The disappearance of a young heir to a fortune appears to be a kidnapping for ransom orchestrated by Kid Curry as Thaddeus Jones. At least that's what the heir would like to think. In fact ...
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The disappearance of a young heir to a fortune appears to be a kidnapping for ransom orchestrated by Kid Curry as Thaddeus Jones. At least that's what the heir would like to think. In fact he himself is the kidnapper and Curry is his hostage. The kidnapper has his eye on an eligible bachelorette, whom he plans to woo with the ransom money once it gets out of escrow and is paid. Heyes, who comes into town separately, doesn't know all the details but puts together enough to realize Curry is likely to be murdered and his body dumped in a stream until it rots once the ten days are up. So Heyes decides to woo the eligible bachelorette on his own. He meets up with Doc Holliday, whom he knows from a poker game (Holliday was a great winner at faro but not much of a poker player; Heyes had won $20,000 from him in the earlier game, only to have Wyatt Earp force him to lose it back). Heyes points out the young woman and explains that he wants to court her. He's already swiped a book of poetry ... Written by
Another fun episode highlighted by the return of Bill Fletcher as Doc Holliday, whom he first played in the second season's "Which Way to the O.K. Corral?" This go 'round is even better than that first one, with a compelling mystery story and more engaging characters. "Ten Days" also allows Holliday to shine brighter than he did in "Which Way," where he was presented as a pathetic figure who spent the episode hunched over a poker table coughing. This episode boasts a more animated Holliday, now residing in Ashford, warming a chair in the local saloon and eager to play a high stakes hand or just to dish local gossip.
This episode opens with Heyes and the Kid being pursued by a posse. They split up and agree to meet in Ashford. The Kid gets there first and before Heyes arrives the Kid is arrested as a confidence man for making a wager he couldn't pay. His ten dollar fine, however, is paid by a kind-hearted schoolteacher, Amy Martin, who invites the Kid to her home for hot cocoa and pastries. There the Kid learns he's been set up to be the patsy for a bank robbery masterminded by crooked teller Willard Riley. While the Kid is tied to a chair in an underground dungeon, Willard pulls his heist and plants the Kid's distinctive hat in the alley behind the bank.
Heyes rides into Ashford and learns from Doc Holliday of his partner's problems. Heyes knows the Kid lacks both the brains and the greed to pull off such a caper, so he sets to unraveling the mystery. And it plays out well.
Shirley Knight is excellent as schoolteacher Amy Martin. Yeah, she's in cahoots with Willard, but she's a sympathetic and uneasy co-conspirator. When Heyes learns that Amy paid the Kid's fine, his suspicion is aroused and he pays her a visit at the schoolhouse. Heyes woos Amy by playing an ignorant drifter whose vice is composing poetry. He claims he can't write and asks if she'd be so kind as to write down one of his poems that he would like to send home to Mother. She's touched and moved and soon falls in love with him.
I suspect this episode led to Knight being cast and appearing just three months later in the outstanding "A Room with a View" episode of THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, where she again played a sensitive schoolteacher deceived by a suitor with ulterior motives (and where literature again plays a transformative role).
The real baddie is Willard, of course, the name perhaps still evoking images of rats from the then recent 1971 film. Edd "Kookie" Byrnes plays his part well, striking the balance between menace and charm that makes him a genuine threat but also believable as a man who could seduce Amy into his scheme.
Along with Bill Fletcher, the seemingly ubiquitous Bill Quinn makes a return appearance in this sequel episode, this time as the hotel desk clerk shaking down the shabby-looking Kid for payment in advance. Quinn played the dispatcher in "Which Way to the O.K. Corral."
The climax is exciting and admirably avoids the clichéd shoot 'em out or punch 'em up (though there is a nod to both time-honored tropes). Amy attempts over Willard's understandable and strenuous objections to extricate herself from his harebrained scheme, having now seen a better, more promising path to take in life (even if it was only an illusion). Like the Kid, I don't think Amy would have fired the gun, especially when the Kid had Willard beat and pinned in front of him. Why didn't the Kid edge towards the steps and escape? No matter, because Heyes suddenly appears as a one-man cavalry and soon sets things aright.
One plot hole is Heyes' persuading Doc Holliday to let him win $7,000 in a rigged poker game (which money Heyes promises to return later that night). But after "winning" and appearing triumphantly at Amy's home, promising to take her away from Ashford, Heyes never even shows Amy the money as she simply takes his word for it. That whole elaborate plot element proved unnecessary. I also mistakenly assumed that Heyes' asking Amy to write out his poems was a ruse to get a handwriting sample that would connect her to the ransom notes. But that would have directly implicated Amy and the boys took care to keep her name clear from association with the crime. I guess one good turn deserved another, though the ethics of their decision could be debated.
There were only five episodes left in the series, which was still going strong creatively when the plug was prematurely pulled. Roger Davis was on firm footing as Heyes and his character had promise and potential, as testified to by his spotlighted role in this well-written and well-played episode.
I wonder if the unsung poetess Mrs. Schwedes ever learned how instrumental her compositions were, not only in securing the Kid's rescue but in helping inspire and point Amy to a more excellent way. Such is the power and appeal of the best literature.
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