Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 2 Episode 18

Lady on the Stagecoach

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Jan 17, 1959 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • The ugly issue of prejudice is raised in this episode--and they avoid any pat answers at the end.

    This is not surprising; "Have Gun, Will Travel" usually avoided wrapping up the endings in a nice, neat ribbon. Paladin has presumably completed yet another commission, and is on his way home to San Francisco by stagecoach. A heavy, locked box and an armed guard are included in the package, as well as a high-born, Apache maiden. There is also a married couple and an additional man, none of whom have much use for Indians.

    I was pleased to see that the operator of the stagecoach service was openly astonished at the idea of putting the Indian lady off the stage to await another, and ignored the offer of a bribe.

    The coach is delayed by damage to the harness. The wife had brought along provisions, which are not offered to the Indian lady or Paladin. (I would have thought that some sort of provisions would have been provided by the coach service.) Paladin, without a blush of shame, talks up how dangerous the trip might be with all that money on board, and offers his protective services at a (for him) fairly low price. He does, however, demand a retainer--the remains of the picnic basket, which he shares with the Indian lady. Paladin's statement proves prophetic; the stage is attacked as they arrive at one of the stops on the route. Paladin swings himself outside the stagecoach in an attempt to assist the guard. His heroic gesture falls quite realistically flat--he's jolted off the side of the coach, losing his weapons and getting shaken up enough that he can't offer a fight.

    Ed Rance is the leader of the outlaws. As we often find on this show, the bad guy isn't all bad. Rance is known for not leaving any witnesses behind, but in this case, the cool and beautiful Indian maid, whom Paladin finally introduces as Della Whitecloud, catches his eye. One would expect Rance to be grabbing at her and making suggestive comments, but instead, he behaves in a gentlemanly fashion, which includes knocking down the ugly-spirited coward who tries to shove Della at Rance in exchange for saving his own life. The same coward stands by like an idiot and ruins Paladin's credible attempt to overpower their guard.

    Rance suggests that he will spare the others if Della will come with him, even offering to let her go after a month's time if she decides that she doesn't like him. (One wonders how he would have reacted if she'd mentioned that she was affianced.) The others act as though they recognize Della's equality--as long as she will sacrifice herself for them. Paladin intervenes with a clever trick. Once they have the better of the bad guys, Della requests that they be given the opportunity to escape, as a token of gratitude for Rance's courtesy. Paladin agrees--not before retrieving the stolen money, of course.

    In another show, the three prejudiced people would have admitted to the error of their ways, apologized, groveled, or whatever. In this case--realistically--once the danger was past, they went right back to their narrow-minded attitudes, coldly ignoring Della's gracious behavior. Della and Paladin shrug it off, treating the three with the amused contempt that they deserve.