This episode was originally known as "Vernon Good". "Sanctuary" is better. Vernon Good is, in movie parlance, a "McGuffin"--he's only the means to bring the show together.
It starts, as usual, at the Carlton, with an interesting take on the chess theme that is often used to open the episode. Someone has arranged for a special demonstration; a chessmaster will play multiple games with a group of people who apparently paid for the privilege of participating. Unfortunately, Captain Zimmerman seems to think that his skill at chess grants him the right to be as rude and obnoxious as he wants, and sadly, some of the onlookers seem to agree, laughing merrily as he sneers at the inferior play of his opponents. One man avoids this; Zimmerman merely takes his bishop. This may be because sacrificing a strong piece is not necessarily bad play. The laughter dies abruptly when he tells a man that his playing is flat-out stupid, and insultingly returns his money. One man who is watching still has a grin on his face, but at least two of the ladies now look uneasy. Perhaps they have belatedly realized that rudeness is not an adequate substitute for wit. Another man escapes Zimmerman's acid tongue by conceding his game (and perhaps that's his express reason for doing so). Zimmerman gracefully waves his acknowlegement of the man's wisdom in getting out, and then launches into a contemptuous soliloquy (which actually sounds a bit confusing if you listen carefully). The gist of it is that he can't seem to find anyone intelligent enough to provide him a challenge at chess. His comments come to a dead stop as he glances at the final board in the row. He snatches up a chair so that he can sit and peruse it comfortably. We can't see his opponent, but only a brand-new viewer might not guess who it is.
Paladin, one has to admit, is being quite rude himself, but it is so satisfying to see him deflate this overage brat, and hopefully he is doing it because he didn't approve of Zimmerman's nasty comments. He quietly, matter-of-factly warns Zimmerman that his queen is in danger, and we see that Paladin is so detached from the game that he's finding his newspaper much more interesting (although obviously he's quite aware of what's going on). Hey Girl approaches with a telegram. At some point previously, Paladin had presumably sent off a newspaper clipping and his business card to someone, and has now received an affirmative reply. The efficient Hey Girl has already packed his saddlebags, and Paladin leaves Zimmerman still crouched over the board and makes his exit--quite possibly accompanied by the silent cheers of his fellow players. One wonders when Zimmerman noticed that he was gone. Perhaps he spent so long at Paladin's board that the others claimed a forfeit and ended their games.
We never learn what Paladin's business is, other than that it's taking him to Monterey; it's only the means to get him headed in the right direction. Upon reaching a monastery, magnificently situated up on a cliff edge, Paladin elects to stop and request a bed for the night. Other outsiders are already there, keeping a discreet distance from the entrance, and preparing to light a fire as darkness comes on. One man keeps still, staring fixedly at the monastery door with a rather vacant expression on his face. Paladin always starts out being courteous to people he meets on the trail; it's not only the gentlemanly thing to do, it's simple common sense. In this case, I suspect that he scanned the situation, and decided to pour it on to defuse the tension. He comes trotting up among them, all "hail fellow, well met". This bounces off of them, but Paladin maintains the attitude. His business, he cheerfully states, is his own, but learns that the other men, specifically Cordilene, are interested in a Vernon Good, who is inside the monastery. It would be in Paladin's best interests to move on. Paladin humorously declines the advice, and pushes forward. Cordilene grabs at him, and Paladin, in a fraction of a second, shifts from the jolly traveler to a cold-eyed gunman. Harkness, who is more reasonable, asks if Paladin's business has anything to do with Vernon Good (Paladin doesn't actually answer this) then points out that they have no right to prevent ordinary travellers from passing through.
Paladin knocks at the door, which is opened by a very irritated monk yelling at Cordilene with his mouth full. Paladin has reverted to friendly mode, and courteously waits for the man to compose himself, swallow, mutter an apology, and invite Paladin to share the evening meal. Paladin's request for a night's shelter is immediately granted. The monastery is graced with some fine furniture and a 16th century Spanish statue of some saint. The food, on the other hand...while the monk, Father Montalvo, candidly admits to Paladin that it's only good for sustaining the body, when Brother Thomas comes to serve Paladin, he makes no comment on the food, good or bad, simply acknowledging that Brother Thomas and Brother Francis provide it faithfully. I understand that some religious orders deliberately made their menus simple and bland, both to avoid the sin of gluttony and to keep the mind on higher matters. However, in this case, I think Father Montalvo just got stuck with lousy cooks. Paladin, after chewing on a mouthful, concurs indirectly. We've come to the meat of the episode, and surprisingly, it doesn't take up much time. Vernon Good is present at another table, sneaking frequent peeks at the other two men as he picks at his own meal. Father Montalvo granted him sanctuary two days previously, when he rushed in just ahead of the men now waiting outside (Cordilene with the same fixed, vacant expression--it gets rather unnerving). He would also grant sanctuary to Paladin if he wanted it. If not now, perhaps another time; Paladin seems to be the sort of man who might need sanctuary more than most. Paladin allows as how this could be so, without actually saying anything specific, then eases some of Father Montalvo's curiousity (which he expresses through circuitous routes) by handing over his card. Paladin is a man who "lives by the sword"--but only in part. Father Montalvo take this to mean that Paladin is not as strong in his convictions as he is, himself. Paladin points out that Father Montalvo chose to eschew the sword through deep personal belief (and Paladin, it is implied, accepts and tolerates his right to do so). Does Paladin not have the right to choose the sword through his own beliefs? Paladin's choice of carrying the sword only in part is quite literal--he only does so when his other "poor resources" have failed him. (This self-deprecating comment is more literal than it sounds; Paladin's resources, which are considerable, quite often fail against other men's determination to resort to violence.) Father Montalvo admits that he is not temperamentally suited to his calling; he is both too curious and too short-tempered, and his natural bent is more to Paladin's outlook, but he has chosen his path because he is convinced that it is the right way. Although Father Montalvo is clearly enjoying the conversation (as is Paladin) he can see that his guest is very tired, and shows him to one of the sleeping quarters. Paladin takes the opportunity to inquire further about Vernon Good, but Father Montalvo had never asked for details. Paladin sets aside his gun, and Father Montalvo picks it up. We get a hint of what Father Montalvo's previous life had been; he can tell simply by looking that Paladin's gun is a custom-crafted piece. He feels that guns cause more problems than they solve, which Paladin may agree with, but as long as there are others out there who think otherwise, he will keep his gun by him.
The following morning, Harkness suggests that they leave a couple men to guard the place while he rides to Monterey to fetch the sheriff. Cordilene treats this eminently reasonable suggestion as meaning that Harkness is ready to quit. Paladin prepares to continue on his way. (Presumably one of the brothers stabled Paladin's horse and tended him overnight, but the impression is that the poor beast was left saddled, unfed, and unwatered all night.) Father Montalvo would like Paladin to stay longer, suggesting that Paladin is afraid that the good father will win him over. Paladin counters that perhaps he would instead persuade Father Montalvo of the value of armed readiness. They depart on good terms. Meeting up with the waiting men, Paladin finally learns a bit about Vernon Good; the men think that he is a killer. (Of whom, we'll never know, presumably someone close to Cordilene.) Paladin probably guessed this much; not much else would account for such implacable hatred. Cordilene suggests that Paladin go back inside and warn Father Montalvo that if Vernon Good is not out by sundown, he and his men will force their way in and drag him out. Harkness will have no part in desecrating holy ground, and leaves, with at least one other man. The others stay, for loyalty or money or fear. Paladin is also angered at the proposed desecration, and will now give what assistance he can. Father Montalvo's natural bent shows itself; he is so outraged that he can't speak straight, and is obviously ready to give Cordilene a good fight if he dares to come in. He visibly takes hold of his temper; he will pray for divine guidance. Paladin pragmatically points out that he'd better get that guidance by sundown. Vernon Good finally enters into things, saying that he will leave and make a run for it. Father Montalvo will accompany him--surely no one would do them harm with a monk present. Paladin, of course, knows better. He offers to try and get Good to Monterey--provided that Good will give himself up for trial. Vernon Good quickly agrees. At sundown, Cordilene and two men come in the door. They ask one of the brothers where Good is; the monk makes a shrugging, beckoning gesture and walks through a door. The men follow. I was expecting the monk to slip back out and lock the door; instead, we hear a brief, intense fight, and Paladin comes out, locking the door behind him. It may be that we are expected to believe that Paladin had been disguised as the monk, but everything happens far too quickly for him to have had a chance to...er...disrobe, leaving us with the unsettling thought that one of the brothers has been left locked in a room with three men who are going to be mighty peeved when they wake up. Paladin dashes outside, where the other two are already mounted, jumps on his horse, and rushes at the one remaining man, knocking him flat. (Interestingly, that man waiting outside must have seen Father Montalvo and Vernon Good bring the horses around, but made no attempt to confront them or shoot at them.)
Paladin and Company get a good distance away, and it is full dark when they stop to let the horses rest. Vernon now sees no reason why Paladin should have to accompany them further, and Father Montalvo agrees. Paladin, who is heading for Monterey anyhow, wonders who will protect the good father when Vernon decides to skip out for the border. He might actually be guilty, after all. Vernon suggests that jury trials don't always turn out fairly. This convinces Paladin that Vernon needs to be watched. Unfortunately, he's not looking when Vernon pulls out a concealed gun and demands that Paladin disarm. He won't say if he is reacting out of fear or guilt. Judging from his smug expression once he was safely away from the lynch mob, I would guess that it was guilt. Father Montalvo is furious at this violation of his trust. Paladin uses the opportunity to slip out his derringer (if Good had bothered looking at him, he couldn't have missed it.) Father Montalvo marches forward to take the gun, and Paladin fires before the boy has a chance to either accidently or deliberately shoot. After a few stunned moments, Father Montalvo drops to his knees to perform his holy duty.
Sunk in depression, Father Montalvo sits, loosely holding his rosary and ignoring Paladin's offer of coffee. Cordilene and two men (what happened to the other one?) finally catch up. Cordilene makes certain that the blanket-wrapped figure on the ground is actually Vernon Good. He is exultant at the boy's death. No one will know for certain whether he was guilty or not. Cordilene does not care, and he is supremely insensitive to the situation, offering one hundred dollars to the man who killed Good, and actually asking if Father Montalvo had done it. Paladin stands up, with his fist leading the way. Father Montalvo had felt like hitting him himself, but Paladin spared him the necessity of confessing his sin.
Always considerate, our Paladin.