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In a surprising good and heartfelt episode we are introduced to two
horse busters by the name of Harve Daley (Gary Busey) and Mitch Hansen
(John Beck). While they are breaking in horses for a local rancher,
Harve gets bucked off and the horse steps on his head. This is the only
horse that Harve has not busted in years and is injured doing the task.
The two men go to Dodge to get their full pay for bucking the horses when Harve begins having fainting spells. Mitch takes him to see Doc Adams where he finds there is bleeding in the brain tissue from the horse stomp. Doc advises Mitch that Harve has only a short time to live and Mitch wants this kept from Harve. Doc agrees but tells Mitch to make sure he does not ride a horse nor have any heavy activities.
Mitch pays a bar-maid named Zoe to show Harve a good time. Only problem is that Harve, not being wise with women, begins falling in love with the Longbranch bar-maid. His dream has always been to see Montana and Mitch and him make plans to leave. Harve tells Zoe his dreams and ask her to join them as his wife.
Zoe wants to change her ways and agrees to go with them. But when Mitch tells Zoe the truth about Harve's medical condition, she plans to stay in Dodge and lets him down slowly.
Heave is upset and starts asking questions about how he has been treated. When Harve sees the horse that caused the injury, Mitch knows that Harve must ride. But at what cost will the ride take on the health of Harve.
John Beck and Gary Busey are excellent in this episode. Viewers know they are friends and would do anything for the other. And the way that Gary Busey plays Harve could not have been a better cast.
This one is worth the watch.
The two men were actually free-lance broncobusters, and this is how Sheriff Matt Dillon got involved: the ranch owner had refused to pay the men, but the sheriff made him pay because the owner's own ranch hands admitted that the two men did the work. I know this is a minor point but Gary Busey's character was actually suffering from an epidural hematoma, not a subdural one. This is what allowed him to have the "lucid interval" and have that final "good time" before his death. I still think this was one of the greatest episodes and was an appropriate send-off for the series - Gary's character and the show both went out with a bang. Overall, the later Gunsmoke episodes seemed to show more humanity than the "shoot 'em up" episodes in the early years and I still am sorry it went off the air.
John Beck performed brilliantly as Mitch Hansen in the last original episode of Gunsmoke. He and his partner were involved with cattle rustling. His partner rode a bull that became too volatile for his own good; he suffers a horrible gash in his head. Upon reaching Dodge City, Dr. Adams told Mitch Hansen his partner endured a subdural hematoma -- without any hope of living. Even with all the medicine in the world would not help him at all. His partner only had days to live; therefore, he spent whatever time left to enjoy the finer things in Dodge City. Both of them signed up for a $150 contest to determine how long they could withstand the challenge of riding a horse. The only problem: they would be leaving for Montana. The worst part? Hansen's partner was nearing death; his last activity would be to ride the horse before enduring the eternal rest from that type of terminal injury. I would have rated the episode a 14 .... all because of the special circumstances involving the final scene leading up to Hansen's partner dying much too soon in Dodge City .... particularly in 1975.
The two characters in the episode were bronco busters, not cattle
rustlers. Gary Busey's character was thrown from a wild horse and
stomped in the head, causing the head trauma that would kill him. John
Beck's character knows the truth from Doc Adams but doesn't tell his
friend and even goes out of his way to keep Busey's character from
fighting at the Long Branch, knowing he could die from any additional
blows to the head.
This is a terrific episode, beautifully acted and written. The series lated twenty years and could have gone longer because of the great stories and characters. Some other Westerns from the same era suffer from hanging on too long or trying to be serious and ending up being campy but Gunsmoke is the star of the genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really enjoyed this episode. Gary Busey's quiet, gentle cowboy is such a contrast to the bad guy roles he's played. Lynn Benisch who plays the saloon girl/girlfriend also is wonderful. Doc has the wise but tender bedside manner we all loved him for. The story of the bronc busting cowboys really gives one a feel for the loneliness of the roving cowboys way of life. Do you tell a dying man that he has a terminal disease? John Beck as Busey's partner tells Doc he going to give his friend a good time he will still be talking about two days after he's dead. He just doesn't count on the complications that arise. The story would make a great stand alone film. We loved it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an excellent episode! Well acted and well written. It has an excellent cast. John Beck and Gary Busey are standouts in this story of men who travel the country breaking horse for ranchers as they move around the country. This story is very familiar though and was probably written Mr. Busey in mind. He had just finished Thunderbolt and Lightfoot the year before. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot starred Busey and Clint Eastwood who robbed a successfully robbed a bank; but Curly (busey's character) got a head injury during the robbery and died after he and Clint had escaped. It was a poignant drama that ends just like this episode. It would be very hard to believe this was a coincidence. That being said; this was a good story, that stands on it's own.
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