I would have liked a more comprehensible episode to close the season. This one leaves too many questions.
Paladin is acting oddly, himself. As an experienced chess player, he surely knows better than to stick an interfering hand into someone else's chess game. Was he trying to help one or the other of the ladies to win. And then to insult them right to their faces, even if it was tied up with a compliment. Of course, perhaps back then ladies liked the idea that their looks were better than their brains.
Enter Otto von Albrecht, right into the middle of Paladin's latest seduction ploy. At first Paladin tries to ignore him, but after having an expensive ring shoved under his nose, he allows himself to be drawn away. Otto (I'm not going to keep writing that name!) wants Paladin to help him find a killer who is calling himself Carl Frome. Although Otto refuses to reveal his personal reasons for going after the man, Frome has killed twelve people and needs to be brought to justice. Otto has a folder of newspaper clippings to prove to Paladin that Frome is an evil man. He also has a recent letter from him, postmarked Parish, New Mexico. Paladin neglects to ask the obvious question: why is this killer writing to a European aristocrat? Was he just keeping in touch? Or was he rubbing his evil accomplishments in Otto's face? Otto allows Paladin to keep the ring, as both retainer and payment. He then proceeds to insult Paladin, calling him a "spiritual assassin". That's just how I'd go about hiring someone. Presumably the knowledge that Frome needs to be dealt with is the only reason Paladin doesn't toss the ring back in Otto's face. Instead, he returns to the chess board, where both ladies expectantly hold their hands up for the ring. Paladin teasingly reaches for both hands before putting the ring on his own finger. He walks away with a comment suggesting that he might give the ring to the better chess player. Hmmm.... The ladies, bless 'em, appear to be a cut above Paladin's usual choices; not only did they not get upset when Paladin left them to talk with Otto, they accepted the ring ploy for the game that it was, and went cheerfully back to their own game. Apparently they know him well.
Parish, New Mexico, is a town that has seen its best days. The best indication of this is the saloon, which has (gasp!) been closed up. Another sign is the hotel which is also the general store; a rather strange combination. A young man who is clearly not quite with it watches the two men arrive, and rushes to open the hotel door for them. He's excited about Paladin's gun, assuming that he's a gunfighter. Paladin treats him kindly. The man, Waco, fetches his mother, who owns the hotel-cum-store, as well as the cantina down the street. When she brings a pitcher of water to their room (I'm surprised that the arrogant Otto was willing to share a room with the spiritual assassin) Otto halts her progress out the door with one of his canes, and demands information about Carl Frome. The woman, Pegine, insists that such matters are none of her business.
Paladin goes to the cantina, both for a drink, a hurry up call for their dinner, and another attempt to get information. No dice, either from Pegine or the two men playing cards, although they both reacted slightly to the name Carl Frome. They utterly ignore Paladin when he addresses them directly. One of the men, a very slim young man with a gunbelt, asks Pegine for a description of the "old coot" that had come with Paladin. Pegine is surprised that he already knows that the man walks with two canes. Outside the cantina, Waco is eager to watch "Mr. Carl" practice with his gun. Mr. Carl reflects for a moment, then draws Waco away with him.
After their meal, Pegine returns to clear away the dishes. Otto, a little less haughty this time, tries to convince her that Frome is a dangerous man. She sniffs that it's just his say so. Why didn't he pull out his newspaper clippings? Did he assume that she couldn't read? Otto makes it clear that Frome is not only corrupt, he likes to corrupt others. After Pegine leaves, Paladin and Otto prepare to go out and search for Frome. Paladin slams the door shut and shoves Otto aside as a shotgun blast rips through the door. Down in the street, Pegine whirls around (given the short passage of time, she must have raced down the steps and out the door when she left). The shooter apparently took another way out. Pegine is shocked at the hole in the door, and horrified when Paladin tells her that the shooter was her own son.
Finding a shotgun missing from the store, Pegine weakly insists that anyone could have taken it, but it's clear that she's starting to believe that it was Waco. She cannot understand why. Paladin suggests that if a trusted friend told him to do it, or paid all go outside and face the abandoned saloon, which Waco uses as a playground. Waco and Carl are both inside. Carl heads upstairs, as Waco goes outside. Pegine takes the gun from him and sniffs the barrel, before slapping him. Waco protests that Mr. Carl had told him it would be all right. Neither Paladin nor Pegine try to find out if he really realized that he had tried to kill someone, or if he had thought if was all a game. Pegine rips a pocket in Waco's shirt, and we find that he had agreed to shoot the gun for a handful of pennies.
Paladin tells Pegine to get her son out of the way while he goes after Carl. Instead, Pegine appears to aim the shotgun at Otto. I cannot understand why. She has just learned that Frome tried to make a murderer out of her son; why is she going after Otto? She then steps out into the street, away from the building, and calls out that she wants Carl. Really idiotic move. She has no idea where in the building Carl is, and she's still aiming at Otto, anyway. Carl promptly wings her in the arm. Waco pulls her to safety--but does not seem perturbed by the fact that his friend just shot his mother. Paladin breaks open a window, getting Carl's attention. Paladin then does an incredibly stupid thing. Having given Carl time to come back downstairs, he kicks at the doors, gives Carl time to react to this, then pokes his head in the doorway just as Carl fires. Having managed to survive this, Paladin swings up to the second floor balcony (presumably Hal Needham did this; but whomever it was, it was a marvelous display of grace and strength). Carl steps out of the building and confronts Otto, who stands silent and unarmed. Without saying a word, Carl slowly backs over to a horse hitched nearby, and swings himself up. Waco is looking on, rather grimly. He spots Paladin, but it's hard to say if he would have called a warning to Carl if he'd had the time. Paladin dives on Carl, knocking him flat and taking his gun. Carl is still silent. Paladin hands the gun to Otto and goes to check on Pegine. He has to instruct the townspeople to make the obvious move of sending for the doctor. At this point, Otto coldly shoots the unarmed Carl. Paladin does not say a word about murdering an unarmed man, nor about justice being circumvented. Otto makes it clear that Carl was his son, but this just leaves more questions. Given Otto's arrogance and pride in his family line, you would think that he would overlook Carl's behavior, at least until he had sired another generation. Why did he kill him? Did Otto resolutely take responsibility for his sociopathic son--or was he simply trying to avoid the publicity of a trial? In facing Carl unarmed, was he hoping to die himself? And I still want to know why Carl had written to him. Was he daring Otto to come after him? Carl was foul enough to get a mentally challenged person to kill for him, you would think killing his father personally wouldn't be difficult, yet he refrained.
Paladin seems really fed up with matters. Not only does he hand the ring back (not even getting travel expenses) he jumps on his horse (which Waco should have stabled) and heads out, leaving Otto to fend for himself. Leaving the final unanswered question: is the town of Parish going to arrest Otto, or let the matter drop?