Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 3 Episode 28

Love of a Bad Woman

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Mar 26, 1960 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • The complexities of the characters help pull this episode above being just another violent Western. Good thing, too, because it has a disquietingly high body count.

    Just another day in the Hotel Carlton. Hey Boy nabs Paladin passing through the lobby and directs him to a woebegone man slumped on a sofa. Paladin is annoyed when the man jumps up and shoves the newspaper at him, but the man shows him an advertisement. It's the usual sort of lonely-hearts ad--a wealthy young widow seeking a new mate, but even the worldly Paladin is startled to find that the widow's husband isn't quite dead yet. He's standing in the lobby.

    Haskell Sommers, an aging man with a very young wife, wants Paladin to travel to his Diamond S ranch and pretend to answer the advertisement. He wants to know just what is going on before he returns home and deals with his wife. Faced with an extremely novel situation, Paladin is agreeable. Reaching the stately manor home of the Diamond S, he enters to find the hall hip deep in matrimonial aspirants. A stolid Mexican lady quietly ushers the men in, one by one. The numbers are quickly whittled down. Some of the men return and make a beeline for the door, much to the amusement of the men who stay--and those who have not yet had their interview. Paladin, last in line, is conducted into a beautiful drawing room, tastefully loaded with art of all kinds. He is examining some of it when Tamsen Sommers makes her entrance. As with most ladies in this show, she is immediately attracted to the cultured Paladin, and begins weaving a sad story of a lonely young woman trapped in a gilded cage--just another specimen of her husband's art collection. During the interview, she makes the mistake of referring to her husband in the present tense, but Paladin ignores it, allowing her to disclose the minor little fact that her husband isn't dead yet. That detail is to be taken care of by her husband-to-be. Paladin points out that there are five other men angling for the position. Tamsen is serenely confident that, after her husband is dead, the six men will see to the matter of bringing their numbers down to one. She gives Paladin a lingering taste of what he will be getting if he is sucessful.

    Back in San Francisco, Haskell Sommers is shaken at the report--although surely he must have been prepared for the worst after reading the advertisement. He's aware that he's been a disappointing husband to his young wife--but she is his wife, after all, and he intends teaching her a lesson she'll never forget. There is, however, the matter of getting home alive first. Paladin recommends going home by a different route, but Haskell proves to be a stubborn man--he'll go home the fast, direct route, same as always. Paladin will be there to look after him. This is news to Paladin. Haskell also makes it clear that, since Paladin has seen his beauteous wife and the opportunities thereof, he wants to keep a close eye on Paladin. I'm rather surprised that Paladin didn't tell him where to shove it at this point, but perhaps he felt sorry for the man.

    If so, the pity didn't last long. Ambushed by two of the aspirants along the way, Haskell leans out too far from their hiding place and ends up face down in the dirt. The men get the drop on Paladin as he tries to pull Haskell under cover. Haskell abruptly comes to life and blows the men away. Paladin is taken aback at the risk Haskell took, not to mention his killing the men when he could have simply taken them prisoner. Haskell also wonders if Paladin was really attempting to help him or not. That night, Paladin protests as Haskell prepares a big, smoky fire. This might draw the other men--which is exactly Haskell's intention. Paladin will wait by the fire while Haskell hides a short distance away. And if the men shoot Paladin first and ask questions later, that's just too bad for Paladin. All goes according to Haskell's plan. Two of the remaining men walk up to Paladin, who hugs the ground and grouchily informs them that Haskell is out there watching. Haskell shoots both of them before they can begin to react. One to go.

    At the gateway to the ranch, Paladin prepares to leave, over Haskell's protests. The argument is interrupted by the last man, who fires at Haskell while Paladin fires at him. Paladin believes Haskell is faking his death, just as he had before, but Haskell doesn't stir--not until Paladin gets closer. In spite of all Paladin's assistance, Haskell has convinced himself that Paladin is after his wife and property, just like the others. His cold-bloodedness--which up to this point could have been put down to sheer self-preservation--reveals itself in all its ugliness. Not only is he going to kill Paladin, he's going to do it while his wife is watching. Forced to hand over his gun, Paladin gives a demonstration of "The Stagecoach Switch"--a graceful maneuver last mentioned clear back in the second episode "The Outlaw". Flipping his gun as he passes it, he shoots Haskell. These final two killings, done by Paladin, are the only truly defensive kills.

    Tamsen is waiting impatiently in the drawing room--perhaps she heard the shots out on the grounds. When Paladin comes stalking into the room, passing her unseen, she springs up and throws herself into his arms (and almost falls right out them as he jerks around). He stands rigid to her congratulatory gestures, and icily demands a thousand dollars from Haskell Sommers' estate. He wants nothing more. Richard Boone does a marvelous job here--as Tamsen grimly withdraws to fetch the money, he rubs his fingertips as though he had been touching filth. He looks thoughtfully at the little Venus de Milo replica he had seen earlier--exquisite and cold, just like Haskell's living work of art. Tamsen returns with the money, trying once more to persuade him to stay with her. Paladin takes the money, turns, and pauses. It might seem that he was contemplating what he was throwing away, but I thought it looked as though he was fighting to control a wave of nausea, before hastening out of the room. Perhaps he'll drop a word to the sheriff--but perhaps not.

    Neither husband or wife was all good or all bad. Both had some justification for their feelings--and both sought the wrong ways of dealing with them, leaving Paladin caught in the middle.
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