That the writers could pack this smoothly flowing, clever, funny and complicated plot -- a precursor to The Sting -- into 50 minutes is amazing, especially given the number of characters involved. Of course, many were already familiar to viewers of the series, so there was no need to spend time "explaining" them. We already knew that Samantha Crawford, Dandy Jim Buckley and Gentleman Jack Darby (and for that matter, Jack's girlfriend, the beautiful Cindy Lou Brown) were always ready and eager to pull off a swindle at a moment's notice.
Indeed, what's most astonishing is that this group of crooks could all be induced to work together to help Bret recover his stolen money, by cooperating in a complicated con of the thief. After all, Bret's (and Bart's, for that matter) many prior encounters with each of these lovable scoundrels were always problematic to say the least, as each managed to pick one or both brothers' pockets numerous times. Moreover, Bret's relationship with Dandy Jim was never anything but acrimonious. Even though in a strange, wary way they and the Mavericks all seemed to like each other, one would have assumed from this bunch's past behavior that, when brought together by Bart to pull off this sting of the dishonest banker, John Bates, each of them would immediately have begun scheming to use it as an opportunity to con Bret and/or Bart once again, or to con each other somehow, or both. (True to form, Samantha does try this a little, and one can only imagine what Bart had to do to induce the amoral Dandy Jim to play his part "honestly".) Aside from Bart, the only remotely trustworthy participant in the sting is Big Mike McComb. Perhaps it was a matter of honor among thieves, or that, while OK for each of them regularly to swindle the Mavericks on his or her own, heaven help an outsider like Bates who dares to try it.
This episode, and others like it in which wit and not outdoor action carried the day, were what made Maverick such a great, groundbreaking show.
And a good story it is. Banker Bates (John Dehner) has stolen $15,000 from Bret and hamstrung any legal way of getting the money back. Since Bret can't get the money back by fair means, there's always the foul. And of course in the best Maverick tradition that means outwitting your opponent instead of shooting or clubbing him in the custom of the day.
So what does Bret do. He leans back on a Main Street chair and whittles. All day, every day. It seems the townsfolk get curious as to how such a casual attitude and inert posture can possibly win back his money, to which Bret answers with a grin, "I'm working on it." And indeed he is. Because as we know, but the town folks don't-- this great cast is not assembled for nothing.
The script is from writer Marion Hargrove and producer-writer Roy Huggins who began his career as a screenwriter. In fact, many of the best of these early scripts come from their collaboration and this one is no exception. It's a great episode all the way from the clever title to the gratifying conclusion. And as we all end up finding out, Bret is indeed working on it.
First of all, though, wow - what a shock to see such a young-looking James Garner, star of the show. I saw the 1994 film and Mel Gibson was a great substitute for Garner (who had a cameo in the film.) Gibson pretty much looked like the latter looked back in the late 1950s, the greatest period for TV westerns.
This episode has poor Brett Maverick getting swindled right off the bat by a crooked bank employee named "Bates," the guy played by Dehner.
The story is how Brett gets his $15,000 back. None of this episode has any gun-play or violence; it's all Maverick - with help from family and friends - getting justice. This is pure humor, not an episode featuring a lot of adventure. That was Maverick, a guy who used his brains and humor better than his fists or guns.
I have written IMDb but have been ignored.
This episode, and Waco Williams are my all time favorite Mavericks. "You sure he can count all the way to ten, Colonel?"
Wonderful ENCORE TV is now showing all the Mavericks in order, every day at 6PM. DON"T MISS A ONE!
Now all we have to do is wait for them to come out on DVD.
Plys all the other Warner Bros TV shows from the fifties.
James Garner is not going to take this lying down so he sends for brother Bart Maverick while Garner sits whittling the hours away and telling one and all who ask how he's going to get his money back that he's 'working on it'.
Jack Kelly in the meantime pulls together some of the best and sharpest people the brothers have run into in previous stories, Richard Long as Gentleman Jack Darby, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., as Dandy Jim Buckley, Leo Gordon as Big Mike McComb, and Diane Brewster as Samantha Crawford.
This group doesn't have the resources that Paul Newman and Robert Redford did in The Sting. But it's just as neat a con.
One of the best Maverick stories.