Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 5 Episode 14

Blind Circle

1
Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Dec 16, 1961 on CBS
8.6
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Blind Circle
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An old bounty hunter, Jess Larker, is searching for a rustler named Cabell. Larker is known for preferring to bring back his quarry dead. Paladin is sent to team up with him and try to bring Cabell back alive.

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  • A poignant episode, as Paladin gets a glimpse of a possible future. Hank Patterson, as usual, puts in a marvelous performance.

    9.0
    Apparently the Carlton has been hosting a cattlemen's convention. Two of the men have made their way to Paladin's suite and are pacing around, explaining why they want Paladin to go after an old bounty hunter, Jess Larker. Larker had been on the Cattleman's Association's payroll, more or less, for years, hunting down various rustlers that they had put a bounty on--and usually not troubling to bring them back alive. Now, however, times are changing. Perhaps some of the men in the Association have developed consciences, although it seems more likely that they have developed a desire for "respectability". Whatever the reason, Jess Larker and his methods are no longer welcome. Larker has apparently notified them that he is closing in on a man named Cabell, whom the Association had set a $500 bounty on two years previously--and then forgot about.



    There are a lot of stories about the cattle wars. Sometimes the "rustlers" were merely smallholders who got in the way of the big cattle barons. Paladin, of course, would be aware of such stories, and he regards the cattlemen with contempt. This is made evident by the fact that he remains seated while his guests are on their feet. In fact, the way he's stretched out makes it seem as though he's ignoring the men. He's quite certain that they want him to kill the old man, and the older of the two men indicates that he wouldn't mind if Paladin did so. The fact that they could forget putting a bounty on a man's life shows how casually they arranged for men to die. The younger man, however, tries to make it clear that they want to stop all the killing, and somehow he manages to persuade Paladin.



    Paladin quietly rides up by a campfire where an old man is sitting. Without turning his head, the man bids Paladin to "step down" and share his meal, and the men introduce themselves. Like Paladin, Jess Larker acts in a friendly manner. He calmly accepts the news that the Association has hired Paladin to "help" him bring in Cabell. Although he prefers to work alone, he doesn't try to argue or get nasty about it. He does, however, casually reach for his shotgun, and Paladin instantly draws. Convinced that Paladin has the edge over him, Larker seemingly resigns himself, accepting Paladin's offer to share the duck he had hunted and cooked previously. (Considering the number of times we've seen Paladin munching on beans, it's not surprising that he would welcome a change of pace, and probably Larker as well.) Off-handedly, Larker mentions a boarding house a day's ride distant. He's been told that it's a good place to rest up and get a decent meal before settling down to business.



    Paladin and Larker stand out as they enter the quiet, genteel Madison House. Mrs. Madison does not like dealing with "transients" and she does not greet her new customers with much courtesy. It's fun to watch the three of them interact, with Paladin overriding Larker every time he tries to distance himself from Paladin. Mrs. Madison states that she cannot give them adjoining rooms. Presumably she's just trying to establish her authority, because when Paladin makes it clear that they will have adjoining rooms, and extracts a bill from his wallet, suddenly the rooms become available. Larker hastens upstairs while Paladin signs in. A few moments later, Larker is nowhere to be seen. Paladin tosses his saddlebags in his own room and goes hunting. Finding access to an attic, he climbs up for a look around. Larker is hiding up there, but Paladin doesn't seem to see him. As soon as Paladin leaves, Larker jumps up and goes to the trapdoor. He really should have waited a few minutes, at least. Larker is the only one surprised when he finds Paladin standing around the corner. Since Larker could have slipped out the attic window, Paladin deduces that Cabell is actually inside the boarding house, and Larker had hoped that Paladin would leave the house to look for him. Larker is annoyed, but still amiable enough, and they go downstairs for a meal.



    There's quite a few people staying at the boarding house, introduced by the expedient of passing a bowl of mashed potatoes. Perhaps potatoes are already being regarded as fattening; none of the three women at the table partake, although most of the men do. When Larker takes the bowl, his hands are trembling noticeably, and the shakiness becomes more evident as the scene continues. Paladin surveys the silent group, and essays a comment about the weather. Mrs. Madison immediately informs him that her late husband had never approved of mealtime conversation. This might have simply been Mr. Madison's way to avoid possible arguments and unpleasant subjects, rather than any concern about overworking the digestive system. Paladin quickly gets around her with a simple compliment on her cooking. (The heads of the boarders flip back and forth during their dialogue, like watching a tennis match.) From there he begins sounding out the people at the table, trying to learn their names and what they do. One man is a travelling salesman, another a store owner. Oddly, when Paladin mentions that a third man looks like he might be a trail boss, the man acts as though he's about to leave the table. This, presumably, was a not-too-subtle attempt to focus our attention. Larker suddenly tries to bring Paladin's questions to a halt, knowing perfectly well what he's trying to do. Paladin promptly changes tactics, announcing to the room at large that Larker is a hired killer. The man he's after is there at the table. Paladin makes some rather obnoxious comments about Larker's nature. Larker responds slowly, but finally gets riled enough to stand up and state that, for all his fancy talk, Paladin is the same sort of man as Larker. At this point, Paladin lets that observation slide by without any noticeable reaction. After Larker leaves the room, Paladin makes it clear that if Cabell, whoever he is, wants to stay alive, he had best come to Paladin, who will bring him safely in for trial.



    Later than evening, hearing a steady tapping noise, Paladin gets up and goes to Larker's room. Larker tucks his shotgun alongside his leg, under the table. The tapping noise was caused by his shaking hand, rattling his glass of whiskey against the bottle. Paladin inquires about Larker's habit of killing his bounties rather than bringing them in. Larker's answer is simple; he got into the game when he was well on in years, and he just couldn't afford to take chances. For some reason, Paladin does not mention that the Association is no longer going to be offering bounties. He also does not mention Larker's shaking hands, alluding rather to elderly tigers who turn to mankilling when they lose their speed and strength. With his fading abilities, Larker is either going to go too far with Cabell, earning himself a hangman's noose, or he will leave Cabell an opening to kill him. Larker brushes him off, but when Paladin leaves, quickly returns to his drinking.



    The following morning at breakfast, Paladin finds that the young married couple, the Allysons, are missing. Mr. Allyson had gone out early for the day. A moment later, they see Larker standing at the desk, flashing a wad of cash and wanting to settle his bill. Paladin wants to know where the money came from, but Larker just chuckles, telling Paladin that they will meet again someday, and Larker will tell him a good joke. Paladin does not try to force him to talk. After Larker leaves, Paladin asks for the Allysons' room number. Mrs. Madison tries to evade him, but Paladin is in no mood for it. Cowed, she gives him the number. Mrs. Allyson is rapidly packing. She had given Larker all the money they had as a bribe to leave them alone; she has no more for Paladin. Anyway, her husband had been tried and acquitted. Startled, Paladin learns that Allyson is, in fact, their real name. They had assumed that Allyson was the man Larker was after, and offered the bribe, which Larker gladly accepted. Paladin makes an odd comment about this having given Larker a "free hand". I don't see how this would have made him any freer than he was previously. Before he can say more, a shot rings out.



    Paladin rushes downstairs and past the frightened boarders, to find Larker lying in the dining room, shot in the back. You can clearly see the barrel of a rifle poking through the side door. Apparently Cabell thought that he might pull things off and keep going as he had, because he made no attempt to shoot Paladin while Paladin tended to Larker. As with the attic, Larker had moved too fast, instead of waiting and thinking things through. He's in no hurry to tell Paladin which of the men Cabell is. He wants to get his joke across--that Paladin, in spite of his intelligence, skill, fancy manners and what all, is the same sort of man as Larker. Paladin hears him out, but again does not seem to react too much; he's too anxious to find out who Cabell is. Although Larker says, "You guess" with his dying breath, he also looks behind Paladin and gestures. Paladin immediately dives sideways, comes upright, and fires. The man that slumps through the doorway is one of the nameless, speechless men Paladin had not gotten around to the night before.



    Mrs. Allyson enters the room, staring at the bodies. Paladin extracts the wad of money she had given Larker and returns it to her, suggesting that she might consider paying for his funeral, although there is no reason why she should. Mrs. Madison silently hands him his hat from the rack in the corner, and he quietly makes his way through the crowd clustered around the door. One man comments that "that" kind of man expects that sort of ending, and Paladin finally reacts, pausing with a troubled look on his face, before going on his way.



    Personally, I don't think Paladin has that much to worry about. He's well paid, he habitually travels with letters of credit totalling three thousand or so, and there is evidence that he has business investments. With his vast knowledge and skills, he will surely be able to pay his way when the time comes to hang up his gun. It is a question, of course, of knowing when that time has come. Larker did not. And Paladin has to face the sad knowledge that, no matter how often he denies it, the general public looks on him as nothing more than a hired gun.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Paladin: Larker did your dirty work for years. Now, he's an anachronism and you want him killed.
      Sam: Well, if you've got to kill him--
      Hughes: Sam! We don't want anyone killed, that's just the point! Two years ago, the Association put five hundred dollars on the head of a rustler named Cabell and forgot about it. Now, Larker's the only one who knows him. He's located him and he wants to collect. (Paladin gets up to show them the door.)
      Paladin: So, I find Larker and keep him from killing Cabell. Is that it? And the Association's hands are clean--until next time?
      Hughes: There won't be a next time. There's got to be an end to Larker's way. Now, we know that. And we believe we can stop it. You've got to believe it, too.

    • (Paladin quietly rides up behind an old man at a campfire. The man does not turn his head.)
      Larker: Step down, son. Have some beans. (Paladin chuckles and dismounts.)
      Paladin: Jess Larker?
      Larker: Mmm hmmm. Was the last time I looked.
      Paladin: My name is Paladin. (Hands over his card.) The Association hired me to give you a hand with, uh, Cabell.
      Larker: Well, now, that's right thoughtful of them. But I like to work alone.
      Paladin: So do I. That's not what we're being paid for.
      Larker: Want some beans?
      Paladin: No, thanks. I think I've got enough cold duck for both of us.
      Larker: What a good-lookin' horse you got there. Fast, huh? (Paladin nods.) Think I could take you?
      Paladin: No chance. (Larker casually grips his shotgun; Paladin immediately draws.)
      Larker: Eh, you know, them conventions ain't for me. I'm gettin' too old. The boys are just too good for me. Man like my age can't eat and drink and carouse all night and get up with the chickens. You drink much liquor?
      Paladin: No more than usual.
      Larker: If I was to throw down on you now, I'd give you the edge, wouldn't it? (Paladin nods.) Yep. Give you the edge, all right.

    • (Paladin and Larker arrive at the Madison House)
      Mrs. Madison: You together?
      Larker: Well now, Madam, I wouldn't exactly--
      Paladin: We're together.
      Mrs. Madison: No doubles available. Two singles might, uh, cost you a mite more. Dollar and a half a night? Meals included?
      Larker: Well now, that's a fair price.
      Mrs. Madison: Well, they ain't gonna be adjoining rooms.
      Larker: Well now, don't you trouble yourself about that, Ma'am--
      Paladin: Yes, Ma'am. You trouble yourself. (Extracts a bill from his wallet, ensuring Mrs. Madison's cooperation.)

    • (Paladin intercepts Larker after Larker had hidden in the attic.)
      Paladin: Very interesting old place, isn't it?
      Larker: Son of a gun. Ain't you the smart one.
      Paladin: Stop it, Larker. You could have climbed out that window up there and shaken me easily. You didn't do it, why?
      Larker: I dunno. I never had a head for figurin'.
      Paladin: Cabell's here in this building, isn't he? You had to get me out of the way 'fore you could make your move. You thought I'd start looking for you outside.
      Larker: Well, now, if you're through showin' off, suppose we go down and get somethin' to eat?
      Paladin: All right.
      Larker: And Paladin? Next time around's gonna be for the blue chips.

    • Paladin: Well, it feels like we may have a little rain.
      Mrs. Madison: My husband never set any store in talking at mealtime. Overworks the digestive juices, he said. They've got enough to do as it is.

    • (Paladin has been trying to sound out the boarders around the dining table.)
      Larker: Excuse me, Ma'am. All this talking and shadowboxing is turning my digestive juices over somethin' awful.
      Mrs. Madison: Oh. Mr. Larker is quite right. We've had quite enough talking for one evening.
      Paladin: Well, before we finish our little game, would anyone like to guess how Mr. Larker makes his living?
      Mrs. Madison: I don't think any more conversation is--
      Paladin: Notice the eyes. The animal look about them. Scavenger animal look. That aura of death all around him.
      Larker: Go easy, Paladin.
      Paladin: No takers? Well, then let me introduce you to Mr. Jess Larker. He kills people if the money's right. Right now he's looking at one of you. But when Jess Larker looks at you, he doesn't see a human being, breathing, eating, no. No, Jess Larker sees five hundred dollars' worth of cold meat slung over a saddle horn.
      Larker: You folks will have to excuse me. I'm just a simple man. Easy to deceive by clever talk. My friend here, has almost got me believing, that we don't work the same side of the street. But we do.

    • Paladin: I was just wondering. After Cabell, where is your next one coming from?
      Larker: The Lord will provide. He always has. For a lot of years now.
      Paladin: My understanding that you help the Lord along a little.
      Larker: Well, you see, Paladin, I come into this business late in life. I can't take the chances you young fellows take. You scared of me?
      Paladin: Well, I don't know yet if you're trying to kill me.
      Larker: I'm scared of you. Plenty.
      Paladin: In India, when a tiger's too old to run down deer or fight for game, he turns on a more helpless prey. Man. That's when he's most dangerous.
      Larker: What are you driving at?
      Paladin: Well, I'm just wondering. How much of a chance you're gonna give Cabell when and if you find him. If you're gonna go too far, they'll have to hang you. Or do you give him one notch too much of an opening, he'd beat you to the draw. It'll happen. One way or the other.
      Larker: How many men have you talked to death?

    • Larker: Paladin, we're gonna meet again some day. And when we do, I'm gonna buy you a drink. Because I've got a good joke to tell you. A good joke... on you.

    • (Paladin enters the dining room to find Larker shot in the back.)
      Paladin: Larker, which one?
      Larker: I come in too fast. Always wait, fake, then move. But this time, too fast. Right in the back.
      Paladin: Jess, which one?
      Larker: I got a joke on you. You are smart, high steppin'. Better than I ever was. But we're out of the same stable, Paladin. You and me. You'll get old. And you' got a day coming. And that's the joke. Now you laugh.
      Paladin: Larker, which one? (Larker's eyes widen and he points behind Paladin)
      Larker: You guess. (Paladin spins away and fires at the side door, killing the man who stood behind it with a rifle. Mrs. Allyson enters the room and views the carnage. Paladin bends over the dead Larker and retrieves her money from his pocket.)
      Paladin: This is a little bit short. You paid Larker's rent for one day, that's all. Perhaps you'll also pay for the funeral. Excuse me. (Mrs. Madison hands him his hat as he leaves the room, the other boarders crowding in to see.)
      Simpson: That's the way they live. They expect that. (Paladin pauses for a moment, then continues on.)

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