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Josh Stryker (Morgan Woodward) is being released after serving fifteen
years in prison and is heading to Dodge to see his daughter. But there
is more to this man that just being considered a free man, he use to be
the Marshal of Dodge. But he was convicted of killing an unarmed murder
suspect in cold-blood. The person that gave the most damaging evidence
was his deputy Matt Dillon.
Stryker's fifteen years in prison which also included the lost of one of his arms has not cooled the hot-head. He blames Matt for all of his woes and he is planning a way to get even.
His daughter, Sarah Jean (Joan Van Ark), had her husband leave her and she had to get a job at the Long Branch. Her life has been going rather well and she is glad to see her father's release from jail. But it will not last long.
When two of Stryker's cell mates, Jessup and Reager, show up at Sarah Jean's house wanting money things go bad. At first Stryker pays them the money wanted and they agree to take care of Matt. But when things go wrong one of them is back wanting money anyway he can get it even if it means harming Sarah Jean.
There are some good scenes in this episode and also some scenes that appeared to just stretch out the time. The concept of the plot was outstanding but it seemed like the writer added too much filler and not enough substance to the story. Don't get me wrong, the episode is indeed a nice watch but there was just so much more that could have been done to produce a more entertaining show. But it did hold the interest long enough to produce a nice show.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've given this episode a 10, not only because it's excellent, but
because it is a "defining" story for the two principals.
If anyone has doubts that Morgan Woodward is (I was about to write /was/, but he's still with us!) a fine actor, this episode should erase them. It's no surprise he appeared in 19 "Gunsmoke" episodes and one of the films.
This episode reveals how Matt got promoted to Marshal. It seems Josh Stryker (Woodward) was Dodge's former marshal, and Matt his deputy. When Stryker was accused of murdering a suspect, it was Matt's testimony that got Stryker convicted and imprisoned for 15 years.
When Stryker returns, he has no desire to kill Matt (whom he rudely addresses as his deputy), but wants to convince everyone he did not murder the suspect -- Matt lied to get his job. This should destroy Matt's otherwise shining reputation.
Stryker slowly comes to accept that he /was/ guilty of murder. His reconciliation is a model any screenwriter should learn from -- he simply takes Matt's hand and calls him "Marshal".
Woodward's performance throughout is a model of understatement, even when he's angry. Though he wants revenge for what he considers a terrible wrong, we immediately feel sympathy -- even love -- for him.
The IMDb photo of Woodward shows him smiling. He's an actor one cannot even /imagine/ smiling. When he plays one of the bearded, weatherbeaten characters he did so well (as in "Lobo"), it's hard to think of a sexier actor. (Yes, folks, acne scars can be sexy.)
The casting is surprisingly lavish, with Andy Devine and Royal Dano in /secondary/ guest roles. Dano is uncharacteristically shown without age makeup. (He often played "older" parts.)
Certainly one of the best "Gunsmoke" episodes.
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