The Virginian

Season 4 Episode 14

Letter of the Law

Aired Wednesday 7:30 PM Dec 22, 1965 on NBC

Episode Recap

Judge Garth and Jennifer appeal to the governor for the release of Curt Westley (James Best), a man they believe was unjustly convicted of a train robbery – but the governor (David McLean) refuses their request. Meanwhile, the Virginian is on a train returning to Medicine Bow which is robbed by a lone gunman (James Doohan). The Virginian and train conductor (William Tannen) follow the robber and manage to find him before he can ride off. In the ensuing gun battle, the man is shot by the Virginian but before he dies reveals to his pursuers that his name is James Francis O'Banion, that he, not Curt Westley, robbed the train, and that the money is hidden at Crystal Falls. The Virginian and Emmett Ryker ride to the falls and find all the money save $10,000. The governor paroles Westley, but does not exonerate him, saying the confession of one thief does not clear another. Westley arrives at the Medicine Bow train station where he is met by his wife Joan (Davey Davison), the Virginian and Emmett. His arrival is watched by Charles Sanders (Simon Oakland), chief of security for the railroad who came on the same train, and the local railroad security agent, Kip Lothrop (Don Stewart). The two later visit Emmett and it is revealed that they still believe Curt guilty, that Curt had confessed to the crime (although Emmett wonders how such a confession was obtained) and that Kip admires Joan Westley. Sanders also implies Emmett may have been in league with Curt given his past record before he turned to law enforcement. Sanders later visits the Westley ranch and tells Curt he will send him back to prison. Emmett observes Kip in the saloon with n'er do well Hoby Porter (Ron Soble) and later Kip asks Porter to rob a payroll and use a jacket with Westley's initials which can be observed by the Wells Fargo clerk. Hoping Curt will run, Kip then gets Hoby to ride by Linwood Lake where Curt is working for Shiloh ranch and tell him of the robbery and that the railway detective is looking for him. Curt returns to his ranch, and over his wife's protests, rides off, saying he was told the railway detective had put up a reward for him.. Those searching for Curt, including Charles Sanders, Emmett and the Virginian, return to the Westley ranch and as they arrive, a dishevelled and battered Kip arrives, saying he was assaulted by Curt. As they treat him in the Westley house, Emmett finds Curt's partially burned, initialled jacket in the wood stove and Sanders accuses Joan of being an accomplice to the crime. Emmett seems to agree but after the others ride off he questions Joan. He learns the jacket was at the ranch after Curt had been sent to prison but disappeared before he returned. Joan thinks Sanders planted the jacket but Emmett does not believe that. He learns that only Kip had been around the ranch and that he had made a pass at Joan which she rebuked although they still remained on friendly terms. Also, he rationalizes that Kip knew about the payroll and remembers seeing him and Hoby together. He captures Hoby and gets the Wells Cargo clerk to admit Hoby could be the bank robber. Emmett then returns to the jail where the searchers, who have captured Curt, have returned. Leaving Hoby outside with the Virginian he enters the jail and pretends he believes Curt guilty. In Charles' and Kip's presence he tells Curt he wants a full confession or he will charge his wife as an accomplice -- so Kip confesses to a crime he did not commit, much to Charles' satisfaction. However, Emmett then turns on the railway detectives saying how easy it is to get a false confession. He reveals how he knows Kip was in love with Joan and tried to foster that love by getting Curt out of the way including staging the Wells Fargo robbery. Hoby is brought in and backs up the story. Sander's realizes Kip has made a fool of him and worse a "fool of the law." He knocks down Kip, apologizes as best he can to Curt, and leaves.