Brown? Hey, Brown! Now where'd you go? Dog, if you're just after a rabbit again, I'm goin' to pick you up by your tail and start swingin' you around and around and if I ever let go...
[Dave finds Brown guarding a dead cowboy with a fractured skull]
Well... that's sure a poor way to go. Poor time and a poor place, too. Dyin' don't become a man, Brown.
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Arguably the best all-around episode of the series. Dave hooks up with big cattle outfit, and a bunch of ornery cowpokes. His saddle tramp status was never put to better effect than here. Amazing how many Westerns of the time avoided real life of a working cowboy. Instead, Peckinpah tries to give us a glimpse, employing an excellent script and direction from Tom Gries, but on the usual tight budget. (Notice how poorly the backlot shots match up with the impressive stock footage.)
Some outstanding performances: Slim Pickens as the mean-spirited cook (Is he dead man Walt's loyal friend or is he just looking to rile Dave), Karl Swenson as the no-nonsense foreman, Robert Culp in an uncharacteristic role of slippery trail hand, and Keith's Blassingame in a very low-key turn that fits in with events instead of overpowering them as was the custom of the day.
You can just about smell the BO from this grungy crew as they sit around the claustrophobic bunkhouse in their underwear getting on each other's nerves, and in the middle of a blizzard. What else can they do but fight and drink-- a far cry from the usual romance of the trail drive! The ending is appropriately disturbing, given all the drink and foolish behavior. (Consider how the episode would have been damaged had Keith been required to use the scoped rifle gimmick in this last sequence.)
Notable for what may have been first appearance of black cowboy in a weekly series (Hari Rhodes), though script falters by making him too clean and nice to fit in with this crew; (The sullen and distant personality of a racial outsider would have made better sense.) Also notable for Bob Culp in a supporting role so soon after his series Trackdown had folded. I suspect he was drawn by Peckinpah's growing reputation and the strong script. Best line: "I don't need no help getting drunk" -- Dave's inebriated response to somebody making an excuse for his breaking the rules.
All in all, an unusual 30 minutes of fascinating interplay between believable characters.
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