Bonanza: Season 10, Episode 29

The Fence (27 Apr. 1969)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Western
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 23 users  
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Ben and Hoss are brought under siege with their friend, Sam Masters, and his daughter, Ellen, in an isolated miner's cabin by a former Union Army officer and his men who claim that Sam is ... See full summary »

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Title: The Fence (27 Apr 1969)

The Fence (27 Apr 1969) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
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Sam Masters / Tom Andrews
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Colonel Jim Hudson
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Lieutenant Will Tyler (as Lawrence Linville)
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Teddy Hudson
Charles Dierkop ...
Sawyer
Garry Walberg ...
Bower
Patrick Hawley ...
Stobbs
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Ellen Masters
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Storyline

Ben and Hoss are brought under siege with their friend, Sam Masters, and his daughter, Ellen, in an isolated miner's cabin by a former Union Army officer and his men who claim that Sam is really Confederate prisoner of war camp Commander Thomas Andrews who is guilty of Civil War crimes and on the run. Written by shepherd1138

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Western

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27 April 1969 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Lawrence (don't call me Larry) Linville before M*A*S*H and JD Cannon Star
8 October 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Though I am old enough to have seen most Bonanza episodes when aired initially I did not have much use for this show at the time and only watched it with my Grandma on Sunday nights when we visited her. With MeTV running the series on a daily basis I have given it a second look (which is really a first look.)

The first 3 or 4 seasons hold up pretty well but this episode aired at the tail end of season 10. Adam is long gone. Most episodes at this point feature only two of the Cartwrights (with a little Candy about 90% of the time.) No Candy here. No Little Joe either. Hoss is in the episode but has little to do but get shot off his horse without being hurt at all. So we're left with Ben and yet another of those Cartwright "friends" who are inevitably gone, never to be seen again, at the conclusion of the episode -- in this case a man known as Sam Masters and his daughter Ellen.

Since I have never posted on any Bonanza episode before it is reasonable to wonder why I chose this one. In a nutshell it is due to the fact that the story centers on a man (Masters) who was in charge of a Confederate prison camp and who is now being pursued a few years after the war's end by a vengeful former Union prisoner Col. Jim Hudson (played by the inimitable JDCannon) with Lawrence (don't call me Larry just yet) Linville in tow. Linville plays the former no. 2 Confederate officer at the prison camp who is now leading Col. Hudson to the man Hudson has sworn vengeance on in the name of all of his fellow Union soldiers who died at the camp because of the lack of food and humane conditions.

This episode takes up the very old question of organized warfare -- is following orders an absolute duty at all times or more of a judgment call on occasion? On this point the writing here is strong and makes a compelling case for both points of view.

Col. Hudson is the central character in this episode. He is a follow orders first, last and always kind of officer. He has sworn vengeance but goes out of his way to try to insure that no one else will die in this pursuit. He orders his men to only kill if there is no other choice. This leads to a rather comical scene wherein Hoss is attempting to escape on horseback to get help. He is shot at and falls off his horse completely unharmed! Later Ben will shoot one of Col. Hudson's youthful volunteers in the butt, but again no damage, just a "branding" in Ben's words.

Unfortunately except for the central dilemma noted above the writing is only adequate for the other 45 minutes or so of the episode as the story itself is rather weak and saved only by the performances. JDCannon is excellent. John Anderson plays "Masters" as well as he can be played as he is a man who is ashamed of his past and feels guilt for it as well. Ben is Ben who gets to play peacemaker and then mediator at a conference between Col. Hudson and Masters wherein Masters will finally learn the truth - a truth any of us familiar with Lawrence (don't call me Larry) Linville knew the moment he was shown in the episode's first scene, i.e. he would be revealed as the real guilty party. And so he is in the course of maybe two minutes of this conference. It turns out that Lt. Tyler (Linville) found a way to hijack food and supplies meant for the Union prisoners and to sell said food and supplies for his own profit. Once unmasked (and to provide closure to the episode) Lt. Tyler must run. Once running he must be killed and he becomes the only casualty of this episode if you don't worry about plausibility which clearly is another casualty.

The viewer will have many questions as the closing credits roll: Why would Lt. Tyler help Col. Hudson if he made so much money selling the stolen supplies? Is the Masters character any less guilty because he was apparently inept as a commanding officer? (Surely during the course of many months he should have caught on to Lt. Tyler's game.) Master's wife died at the prison camp. Again, is he inept or just unlucky? I am sure there are many other questions but I am tired of writing about this (as I am sure you are tired of reading about this).

To summarize: For a season 10 episode this one is pretty good but if you are new to Bonanza I encourage you to watch something from seasons 1 to 3 when the 4 Cartwrights rode together and the Civil War was still a couple of years in the future instead of a couple of years in the past.


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