Gunsmoke (1955–1975)
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The Prodigal 

A notorious outlaw was shot in the back, fatally, before Matt could arrest him. The large bounty on the man's head was never collected. Now a "crusading" newspaper reporter is trying to ... See full summary »



(as Calvin Clements)


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Episode cast overview:
Matt Dillon
Jonathan Cole
Charles Robinson ...
Amos Cole
William Cole
Lamont Johnson ...
Charles Wagenheim ...
James Nusser ...
Louie Pheeters


A notorious outlaw was shot in the back, fatally, before Matt could arrest him. The large bounty on the man's head was never collected. Now a "crusading" newspaper reporter is trying to goad the dead man's two young sons into a showdown with Matt Dillon, who would have been legally enjoined from getting the bounty money because of his lawman status and thus is the main suspect in the shooting. Written by Peter Harris

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Release Date:

25 September 1967 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This was actually filmed as episode 12.28 and scheduled for April 1, 1967, but was held back when CBS unexpectedly picked up "Gunsmoke" for another season and used to fill a hole in the schedule. See more »


As the stagecoach comes into town, it is pulled by four chestnut sorrels with light manes and tails, but when it arrives at the station a minute later, the horses are dark bays with black manes and tails. See more »


[the spokes on Doc's buggy are loose]
Dr. Galen 'Doc' Adams: How much is it going to cost me to have 'em fixed?
Festus Haggen: Shouldn't 'mount t'much; fifty cents'll do... Soakin' in the crik a few hours'll swell them spokes back tight as pin feathers on a prairie chicken's rump.
Dr. Galen 'Doc' Adams: Soakin' in the crik?
Festus Haggen: Sure.
Dr. Galen 'Doc' Adams: And while you're sitting there, letting the wheels soak, I suppose you'll do a little fishing?
Festus Haggen: Now that you mention it...
Dr. Galen 'Doc' Adams: So I end up paying you fifty cents to fish.
Festus Haggen: Well, Doc, I'm gonna have t'dig me some worms, catch me some ...
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User Reviews

One of the better episodes in the entire collection.
30 July 2013 | by See all my reviews

In one of the most complete and better episode we have witnessed in sometime, us viewers get a nice look into a situation that happened in Dodge City some fifteen years ago. The incident involved a killing of an gunslinger named Frank Cole that was shot in the back inside the Long Branch Saloon. But thanks to a newspaper writer the story has been changed to where Frank Cole was a near heroic gunman that was killed by a coward in the lawless west. And now his two sons, Amos and William Cole, have come to Dodge to revenge their father's death. But no one in Dodge, including Marshal Dillon, wants to revisit the killing.

When Frank and Amos get to Dodge they meet their grandfather, Jonathan Cole, that has a farm outside town. Jonathan was with Frank that night but due to a stroke he has trouble remembering exactly what happened.

When the newspaper man, Stoner, baits a citizen into telling them that Marshal Dillon was the one that shot Frank in the back, Amos vows to have it out with the Marshal.

This episode is very well written and very well performed. With some episode not living up to the 'Gunsmoke' standard, this show returns to the roots that made the series such a great program to watch. This is one of the better shows in the entire collection. Great watch.

NOTE: This episode was filmed in the 12th season but was preempted and never shown. It was placed in the line-up for the 13th season. Roger Ewing (Thad) had left the show and was not in the new cast opening credits. Therefore, Roger Ewing is uncredited in this episode even though he had a speaking part. They did cut out a scene where Matt, Doc and Thad were talking and Thad was going to check Front Street and he meets the brothers entering the Marshal's office. That is why it looks kind of awkward when the scene starts with the brothers already talking with Matt.

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