Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 1 Episode 13

The Englishman

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Dec 07, 1957 on CBS
out of 10
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18 votes

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Episode Summary

The Englishman

Paladin escorts an Englishman to his female cousin's ranch they have inherited in Montana, but finds that an embittered trader is plotting against them.

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  • One of my episode guides describes this one as simple and cliche-driven; one that would not get on the air today because of its poor portrayal of Indians. The author has a point, but this is not really a bad episode.moreless

    All things considered, "HGWT" portrayed Indians in a fairly sympathetic manner. They also showed them in all sorts of lights--Mission Indians struggling to build a life for themselves among bigoted neighbors, proud and angry Indians trying to live peacefully while trying to keep their treasure safe from greedy outsiders, desperate Indians who find themselves starving in spite of holding to the treaties that the white men ignored, a courteous, high-born lady who is the target of senseless prejudice. This was part of the constant variety that makes this show so great to watch. But there were also Indians who undertook to slaughter every white in the vicinity because of the actions of two drunks. Here we have another, unpleasant side, which nevertheless did exist--the effect of alcohol. That problem stretched back to colonial times, and "civilized" men sometimes took ruthless advantage of it. The more interesting aspect of this episode is the stranger coming to terms with a vastly different culture. James Brunswick is a younger son, who, missing out on the family title, fell heir to a Montana ranch which he shares with a third cousin. He could have sat at home and collected his share of the profits, but he wanted something to do, and felt that his female cousin should not have to carry the burden of managing a ranch alone. He meets Paladin in the Carlton lobby, just when Paladin is feeling bored and ready for something different. Paladin quickly sets him straight on a few matters--Montana (properly pronounced) is not a hop, skip and a jump from the West coast. After the train trip, it will still be a three week's journey, with various hazards, and the average guide is not to be trusted. (It does not occur to James to distrust the well-dressed, well-spoken gentleman who bought him a brandy.)

    We jump to Montana, and James' cousin, a calm, sturdy, efficient looking woman named Felicia Carson. We also meet the other major cliche of the story--N.G. Smith, the local storekeeper. He's a common breed (played to perfection by Murvyn Vye); the loud, obnoxious practical joker, the sort who is always ready to dish it out, but can never take it himself. We see his sort of low humor when he invites Felicia's ranch hand, Waddy, to sit down for a cup of coffee--on a chair rigged to break. Har, har, har. Never occurs to him, of course, that the man might have ended up badly scalded by the coffee. He points out that Waddy would have found it funny if it had happened to someone else, which unfortunately was probably true. James and Paladin appear at this moment. James had shot a bear during the trip, and carried the pelt with him. I suspect that James had done some previous traveling to some hot spot in the British Empire, because I would think that England's climate would have been a little cool for the then-unusual fashion of wearing shorts. The local Indians (who apparently were not the sort for breechclouts) looked on in shock. (I would have liked to have seen Paladin's initial reaction.) Felicia is rather dismayed by her freakish-looking cousin (and perhaps annoyed by the manly assumption that she needs help), but tries to hide it. James, for his part, is overflowing with good will and a fascination for all these new sights. N.G. welcomes them into his store, although his broad wink aside when he offered coffee made me think he had another chair rigged up, or had maybe flavored the coffee. He tells James about the "Montana" bears, big as a house. James listens, quite possibly too polite to voice his doubts. The punchline leaves him looking a little silly, but he doesn't get angry. The same cannot be said for N.G, whom Paladin nails (literally) with a much funnier and more cleverly done joke. N.G, however, does not focus his anger on the tall and dangerous-looking man in black; he prefers the mild-seeming James, who merely laughed--along with everyone else in the room. After the others leave for the ranch, he approaches the local Indian chief, Harry Blackfoot, and asks him to take a group of men, dress up as for a war party, and go frighten the funny looking newcomer as a joke. Blackfoot agrees--for a bottle of whiskey apiece. This is where it gets cliche. On the other hand, would anyone question it if a group of white ranch hands agreed to play a joke for a bottle of whiskey each?

    Felicia dutifully shows her cousin around the ranch, but clearly she's not happy with the idea of this greenhorn moving in. James understands that he was being tested in a way by the bear story, and Paladin tells him that frontier people do not tolerate fools or cowards. Unlike Oscar Wilde, who would look rather scornfully (if wittily) on the American "barbarians" or Phileas Fogg, who would insist on forcing his surroundings to conform to his British standards, James is willing to make changes. Paladin points out some of the differences. He notes that James' saddle is "for riding". (James could have reasonably pointed out that any saddle is designed for that purpose.) A Western saddle, however, is designed for a hard day's work. The cultural lesson is interrupted by an arrow, and they find what seems to be a war party screeching outside. Paladin is just as shocked as James, but it is James who grabs Paladadin's rifle and tries to defend them, knocking the chief off his horse. They haul the wounded man into the barn, where Felicia quickly joins them, and discover, too late, that it was all a joke. The other Indians coldly take their chief away, refusing assistance. Felicia rails at her cousin--quite unfairly, as Paladin points out--but she will stand by him and try to get the matter sorted out in the morning. In the meantime, an angry group confronts N.G, who naturally disavows any responsibility for the mishap, which could have turned tragic. The newcomer should have known that it was only a joke. The Indians aren't buying it, however, so N.G. bribes them with a full keg of whiskey, which, sadly, they agree to. Presumably it would have been a different matter if Blackfoot had been killed or more badly injured.

    The next morning, Felicia asks Paladin to take her cousin away. His ineptness will get him killed. Paladin points out that it is a question of ignorance, not foolishess or stupidity, but Felicia feels that she has no time to show him the ropes. A subdued James also feels that Montana is no place for him--but first they will have to get around the Indians' wrath. They arrive in town to find the Indians thoroughly drunk and working themselves into a fury. N.G. again disclaims any responsibility, even for the Indians' drunkenness. The Indians demand that "Crazy Clothes" be sent out to them, underlining their demand with bullets. Others, trapped in the store, are prepared to fight, but this could lead to a full-scale war in the territory. Paladin and Felicia are both astonished when James quietly walks to the door. He will not allow others to be harmed on his account. Blackfoot (whose bullet wound to the chest has left him remarkably pert-looking) will not accept Paladin's explanations and signals one of his men to ride James down. James gets groggily to his feet, refusing to retreat. Paladin intercepts the second run. He shouts that James' funny-looking clothes are a mark of bravery and honor in his own land. Blackfoot somehow changes his signal, for the next man comes up and sets his horse rearing over James' head, while James stands his ground. Blackfoot accepts this display of courage, and James gives another--he comes forward and apologizes, taking responsibility for wounding the chief.

    In a rather odd display of formal acceptance, Chief Blackfoot puts on James' outfit, although James, rather than putting on Indian attire, is outfitted in boots, jeans and a shirt (and somehow looks as odd as the chief does in his English clothes). N.G, who doesn't learn from experience, starts to guffaw, and Paladin belts him in the gut. To make it clear to the audience, he spells out that N.G. is both a coward and a fool, and will no longer be welcome there, and the onlookers quickly make it clear that they agree. Felicia does an about-face and says that her ranch needs a man, and James' courage will make up for his ignorance. Of course, she needs Paladin's eloquence to make matters clear to James, and Paladin obliges, before riding off (not into the sunset, but it still looks good) leaving James to continue his cultural education on a more personal level.

    It's not one of the better episodes, but the plot, for the most part, is fairly interesting and the characters (for the most part) play well.moreless
Tom Helmore

Tom Helmore

James Brunswick

Guest Star

Murvyn Vye

Murvyn Vye

N.G. Smith

Guest Star

Alix Talton

Alix Talton

Felicia Carson

Guest Star

Kam Tong

Kam Tong

Hey Boy

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • (goof) During the scene where James is "tested" by having Indians charge at him, he groggily gets up from the first run, hat in hand. Two seconds later, the hat is on his head. Three seconds later, as Paladin intercepts the second charge, he's holding the hat again.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • James: But the, uh, gun, is that necessary?
      Paladin: Not always necessary, but sometimes indispensable.

    • James: You know, I was thinking about it this morning. About N.G. Smith and his little joke. I was being tested, wasn't I?
      Paladin: I'm afraid so. See, there's a theory out here; a man that can be tricked is a fool. And there's two kinds of people they can't tolerate: cowards and fools. In a tight situation the one would run off and leave you, and the other would make fatal mistakes.

  • NOTES (0)