Paladin finally gives her a hard backhand that knocks all the fight out of her, and he quickly chains her to a bunk before she can recover.
The following morning, Paladin wakes her up before she's quite ready. The horse is ready to go, and he suggests that she prepare them breakfast--which makes no sense at all. He already has water poured out, and is nibbling at what looks like a flat piece of cracker or hardtack--standard travelling fare, presumably. The girl is outraged, as well she should be. When have we ever seen Paladin make a male prisoner cook a meal? And really, it's not a very bright idea to have a prisoner who is doing his or her best to escape, play around with fire, boiling water, or a skillet. What makes men think that women exist solely to wait upon them? Paladin counters that it's the same thing that makes a woman think she can get away with anything, simply because she's a woman. This is uncalled for. The girl--Paladin never troubles to find out what her name is, although she's called Sandy in the credits--has not said or done anything to indicate that she expects to get away with what she's been doing. She's been behaving like any other fugitive. Paladin goes on to say that he would have killed a man who attacked him as she did the night before. This seems to be something of an exaggeration. I can't see Paladin killing an unarmed man for trying to escape. Wound him, perhaps, but not kill him. I suspect that some of Paladin's anger is at himself--he wouldn't have been so foolish as to unchain a male prisoner. He asks about the man that she killed. From her answer, it sounds as though the stagecoach driver made the very foolhardy assumption that his opponent wouldn't use her gun. While she is ultimately responsible for his death, as she shouldn't have been robbing the stage in the first place--it sounds as though she shot him in self defense, rather than a cold-blooded murder. She points out that she has killed no one else--a statement that she doubts Paladin is able to make. Paladin testily states that she knows nothing about him--but that comment did hit near home, didn't it, Paladin? He flips out his card, and she glances at it, unimpressed. He pushes the slab of cracker towards her and hands her a cup of water, warning her that they have a hard day ahead of them, but the girl has no intention of taking her enemy's bounty--she pours the water over the cracker (which will probably cause it to spoil in short order). Furious, Paladin snatches her chains to lock them again.
Some time later, as they ride along the top of another hill, the girl throws herself off. Paladin promptly dives after her, and they have another good fight. He ends up with a scratch on his cheek, but it's a miniscule one, which he might possibly have gotten from thrashing around on the ground. What they really should have gotten was a nice set of goudges down the side of his face. He calls her a witch--the standard comment when a woman won't cooperate, the "B" word not being permitted on television at this time--and actually threatens to break her face, which is not a threat I've ever heard him use before. The girl is exhausted, as is Paladin (we'll find that they have probably been riding most of the day), but this is no place to rest. There's an abandoned waystation further on. The sound of a nearby horse's whinny freezes both of them. Paladin rushes back up the hill to his horse. It doesn't even occur to him that she might try running the other direction, and in fact, she doesn't--but she takes several precious seconds to snatch off her neck scarf and tear it in at least two pieces. One piece she left wedged in a tree right near the top of the hill. This made me wonder if the men following were actually colleagues. We see three men in pursuit, that become two men just moments later, with no explanation. They find the bit of scarf, and keep going. The girl later hangs another piece on an overhanging branch. When they pull up at the stationhouse, the girl is asleep against Paladin's back, and he, surprisingly gently, wakes he and has her dismount.
The amenities are far poorer than they had the night before, but the girl isn't concerned. Paladin, astonishingly, thinks that no one will look for them here. Why on Earth wouldn't pursuers check out the one shelter on the trail? Even without the girl's scarf markers, the horse has been leaving tracks. There is no indication that either Paladin or the girl eat or drink anything, although the girl must have been pretty hungry and thirsty by then. This time, Paladin doesn't make the mistake of unchaining her. She speculates on what Paladin will do with all that money--perhaps marry one of those pretty San Francisco ladies. That's what "his kind" likes--a woman who will nurture his ego. Paladin agrees--naturally, a man will want a woman who will make him feel better about himself. The girl scornfully states that she's never met a man who needed help in that department, and Paladin points out the obvious--she doesn't have a good opinion of men, period. Then again, no man has ever given her a reason to think otherwise. Her brothers had spent her childhood beating up on her. Nothing is stated openly, but her pause when she says, "when I got my growth...." leads to the ugly speculation that her brothers left off beating her and went on to molesting her. This would explain a lot. Paladin, who is usually sensitive to nuances, lets this go right past him. She makes the interesting statement that giving a woman a gun puts her on an equal footing with men--which, to a certain point, is quite true--guns are a great equalizer. Paladin looks as though he understands this, but he's not about to agree with her. When she states that she has no intention of trying to act "feminine", he counters that she couldn't manage it anyhow--which is the kind of low insult you make when you're losing the argument. He drops even lower, calling her a freak. Really? He's dealt with other women criminals. The jewel thief, for instance, who was quite comfortable handling a gun--Paladin sent her on her way with an expensive piece of jewelry. The lady counterfeiter, who had no qualms about ordering her henchmen to kill. Or the aristocrat who coldly plotted the death of her her cousin and her brother, in order to get her hands on the family fortune. Paladin did not consider any of these ladies freaks. He considers this girl a freak solely because she has chosen to enter the harsh, rough-and-tumble world of the bandit--a world usually inhabited exclusively by men (and does Paladin consider them freaks, too?). It seems likely that she chose this way because her only other real option would have been a brothel, and with her developed hatred (and fear?) of men, that would have been her last resort. The girl responds to Paladin's very ugly comment by laughing and stating that she's been called plenty of names--but if you look closely as she pulls her hat down, there's a spot of moisture on her cheek. Perhaps Paladin notices this, or hears something in her voice, because his anger at long last drops away. He admits that men can be nasty--but they can also be kind, and perhaps she has never given them the opportunity. Paladin's comment is rather trite--if she's never had any good experiences with men, why should she open herself up for another possibly bad experience?
Paladin finishes off their unsettling conversation by wrapping a blanket around her and tucking it in. The girl is astounded at his consideration--which gives you an idea of what her life's been like. She abruptly asks him how one goes about learning to be a woman. Paladin looks at her in astonishment, then moves closer to her. What the lesson would have been, we'll never know--the door bursts open, and the two bounty hunters leap in, guns at the ready. Paladin hands over his gun, and is cheerfully prepared to hand over the girl, as well. As one of them demands the keys to her chains, Paladin shoots him with his little derringer. The second man gets off a shot, winging Paladin in the arm, before the girl snatches Paladin's gun and fires, at point blank range. She and Paladin then face off. She notes that Paladin has been wounded, then states that she is unhurt--rubbing at her belly as though she hadn't been quite sure. She candidly admits that she left a trail for the bounty hunters, hoping to slip away as they and Paladin confrontedeach other. Paladin makes it plain that, while she may kill him, he will also kill or wound her, leaving her to the mercy of the elements and the bounty hunters. The girl hesitates, looking very confused. Paladin looks confused, too, as she starts babbling almost incoherently. Paladin's solitary act of kindness in wrapping a blanket around her seems to have gotten blown way out of proportion--again, this gives you an indication of her miserable existance. She offers to share her money with him if he will stay with her (and she's accumulated quite a haul).Perhaps they could go to Mexico--she knows a place that is beautiful and far away from where any will search for them. She'll even give him all the money,if he will just give her time to find her womanhood...with the gun in her hand, I can understand why Paladin didn't blast her hopes outright, but it was rather cruel of him to allow her to kiss him. She leans into him as though she has finally found home. A second kiss is interrupted by the yell of a sheriff. He and his men are coming in. Paladin bellows back that he's not letting anyone inside until he can see them clearly--which means waiting for daylight. The girl seems quite content with the situation, although we'll never know for sure just how they passed the rest of the night. The following morning, Paladin steps outside. Somehow, the two dead men managed to make their way outside--and cover themselves with a blanket. How could Paladin have risked doing that? From clear across the way, Paladin somehow recognizes that one of the three men is indeed a sheriff, and he calls them over and inside. The girl is waiting quietly over by a wall. She has somehow managed to get her face washed, and looks reasonably tidy. The sheriff asks if she is the fugitive, and Paladin, pausing slightly, says that she is. The girl does not seem surprised--she gives no gasp at Paladin's seeming betrayal, nor does she look or speak pleadingly. She stands, frozen, as the deputies put chains on her ankles. One comments that she makes a pretty package, while the other says that said package will soon be at the end of a rope, making a vulgar impression of a person being throttled. Paladin punches this one (Hal Needham, who knows how to take it) and coldly suggests that they get on with the job. The girl finally makes her appeal as she comes alongside Paladin--what if she said that she loved him? (Considering that she is now in official custody, this comes a little late.) Paladin is aware that she might think that she loved him, but, given an opportunity to escape, she might realize otherwise. The girl begins to weep as she goes out the door, and continues on as the deputies lead her over to their horses. The sheriff views this girl, who has endured stresses that would have crushed many men, and dismisses her with "Ain't that just like a woman?" Paladin concurs, but his comment is not as trite and chauvanistic as the sheriff's. It is an acknowledgement that she is, indeed, a woman--not a freak.
Boone did an excellent job with this one--both acting and directing, and Natalie Norwick, who has put in a fine performance on every episode she's been in, was superb.