Adam has a duel with someone who insulted a saloon girl he likes. Ben is concerned that his son is getting involved with a girl who's past hasn't been very rosy. When she is shot and killed... See full summary »

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Sheriff Jesse Sanders
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Sue Ellen Terry
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Amelia Terry
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Dixie
John Stephenson ...
John Henry
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Referee at Duel
Clarke Alexander ...
Man at Bar
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Storyline

Adam has a duel with someone who insulted a saloon girl he likes. Ben is concerned that his son is getting involved with a girl who's past hasn't been very rosy. When she is shot and killed in his arms, he is arrested for her murder while the real killer he shot at gets away. Written by DrDOS

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Western

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12 December 1959 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Dixie: Mighty thirsty, day, ain't it?
Sheriff Jesse Sanders: [Giving him a coin] Go get yourself unthirsted.
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Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost?
23 July 2016 | by (Omaha, Nebraska) – See all my reviews

Only fourteen shows into the 430-episode epic series and already each Cartwright has loved and lost. This time it's Adam's turn to suffer.

Like father like son, Adam has fallen for a saloon girl. As Ben haughtily lectures Adam on his involvement with a woman the townspeople whisper about, he seems to have forgotten his own scandalous love for a disreputable actress ("The Magnificent Adah") and his implied romantic relationship with a saloon girl in just the preceding episode, "Vendetta." Ben's wisdom-tinged moralizing falls upon deaf ears, however, and Adam--like so many men before and after him--rushes in where angels fear to tread.

Hoss loved and lost in "The Newcomers," and Little Joe in "The Truckee Strip," both of which episodes slipped into melodrama. So what a delight that "The Sisters" instead took a turn towards murder mystery! While Adam kisses his beloved goodnight a shot rings out and Sue Ellen wilts like a cut flower. Adam races off into the shadows after the assassin, and ends up getting charged with the heinous crime. Why didn't he stay with Sue Ellen until the doctor arrived? Were her fading moments spent surrounded by gawking strangers?

I believe Adam made a poor choice in that moment--and a revealing one. Adam is a man of a fragile ego, one easily bruised, and when he believes he's been dishonored he will stop at nothing to avenge it. This is evident in the duel that opens the episode, Adam's roughing up and demanding an apology from Dixie, and finally his impulsive rush to vengeance while his girlfriend is abandoned and left to die. Adam is never shown grieving over his loss; in fact, Ben seems to take it harder than Adam, maybe because Ben has been there time and time again.

Before affable Sheriff Roy Coffee joined the cast in the second season, Virginia City was policed for at least several terms by rogue lawman Sheriff Jesse Sanders. Buddy Ebsen is impressive playing the corrupt lawman with a perverse edge. It was an ugly role, far from folksy Jed Clampett and Barnaby Jones, but one that shows his range and which makes fans such as myself appreciate Ebsen even more.

The mystery plot was intriguing and the writers gave us several possible suspects, each with a motive and acting suspiciously, of course. Serving as a catalyst is Malcolm Atterbury as town drunk Dixie enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame recounting and reenacting his increasingly fanciful take on the shooting, which unbelievable as it was, nonetheless provoked the half-soused barflies to get a lynch mob together to string up hapless Adam. Sheriff Sanders bemoans to Adam the prospect of having to shoot voters in order to protect a prisoner. Sanders was despicable, concerned only with reelection to his cushy job. Watching Sanders curry favor with voters, idle away the day playing cards with his deputies, and calling upon the young lady with whom he's infatuated, I wondered how Ben Cartwright could ever have been friends with this horrible man. And Sanders notes Ben and he have been friends a long time, ever since Adam was just a lad.

The mystery of the murderer's identity wasn't too difficult to solve. And it was cool to see Adam prefigure Han Solo with some under-the-table shooting. Sanders conveniently ties up all the loose ends and exonerates Adam before expiring, perhaps oversharing about his unseemly infatuation with Sue Ellen, whom he'd admired since she was a schoolgirl.

The episode ends there, and I was left wishing an effort had been made to weave continuity into the scripts. For example, imagine how powerful and meaningful an epilogue scene would have been of Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe sitting before the fireplace, staring forlornly into their brandies, and lamenting the loves they've each recently lost to disease, pitchfork puncture, and gunshot. Add to that Ben standing to the side and entering to sympathize and to share how he's been there too. I like to imagine that that is exactly what happened after the credits rolled.


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