Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 4 Episode 36

The Road

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM May 27, 1961 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • This episode has been described elsewhere as "grim, extremely violent, and terribly muddled". While it's not one of the better episodes, it's not quite that bad. Grim, yes. Violent, but no more than some others. Muddled? Overambitious, perhaps.

    I think perhaps the writer was trying to cram a bunch of different reactions to "Gold Fever" into one episode, which resulted in the "muddling" effect.

    It's interesting to compare this episode to "Incident at Borrasca Bend". The men there did not appear to be "fevered". Finding gold was simply their job, like going to the office every day. They worked hard during the week, banked their takings, raised a little hell on the weekends, and then went back to work.

    The episode starts with what seems to be a voice-over narration to set up the story. It turns out to be a man sitting at a table talking with another man, Merton. (Nearly all the character names in this episode are known only by the credits, they're not mentioned otherwise.) Supposedly one of the mountains in this region is sold gold. Men come looking for it; other men come after the prospectors, robbing them, killing them, or sometimes leaving them "nekkid" to face a slow death. What it boils down to is that you can't trust anybody. While making his speech, the man has no doubt been observing the lone horseman cantering across the plain to the campsite, which is apparently a stopover place for those traveling into the mountains. Paladin, of course, is the horseman, whose business (never mentioned) just happened to bring him in this direction. He's not very impressed with the camp, but the next "posting station" is well up in the mountains. The narrator (Preston) is a resident of the camp, and tells Paladin that for five dollars he will stay awake and guard Paladin from being robbed. Paladin rather reluctantly agrees.

    The tent is crowded. Men are not quite piled on top of each other, but it gives that impression. The right side has slightly more room, and it is here that Paladin and Merton are lying. Merton stealthily reaches out a hand, only to get Paladin's derringer rammed up his nose. Merton claims that he was only trying to make a little room, but Paladin is having none of it. He's also outraged that the guard is blithely ignoring this attempted robbery. (As Preston and Merton seem to be in cahoots, this makes the speech Preston made to Merton sound a little peculiar.) Paladin gladly accepts the suggestion that he leave the tent, and Preston and Merton are left to the tender mercies of the remaining men, who punish the would-be robbers with enthusiasm. Merton furiously vows to get even with Paladin, which Paladin shrugs off.

    Traveling into the mountains (the scenery is superb) Paladin comes across a site that had either been abandoned or robbed; bits and pieces are scattered everywhere. Picking his way past, Paladin turns at the sound of horses. A small group of men swarm over the wrecked site with a happy cry, picking gleefully over the rubbish. Shaking his head, Paladin continues on his way. He reaches the posting station in the evening. The Englishman running the place (listed as Beaman) tells him that he's full up, but that Paladin can sleep with his horse. One night's lodging will be five dollars. Obviously, Beaman finds it far more lucrative to live off the men passing through than by hunting gold. Paladin offers one dollar, and the man, sensibly, does not argue. Instead, he promptly tries to interest Paladin in a map that he has put together, based on various reports of gold brought in by other men. Paladin is not in the least interested, but three other men, a father and son and a friend, are very much so. Paladin points out that if the map did in fact lead to gold, why wasn't Beaman already up collecting it? Beaman claims that his bad leg prevents him (although it doesn't seem to hamper him too much). Paladin's arguments that the map is a fake fall on deaf ears. The father, Hensoe, thinks that Paladin simply wants it for himself, despite Paladin's obvious lack of interest. In his case, gold fever results in a complete loss of common sense and logic. Beaman wants $500 for the map, which the friend (listed as Sibley) states is all they have. Hensoe immediately hushes him, then claims that twenty-five is all they have. When Beaman refuses, Hensoe slaps the money down and takes the map at gunpoint. The three of them head out with their heavily laden cart (with no horse), constantly casting anxious looks back. Beaman brushes aside Paladin's accusation of swindling. The map is as likely to point them to gold as anything else, and now they have hope to sustain them.

    We get an idea of how cold it is as Paladin breaks through a crust of ice in a water barrel to wash his face. He ends up head first in the barrel as someone clips him from behind. Merton has caught up with him, and his temper has not cooled. Preston may have been the one to give him the idea for Paladin's punishment. He doesn't strip Paladin "nekkid", but he takes his guns, his coat, and his hat. (Merton, with four or five hats perched on his head--including Paladin's--plus a doll tucked in his shirt pocket, presents a bizarre sight indeed.) A shot rings out, and Beaman rushes up to inform Paladin that his horse has been killed. This makes no sense whatsoever. A horse is a valuable commodity; it could be used to ride on, to carry things, to be sold, or, at last resort, to be eaten. Since Merton clearly intends that Paladin will die, why not just take the horse? The only purpose the killing serves is to underscore Merton's mindless viciousness. Another point that does not make sense is Merton's statement that when prospectors give up and abandon their sites, they ruin their tools and even spoil the food, so that others can't use it. I can understand the frustration and spite that would lead men to destroy their tools, but why waste food? Why not just take it with them? If they don't eat it, they can always sell it. Paladin will now continue his journey, with Merton close behind to see that he keeps going. He can scavenge clothes for warmth from various abandoned sites, but he's not getting any food. Beaman, fearing Merton's wrath, will do nothing. Paladin, still groggy from the blow on the head, staggers off.

    At one point, he is seen climbing an extremely steep hill. This probably slowed Merton's group down considerably. Paladin happens on the trio he had met earlier. Sibley believes his story of being robbed and having his horse killed, but Hensoe implacably refuses to allow Paladin to join them. Spotting Merton, he is certain that they are all working together to steal his map. Paladin gives up and moves on. Hensoe and Co. decide to move on, as well. Coming on another abandoned site, with a bag of spoiled flour, Paladin spots a rabbit, but Merton scares it off with a gunshot. Paladin finds a broken spear (why on Earth would a prospector be carrying a spear?) and fingers it thoughtfully. He also locates a blanket, and continues on his way.

    Hensoe's son John is set to stand night watch. Paladin quietly approaches, reiterating that the map is useless. Loyal to his father, John will not listen. The map is giving them hope. He will not let Paladin come closer, but he does unbend to the extend of tossing over a chunk of dried buffalo meat. This was a very unpleasant scene, watching Paladin crawling on the ground, frantically scrabbling for the meat. He only gets one mouthful of the hard protein before Merton rides up and demands that he hand it over. Paladin is as defiant as a stray dog would be in the same circumstances, but unfortunately it's three to one; Merton sits watching as his followers beat up Paladin to retrieve the hand-sized portion of meat. At this point, I found myself wanting to crawl inside the T.V. set and knock some heads together. Paladin has already suffered far more than Merton did, and watching that blankety blank bleep bleeping...oh, well.

    At some point further on, Paladin is shown putting the finishing touches to an oddly carved stick, using the sharp edge of the spear. Paladin's education certainly takes him in strange directions; the item is a throwing stick, which, with a spear set on top of it, essentially adds to the length of a person's arm, so that he can throw a spear much farther and with greater force. Merton and Co. sit on their horses, watching him in puzzlement. (Obviously they didn't see exactly what he was doing.) The trio are having a hard time of it; they decide to throw away some of their goods off the cart. (They, however, do not destroy them.) We see just how desperate Paladin has become; he actually aims his spear at them before his rational side prevails. Instead, he creeps up on them as they are resting, including John, who is not doing a good job of keeping watch. Paladin sets his spear and thrower aside, and approaches John, who jumps awake. Paladin once again tries to reason with him, but, seeing that he was getting nowhere and that Hensoe and Sibley were waking up, he jumps John and holds him as a shield. Fearfully, they ask what he wants, and Paladin demands food. He then, rather plaintively, states that that was all he ever wanted, and lets John (and his gun) loose. Paladin rests by their fire, with meat and a hot drink. (Watch Richard Boone's face. He does not overplay it, but he is plainly savoring the tough meat as if it were the Carlton's finest dish.) Hensoe is still wary of Paladin, but his son thinks he is being a fool. Hensoe sharply bids him to keep his mouth shut until he has grown up and started doing things for himself. Paladin makes a rather strange comment about wishing people were like the lower animals, as the young, after a time, separate completely from the parents and start off fresh. (If people acted like that, Paladin would not be sharing their fire and food.) This next bit makes no sense. Paladin suddenly demands the map, and, in spite of the fact that it's three to one, and they have guns, Hensoe gives it to him without question, angrily pointing out to his son that it's the one possession they have in the world, the one hope they have. Paladin, without even glancing at the map, shoves it into the fire. He pushes back Hensoe as he frantically (and noisily) tries to retrieve it. Once the map is well lit, however, the spell seems to break. Perhaps he finally understands that Paladin did not want that map, and that it was useless. Paladin quietly points out to John that his father's hand is burned, and John quickly wraps his handkerchief around it. (This, in fact, would do nothing for a burn; he should have dampened it first.) Hensoe's tone of voice changes, and he apologizes. John invites Paladin to join them, with no objections from Hensoe or Sibley. Merton, however, has shown up again, and he does object, firing a shot and sending them scattering. Merton states that he had made it clear that they were to give no aid to Paladin (unless that was in a scene that was edited out, he did nothing of the sort). It's probable that he would have shot the men down, but by this time Paladin has retrieved his spear and thrower, and hurls it at Merton with lethal accuracy. John and Sibley, meanwhile, manage to take out one of the other men. We don't see what happens to the other two men; Paladin and the trio don't seem concerned about them. Awestruck, Hensoe asks about Paladin's throwing stick, which he calls an "atlatl". Used by the Aztecs in the past, and currently used by Australian Aborigines and the African Watusi. It's not likely that Hensoe understood any of this, but he's quite impressed with Paladin anyway, and rather shyly asks if they can accompany him, rather than the other way around. Perhaps this means that he's giving up on the notion of prospecting. Paladin, having managed to turn these three enemies into friends, is pleased to agree.

    Quite an action-packed episode, and the gorgeous scenery makes up for a lot of shortcomings.