Weed Pindle is a rather mild mannered wandering guitar player who is in Dodge. A couple of the rowdier cowboys have started having fun at his expense getting him drunk. When they find out he fought for the Union in the 3rd Illinois Cavalry their fun turns serious and they are set on hanging the peaceful player. Chester and some of the other citizens are just as determined to prevent it. Written by
Aces all around-- Not only the best of the first year, but also among the best of the entire series. Scrawny, slow-witted Weed Pindle (even the name sounds defenseless) rides into Dodge on a mule, no less, where two saloon rowdies harass him. But when they find the bug-eyed Weed is a Texan who fought for the Yankees, the two southern-sympathizers decide to hang him! Ending is brilliantly done and a startling departure for the time. It's also one that, like a Hitchcock film, forces us to examine ourselves, and in this case how our own sense of law coordinates with that of justice.
Aaron Spelling (the future TV mogul) shines as the hapless drifter. His trusting innocence and homely features combine into a distinctive one-of-a-kind presence. I recall being jolted at the time by his odd looks -- people like him just didn't get on TV. Nonetheless, someone in production came up with a casting master-stroke. Screenplay is by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, adapted from a story by series originator John Meston, which accounts for the powerful narrative and the daring departure of the climax. Director Harry Horner's camera angle in the final scene also proves inspired. The slow pan provides a moment of emotional relief, but at the same time blurs the line between committing a crime and serving the ends of justice. All in all, this is the kind of episode that established Gunsmoke's early reputation and continues to pack a considerable punch, lo, these many years later. And it may be the only series of the day to implicate cast principals in a major crime.
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