Riverboat

Season 1 Episode 6

The Fight Back

1
Aired Sunday 7:00 PM Oct 18, 1959 on NBC

Episode Recap

In what's left of the town of Hampton, Grey walks through the burning ruins. The town was formerly host to outlaws run out of every town from Natchez to Vicksburg, under one man: Shelby Fowler.

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A few days earlier, the Enterprise is heading downriver to New Orleans. Business has been bad and Grey assures the crew that he's good for their wages and that he wouldn't be dumb enough to cross them. He convinces them that he'll pay them and leave, and Ben admits that his partner is slick. However, Ben points out that Grey spent the crew wages to cover the dock fees in Cairo and was forced to skip out of Memphis because he couldn't pay the charges there. Grey figures that they can sell a full cargo in New Orleans but Ben warns him that they don't have the money to get there. The captain goes over the maps and decides to dock at Hampton, a town with farmlands, on a hunch.

When the Enterprise docks at Hampton, Grey goes into town to find business. As he goes down the gangplank, Travis tells him that a farmer, Ansel Torgin, is waiting for him. He wants to rent the ship for his daughter Sonja's wedding but Grey isn't interested and continues on. The streets are all but deserted and Grey finally finds a farmer, an older man, who reluctantly talks with him. He tells Grey that the crops are rotting in the fields because Fowler wants it that way.

When he can't find any takers in town, Grey goes to the Lucky Lady Saloon, the only place in town showing any signs of life. Gamblers and saloon girls are busy entertaining and the saloon owner is running a bear-baiting act. Disgusted, Grey refuses to bet and the bouncer tells him to get out. Grey punches him and two thugs come at him with knives. The captain leaps up on the bar and fends them off with a broken bottle until Fowler's right-hand man, Graham, comes down the stairs and tells Grey that Fowler will see him.

Graham escorts Grey to Fowler's richly decorated office. Fowler's younger brother Tom is playing solitaire and looks over Grey as he comes in. Fowler comes out and asks Grey what he wants in town. When Grey asks why Fowler is holding up shipments, the crime lord simply says that there's no cargo. The captain persists and Tom draws on him until his brother orders out. When Grey repeats his question, Fowler explains that it was farmers like the people of Hampton that ran him out of Natchez. For revenge he's decided to starve the farmers of Hampton into submission until they give up their lands. Once he has the land, Fowler plans to create his own fiefdom with his henchmen as his lieutenants. With that, Graham escorts Grey out.

When Grey returns to the dock, he tells Travis to find Ansel. The mate tells the captain that Ansel stayed, figuring Grey would change his mind, and is waiting in the captain's quarters. Grey meets with the old farmer, who explains that Fowler arrived in Hampton a year ago with a small army of thugs and took over the town. The only establishments left are brothels and saloons so Ansel needs the Enterprise because there's no church for Sonja to marry at. He suggests that Grey dock the Enterprise at the inlet leading to the Torgin farm and hold the wedding in the grand salon. Grey, glad for the money as well as the chance to defy Fowler, agrees to hold the wedding.

The wedding takes place and Sonja marries Chris Slade. Once the ceremony is done, Ansel congratulates the happy couple and invites everyone to eat, drink, and dance. As Grey and Ben watch, Grey asks his pilot if he recognizes Chris from anywhere. Ben doesn't but Grey is sure that he's seen the man somewhere before.

As Ben goes out on deck, he hears gunshots from the riverbank. Tom and his friend Klein are using one of the saloon girls, Lucy, for target practice. They're forcing the sobbing woman to hold up a garter as they try to shoot it out of her hand. When they hear the music from the wedding, they decide to crash the party and fire one last shot, knocking the garter out of the terrified Lucy's hand.

Ansel proposes a toast to the happy couple and admits that when he first met Chris, he thought he was running for something and saw fear in his eyes. However, he eventually saw Chris' love for daughter in his eyes as well and accepted him as a worthy husband for Sonja. The old man has the first dance with Sonja while Grey approaches Chris and asks where they might have met. Chris avoids the question, saying that he's traveled around quite a bit and they might have met anywhere. He explains that he came to the Torgin farm and Ansel found him sleeping in a haystack. Rather than turn him out, Ansel took Chris into his home and gave him a job. As Chris goes to dance with Sonja, Ben comes over to inform Grey that they need to move the mooring lines.

As the dancing continues, Tom and Klein barge in and break up the party. Tom grabs Sonja and demands a kiss, and shoves Ansel aside when the old man tries to intervene. Chris finally fights back, knocking Tom down, and the younger man draws a knife. The two men fight and Chris manages to hold his own. They fall to the floor and Tom lands on the knife, killing himself. Klein insists on taking Tom's body with them and warns them that Fowler will want revenge. Once they leave, Grey checks on a wound that Chris took and comments that he's still good in a knife fight. As Chris realizes that Grey has recognized him, the captain invites the groom back to his cabin to stitch up his wound.

In the cabin, Grey tells Chris that he remembers him from seven years ago when the Enterprise was transporting prisoners. Chris knifed Grey as he leaped overboard and made his escape. The former prisoner explains that he was convicted of killing a man in a knife fight. The charge was true but that his attacker accused him of cheating when he was playing a fair game of cards. Grey plans to take Chris to New Orleans and collect the reward, and Chris agrees as long as the captain doesn't tell Sonja the truth about him. The captain tells Chris that he doesn't have a choice, but when Sonja comes in, Grey simply says that her husband isn't going anywhere.

The farmers are discussing the situation and worry that Fowler will come after them. Some of them, including the older farmer that Grey met, figure that there best bet is to hand Chris over to the crime lord. However, Ansel defends his son-in-law, pointing out that he simply defended Sonja. Grey overhears them and tells the farmers that they should figure out the best way to bow down to Fowler. Fowler, Graham, Klein, and the rest of the gang ride up to the inlet's dock and string up a noose. Graham walks out on the dock and asks to meet with Grey. The captain refuses to let him onboard and the Englishman tells Grey to turn Chris over. When Grey refuses, Graham warns him that he has no choice. Undeterred, Grey calls to Fowler and tells him that he won't get Chris. Fowler calls back, telling Grey that he has thirty seconds to hand Chris over.

Grey has Travis get the farmers into the grand salon and then has the crew prepare to take the Enterprise out. Chris suggests that it might be easier for Grey if he hands the prisoner over. However, if Grey does then he'll lose the reward money. Grey tells him to shut up and go to his cabin, and then orders the ship out into the river. They head down the inlet only to discover that Fowler's men have built a dam in their way. Fowler calls out and says that if he doesn't get Chris then he's going to start burning the farmers' lands.

Grey and Ben discuss what to do and the pilot wonders if Chris is worth fighting for. He wonders if Grey is putting the Enterprise at risk because of offended pride that Chris escaped him seven years ago. The captain admits that things would be easier if he turned over Chris, but he wants to see justice done even if he loses the Enterprise. Ben reluctantly agrees to back his partner but warns Grey that the farmers might not see it that way.

In the salon, the farmers are still discussing whether to turn Chris over. They finally agree to give him to Fowler, but Ansel overhears them and warns against it. However, when the farmers try to leave the salon, the crew informs them that Grey has left orders to keep them inside.

Sonja, overhearing the arguments, goes to her cabin and starts packing Chris' belongings. Chris refuses to leave but Sonja warns him that the farmers will betray him to Fowler. Her husband tells her that he's done with running and that he won't take her away from her home. Sonja refuses to accept that and insists on standing by her new husband.

Fowler waits and wonders what is taking Grey so long. The sadistic Graham is sure that Grey will hand Chris over. However, Fowler isn't so sure and sends Klein and two other men to burn the nearest farm. As they go, Graham tells his employer that even if Grey doesn't crack, one of the farmers will eventually break and then the rest will go along.

The farmers see the men ride off and realize that something is going on. Chris and Sonja come in and the farm's owner, the older man, demands a vote. Grey comes in and tells them that he's in charge and there won't be any vote. The farmers wonder if Grey is willing to sacrifice his ship and Grey admits that he isn't sure. Sonja steps forward and addresses the farmers, accusing them of hating Chris because he stood up to Fowler when they wouldn't. Chris refuses to beg but he does tell them that it's their land and they should fight. If he had land to fight for, he'd rebuild it no matter how many times Fowler destroyed it.

As the farmers argue back and forth, Grey reminds them that ultimately they're the law and they're the one that let Fowler take over the town. Ansel insists that they fight Fowler and Grey offers them all of the guns that he has to even the odds. However, the farmers point out that Fowler's men will pick them off before they can get to shore. Grey says that he'll get them to the Hampton dock and tells Ben to bring out a keg of priming powder. Ben warns that it's dangerous but Grey repeats his order and Ben reluctantly agrees.

The farmers see the old farmer's property burn and even Ansel has second thoughts. Grey tells them that now they have an excuse to fight back against Fowler. He asks if they're going to back off again and Ansel assures him that they'll fight. Grey tells them that they'd better mean it because he's putting his neck on the line.

Ben puts the keg of priming powder on a lifeboat and warns Grey that the farmers may cave no matter what. The captain doesn't matter as long as he frees his ship, and rows the lifeboat to the barricade. Fowler and his men open fire and one of them wounds Grey in the shoulder. Ben prepares to swim to his partner but Chris punches him and swims out to the lifeboat. Once he's aboard, he rows the lifeboat to the barricade while the crew provides cover fire. The wounded Grey is unable to plant the keg and Chris climbs up on the makeshift dam, places the keg, and lights the fuse. As he rows away, Fowler fires and hits the ex-convict in the shoulder. Grey and Chris row together and get the lifeboat back to the ship.

As the dam blows up, the crew treats the injured men's wounds and the Enterprise steams out into the river. Chris surrenders to Grey but the captain tells him that he'll make a good farmer and lets him go. Grey then tells the farmers that they have two choices. He can put them ashore downriver somewhere beyond Fowler's reach, or go to the dock and give them the chance to take back their lands and their self-respect. However, Grey warns them that Fowler won't go down easily. The farmers tell Grey to take them back to Hampton and Grey tells Ben to dock at the Hampton pier.

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Grey looks around the wreckage of the Lady Luck Saloon and notes that Fowler put up a fight but eventually the farmers won and made sure that Fowler stood trial for his crimes. The captain looks around the town and then walks away, satisfied.

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