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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Puppeteer (1960)
Season 4, Episode 15
8/10
HIdden in the "Punch" Lines.
20 February 2016
In Robert Southey's poem "After Blenheim", referring to the 18th century Battle in which the Duke of Marlborough routed the French, an old man tells two small children of burned homes, civilian casualties, and rotting corpses -- while repeatedly calling the Battle itself "a famous victory".

Paladin is moved to quote the poem when Jack Burnaby, proprietor of a travelling Punch and Judy show (and the provider of some convenient transport after Paladin is forced to shoot his own own horse) delivers them both to Fort Pawnee. The Fort is commanded by one General "Pawnee" Croft whose celebrated but somewhat controversial victory over Native Americans 16 years previously has led him to consider running for the Presidency.

Paladin watches Burnaby prime his audience for an evening puppet show, suspecting that the traditional script will be pointedly "doctored" by Burnaby. Attempting to acquire a horse and ride away before all hell breaks loose during the "performance", Paladin runs afoul of General Croft's famous temper and is forced to stay while Burnaby puts his puppets through their paces.

Additional quotes from Virgil's "Aeneid", Shakespeare's Hamlet, the English essayist Thomas DeQuincy, and even a verse from the children's nursery rhyme "The Grand Old Duke of York" add a bit of literary flair to this episode. But Burnaby's carefully-staged revelations, and the fiery denouement they provoke, leave practically everyone -- Paladin included -- completely speechless.
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8/10
Bogus Geste?
18 February 2016
Courtney Burgess' Sister hires Paladin to find her brother, whom she still idolizes after 7 years although her husband dismisses the man as a liar, con man, and possibly something even worse. Guided only by an old letter posted from Sacramento Paladin sets out to find Courtney Burgess.

Two months into his trek Paladin discovers a fatally wounded man who warns him of hostile Nez Perce who have attacked a nearby fort commanded by a Colonel with the same name as the man Paladin seeks. The Colonel's "Army" however is a purely private one and his claims to the land he seized for his base of operations are as spurious as his self-proclaimed rank.

Paladin narrowly escapes a Nez Perce raiding Party and reaches "Fort Burgess" only to find it almost entirely deserted. There is a smattering of bodies, at least one of them a Nez Perce trussed up as if for a hanging. He finds "Colonel Burgess" at his desk slowly dying of the Typhoid fever that sent many of his soldiers fleeing in panic.

The Colonel is attended by a cunning military aide who introduces himself Sam as Hodges. Hodges has a fool-proof plan for escaping the Fort, but they hinge on the Colonel's being alive when the Nez Perce pay their next visit.

Paladin's suspicions are as usual, spot on, and the plot takes a surprising twist after he's forced to resort to his gun. And In the end Paladin, with the help of the Nez Perce, once more rides away pondering the irony of it all.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Uneasy Grave (1961)
Season 4, Episode 37
7/10
Just Deserts
11 February 2016
On the way to helping a friend sort out his vineyard woes Paladin encounters a young Lady whose itinerant suitor was gunned down in front of her by a rival (played here by Werner Klemperer) who has the local citizenry, including the sheriff, securely ensconced in his well- padded pocket. Her demands for Justice not only fall on deaf ears but get her run out of town, along with the corpse of her hapless suitor, which Paladin helps her to bury.

Paladin, unable to resist a damsel in distress or a wrong unredressed, escorts the Lady back to the scene of the shooting, installs her in a hotel, and starts making the usual "enquiries". The Lady of course is more keenly interested in eye-for-an-eye retribution, even if she has to exact it herself since Paladin clearly isn't that kind of gunslinger, but the killer's cleverly contrived "outing" brings her -- and us -- more than sufficient pleasure.

This may not be one of the greatest episodes, but trust Paladin to whip up, even in the kitchen of a rustic hotel, a gourmet lunch out of sautéed exotic mushrooms, -- and find a novel use for a conveniently placed potted fern!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Mark of Cain (1962)
Season 5, Episode 19
8/10
Criminal Intent?
9 February 2016
In the 19th century, Cesare Lombroso and his followers performed autopsies on criminals and declared that they had discovered similarities between their corpses and the bodies of "primitive humans". Lombroso went on to outline 14 physical characteristics which he and his followers believed to be common to all criminals. But British scientist Charles Buckman Goring, working in the same area, concluded that there was no noticeable physiological differences between law-abiding people and those who committed crimes. Maurice Parmelee, seen as the founder of modern criminology in America, also rejected Lombroso's theory, which was eventually withdrawn from the field of accepted criminological research.

An avid disciple of Lombroso's hires Paladin to help him find (and physically analyze) a notorious ex-gunfighter who has killed plenty of men in his time. It doesn't matter that they were all victims of a fair fight, or that the man who gunned them down now only wants to be left in peace. Professor Avatar (the word originally defined a person embodying an idea or concept) believes he has found in Jake Trueblood a perfect exemplar of Lombrosos's theory. But it isn't just cranial measurements the Professor is after: he wants Jake's actual skull to display in order to bolster his argument that some men are simply "born criminals". And only Paladin stands between Jake and the Professor's intentions.

Lambroso's theory (among other things) is cleverly "shot down" in this episode; alas, it seems to keep resurrecting itself under the one guise or another to this day.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Cure (1961)
Season 4, Episode 35
8/10
Truth or Dare?
8 February 2016
This episode takes some liberties with the facts but since its featured character was known to sometimes do the same, perhaps we shouldn't fault the writers too much.

The legendary frontierswoman known as Calamity Jane was actually born Martha Jane Canary (not Conroy) in Missouri in 1852. Orphaned at the age of 14 she took whatever jobs she could to support her numerous siblings. Eventually her extreme wanderlust found her employed as an Army Scout, Pony Express Rider, and occasionally as a local prostitute. She joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1893, but did no Annie Oakley-style trick shooting, merely appearing in "mannish" costume as a story teller, recounting both her real and fictionalized adventures to enraptured audiences. Plagued by alcoholism from an early age she was a complex character, known for displays of kindness that contrasted starkly with rough life she led until her tragic and unexpected death in 1903.

"Taking the Cure" was for a very long time a euphemism for what what we now describe as "undergoing Rehab". And Jane, when we first see her, is in desperate need of it, passed out drunk on one of the sofas in the lobby of the prestigious Carlton.

Paladin -- an old friend -- immediately begins his version of "intervention". Learning that Jane has resorted to booze because her publisher-promoter has replaced her with a younger, more attractive model while keeping all the profits from their sundered partnership, he's determined to see Jane recoup both the funds to which she's entitled and salvage at least some of her reputation. There's some wonderful interaction between Jane and Paladin as they track down her ex-promoter and Jane's latest incarnation, who sports a bouffant style hairdo and "fishnet" tights.

The ending's a bit of a surprise but entirely in keeping with what we do know about the real Martha Jane. And you won't want to miss the spectacle of two "Lady Gunslingers" facing off against each other!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Road (1961)
Season 4, Episode 36
9/10
The Upward Path
6 February 2016
Gold fever has been known to make men do heartless things, both to each other and to strangers just passing through -- strangers like Paladin. He's soon minus his horse, coat, and guns and forced into trekking toward a frigid mountain pass, with the assurance that the scavengers who deprived him of all essentials will be behind him making sure he keeps moving toward almost certain death.

Survival is the theme of this episode: literal survival, as Paladin fashions himself a cloak and a weapon from abandoned supplies and fights for a scrap of meat. And it's about another kind of survival, as a trio of exhausted men men clings to a questionable map that they believe holds the key to a fortune. And when their paths intersect with Paladin's the scavengers are immediately on hand, eager to recover whatever may remain in the way of "spoils"; they too have developed their own way of surviving these brutal times.

Desperation, it's said, drives humans to either co-operation or competition: this episode reminds us that our species is fortunate in having chosen wisely which one of those actions to pursue.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Broken Image (1961)
Season 4, Episode 32
9/10
A Tangled Web
5 February 2016
Local Hero Tim Decker's been living a lie for 11 years, and it's finally caught up with him. His worried wife suspects he's in over his head when the town looks to him to recover the bank's recently stolen money and repeat the achievement for which he's been lionized so long: bringing in, single-handedly. an entire outlaw gang. So she does the only thing she can think of: send for Paladin!

This is one of those rare scripts in which Paladin actually shows a mean streak, but he has every reason to. Decker's lie completely unravels just as Paladin is about to trust him with his life. And there's even worse ahead as Decker contemplates committing murder to keep that lie still alive for his family and friends.

This is an extremely powerful episode. Regardless of what Voltaire may have said about the burden that goes along with having a too-famous name, one should also keep in mind Alexander Pope's lesser known dictum: he who tells a lie will be forced to invent twenty more to sustain it.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Kid (1961)
Season 5, Episode 15
7/10
How to Tame a Tiger (Cub)
4 February 2016
What do you do when your poker winnings include a grubby urchin, instead of all the money you had hoped to collect from the man who just killed your latest employer?

This urchin isn't just any boy; he's a stubborn, uneducated. motherless pup willing to tackle all jobs that promise to keep his Father in Poker funds. And Paladin is entitled to all the boy's earnings over the next 30 days.

Everyone figures Paladin will find his new charge simply too much of a handful and thus waste no time hitting the trail with whatever cash he's managed to win. But when Paladin appears to be actually civilizing the lad, "Daddy" doesn't like it at all -- and immediately shows his intense displeasure.

Eventually, the boy has a bevy of new "Guardians" in his life, but the local school teacher is still presented with Paladin's "card" as a parting gift!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: One, Two, Three (1962)
Season 5, Episode 23
8/10
Pisces Rising, Scorpio Sunk!
3 February 2016
"Tontine Pyramids" were investment schemes to which individual subscribers each paid a specific amount of money and received annual dividends in return . As each subscriber died, their "share" went into the pot to be re-distributed among the survivors with the sponsors often the final the final beneficiaries. As represented here, the "last man (or woman) standing" simply got the lot.

Paladin is hired by an astrology-obsessed gentleman who has determined he's predestined to win a Tontine "jackpot". But he man whom he paid to "subscribe" for him, a certain Seth Carter, has disappeared; however, he does have the names of three people who might be able to lead Paladin to the missing individual.

"Seth Carter" proves to be extremely elusive. Paladin finds one of the three in a sideshow, and learns of a massacre engineered by an Indian Agent with an eye to obtaining the Indians' seized land (and its gold mine) at public auction. The second, a former Missionary turned aide to the Agent, has become mentally unhinged by guilt and fear. And the third, the Agent's own ex-wife, Paladin discovers has been reduced to working in a brothel. None of them survives their "interview" with Paladin.

So where is "Seth Carter"? Paladin figures it out, but it can't have been all that difficult: it was, after all, "in the stars"!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Unforgiving Minute (1963)
Season 6, Episode 20
7/10
Kiss of the Spider Woman
1 February 2016
Another head-scratcher of an episode title here. Most people will automatically think of Rudyard Kipling who maintained, in his celebrated poem "If", that living "the unforgiving (as in irretrievable) minute" to its fullest was the key to a truly rich life. And certainly Paladin exemplifies Kipling's philosophical point.

But what about poor Machado, a meek, easy-going peasant who worships a wife "with the face of a Madonna and the claws of a cat"? And what about the wife, Sabrina, who dreams about a life that is the polar opposite of the dreary one she leads with the gentle Machado?

After Paladin, fleeing a gang of bandits that include the ex- partners of a man whose gem he agreed to sell collapses literally at their feet, Machado sees him only as a stranger in need of help. To Sabrina however Paladin is the bearer of her one-way ticket to the comforts she longs for and the excitement she craves.

When the bandits re-appear seeking to avenge their recently-slain comrades only Machado and Paladin are on hand to drive them off. Once again, Paladin makes a shocking discovery. It's hard to decide which is more starting: the change that at last comes over Machado, or the fact that -- unless I really missed something -- not once in this episode does Paladin display that famous "card"!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Exiles (1962)
Season 5, Episode 20
8/10
The French had a Word For It.....
1 February 2016
While Civil War raged in the United States, Napoleon III of France (nephew and heir of THE Napoleon), anxious to get his hands on Mexico's silver, invaded her in 1861 and imposed an Empire. Members of the nobility, both Mexican and French, insisted it be ruled by Maximilian Ferdinand of Austria. Guerilla resistance led by former President Benito Juarez saw the expulsion of the French, and the execution of Maximilian. 3 years later.

Paladin finds himself caught between an irresistible force and an immovable object as the re-instated Republic of President Juarez is desperately short of cash and the only available funds are in the form of treasury notes entrusted to a pair of French former aristocrats who refuse to believe that Napoleon has permanently abandoned them. Paladin is hired by the self-educated Largo Ortega who rose from the ranks to become one of Juarez's Generals and is now his Minister of Finance. --he's the irresistible force here, while the French couple represent the immovable object.

They are pathetic in their determination to deny the reality of the Revolution, and to cling to the Treasury notes that must eventually become worthless. Paladin's hand is finally forced, and the Couple's illusions are shattered. But Paladin handles the outcome with his usual tact.

Denial may have its uses, but they are obviously limited. With all due respect to Messrs Milton and Shelly, Napoleon III's famous Uncle summed it up best: "Victory belongs to the most persevering!"
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Walking Years (1963)
Season 6, Episode 25
7/10
"Western" Existentialism?
31 January 2016
This is one of the oddest episodes in the series. The action, for one thing, takes entirely place in a "dungeon" below the waterfront bar to which Paladin --who never gets the chance to change into his sombre working garb -- has been invited and in which he is drugged and overpowered.

When he regains consciousness he finds himself chained by the ankle in what looks like an old ship's chandlers (supply store) along with two other "invitees" who move about unrestrained: a man who once was the master of a waggon train, and an alcoholic harridan. What they all have in common is their connection with the bar's (and dungeon's) owner, who was one offered to a renegade band of Apaches in exchange for safe passage through the wilderness.

Molly Dean not only believes the old adage that Revenge is best served cold, she dishes it up flash-frozen. Her deepest hatred is reserved for Paladin, who rescued her so she could perpetually relive the horrors she endured during her captivity. (She even taunts her prisoners by leaving the dungeon's door open; but the promised "Freedom" is just the bait in a deadly trap.)

This episode may not resonate with today's viewers, but the questions it poses regarding whether or not we are irrevocably "programmed" by our experiences, or whether we can consciously choose to overcome them, kept college students occupied for hours when they weren't attending peace rallies or marching for civil rights. It all seems rather trivial now, thanks in part to what the poet T.S. Eliot called "the years that walk between" the heady conflicts of youth and the realities awaiting us beyond it.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Debutante (1963)
Season 6, Episode 19
7/10
Heir Conditioning
29 January 2016
A wealthy widow asks Paladin to locate her granddaughter, the long- lost product of an "unacceptable" marriage whose participants have both died tragically. She has a specific young lady in mind, whose upcoming betrothal was mentioned in a small-town paper, a badly faded photograph, and some sketchy family details.

Paladin arrives at the outskirts of a town bearing the curious name of Jehovah, locates the girl ( suitably re-christened) and learns she was "bought" as child by a Bible-touting Patriarch who raised her to care for him and his son. Paladin displays some interesting gifts here, including, in addition to fluency in Armenian; a mastery of hypnotism and considerable prowess in Capoeira -- "Brazilian" style jujitsu, in this case performed sans the traditional music.

The girl puts on a fine display of the temper she inherited from her Irish father, the betrothal becomes a casualty of True Love, and when everything is suitably settled, we are left with only one question.

With all the well-earned "fees" Paladin declines, drastically reduces, or simply gives away, how on earth does he support his alter-ego's lifestyle?
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Caravan (1963)
Season 6, Episode 24
7/10
The Meeting of the Twain
28 January 2016
East is East and West is West, and despite Rudyard Kipling's observations, the two intersect in this curious episode.

Travelling by night to avoid 110 degree heat Paladin finds himself guiding a "train" of two waggons containing an opulently-dressed Indian Ranee and her entourage across 150 miles of open desert so she may take refuge in a community of supporters while civil war ravages her distant State. (Paladin still bears a grudge against the late Rajah but the appearance of an exotic beauty delivered Cleopatra-style in a rolled carpet, bearing a gem the size of a Persian walnut, convinced him to let bygones be bygones.)

Paladin's gun is insurance against any attempts on the Ranee's life, as enemies of the royal family are everywhere and are determined to wipe it out.The trek's in trouble from the outset; water reserves are mysteriously drained and the Ranee's burly lieutenant (a man who picks up live coals with his bare hands) reports that a dark-skinned fellow is trailing them. At least Paladin gets solaced (spiritually and otherwise) by the lady who arrived in the rug.

The waggons are attacked, Paladin gets off a tricky shot, and the attacker, along with two members of the entourage, are dead -- one of the that pair clearly a traitor. Paladin makes a very rare miscalculation here, and a woman proves herself much cleverer than he was!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: A Knight to Remember (1961)
Season 5, Episode 13
8/10
Attempting the Absurd
27 January 2016
More evidence that this series wasn't afraid to take chances with "unconventional" material.

When the family Patriarch man puts on antique armour, commandeers an old nag as a Charger, and gallops alarmingly around the countryside seeking monsters to slay and a fair maiden to champion, what should you do with him?

To Don Esteban Gutierrez Caloca's daughter, her eccentric father is a continuing source of worry and concern; to his son, Don Esteban is an embarrassment, a danger to himself and to the locals, best disposed of --permanently -- by a hired "outsider".

But to Paladin, who has read, and probably re-read, Miguel de Cervantes' epic "Don Quixote" to the point where he can quote passages verbatim, Don Esteban is a tragic figure, preferring a world of pure fantasy characterized by valorous acts and ruled by courtly love to the dreary one he actually inhabits.

Paladin, ostensibly assigned to bring Don Esteban back from his latest "Adventure", indulges the old man's delusions, tries to keep him from getting hurt, and finally grants Don Esteban the one thing he yearns for more than anything else. (Ironically, the true "monster" in this piece is slain by Paladin himself.)

What saves this episode from degenerating into slapstick is the fact that only one other person shares Paladin's respect for the old man -- a lonely, laconic individual who may well remember a time when heroes of his own race walked the land performing glorious deeds whose like will never be seen again. He's the man Paladin appoints as Don Esteban's Squire-Custodian, and who takes on the job (and his new "name") very willingly.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Piano (1961)
Season 5, Episode 9
8/10
A Night At The Concert Hall
26 January 2016
Mix a nouveau-riche former saloon keeper anxious to be recognized as a Patron of the Arts, an internationally-famed maestro more temperamental than any Milanese Diva, a harried manager perpetually on the verge of nervous collapse, -- then add in a stolen concert Piano, and watch the fun!

And it's not just any Piano: it was given to Franz Lister when, at the age of seven, he impressed the King of Austria with his musical virtuosity. Franz Lister will not stoop to ransoming his cherished instrument --he insist on "taking" it back, as any man worthy of the name would "take back" a deeply-loved woman abducted by ruffians.

Using some highly unorthodox "recruiting methods", Paladin assembles a quartet of tavern-crawlers to accompany him, along with Herr Lister and his entourage, as they search for Lister's stolen instrument. (And there's one lovely member of that entourage whose feelings towards Lister's precious piano can hardly be described as "afffectionate"!)

The piano is located, the ransom presented, but once again Lister's impetuousness puts everything --and everyone in peril!

The great Victor Borge, whose mastery of the classical piano never compromised his gift for making audiences laugh, said "There is more logic in humour than in anything else. Because, you see, humour is truth." This episode salutes his wisdom.
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9/10
Doing the Impossible
25 January 2016
Another delightful change of pace, focusing on one of the most beloved figures in the Calendar of Saints!

Paladin saves a Native boy from an angry mob of peasant farmers and the grateful lad appoints himself Paladin's personal Guardian Angel, much to the chagrin of Paladin who (correctly as usual) suspects that the boy is anything but "angelic". .

Paladin, arriving at the century-old Franciscan mission of San Luis Rey (no "Bridges" involved here, thankfully) is in quest of an exquisite brandy apparently so rare only one bottle still exists The Franciscan Father in charge of the Mission is the custodian of that bottle, and seeks the return of a stolen statue depicting St Francis, founder of the Order and know for his love of all animate and inanimate Creation. A bargain is immediately struck.

Paladin's "angel" hints that the statue now resides in a distant town A tavern owner there bought it in the belief it was a valuable idol salvaged from a Pagan ruin and won't give it up. And a trio of devout local ladies is determined to keep the statue enshrined in their town.

Paladin's self-styled "angel" is persuaded to create a distraction so Paladin can spirit St Francis back to the Mission. But Paladin soon finds himself, and St Francis, at the head of a group of "pilgrims" that includes one very resourceful Native boy, three pious ladies, a band of Shoshone intent on recovering a stolen horse, and the tavern owner along with his own motley collection of hangers-on.

The Franciscan Father proves to be a man of his word -- but Paladin clearly didn't count on St Francis' sense of humour!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Alice (1962)
Season 5, Episode 27
9/10
Oh, Benefit of Ill....
25 January 2016
There's plenty to mull over here: the deceptiveness of appearances, whether what passes for morality may be in fact relative, and whether Richard Booone could even have made a living as a Shakespearean Actor.

A well dressed young Lady arrives at the Carlton and produces one of Paladin's cards, given to her by the mother she has corresponded with, but not seen, in years and about whom she is deeply concerned..

Arriving with the daughter at the town where her mother supposedly resides, Paladin is surprised to find it is no longer the lawless, miners' "tent city" he knew; there's even a law now against packing guns in public! Paladin, it seems, was once hired by the mother to kill a man, but refused the job. This shocks the daughter, whose mother's weekly letters contained only warm, wise and loving advice.

Paladin is told that the mother died, her estate went to settle debts, that she never mentioned a daughter, and that the town is glad to be rid of her and the memory of all she represented. But Paladin learns from the town's minister that the mother is actually alive, and had even married the town's banker, a marriage she quickly regretted and kept secret out of contempt for her husband (the feelings were completely mutual).

The daughter learns from virtuous local ladies how her mother really earned her "wealth", then learns from Paladin how she got her nickname of "Blue Dollar Alice". Paladin goes to considerable trouble to arrange a meeting between mother and daughter, and when it finally transpires is moved to quote the closing "sestet" from Shakespeare's "Sonnet 119", proving that past conduct need not prove a barrier to future happiness.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Bird of Time (1962)
Season 6, Episode 6
8/10
You Can't Go Home Again
23 January 2016
A fascinating, vengeance-themed episode here, containing allusions to Old Testament figures and featuring a quote from of one of history's most famous philosopher-poets.

Omar Khayyam, born in 11th Century Persia, used "The Bird of Time" as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of Life, exhorting us to savour fully it while we can.

A gentleman named Stryker, whom Paladin finds hanging by the wrists (and saves from a slow and agonizing death) wants to "savour" only one more thing in his so-called twilight years: shooting Ahab Tyson, the fugitive who killed Stryker's sole brother.

Tyson, the object of Paladin's arrest warrant, is now a sheep farmer whose only employee is a mysterious youth armed with an archaic- style slingshot; Tyson is wounded in an ambush launched by Stryker and his hirelings before Paladin can drive them off.

Paladin gets Tyson to a nearby Veterinarian who "has patched up more human animals than the other kind", and learns that Tyson, because of his wound and his age, hasn't much earthly time left either. Tyson also has something he longs to "savour" -- a trip to the town where he left his beloved wife, and where he committed the killings for which he was slated to hang. Paladin and the Veterinarian (a bit of an Irish fatalist) see that Tyler gets his final wish.

In the end only two men walk away, and one of them, Paladin, muses on the closing lines of Khayyam's most famous verse. The Bird of Time may indeed have "only a short way to flutter" -- but manages some amazing aerobatics before it lands!
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8/10
"No Other Reason Why"
21 January 2016
Thomas Hardy's poem, "The Man He killed", in which a soldier reflects on the all things he might have had in common with the enemy infantryman he shot dead is not quoted here, though at one point quotations (mainly Scriptural) do fly thick and fast. Still, the Hardy poem captures the tone of this episode.

Paladin comes across an abandoned horse that is carrying a pair of brand new high-button shoes underneath its saddle, and some fresh human blood on its saddlebags. A little further on, he finds a dead man.

The shoes were meant as a gift for a teen aged country girl named Sara Jane Darrow, and the dead man was her Father, the latest victim of a clan feud that stretches so far back, and has claimed so many lives, that neither side can recall what it started over. The girl is determined to get revenge by killing some member -- any member -- of the rival Tyler family.

And an appropriate candidate appears -- a Tyler youth seeking to avenge his own Father by killing anyone bearing the Darrow name. (He's played here by Duane Eddy, the same Duane Eddy whose signature 'twangy' guitar riffs produced highly-charted hits like "Rebel Rouser".)

Paladin is forced to tie up the pair since, even disarmed, they're ready to rip each other apart. But a curious thing happens when all three take refuge from a mountain snowstorm -- and young Sara Jane "earns" her Father's intended gift.

This story may make little impression on viewers today, but at the time it aired, it spelled a message of hope to a divided World in desperate need of one.
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Crowbait (1960)
Season 4, Episode 10
9/10
Seeking Silverado
20 January 2016
Another minor gem here, with unique, engaging characters and an well-constructed plot!

Deep in Paiute country Paladin is ambushed by a rifle toting girl named Amanda. She needs water -- and she's looking for her Father, who in turn is looking for a fabulous silver mine he was once led to, blindfolded, by an old Paiute Chief. Her Father, who goes by the name of Crowbait, is convinced Mandy won't get a husband unless she brings along a sizable dowry. But Mandy would prefer a live Father to all of the silver in the world.

Paladin gets the job of tracking down Crowbait and bringing him back. Mandy gives Paladin her bandanna to prove that she sent him after Crowbait.

Clues may be sketchy but Paladin soon runs into Crowbait, a crusty, cantankerous old Desert Rat who agrees to let Paladin accompany him to the mine he believes is nearby -- probably in the hope of using Paladin eventually as a pack mule -- warning Paladin that any shady move will be his last. Crowbait's prepared to collect a heap of silver: he's brought fulminate of mercury, a compound almost as unstable as nitroglycerin!

Blindfolded by Mandy's bandanna, Crowbait literally feels his way to the mine. The skeleton guarding the entrance is discouraging, but Crowbait is convinced his fortune --and Mandy's -- are finally within reach. But the Paiutes who've been shadowing the pair now make an appearance. And Paladin realizes what their true aim has been all along.

In the end the Paiutes have at least one less thing to worry about. And a thankful Amanda, fortunately, seems to have no need for any "dowry"!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Eve of St. Elmo (1963)
Season 6, Episode 28
Kindling St. Elmo's Fire?
19 January 2016
St. Elmo, a 4th century Christian Bishop, was tortured repeated and finally killed for speaking out against the excesses of the Roman Emperors. Legend has it he continued to preach during a violent storm even though a thunderbolt struck the ground beside him. For this reason he is still venerated as the special protector of those who occupations place them in mortal danger.

Paladin is hired by Colonel Draco, a bitter man who wants Paladin to dispose permanently of the men who challenged him by drilling a well and re-distributing water from a stream crossing Draco's property. He has another reason: a bullet from the group's leader has crippled Draco, who had attempted to shoot him for showing interest in Draco's long-suffering sister.

Draco, who lives in seclusion with that sister and a body servant, clearly intends Paladin to be "judge, jury and execution", dispensing what Draco considers "Delayed Justice".

But he's drawn the wrong conclusions about Paladin, who arrives in town on the night before the Feast Day of St. Elmo, a night when people gather in the local church to offer money or treasure to the Saint in the hope of being granted a miracle. Paladin's "gift" is the surrender, during the service, of his own Colt 45 along with his two-shot Derringer -- prompting all the other men to disarm themselves as well.

When Draco -- who's also chosen to make an appearance at the church -- sees this, he decides to give the townsfolk their "miracle" by dragging himself out of his wheelchair, staggering to the front of the church, and seizing the Colt, attempts to shoot Paladin point-blank for failing to deliver everything Draco had expected.

But St. Elmo (or was it St. Elmo?) intervenes -- with results that stun everyone.

Two things stand out about this episode: First, Paladin is referred to as "The Man in Black" -- and second, one can't help but reflect on his mentor's final words, about "there always being another Dragon"!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Something to Live For (1958)
Season 2, Episode 14
Poetic Licence Revoked!
18 January 2016
Somebody slipped up here; Paladin quotes the first verse of a poem written by Aviatrix Amelia Earhart (born in 1897), shortly after the failure of her engagement to New Englander Sam Chapman.

Paladin, en route to help rancher Hugh Evans, comes across Harleigh Preston whose dreams of bagging Bighorn Sheep were rudely derailed when his guide got him drunk, robbed him, and fled. The first part was easy -- Preston was packing his very own liquor store.

Paladin, reluctant to abandon an troubled, inexperienced man to the wilderness, disposes of Preston's remaining booze and drags him along in the direction of Evans' ranch. Preston, mired in self- disgust, doesn't care for this "intervention" at all!

Paladin and Preston get a thinly-veiled warning from self-proclaimed landowner Martin Wheeler and the two gunmen now on his payroll. At the creekside camp occupied by Evans and his daughter Elaine, whom Wheeler has burned out of house and home, Paladin learns that Evans' Land Title has vanished.

Next morning Paladin and Evans go searching for any record of the Title. Preston looks on as Elaine is restrained by Wheeler's men so they can set another fire, and when Elaine tries to beat out the flames Preston grabs the chance to sneak himself a drink.

Paladin and Evans return from the Courthouse just in time to extinguish the fire. But Wheeler, fearing that Land Agents might start an investigation, now simply wants Evans dead. He and his gunmen attack Evans' camp. Paladin's "counterstrike" gets some welcome, if rather belated, support -- and once again, Paladin collects a well-earned fee.

And the quote that closes the episode? Anachronistic, but a better selection might be the fourth (and final) verse of Amelia Earhart's poem, which states what happens: "each time we make a choice"!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: Two Plus One (1963)
Season 6, Episode 30
7/10
Brocade meets Buckskin
18 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Young Taymanee is shrewd, courageous, an expert tracker and as stubborn as the proverbial mule. She prides herself on being Yosemite, daughter of a people who count the Grizzly Bear among their Clan Totems. So when Paladin saves her from a pair of "saddle punks" intent on some nasty fun, she insists that, as tribal tradition dictates, her life now belongs to Paladin. And Taymanee is a stickler for tradition!

Paladin tries everything to get rid of her: reasoning with her is useless, and even yelling at her doesn't work. He's got plenty of motivation, though; he's headed for a picnic rendezvous with a charming Mademoiselle named Francine. Francine arrives, spots Taymanee, and Paladin is treated to the sight of women from completely different worlds engaging in a fight over him. (In true Western cinematic tradition, this fight involves a roll down a hill and a dunking, during which "Francine" loses her dignity -- and her French accent!)

Meanwhile the saddle punks have returned, bent on getting revenge for the humiliation Paladin inflicted on them earlier. When the dust, so to speak, has finally settled, Taymanee is off Paladin's hands (at least for now) -- and we know Francine's wine won't be wasted!
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Have Gun - Will Travel: The Savages (1963)
Season 6, Episode 27
8/10
Ignoble Savagery
17 January 2016
Autism, a life-long neurological disorder, was not studied intensively before 1944. Autistic people cannot interact with others, or with their environment, in a way that society considers "normal". Today a autistic person may be helped through behavioural, occupational and medical therapies carefully tailored to the nature and severity of his or her disorder.

In the 19th Century, however, deviations from what was considered "appropriate" conduct were simply ascribed to feeble-mindedness, or to something with a crueler name. Treatments were unheard of, and families kept their "aberrants" hidden, or presented them in ways designed to make outsiders keep their distance. And the later is how art collector Werner August has chosen to handle his daughter Gina's condition.

But Gina exhibits something rarely --VERY rarely -- observed in the autistic: the ability to demonstrate prodigious feats of memory, mathematics, musical virtuosity, or, in Gina's case, artistic expression.

The wealthy Werner (Patric Knowles, once again brilliantly cast) has hired Paladin to take him and the teen-aged Gina to a rendezvous with the celebrated sculptor Elliot Spencer (James Griffith, in an uncharacteristically "sensitive" role), who has chosen to seclude himself in the wild. Werner's not interested in buying statues. He intends to confront Spencer with the fact that Gina is his, and not Werner's, daughter. Furthermore he insists on challenging Spencer to a duel, even providing the weapons -- a handsome pair of antique pistols, apparently chosen just for the occasion by Gina's now-deceased mother.

Paladin, in the interests of "protecting his client" steps in to take Werner's place in the duel, -- and makes a shocking discovery!

"Savages", by the way, is the name Werner gives to a pair of graceful African figures exquisitely rendered by Spenser. It might also be applied to those who regard the behaviourally-challenged as unworthy of interest, and therefore somehow less than human.
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