The Big Valley

Season 1 Episode 22

The Death Merchant

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Feb 23, 1966 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Death Merchant

Handy Random, the man who killed the man that killed Tom Barkley, comes to Stockton. It's a happy reunion for all but Heath who hates the man, and for good reason. Everywhere he goes he starts range wars to profit from them.

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  • A man shoots at Audra after she knits him the wrong colored muff

    This a-typical, A+ episode of
    The Big Valley starts out with scenes of miles of orange groves, and a bumbling, seemingly likable old-timer riding along them on his donkey. Why the sudden citrusy setting, and who's this goofy interloper? These questions draw the viewer in, and set the stage for an hour of grim drama juxtaposed with the humorous ways the stranger has about him, including his dialogues with his mule.

    The history recounted by Heath (by the way, how many wars, misadventures, mining towns, and sweethearts has this young man seen in his young life?) of his disdain for Random is creepy, as is the way that Random coldly chooses his ammunition (buckshot is up in price; fill 'em up with gravel instead!). Sour-faced Royal Dano reprises his western stereotype well as the slightly wacko, uber-religious neighbor who's frustrating the Barkleys' peaceful lifestyle. But James Whitmore positively steals the show in the dichotomy of his role as a comical and affable, yet truly heartless and bloodthirsty killer.moreless
  • The Barkleys discover an old family friend is Satan.

    The Barkleys are in a range war with another family over a a piece of land that was moved by an apparent seismic event. The leader of the rival clan contends that it was an act of God and refuses to let the Barkleys pick fruit on the land, and threatens to have them shot on sight if they do. Enter Handy Random, a man held in high esteem by the Barkleys because he is the man who killed the man who killed Tom Barkley. He visits the Barkley ranch, and along the way has a run-in with members of the rival clan. He also offers to kill them and ensure the Barkleys will be able to pick fruit in safety on the disputed land, but the Barkleys are less than thrilled with his offer. Meanwhile, there is one Barkley who does not hold him in high esteem. Before joining the Barkley household Heath had participated in the Lincoln County Wars, and believed that what he was fighting for was right. Random also fought in those wars, but to him it was all a money making venture, selling his services to the highest bidder. Heath tells the others about his experiences with Random, and they tell Random to leave the ranch. Embittered, he offers his services to the rival clan, and the results are disastrous for both families. As Heath warned, he has no conscience and kills for profit. After the rival clan learns the hard way of his true nature, it is up to Heath and Audra to stop him, and ultimitely bring peace among the two families.

    James Whitmore is superb as the cold-blooded Handy Random, as is Royal Dano as the pious leader of the Barkleys' adversaries.moreless
James Whitmore

James Whitmore

Handy Random

Guest Star

Royal Dano

Royal Dano

Ezra Craddock

Guest Star

Steve Whittaker

Steve Whittaker

Joe Craddock

Guest Star

Napoleon Whiting

Napoleon Whiting


Recurring Role

Michael Harris (III)

Michael Harris (III)


Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • The Lincoln County War was fought in New Mexico in 1878-79. It had not yet begun in 1876, the year The Big Valley is set. So Heath would not have been involved in it two years prior to his arrival at the ranch.

  • QUOTES (10)

    • Ezra: Now after what your man did to our boys...
      Nick: I keep trying to tell you, he was not our man!
      Ezra: He just shoots my sons and lives in your house.
      Nick: He wasn't when he did.
      Ezra: But he did and he is.
      Nick: We're not getting too far, are we?
      Ezra: You're not.

    • Audra: Handy Random is a friend of this family, and as long as you're a part of it, he's a friend of yours.
      Heath: I think I have the right to pick my own friends.

    • Nick: Having you for a partner, Handy, is something like having a rattlesnake in your hip pocket.

    • Handy: Now I'd like to apologize to each and every one of you.
      Jarrod: For what?
      Handy: For having to kill you if you ever step on Craddock land.
      Jarrod: You're working for Craddock?
      Handy: Not yet, but there's two sides to every question.

    • Handy: You'd better tell these boys, next time not to shoot at a man unless they mean to see him dead.
      Ezra: I already have. Any reason why you shouldn't be the next one?
      Handy: Well, I got some pretty good reasons right here in these barrels.
      Ezra: Little pieces of glass like the doctor took out of my boys?
      Handy: No, it's gravel this time. Cuts down on my overhead. Did you know that double-ought buckshot is up to a dime a pound?

    • Handy: You add a hundred dollars to that, I'll guarantee the Barkleys don't step on your property.
      Ezra: Why are you switching sides?
      Handy: I'm not unless you're coming up with an extra hundred. Satisfaction guaranteed.

    • Ezra: Pretty lady like you ought to have woman's work to keep her busy.
      Audra: If you men would handle things better, I'd have time to. As it is, my dinner's probably ruined.

    • Handy: The trouble with this dyin' business, it makes you feel like a plum-darned fool. I always hoped if'fn I did die, I'd be out of town at the time. Somebody would have to come and tell me about it later.

    • Ezra: What'd you do with the old renegade?
      Heath: We buried him down by the creek.
      Ezra: On which side?
      Nick: Our side.
      Ezra: You should have left him for the buzzards.
      Nick: Even the buzzards are due some consideration, don't you think?

    • Ezra: Some religions, nobody works for two weeks while mourning the death of a member of the family. Picking oranges is work.
      Audra: What religion is that, Mr. Craddock?
      Ezra: My religion.

  • NOTES (1)