The Cathcart family--Pa, Orkey, and Sweet Billy--are mountain folk (Sam the bartender thinks they are probably from Tennessee) that have moved somewhere not too far from Dodge City. The Cathcarts are facing a bit of a problem: Sweet Billy and another local girl have fallen in love and want to marry, but "the Cathcarts marry in line." That is, Orkey, being the older brother, must marry before Sweet Billy. Since there aren't any women anywhere around for Orkey, Pa instructs him to take the mule and "look a-purpose" for a woman to marry.
Orkey travels to Dodge City and fairly quickly sees Miss Kitty in the Long Branch Saloon. When he tells Miss Kitty he is planning to marry her, she first thinks it is a joke. When she and Sam realize Orkey is dead serious, Sam throws Orkey out onto the street and tells him not to return.
Not to be deterred, Pa decides he, Orkey, and Sweet Billy will return to Dodge and abduct Miss Kitty. Thus, our story. While Matt and Chester are searching for Miss Kitty, the Cathcarts are doing everything they can to convince Kitty she must marry Orkey. There is an additional side story involving cholera spreading through the area. (It is worth noting that cholera is normally spread through contaminated water, not through contact with an infected person as this story seems to imply.)
I can understand one of the other reviews that criticized this episode for viewing kidnapping as an amusement. However, there is nothing malicious in the Cathcart men's actions. Obviously, they see nothing wrong with treating women the way they treat Kitty. In their culture, a man chooses a woman, and even if she doesn't initially view this as a positive, they believe she will eventually come around to the man's way of thinking. Such thinking is definitely outrageous in more modern, developed cultures. But despite their wrongheaded view of male-female relationships, the Cathcarts are caring, kind--albeit peculiar--people.
There are several notable things about this episode:
- The episode was directed by Dennis Weaver, the last of four Gunsmoke episodes he directed.
- Kathleen Hite named this episode as a particular favorite of the episodes she wrote.
- The very recognizable Don Dubbins plays Orkey Cathcart. This character is a stark contrast to the Ed Potts character he played just a few episodes earlier in the season in "Milly."
- A very young Warren Oates is great here in the role of Sweet Billy.
- The veteran actor and musician Taylor McPeters, aka Cactus Mack, is wonderful in the role of Pa. McPeters was actually Glenn Strange's (Sam Noonan) and cowboy actor Rex Allen's cousin. McPeters appeared in many Gunsmoke episodes, as well as other westerns of the period, but he was usually only credited as a "townsman." McPeters was injured during the filming of this episode. He required abdominal surgery as a result. This was his last appearance on Gunsmoke, as he died of a heart attack while filming The Ugly American with Marlon Brando a few months later.
This episode is a particular favorite of mine. I enjoy getting to know the Cathcarts every time I see it.
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