Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 3 Episode 2

Episode in Laredo

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Sep 19, 1959 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • I recently watched the famed Gregory Peck western "The Gunfighter", which this episode is clearly based on. It's quite interesting to compare the two.

    Having picked up the basic ideas from the movie, Gene Roddenberry took them and ran.

    Paladin turns up in Laredo, Texas, on a foul, wet night unfit for man or beast. Coming into the Euphoria hotel (cute name), he rings for service, and looks mildly disconcerted when he is ignored. The hotel clerk (who turns out to be the owner and/or manager) is tending to another man. It would have been perfectly simple to call out, "With you in a minute" or "Sorry, we're full", but he forces Paladin to walk over to find out what's what. Told to go to the next town's hotel (a mere 57 miles away) Paladin begins a courteous protest and gets slammed in the gut by the man at the table. The man condescends to assist the manager to haul Paladin outside, only to discover that it is NOT a good idea to get Paladin mad at you. Paladin heaves the man (who is not small) clean off his feet and slams him onto the table. The man bristles--this stranger doesn't know just who he's messing with. It's fun to see his chagrin when he realizes that Paladin does not have the faintest idea who Kovac is, and does not particularly care. Paladin, who is understandably in a bad mood, treats the bully to a vigorous lesson in manners. The bully is forced to use the name of his boss to get Paladin's attention, and this time succeeds. It's interesting that Paladin, who a moment before was anxious to meet Kovac's boss, now becomes willing to quietly leave town on the 8:00 stage before the great Samuel Tuttle turns up at 9:00 at the hotel which has been completely reserved for him alone. He heads upstairs, knowing full well that the vicious bully will not leave him alone. Sure enough, a moment later he is forced to shoot Kovac. Once the scary stranger has gone upstairs, the manager dashes out into the rain. He seems to be in an uncommon hurry to attend to Paladin's horse.

    Bright and early the next morning, Paladin comes down and heads for the breakfast table, only to find that it has not been laid for him. Logan, the manager, had wired Sam Tuttle about the death of his henchman, and Tuttle turned up to see about it. Even though Tuttle is aware that Kovac abused his authority and Paladin acted in self defence, Tuttle cannot allow his reputation to be marred by letting Paladin go. Like Gregory Peck's Jimmy Ringo, Tuttle is a famed gunfighter, whose mere presence in the town causes the people there to gather and watch (although they don't have a bunch of boys skipping out of school to peer through the windows). Logan, like Karl Mauldin's bartender, is pleased at the prestige his place will acquire, although Mauldin was satisfied just to have had Ringo there, while Logan is anxious to see some blood spilled. (Apparently he thought Tuttle would settle the matter before breakfast--he never troubled to lay a table setting for Paladin.) Like Ringo, Tuttle is rather disgusted by all the hoopla his reputation causes. A difference here, however, is that Tuttle is not (so far, at least) plagued with reckless youngsters out to make a name for themselves by killing a famous gunman. Tuttle's fear is that, by letting Paladin go, he would be perceived as becoming weak, and THEN the challengers would start coming. Although killing Paladin is a foregone conclusion, he is willing to put it off for a while and invites his victim to breakfast. Paladin, who is under no illusions as to his ability to survive the coming shoothout--although he assures Tuttle that he will kill him on the way down--is agreeable.

    Breakfast and conversation draw out slowly. Paladin must have come downstairs well before the 8:00 hour, and they're still conversing shortly before 10:00. Tuttle rather abruptly decides to get the matter over with--he's getting to like Paladin too much. Paladin assumes a rather exaggerated stance, unlike his usual posture. Presumably he's giving himself every possible advantage. They're interrupted by a knock, and a woman comes in, considerably startled at what she sees. Tuttle promptly pretends that nothing is going on, and invites her in, accompanied by a small boy. "Mrs. Smith" indicates that she only has an hour, and Tuttle promptly joins the boy at the bar for his glass of sarsaparilla. It's the boy's birthday--he's nine, and it has been three years since Tuttle has had a chance to be in town. It doesn't take a man of Paladin's intelligence to realize what's going on here. Like Ringo, Tuttle has a wife and son, who have been living anonymously to avoid notoriety.

    While Tuttle shares an hour with his unwitting son, Paladin and the missus have a quiet conversation of their own. Perhaps Paladin points out to the lady that, having passed through the waiting crowd outside, coming right inside the hotel and staying there for an hour, it's pretty obvious that the townspeople are going to figure out just who she is. She and her son are going to have to move on. After sending the boy out (where no doubt, people will tell him who he's been talking to) Mrs. Tuttle confronts her husband: she's going to leave and not tell him where she's going. She'll find a man who can act as a husband to her. Tuttle, who had not shown any interest in seeing his wife after three years, is outraged. Paladin forces the lady to acknowledge that she still, in fact, loves her husband, and would prefer a life with him.

    This is where the story radically departs from the movie. Ringo was anxious to make a quiet life for himself and his family. Tuttle, on the other hand, does not want to hang up his guns. He may dislike killing, but he loves being the number one killer around. He loves being recognized, and the respect he gets from everyone. Mrs. Tuttle sadly walks away. Tuttle and Paladin get back to their interrupted business. Paladin's tone of voice makes it clear that he's thoroughly disgusted with Tuttle. Tuttle likes him, but Paladin realizes that Tuttle is just a cold killer, like so many others. He refuses Tuttle's offer to let him survive the gunfight, in exchange for looking after Tuttle's family. Tuttle's muddled emotions are finally too much for him, and he orders Paladin to walk away, much to the shock of Logan. At this point, Tuttle learns that what he has taken for respect has been nothing more than fear--fear that can quickly turn to resentment and hate. Like Ringo, he's gunned down at the hand of a coward. Logan has become fed up with Tuttle's casually contemptuous attitude--and quite probably he's realized that the scene of Tuttle's death will be a far more lucrative proposition than merely being the scene of one of his many gunfights. It's remotely possible that Paladin would have walked out at this point, but one thing he cannot abide is someone shooting an already wounded man. Someone else will be profiting from the notoriety, not Logan.

    The ending is typical for Paladin--no explanations to the greedily waiting townspeople, just a brusque request for directions to "Mrs. Smith's" house. One hopes that explainations were forthcoming, however, either from Paladin or Mrs. Tuttle. This is not the era of modern forensics, or even Hec Ramsey's era of beginning police science, and we wouldn't want people thinking that Paladin shot Tuttle in the back and then killed the hotel manager.
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