Nina has a joyless marriage to a man who admits he married her just for her father's money - of which they've seen none since their wedding day. When her husband hires a man to create a scandal with his wife that will blackmail her father into forking over some money, the man instead falls in love with Nina. So Nina's husband hires another man: this one, to kill Nina's lover. Written by
John Meston wrote scripts through "Gunsmoke"'s tenth season. Why he quit isn't clear, but he was quoted as saying that, had he known how long "Gunsmoke" would run, he never would have gotten involved!
This seventh-season episode is ur-Meston. A cruel, greedy husband (William Windom at his nasty/snivelly best) decides to make it look as if his wife has been unfaithful, so he can blackmail his wealthy father-in-law, in exchange for not spreading around the tale. Naturally, the plan backfires, leaving a pile of corpses.
As usual, Meston shows us how to tell a good story. The basic idea is simple, and it develops complexity in plausible ways -- yet we can't anticipate how it's going to turn out. Meston isn't afraid of cruelly unhappy endings.
* "Gunsmoke" was originally conceived as a "noir" Western. Some of the early episodes wouldn't be out of place as hard-boiled crime thrillers.
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