Have Gun – Will Travel is probably my favorite show of all time, which is impressive given the sheer amount of television I enjoy. Is it the best thing ever objectively? Maybe not. But this is a show that will be mentioned in my writing – probably way more than it should be – so I felt we should have at least one episode on file for early reference. Let’s get the basic rundown out of the way:
HGWT debuted in 1957, and stars Richard Boone as “Paladin.” It’s obviously a nom de guerre, but we never learn what he was called before. Since Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t around back then, it stands to reason that he picked it to liken himself to one of Charlemagne’s knights. He’s a professional gunfighter in the 1870’s, putting him a little after Bonanza’s time period, and contemporary to The Big Valley, in case you wanted to write crossovers.
Paladin sends his minimalist business card to people with problems, and if they answer, he shows up and solves those problems for a thousand dollar fee. The implication is that he’ll shoot things, but he very rarely does. He prefers to grandstand like an ADA in the last ten minutes of a Law & Order and it’s great. The card has a stylized drawing of a chess knight, and reads: “Have Gun – Will Travel. Wire Paladin. San Francisco.”
This episode is a Dr. Thackeray one. She is Paladin’s best love interest, and she makes Dr. Quinn look like a ham-fisted amateur. This is the second time they’ve met, but the first time was pretty straightforward; some town was like: “We don’t trust a doctor what isn’t a man!” And Paladin was all: “Screw you guys, you’re all human garbage.”
Paladin fell in love with her. Hard. But it didn’t really go anywhere, because he’s acutely aware that he would be a terrible person to be in a relationship with and she needed to tend the sick.
He’s not wrong.
Our story begins with Paladin at home; the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco. He’s playing chess against himself, smoking a very fancy cigar, and wearing a velvet bowtie and a frilly shirt. Sat beside him is a man trying to win the Moustache of the Century Award for 1850-1950, which is a serious time to be a contender.
Mr. Moustache would like to hire Paladin for a job, and is offering him two thousand dollars. The job, which Paladin has declared “simple”, is escorting half a million dollars in a gold bullion from Phoenix to San Francisco. There is some haggling, and Paladin declares disinterestedly that he’s not even going to discuss this thing for less than ten thousand dollars.
Puttin’ the squeeze on rich people.
Paladin, it should be noted, helps poor but noble souls for free all the time. So when a fancy bigshot rolls in with a dumb proposition, it helps to balance the books if he can get the pigeon to cover the freebies.
Mr. Moustache says that ten thousand is out of the question, then immediately backtracks. He’ll have to discuss it with his partners, he’ll have an answer by tomorrow.
That’ll be just fine, if Paladin is still in town tomorrow. Mr. Moustache is like: “Hold up, I didn’t realize a time element was involved, are you negotiating with somebody else?”
“I might be, by tomorrow.”
That’s cool, Paladin, just make sure it’s somebody that pays you. (It won’t be.)
Meanwhile and elsewhere, a very sick man falls off his horse and struggles up onto the front porch of a ranch house. He lands at the feet of two men. One of them is Sam Barton, and the other is his grown son, Tom. Tom, in classic Western TV fashion, is like: “Pa! That’s our employee Nate, writhing on the porch in agony!”
Sam is all: “Yeah, I got eyeballs, boy. Now why don’t you go fetch the doctor?”
But, oh no, the usual doctor – the one with the Y chromosome – is away! That means they’ll have to use the doctor that only has X chromosomes! Boldly, Sam declares that since they have no other choice, they’ll let her treat their dying friend. I’m sure Nate appreciates that.
Both Phyllis Thackeray and her aforementioned successor Dr. Quinn were based in part on Elizabeth Blackwell. Dr. Blackwell was the first woman in the United States to obtain a medical degree, and the first woman on the UK Medical Register. She was a pioneer in reforming treatment practices for typhus and syphilis, specifically focusing on the link between disease and socio-moral stability. Opinions on her were mixed, with a lot of people being all for it, and a lot of people thinking it was some kind of blight against the notion of doctorates if you started handing them out to anyone who spent seven years going to medical school, writing papers, and training with specialists.
Oh! Before we get back to the story, I’m going to mention that Tom Barton is being played by Charles Aidman, who also played Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West. (He temporarily replaced Artemus Gordon, and I don’t like those episodes. I try not to hold it against him when he’s on other shows, but oh my god, I totally do.) And Dr. Thackeray is played by June Lockhart! Maureen Robinson from Lost in Space! Lockhart would later play another country doctor on Petticoat Junction, appearing as Dr. Janet after Kate “leaves.” It would not be her fault that both that show and her character sucked.
Back to business:
When next we see Nate, Dr. Thackeray is examining him in the usual style of reading a thermometer while taking his pulse. An absolutely legit thing to do, ask any doctor. Sam explains that Nate has had the fever for about a week, while Tom tells us that Nate is a cook for a huge group of ranch hands, and as long as he was conscious enough to ladle soup, he was asked to work.
Thackeray is worn out by the revelation that her patient is a cook. She has that look on her face that people get when you tell them the princess is in another castle.
It turns out that the patient has smallpox, and his soup ladling has been a serious health and safety violation.
“Smallpox?!” Sam gasps, and turns to Tom. “Get him off the ranch! Put him on a buckboard and get him to town!”
Make this somebody else’s problem! Right now!
Dr. Thackeray then explains that moving a contagious person to a tightly packed urban center is unethical, but Sam Barton does not care about things like morality and common sense. He does not want a man with smallpox on his land, let alone in his house and on his sofa.
“Move him, Tom!” He demands, telling the Doc that he won’t be taking orders from a woman.
“Now look,” Thackeray pleads with Tom, realizing that Sam is totally unreasonable, “there’s plenty of vaccine at Fort Landis. If we send a telegram, right now, it could be here in a matter of days.”
Tom is a nervous fellow with a stutter, but he manages to stand up for what’s right, and tells his father that he thinks the doctor knows the most about medicine.
Sam decides to move the patient himself.
Weary of all this back and forth, Dr. Thackeray grabs a shotgun off a nearby wall rack and levels it at Sam.
“You’re the wrong sex to be holding a gun,” Sam scoffs, apparently thinking that women don’t have fingers that can squeeze? I mean, the recoil might knock her over, and it won’t be any fun for her, but you’ll still be full of buckshot, Sam.
“If you touch him,” Thackeray warns, “you’ll definitely get smallpox.”
Sam is terrified of the disease. He storms out of the room, slamming a door behind him, leaving a steely doctor, still armed and on-edge.
Tom tells her she won’t need the gun with him, he’ll send the telegram right away.
She confesses that she wouldn’t have been able to pull the trigger, and puts the weapon back where she found it. But it’s not because she’s a woman that she couldn’t fire, it’s because of the healer/killer dichotomy that will become more apparent once Paladin shows up.
There’s an extra problem, Tom tells us, in that the men Nate’s been ladling soup for are getting back from roundup in a few days. They’ve been on the job for six months, and they’ll have just gotten paid. None of them are going to sit still for vaccines.
“They’ll stay, once they understand about the smallpox,” Thackeray says, rather optimistically.
“They’ll run like rabbits.”
Dr. Thackeray decides that if they refuse to cooperate, they’ll be quarantined at gunpoint. Tom confesses that he’s no good with a gun, but that’s not what she has in mind.
She pulls one of Paladin’s cards out of her bag. Because she just carries them around for emergencies, like anybody would. It has nothing to do with being in love with him.
Paladin, back at the Hotel Carlton, gets the telegram lickety-split, and all it says is that he’d better get to the Barton Ranch in Three Rivers, California. Phyllis Thackeray needs him urgently.
Mr. Moustache chooses this exact moment to reappear and inform Paladin that he’ll totally pay him ten thousand dollars to babysit some gold. Paladin tells him he’s too late, another offer has been accepted.
On the one hand, I really like Dr. Thackeray, and I understand that this is the morally correct choice. On the other hand, I cry on the inside as we wave goodbye to all that money. Goodbye, money. It would have been nice to get to know you better.
(Did you know that ten thousand dollars in 1871 is equivalent to roughly two hundred thousand dollars today? That’s like a month’s rent in modern San Francisco.)
Upon arriving at the Barton Ranch, Paladin totally forgets all of his good manners and basically barges in, demanding to see Dr. Thackeray, slamming the door behind him and not introducing himself.
Tom is very intimidated, and sort of terrorized as he offers coffee and explanations.
But Sam, ruiner of all things, chimes in:
“My son tells me he sent you a telegram. That was a mistake. Go back to San Francisco.”
This is super awkward for Tom. He tries to clear the air, stammering his way through the basics of the situation, but Paladin just demands to know where Dr. Thackeray is. Then Sam tells Paladin that he’s not to ask questions of Tom; “Talk to me, I’m the man around here.” Meanwhile, Tom is just kind of hopelessly watching as all the tall, deep voiced men keep yelling.
Man, if he hadn’t been Jeremy all those times, I would feel really bad about this.
Paladin gives a menacing speech about flipping coins and shooting people, and Sam stands up like punches will be thrown.
Tom suggests everybody chills out, but his father doesn’t like that idea.
“That’s your way, isn’t it?” Sam sneers, “Back away from anything tougher than a steak!”
Paladin is all: “Yeah, this character development and tension between father and son is standing directly between me and my goal, so…”
He grabs Tom by the collar and shakes Dr. Thackeray’s location out of him. Literally. Like the information is something that can be loosed from his pockets.
Tom, stunned, half-nods and half-stares at the door to den, where last we saw Dying Nate and the good doctor. Paladin strides over to the door like thunder incarnate, and then knocks super gently.
A lady is within, you see.
On the other side of the door, Dr. Thackeray checks to make sure her hair doesn’t look stupid from her night of tirelessly tending the sick, and then opens up. She seems relieved that he’s finally arrived, and he looks like he’s just seen a radiant unicorn. It’s like, maybe have some dignity and act cool or something, Paladin? But no. His dignity and coolness are for other times and places.
Dr. Thackeray tries to draw his attention to the man dying of smallpox by pointing in the patient’s direction, but Paladin keeps staring at her. Probably wondering if her hair is made of moonlight. (Get on the ball, man! I told everyone you were the greatest hero in the history of television! You’re making me look bad!)
Finally, the Doc is just like: “That guy over there has smallpox. That’s why I called you. I’m fine because I was vaccinated less than two years ago. I should have mentioned the smallpox thing in the telegram, I’m sorry.”
Paladin grins, and asks if she thought he wouldn’t come running if he knew contagious diseases were on the table.
“Would you have?” She asks, more amused than romanced.
He says he totally would have because he’s been vaccinated, but his amazing A+ flirting is interrupted when Dr. Thackeray yawns a bit, and he freaks out that she’s tired. She explains that she’s been awake for about twenty-four hours, so Paladin makes her coffee, recalling exactly how she likes it, down to the precise amount of sugar.
He knows from that one time they spent a week looking after a fever-stricken baby while crazy townspeople tried to shoot them. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be remembering coffee orders in the middle of all that?
Dr. Thackeray is surprised by this, and instead of trying to downplay things even a little bit, Paladin is just like: “Yes. I also remember your favourite colour, your shoe size, and the anecdote you told me about a lost horse.”
He kneels next her, like Sir Walter Raleigh, while she drinks her coffee and explains all that has come before.
“I sent for you because Fred Cooley, the range boss, is something of a gunman. He’ll be back tomorrow with the men, and they’ve got to be kept here.”
Piece of cake.
She yawns again, and Paladin tells her to get some shut-eye, but Nate is “nearing the crisis” and she doesn’t want to be asleep when he needs her the most.
Paladin suggests that the best way to make sure of that is to sleep before it becomes a problem. She agrees to take a twenty minute nap, but seriously, he’s just going to let her sleep until there’s some kind of emergency. He tucks her in while she gives him important doctor instructions.
He leans in to kiss her, and she pulls away. She’s worried about him catching smallpox, and he’s all: “Relax, honey, I said I was vaccinated.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Thackeray’s tired, and just in love with him as he is with her, and so she lets him kiss her. It’s romantic but also very stupid.
She pushes for details of this alleged vaccination in between smooches, and finally Paladin tells her that he got some kind of injection during the Civil War. So, ten years ago. And he’s reasonably certain it was for a variety of pox, and that means he’s in the clear. Might have been chickenpox, but it was probably smallpox, and anyway, there’s not much of a difference, right?
At this point, doctors weren’t really sure which vaccines needed to be renewed and how often that might be required. Dr. Thackeray says that she isn’t certain Paladin has any sort of guaranteed resistance to smallpox, but their conversation is cut short by the patient calling out for water. Paladin goes to him, and Dr. Thackeray falls asleep.
This extremely important medical conversation can probably wait until later.
Hey Paladin, you’d better touch that moaning contagious guy with your bare hands, he said he was thirsty.
After a few hours of nursing Nate and occasionally staring at the unicorn doctor lady, wondering if she’s dreaming about beautiful things and stethoscopes, Paladin looks a little tired himself. He did, after all, drop everything and ride all day on zero notice to get here.
But there’s no more rest for anyone, because surprise! Fred Cooley and the Rambunctious Ranch Hands have returned from roundup early! Ready to spend their money on liquor and prostitutes, and not in any way planning to wait patiently for three days then form a queue at a picnic table to get shots. All of them are itching to go annoy local business owners and spread germs. Deadly, deadly germs.
Sam and Tom go out to meet them, and Sam might be coming to his senses about things, because he tells Cooley to come into the house and talk.
I mean, there’s a chance that he wants to discuss how they’re going to murder Paladin so that they can give all of northern California smallpox as some sort of nefarious plot, but it’s probably about everybody needing to be vaccinated like calm, rational adults.
Cooley, who is played by John Anderson, says that he will totally have a serious conversation. Just get everybody’s money ready so they can go drinking and carousing, and let him finish up some stuff – like spending his money on drinking and carousing – and then he’ll have as many conversations as you want. He shoots some more celebratory bullets in the air and rides off, because he’s such a reasonable character. I’m sure he’ll be no trouble.
For all his manly grandstanding, it turns out Sam can’t handle delicate situations to save his life. Or the lives of those around him.
Meanwhile, back in the den/sickroom, the ruckus has awoken Dr. Thackeray, who checks on her patient as the hollering fades into the distance. Paladin informs her that he thinks the fever’s gone up, and she agrees. The next few hours will see whether this man lives or dies.
And if he dies, they have an extra problem.
While he lives, it’s possible to keep quiet about the smallpox, come up with some excuse about why everyone is being kept at the ranch. Maybe they can prevent a panic or a showdown.
But if Nate dies, they’ll have to burn his body, and that’s a pretty big giveaway that some kind of disease is on the table. Besides which, if anyone sees the corpse’s very obvious symptoms, the jig will be up. (If you don’t know what smallpox looks like, you can Google Image it, but be warned that it’s kind of harrowing.)
“Everybody on this ranch will stampede in all directions,” Dr. Thackeray shakes her head, “do you think you can stop them?”
Paladin tenderly pats her shoulder and gazes into her eyes, like he’d fight a million crazy cowboys if she asked him to. Then he snaps out of it, nods to himself, and heads out of the room. Fingers crossed he hasn’t just run off to get paper for his love letter, and is instead going to do something about the impending disaster.
I think one of the biggest structural problems that Have Gun comes up against is the desire to show all the angles of a problem before solving it. When there are two seemingly correct sides, this examination can be really interesting. There’s an episode about water rights that is both not boring and quite tense the more we learn about the parties involved. But when it’s something like this, where a doctor wants to keep everyone as healthy as possible and she’s counterpointing a blowhard who wants to pretend nothing is wrong, it doesn’t really matter how much time we spend with the blowhard.
Sam doesn’t think Paladin will be able to deal with the storm when it hits, and Paladin replies that he doesn’t want the storm to hit, so it would be great if Sam – or Tom, he doesn’t really care – could maybe do something helpful, like telling everyone they need to sit tight and wait for vaccines.
Of course he declines, because if he didn’t there wouldn’t be any tension and we’ve got a story to tell!
Tom says that the men are likely to respond to his authority about as well as they’d respond to the idea of vaccines, so him trying to use his authority to get them to have vaccines is pretty much pointless. Sam reminds us all that he doesn’t care two pins whether people gets these shots or not.
It would be great if Paladin could do something, Tom suggests.
And Paladin would love to do something, he really would, but anything that he did would involve gunfire and death. Pretty permanent and noisy stuff, so it’d be best if Tom tried talking first.
The idea of his crew being shot full of holes doesn’t appeal to Sam, who suddenly seems to care about people’s well-being. (Full of lead or riddled with smallpox, dead is dead, Sam.) He scolds his son for bringing in Paladin against his orders, and declares that since Tom has started a path of action, he expects him to finish it.
Sam is not a super consistent character.
“Tom, sooner or later, whoever is foreman of this ranch is going to take orders from you,” Paladin explains, “and nobody is going to be standing next to you your whole life with a gun to make your orders stick.”
Well, there will be if he hires somebody to do just that. Of course, those guys usually get resentful and start sleeping with the ranch owner’s wife and planning to murder him and take all the money, and the foreman gets suspicious and then Gil and Rowdy show up and it’s an episode of Rawhide I’m thinking of. Sorry.
Tom steels himself for what has to be done. He has to somehow keep everyone here with inciting a panic, which means he can’t say anything about Nate having smallpox. Good luck, Tom. I’m sorry I thought all those mean things about you, they were really about Season Four of The Wild Wild West.
He dutifully marches out towards the hooting and hollering. We watch him head into the night through the living room window, his head held high, his figure obscured by curtain lace.
Commercial and a time skip!
Sam is fidgeting by the window, waiting for his son to come back.
Everything is quiet now.
Maybe, Sam wonders, Tom managed to get Cooley around to his side and now they’re talking sense into the others. Maybe that’s what’s taking so long – or it might be, he says, “if Tom wasn’t such a weakling.”
Uh-oh, Ben Cartwright! Looks like somebody’s trying to steal Best TV Western Dad from you!
“He gets it from his mother, god rest her soul.” Sam shakes his head.
“No,” Paladin answers evenly, “I’d say he gets it from you. You’re a loudmouth bully. You’re all talk; the vicious, cutting kind of talk that probably held that boy down. Gave him the idea he never could win, so he never tried.”
Lucky there’s a doctor in the house, because somebody just got a third degree burn.
The two of them argue about parenting styles until murmurs start outside. A bunch of the men are walking towards the house. It’s hard to see between the crowd and the darkness who all is with them.
Things have not gone well. Tom and Cooley are at the head of the group, Tom hanging his head and looking as low as any worm. One of the younger hands, Steve, is demanding an apology from him as Paladin and Sam step out onto the porch.
Cooley tells his men that an apology doesn’t matter. He’ll get everything squared away right, just like he always does.
Now, Mr. Barton, Steve here seems to think that Tom was serious when he told everyone they couldn’t go to Stockton and had to hold tight for a few days. Of course, Cooley told Steve that Tom was just kidding around with them. You know that old joke where you say payroll has been delayed by three days, sorry for the inconvenience? Hilarious.
Sam tells them that they got it right from Tom. They have to stay until further notice.
“We’re leaving this morning, with or without your beef,” Cooley announces.
He tells Sam to go get the strongbox from his study and hand out the money, and the men are going to leave, and that’s the way it’s going to be.
Paladin is looking all patient and menacing in the shadows. What’s he gonna do? Something good, I bet.
Sam blusters that he won’t be pushed around like his milquetoast kid, and Cooley tells him that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Tension is mounting.
“With all due respect, Mr. Barton, either you open that safe, or we break it open.”
Paladin steps forward, unruffled and stern.
“No,” he says calmly, “you don’t go in the house.”
It is extremely apparent to Cooley, mostly because of the demeanour and the holster and the extra belt full of bullets, that the man before him is a gunfighter. And pushing forty, which means he’s a good gunfighter. This affects Cooley’s bravado a little.
He says that sunup is in an hour, and that’s as long as it’ll take him to get his gear together, collect his pay, and leave. It would be a bad idea for Paladin to try to stop him, but he talks with less certainty and command in his voice. It’s an interesting change.
Fun fact! John Anderson played Abraham Lincoln more times than any other actor! The hairpin turns from being a determined leader to being desperately uncertain but totally unable to show weakness were a specialty of his.
Paladin declares that he would, as in all cases, prefer to avoid violence.
Steve thinks this is hilarious, because he’s young and unobservant and probably doesn’t know that wanting to avoid violence and being capable of committing violence aren’t mutually exclusive traits.
Hope nobody liked Steve, because his next move is to pull a gun on Paladin.
Important to note, Paladin shoots to kill more often than not. There are no Cartwright specials on this show. Steve, being at the beginning of a foolish and impetuous life does appear to merit some sympathy, and is shot squarely in the upper chest. He might survive that. He appears to be mostly alive as the others drag him away.
Cooley looks at Paladin with all the rage and hatred of a cornered animal, then helps to take Steve to the bunkhouse for his last shot of whiskey and maybe some impromptu surgery with an unsanitized fork? Wherever they’re going, they’re leaving. And the stakes have changed.
There are now two clearly defined teams: one made of two dozen reckless, hard-living ranch hands, the other made of three guys, a doctor, and a dying chef.
Speaking of Nate and his subplot of survival, it’s been awhile since we looked in on him.
He’s still got smallpox.
Dr. Thackeray reports that his pulse has improved, but is still too fast. Paladin asks her if there’s anything he can do for her, and she tells him to talk to her and keep her awake.
Paladin says talking to her isn’t easy anymore, because he has next-level feelings. He can’t rely on the pleasantries and flirtations he uses to get through regular conversations with regular women; he owes her more.
“That’s a frightening thought,” the Doc smiles.
“It is,” Paladin agrees. “Because we’re the kind of people we are. We’re neither one of us ready for marriage, are we?”
Just tie a lead weight to the conversation and throw it in the river, Paladin. It’s not like this lady has other things on her mind.
“You have to go on with your work. It’s important to you, and it’s important to the people who need you.” Paladin tells her.
“And you have to go one with your work, because you’re the kind of man you are.”
“I did hear a rumour once that people can change. If they’re ready to change, and we’re not ready to change.”
This is what passes for romance on this show.
“I’m confused,” Dr. Thackeray smiles, “have you been proposing to me?”
“No. I’ve been explaining why I haven’t proposed.”
The Doc says that she’s flattered. Not a lot of people go to the trouble of explaining these things, and she’s pretty sure Paladin doesn’t make a habit of non-proposals. He says that this is his first non-proposal, and god help me, it’s actually kind of sweet.
Alright, you two! There’s a potential epidemic looming! Back to work!
Nate, who is kind of the point of this story, has rounded the worst of the fever and it looks like he’s going to live. But that doesn’t solve the problem with Cooley, which is a dangerous problem that Paladin has to go handle.
Before he leaves, he and the Doc agree that they have no future together but love each other very much.
Sad, but better than her having to die like she was dating a ranch scion.
Paladin goes to splash cold water on his face, and asks Tom where the bathroom is. Tom tells him, and Sam looks over at his son with unexpected flintiness. Is Paladin not allowed to use the wash basin? That’s kind of random, Sam.
Once alone, father and son take this opportunity to bicker some more. Or, more accurately, Sam takes this opportunity to gripe about how sub-manly they’ve become that they’ll let outsiders help them with problems.
While Paladin is off washing his face, Cooley and a few of his cronies stride in through the front door.
What part of “not allowed inside the house” did you not get, Cooley?
“As long as we’re waiting around for your hired gun, you might as well give me my pay.” Cooley starts forcing Sam towards the study, which is very bad because that is the smallpox room.
Tom finds it in himself to loudly demand that Cooley slow his roll. (Is their bathroom soundproofed or something?)
Unsurprisingly, Cooley and his men don’t care that they’ve been yelled at and keep doing what they’re doing, but good effort Tom. That was a step in the right direction.
Naturally, everyone busts into the quarantined room, while Dr. Thackeray starts yelling that the door should have been bolted and they need to get out of here at once.
Cooley recognizes her as the lady doctor – meaning the doctor who is a lady, not the doctor who specializes in lady business – and asks if she’s the one that’s stirred up all this nonsense about nobody leaving the spread. She tells him to calm down and she’ll explain.
Just as she’s starting to, Cooley pushes past her and gets an eyeful of Nate’s very obvious symptoms. He flips out. The Doc tries to tell him about the vaccine and medicine, but he doesn’t want to hear it. He clocks her in the face and runs like hell with the others.
Paladin finally finishes washing his damn hands and finds his beloved crumpled on the floor, bruised and crying while Tom tries to help her to her feet.
Okay, everybody keep a cool head. What’s important here is that nobody overreac—
Paladin runs out of the house, pulls Cooley off of his horse and curb-stomps him. Then he forces Cooley up, punches him in the abdomen three or four times and uppercuts him as hard as humanly possible. Cooley goes backwards over the hitching post, and uses this opportunity to try to get away. Paladin pursues, having found a stick of significant size and weight.
He hits Cooley with the stick.
This, I would like to note, is unlike him. His berserk button is very hard to reach, and this is pretty much the only time we see it well and truly hit. Also, this whole time, Doc is yelling at him to stop beating this man to death. Tom chimes in that Cooley was out of his mind with fear, and Paladin should please stop and get his wits about him.
(I’m currently baffled that I remembered this episode as “romantic and fun” when I chose it. It’s more like romantic and upsetting?)
It’s finally Tom’s time to shine. He takes the shotgun and hits Paladin in the chest with the butt of it. Paladin looks furious that his whaling on Cooley has been interrupted. Doc assures him that she’s alright, and he really needs to calm down.
Tom is all: “This is my ranch, and I’m responsible for the people on it. I brought you here to help protect the doctor and to help protect these men, whether they wanted protecting or not. Nobody is going to murder Cooley with their bare hands, and that’s the end of it. I’ll totally shoot you if you don’t stop.”
Yay, Tom! Finally solving his problems not with violence but with the threat of violence – that’s what separates us from the animals.
Doc goes over to calm her man down like she’s Betty Ross and he’s the Hulk.
Once everything is a little quieter, Paladin comes out of his frenzy his usual calm and reasonable self.
It’s seriously like he just changed back from a werewolf.
Tom lowers the gun and says he’ll handle Cooley. He’ll handle everything.
“Oh, that’s right,” Paladin smiles, “this is your ranch.”
Sam watches, now proudly obsolete, as his son leads Cooley and the other men away.
Paladin is smiling like this was part of a larger plan to get Tom to assert himself, but Dr. Thackeray is looking at him like: “Don’t even pretend you didn’t just go King Kong on that guy, you faker.”
A couple of days later, Cooley is able to walk again, and everyone lines up for their vaccines.
Paladin goes first, just to be double safe, and then Sam makes a big show of being brave enough to go in like it’s not a big deal. He flinches when he gets dabbed with the rubbing alcohol, but he gets his shot.
They all get their shots.