The Virginian

Season 5 Episode 28

Lady of the House

Aired Wednesday 7:30 PM Apr 05, 1967 on NBC
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Episode Summary

Lady of the House
Sandford Miles' widow shows up at Shiloh to help Grainger, an old childhood friend raise Stacy and Elizabeth. She has ulterior motives however, her hatred for Grainger. She holds him responsible for her husbands death in the "Battle of the Wilderness" during the Civil War.

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  • A vengeful widow manages to weave her way into the Grainger household, wreaking havoc on the psyches of Stacy and Elizabeth.

    The great Myrna Loy, the actress John Dillinger watched in 'Manhattan Melodrama' right before he was shot at Chicago's Biograph Theater, was in her 60s and semi-retired when she appeared as Mrs. Miles in this episode.

    She's the focal point of the story, revealed early on as a woman on a mission to destroy the domestic happiness of John Grainger because she blames him for the death of her husband some 20 years earlier. She sets about trying to undermine the confidence of both Stacy and Elizabeth, making Stacy question his gentlemanly qualities, as well as his ranch work and dancing skills. She makes a mess of Elizabeth, putting her to work endlessly oiling the woodwork and dusting picture frames, and criticizing her cooking and her decorating. Grainger, as usual, is oblivious to what's going on with his grandchildren. Mrs. Miles does an excellent job of putting her own schemes into the supposed wishes of the children, convincing Grainger that Elizabeth wants to go to school in Boston. Stacy declares his desire to go to San Francisco, despite the fact he'll miss both Shiloh and his grandfather. We know he simply wants to escape from Mrs. Miles, whom he and Elizabeth both believe is destined to be the future Mrs. Grainger.

    The mind games between Mrs. Miles and Grainger's grandchildren seem interminable at times. A better tension is established early on between the formidable female and The Virginian, as she upbraids him for traipsing through the house, relegating him to her "headquarters" in the kitchen. James Drury does a good job in his two scenes with Loy, as well as in pivotal scenes with Charles Bickford and Don Quine. This is how I like The Virginian best, perceptive and plain, a good advisor to the proprietor of Shiloh and, in this case, a mentor to the heir, Stacy.

    While the episode is frustrating, making us want to shout at the lack of clear communication among the family members, it does a good job of revealing the occasional distance--both emotional and physical--between Grainger and his grandchildren. He's older and incredibly reticent. This is certainly not an emotive family, like, say, the Cartwrights or the Barkleys.

    One strange feature is an almost constant stormy background sound, an eerie howling wind that might be blowing through the house, but is more likely blowing through the mind of the troubled Mrs. Miles. By the end of the episode when the 'lady of the house' finally experiences her break with reality and takes her leave in a typically abrupt ending, we can almost feel sorry for her and everything we've learned about her suffering.


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