The Virginian

Season 5 Episode 23

Doctor Pat

0
Aired Wednesday 7:30 PM Mar 01, 1967 on NBC
6.9
out of 10
User Rating
11 votes
2

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Doctor Pat
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The prejudiced townspeople of Medicine Bow are not happy about their new doctor, seems that Doctor Pat is in fact Doctor Patricia O'Neill.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • "We are who we are, but we're not murderers."

    9.5
    Twelve years prior to the filming of this episode, Warner Brothers made a film called "Strange Lady in Town" starring Greer Garson. It, too, was about a female physician in the old west (and is probably the real basis for Jane Seymour's interpretation of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman). According to the internet movie database description, "Strange Lady" is about 'a brilliant woman who has studied medicine in Europe and has several new techniques to try to update the staid, older doctor.' We sort of see some of that in this episode of The Virginian. It was also done again in an episode of Gunsmoke called 'Dr. Sam McTavish M.D.' in which Milburn Stone's doc has to learn to accept the new ways of a lady medic. That episode first aired on October 5, 1970 (more than three years after this episode of The Virginian) and featured Vera Miles. I am sure there are more examples in other western films and television series.



    What's important here is the way the writers of The Virginian show how it affects our lead male character. In this case, James Drury's character, a ranch hand, is the one whose life is most affected by the arrival of a doctor named Pat. In fact, in one scene, he helps her operate! There is a nice romance that develops but is ended somewhat abruptly at the close of the episode. It would've been nice had she returned to Medicine Bow in a later season and they had reconnected.



    What also strikes me about this episode is how like Hitchcock's last film "Family Plot," it has two very separate plots that do not really intersect until more than two-thirds of the way into the story. We sort of figure that the crooks will eventually need medical attention and that Pat will cross paths with them. But I like how these people seem rather isolated in their criminal pursuits, then with an interesting twist of fate, they suddenly jeopardize her standing in the community through no fault of her own. There is a great line of dialogue in which the lady crook seems to speak on behalf of Pat and the entire medical profession when she says they are who they are, but they are not murderers.



    It's a nicely done episode. The only flaw I found with it is that I would think some of the ranch hands in town would go to her not because they needed treatment, but because she was so attractive and they would find any excuse to interact with her. There could've been a cute comic relief scene with Trampas feigning an injury and being her first 'real' client. Instead, we find her being completely shunned in the beginning which I don't think would exactly happen.moreless
  • A lady doctor struggles to gain acceptance in Medicine Bow.

    6.0
    25 years before 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,' The Virginian offered us this story of Doctor Pat (instead of Doctor Mike), an associate for Doc Spalding who arrives in Medicine Bow and raises eyebrows because of her gender. The story is almost totally set outside the setting of the actual series; it could be any western show, except The Virginian himself shows up in a few of the pivotal scenes and seems to harbor some affection for the lady doctor. The complete lack of any real sparks between them might be due to the writing or the wooden acting. But somehow James Drury looks as bewildered as we are by this aspect of the story line. (The lead actress, Jill Donohue, played three different roles on the series during its run; one might hope she did a better job with better material.)



    The townspeople don't want to accept Doctor Pat, even though she seemingly has more up-to-date medical knowledge and is certainly bolder about her willingness to wield a scalpel. When a gold-bricking boy, Tim Bates, blames his supposed inability to move his shoulder on Doctor Pat's treatment, the boy's father bad-mouths the good doctor. Needless to say, the line in the lobby of the doctor's office does not lead to her door. Luckily The Virginian is skeptical of little Timmy's protests and gives Doctor Pat a heads-up. She and Doc Spalding trick the kid into giving himself away, and Daddy Bates publically admits he was wrong.



    Has Doctor Pat turned the corner? Of course not. The plot is so predictable, you don't even need to watch the episode to know what's going to happen. Suffice it to say someone will die, despite Doctor Pat's best efforts, and she'll have to face an inquest into her actions. In the meantime, in order to fill out the 90-minute time slot, an inexplicable sub-plot about a crooked couple robbing the banker and accidentally shooting one of their own attempts to create suspense about whether the lady doctor will make it to the courthouse in time.



    She does. But you almost wish she hadn't. The climactic scene is far from climactic. And when Doctor Pat decides to leave Medicine Bow because she's afraid her growing passion for The Virginian will interfere with her career, you can only shrug. The Virginian deserves a better romance. Why not give him one with more scenery to chew on, like Trampas and 'Melanie' from earlier in the season?



    The extraneous detail that fascinated me most was the gravity-defying hairdo the doctor wore (Pat, not Doc Spalding). Hairstylist Larry Germain was working overtime on this one. Pat has a huge head of blonde hair intricately wound around the back of her head, one that probably monopolized most of the hairpins in Medicine Bow. (I started to expect her to show up with Yeoman Rand's basket beehive from 'Star Trek.') It took my mother hours in the salon chair to wear that kind of style back in the 70s, and it's hard to imagine a female doctor taking the time or effort to maintain such a do. Maybe her frustration over a lack of opportunity to practice her surgical skills was taken out on her head. One can only wonder how long it would have taken if The Virginian had ever been able to get the lady to let down her hair . . .



    Luckily we'll never know.moreless
James Drury

James Drury

The Virginian

Clu Gulager

Clu Gulager

Deputy Sheriff Emmett Ryker

Don Quine

Don Quine

Stacy Grainger

Don 'Red' Barry

Don 'Red' Barry

Charles Coulter

Guest Star

Mari Blanchard

Mari Blanchard

Marie Coulter

Guest Star

Jill Donohue

Jill Donohue

Doctor Patricia O'Neill

Guest Star

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