Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 3 Episode 22

The Ledge

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Feb 13, 1960 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

Write A Review
out of 10
8 votes
  • A unique, intense episode.

    "Have Gun--Will Travel" did a lot of experimenting with storylines, which is part of the reason this show is so fascinating. Some of the attempts fell a little short, but I've yet to see one that I wished they hadn't done at all. This episode is rather difficult to watch--but it's excellently done.

    Paladin is traveling, presumably to an assignment, when he comes across a group of men. Apparently there is some chance of danger on the trail ahead, and the men were waiting to collect a large enough group that they could pass in relative safety. Presumably five is enough--or perhaps they took a good look at Paladin, with his tied-down holster, and decided that he would be worth several men. The youngest of the group, Corey, suddenly declines to accompany them--he will take the long way around. Another man, Cass, makes fun of him--Corey is afraid of heights, and their trail will be through the high ground. Corey is embarrassed, but he has lived with his phobia a long time, and knows that he can't just brush it aside.

    Before they can persuade Corey to come along, yet another man appears, from the other direction, and hails them. Before they can respond, a sudden rockslide occurs, and they hear the man scream in agony. Paladin springs to where the other horses are tied, snatches a coil of rope, and rushes off, followed by Cass and Corey. A third man, Dr. Stark, pauses to grab his medical kit, and is followed by Stebbins, last of the group. It is Corey, cautiously crawling to the edge of the trail, who first spots the man, partially buried on a ledge far below. There is no movement or sound. Paladin insists that they must go down to see if the man is alive or not. Stebbins flatly refuses--he has a family, and is not going to risk his life for some stranger. Corey would be willing, but there's nothing he can do with his phobia. Paladin asks Cass to belay the rope, which Cass is quite willing to do, and they will lower the doctor down. (The doctor does not take umbrage at Paladin's assumption that he will go down.) Stark is left dangling about ten feet above the ledge. They haul him back up to take stock. Stark states that the man is dead, but Paladin wants to know how he can be so certain. They retreat to discuss things further. Paladin is not willing to walk away if there is a chance that the man is still alive. They suddenly realize that Corey is missing--then hear his panicked screams. They all rush back--except for Stebbins.

    Corey had managed to get a fair distance down before his phobia overwhelmed him. Cass again belays the rope while Paladin scrambles down. Boone did a marvelous job here. His voice is light and easy; he might be soothing a frightened child or a spooked horse. Constantly reassuring Corey, he gets the rope fastened around him and they haul him back up. Once on firm ground, Paladin seems to be of two minds. He admires Corey's courage, but is also exasperated at the danger he put them in. Corey is like Paladin--he wants to know for certain about the man. Stark's firm assertion that the man was dead is being nibbled away by doubt.

    At this point, Stebbins points out that Paladin is a professional gunfighter, displaying his card as proof. Paladin is outraged--as he might well be--but Stebbins pompously acts as though he had every right to search Paladin's belongings. He suggests that Paladin shoot the man--if he's dead, it won't matter, and if he's alive, it will spare him a lingering death, because they surely can't rescue him. (This brings to mind an odd point I noticed, clearly a contrivance for the episode. Five men traveling in the wilderness, and only one of them had a rope? I should think that such an incredibly useful item would be almost mandatory, yet only one of them carried it. For that matter, they could have pieced together the trappings from the horses.)

    Paladin scorns the idea, but the others come to agree with Stebbins. They also agree that it should be Paladin--for a professional, what's one more shooting? Stebbins will even pay him for it. Faced with Paladin's continuing refusal, the doctor agrees to do it himself. Paladin does not assist with the rope; he waits, his hand hovering over his gun. Just what would he have done with it? We'll never know. Faced with the actuality, Stark throws the gun away (and just whose valuable weapon did he dispose of?) and returns to the others.

    They settle on making one final attempt to reach the man. Stebbins still will not risk himself, so Paladin leaves him safely on the trail to belay the rope. Corey is willing to assist the belaying process, as long as he can't see what's below. Cass, however, balks. Raucously amused at the others' weaknesses, he's furious when Corey accuses him of cowardice. Paladin agrees with Corey. Cass is shamed into proving himself. Presumably having several men holding the rope helps distribute the weight to make the process easier. This does not explain how the rope (which is wrapped twice around the boulder this time, rather than once) suddenly gains some ten feet of length. The self-righteous Stebbins speaks gently and kindly to Corey when the blindfolded boy asks Stebbins to keep him informed of what's happening. Stark makes it to the ledge with rope to spare, and examines the man. Apparently he saw some sign--a broken neck, perhaps--because he called up that the man was dead, and had been all along. Without attempting to find any identification, he climbs back up and sounds off to Paladin, who looks rather sheepish, while Cass's laughter booms off the rocks. Paladin had nothing to be ashamed of. After all, as he had said all along, they had to know. At least Paladin and Corey, perhaps Stark, and maybe even Stebbins and Cass, will sleep better. (And I'm sure that I'm not the only one who hoped that Paladin would climb back up there and smack Cass upside the head.)