Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Big Valley 01x14: The Brawlers

I’m kind of sad. I wanted the first episode of The Big Valley we recapped to be the one where Jarrod goes temporarily blind and has to try a case against Lloyd Bochner. In fact, it was on my to-recap schedule along with episodes of Ghost Story and Kolchak: The Night Stalker when I got sick.

But when life gives you lemons, do the Irish immigrant episode for St. Patrick’s Day instead! (And also something about lemonade?)

The Big Valley, like Lancer or Bonanza, is about a wealthy ranch family full of scorpion sons. Handsome and intriguing, to love them is certain death. But, also like Lancer and Bonanza, this is never openly acknowledged. And, in the case of The Big Valley, there’s one really fun difference: living women who are part of the family.

Instead of a patriarch and his random number of male heirs, you get widow Victoria Barkley played by Miss Barbara Stanwyck. She has an unspecified and flexible number of sons, but at least two biological ones named Jarrod and Nick. There’s also the Jon Snow of the family, Heath, and baby Eugene who may or may not exist and might be at college. Also:

Ta-da! A daughter!

Recurring female characters! Yay!

Unfortunately, Audra here has some seriously inconsistent writing. She gets a couple of strong episodes, but it’s like she’s a different person in each of them. And in the one we’re looking at today, she’s really mean.

Just really mean.

In fact, the engine for the story is her rage-fuelled overreaction, so we might as well jump in as Audra rides across Barkley land in tight blue jeans that are so historically inaccurate, it says to the audience: “Historical accuracy is for museums, this is entertainment!”

She notices a small wagon train crossing their property, and she looks angry about it. Fair enough. The only thing that’s been happening over on our Bonanza recaps so far has been Cartwrights being annoyed by trespassers. It’s a standard set-up.

The leader of the wagon train, Callahan – played by the brawler-built and ever-loveable Claude Akins – starts ripping down a Barkley fence so that his people can pass through. It’s this wanton fence destruction that hits Audra’s berserk button.

She starts to ride down towards the group of travellers at top speed.

Meanwhile, Callahan looks very pleased as the wagons come to a halt and he pulls out a sign that reads: Kilkenny Farms. He’s in the process of hammering it into a Barkley fence post when he notices Audra heading towards him like shellacked lightning. (Her flawless 60’s coiffure does not move at all.)

Callahan’s group is pretty large, and they’re in the process of unloading the wagons and settling in when a few others notice Audra as well. These others are important for later, and they are young and pretty Sharon played by Noreen Cocoran, steadfast “Grandpa” played by J. Pat O’Malley, and Mother Callahan played by none other than Eleanor Audley.

Eleanor Audley is probably best remembered for lending her voices to Disney villains Maleficent and Lady Tremaine. But she was always top notch, whatever she was up to.

Anyway, this small group within the larger group seems pretty sure that Audra’s coming to greet them. She is not.

“What are you doing, knocking down our fence?!” She demands of Callahan, almost trampling him with her horse.

He says that they had to knock down the fence because there wasn’t a gate, to which she replies of course there’s no gate there’s no supposed to be a gate, why the hell would the fence have a gate?! She warns Callahan that he and his people are trespassing and they have about five seconds to get off of Barkley property or she’ll horsewhip them.

Jovially, Callahan says that this means there isn’t any problem because according to his maps and papers, his people aren’t on Barkley land. They’re on Kilkenny land.

Land swindle! Back in the 1870’s, it was trickier to legally verify that the person selling you land owned the land they were selling. There were a lot more handshakes and good-faith deals, and because of that huge amounts of money were lost. Especially by new arrivals to America, like this group. Of course, sometimes people who should’ve known better bought into these scams, like everybody who bought the Brooklyn Bridge from George C. Parker.

Audra throws a little bit of a tantrum and tells Callahan he won’t be nailing any signs to her family’s fences. He tells her to get off his farm and goes back to nailing up the sign as she announces that she is Audra Barkley and there’s a problem here.

Audra’s a bit of a princess and expects her name to carry more weight than it sometimes does, and this is one of those cases. Callahan dismisses her by calling her “Miss Buffalo Bill” and so she knocks him down with her horse, tears his sign off the fence post, breaks it, and starts whipping him.

This is a fun place to point out that a lot of episodes feature Audra as a timid bible teacher. There really was no consistency with her.

Callahan pulls Audra off her horse, and smacks her on the bottom while his friends and family cheer him on. Everyone except his mother, that is. She calls out that what he’s doing isn’t funny and everybody should shut up. Undeterred, Callahan puts Audra in her saddle backwards and sets her horse running.


A great set of first impressions all around!

Meanwhile, Heath is hiking up to the Barkley mansion. And the mansion is a mansion.

It’s huge.

There’s a games room with two billiard tables in it, and Jarrod has his own wing for when he happens to be in town. He has apartments in Stockton and San Francisco, but he still gets a wing. You could fit the Ponderosa house in there twice, probably. (It doesn’t have the loving use of local materials and multiple level living spaces of an Adam Cartwright design, though. More formal, less open plan.)

Heath’s horse went lame up by Spring Meadow and he had to walk home. He’s exhausted and sweaty and grimy and for some reason heads straight for the fruit bowl as he tells Nick about his crummy day. He wants an apple, apparently, and not three gallons of water and twenty minutes of not moving like you'd might expect.

“Boy howdy,” Heath collapses into a velvet wingback chair and starts peeling his boots off. “You know, I think I got blisters in places I didn’t know I had places?”

Like on his toe ribs and between his knee cracks.

The horse is okay, by the way, and Heath is explaining his amateur veterinary opinion on the matter when Audra bursts in through the front doors and clacks her heels angrily on the parquet floors as she storms through the foyer.

She comes back a few seconds later and announces she can’t find the keys to the gun cabinet.

The Barkley gun cabinet is basically a whole room full of top-of-the-line firearms; it looks like the kind of thing you’d find in the house of a big game hunter who has grown weary of tigers and water buffalo and longs to hunt the most dangerous game…

The keys are in Nick’s pocket. He readily hands them over to Audra. When people look as pissed off as she does, it’s probably a good idea to check why they want to open the gun cabinet. Good ideas are for other people, though, and Nick just muses that if he didn’t know any better, he’d think Audra was going to shoot somebody.

Heath, who is exhausted, tries to work out who she might shoot.

He comes up empty, and suggests they go make sure she doesn’t get arrested for premeditated murder or something. So they head into the gunroom where little sister is arming herself to the teeth.

When Nick asks who all the bullets are for, Audra admits that she doesn’t know his name, but she’s going to take down his stupid sign and get his convivial Irish ass off their land.

Nick’s halfway between baffled and amused as he tries to get a clear picture of this ragtag group of violent squatters Audra is describing.

The boys decide that some double-checking is in order. First of all, is Audra sure these people were on Barkley land? She says yes, they were right in the middle of the north pasture. Okay, second, did she look at their map and make sure there wasn’t some kind of geographic confusion? Audra sidesteps this by relating how she politely asked them to get the hell out, and then some monstrous creature who was more ape than man ripped her off her horse and… well it’s not important…

Nick takes the guns away from her and finally gets her to explain that Callahan hit her. When the matter of where he hit her comes to light, Heath keeps it together, but Nick has a harder time not laughing.

“It isn’t funny,” Audra scolds.

She’s right. It’s actually unfunny.

If I had a nickel for every time a spanking was played for a laugh that made no sense to me, I would be able to buy a three-topping pizza.

Anyway, it’s agreed that Nick and Heath will go with Audra to investigate the alleged squatters being led by Sasquatch, even though Heath really doesn’t want to put his boots back on. But he knows that at least one level-headed Barkley has to accompany an expedition of firebrand Barkleys when gunfire might be involved.

The three of them ride up to the north pasture and find a small community of Irish farmers right where Audra said they would be. Heath is confused, since squatters wouldn’t normally pick a random patch of land so close to the house. Nick is less confused and more coldly furious. The frostiness won’t last long, it’s sort of a calm-before-the-storm deal.

Nick Barkley probably wins the trophy for Worst Tempered Western Hero, as we’re about to see.

Wide-eyed children watch as the strangers ride through on their stately horses in their fine clothes, looking for Callahan.

They find him plowing land with Grandpa’s help, and Nick flips out and tells them that he has no idea who they are or what they’re doing there, but it is part of the Barkley ranch and they need to go. Now.

Callahan tries to tell Nick that he bought the land fair and square, and Nick explains that his family owns the land and they did not sell the land, so there’s been some kind of mistake. Callahan smiles indulgently and tells him that the mistake must be on the Barkley side of the equation, since the Callahan side has a bill of sale.

Audra identifies Callahan as the man who hit her, and Callahan apologizes and calls her “Miss Buffalo Bill” again. Now, there is a lot that you have to accept is just going to be blatantly historically inaccurate on this show, but Buffalo Bill was not Buffalo Bill at this point in history. He was a scout with a medal of honour and little fame outside of military circles. So a recent immigrant to the U.S. would not have him as a point of cultural reference.

Heath heads off to start repairing the fence with instructions to leave just enough of an opening for the wagons to get through, and no! Don’t leave the crazy people unsupervised, Heath! But he goes, and Nick erupts like a rage volcano on Callahan who manages to stay almost gratingly calm and smiling as he offers to show Nick “some documents” that will help clear this up.

Nick chooses instead to threaten them with twenty-four hours to get off Barkley land and he and Audra start to head out.

In the meantime, young pretty Sharon is watching Heath hatefully as he gets to work fixing the fence. She stands defiantly in front of the Kilkenny farms sign and basically dares him to try and take it down. He gently grabs her shoulders and starts to move her aside – much less roughly than Callahan had treated Audra – when Callahan and Grandpa call out to him to stop harassing her.

Grandpa tries to box Heath, who just looks super confused as the old man dances around him and punches the air.

Nick and Audra ride up, and Nick announces that “this is no nonsense for young girls and old men. You’re on private property and you’re breaking the law. I’ve heard about you hooligan squatters…”

This is the last insult that Callahan is willing to take.

If there’s going to be boxing, it’s going to be between Callahan and Nick!

“Heath, hold this,” Nick hands Heath the reins as he dismounts, “they might steal horses, too.”

Callahan and Nick start circling each other, fists at the ready and the fighter’s gleam in both their eyes, when Mother Callahan decides to wreck up the fun. She runs to stand between them and begins scolding her son. There will be no punching here today.

(Come on, Mother Callahan! Be cool! I wanted to see a fight!)

Heath and Mother Callahan are clear-eyed about the whole matter, and Heath suggests everyone look at the bill of sale Mother Callahan claims to have. See, Heath is wondering if maybe because Victoria is in San Francisco with Jarrod right now some stuff might be going down, like totally legal land-selling that Victoria forgot to mention. And Mother Callahan says they bought the land in San Francisco. Maybe there’s more to this than Nick thinks?

Sharon gets on her high horse when Callahan produces his map and contract of sale. But Nick is quick to point out that it’s not a deed, and there isn’t a Barkley name on it.

Callahan is adamant that they paid real money for real land, which they probably thought they did.

But if there’s ever a Barkley you don’t want to get into an argument with, it’s Nick. He’ll die fighting to prove that the sky is never blue just so he won’t have to admit he might have been drinking when he said that. He treats us to a speech about how the Barkleys bought all of their land with money and blood and sweat and accomplishment and now it’s war.

He and Audra ride off dramatically, leaving Heath to do metaphorical and literal fence mending. The Kilkenny group doesn’t want him to touch it at first, but he explains that regardless of the land dispute if any of the cattle get through the fence they ripped down and drown in the swamp, they’re legally obligated to pay for them. And that’s not cheap.

Callahan says he’ll put up the fence himself, and he calls Heath a tricky landlord who’d “steal the pennies from the eyes of a dead man.”

To his credit, Heath lets that one slide and asks to borrow a hammer and shovel so he can get to work. And then he makes some flattering comments about the Irish to try and smooth things over. It works for the most part, except on Sharon who’s probably going to fall in love with him later anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (I’m not sorry), Nick is going through every scrap of paper in Victoria’s home office which is four or five times the size of most people’s non-home offices. Did I mention that the Barkleys are rich and their house is like three Buckingham Palaces pushed together?

The sounds of bellowing and tearing through important documents alerts Silas to the situation. Silas is the family butler, played by Napoleon Whiting. (I’ve always wished he had his own episode, something like “Hey Boy’s Revenge” on HGWT, but it was not to be.) He makes his way into the office and tactfully asks why Nick is tearing at papers the way a dog paws at the fridge door, and learns that Nick is looking for the north section maps so that he can check the property lines.

“Where’s Audra?!” Nick demands, throwing old tax receipts into his big pile of Wrong Papers.

Silas heads over to a specific cabinet and pulls out a map as he mentions that Audra seemed upset and announced that she was going to bed.

It’s still light out…

Eh. Sometimes you need a post-stress nap, or also to say you’re taking a nap while you sit in your bed in your pyjamas and eat a whole box of something.

Silas asks if he’s found the map Nick is after, and Nick looks at it and says it’s the wrong section of the north pasture. Then he knocks over a bottle of ink and shouts like he burned his hand on the stove.

Heath moseys in, and Nick notes that it took him an awfully long time to put up a fence that already had holes dug and posts made. At first, Heath kind of hems by saying he built a gate, but then he confesses that he hung around to get to know the Kilkenny farmers better and see if they really were squatters.

Nick is deeply offended that Heath would investigate a matter that everyone else is taking at face value.

“Oh, they’re squatters alright! An elephant in the bathtub couldn’t be plainer!”

Just when I’m starting to get fed up with Nick Barkley’s temper, he has to go and bellow something colourful…

Heath restates his theory that Jarrod might have sold the land without telling anyone, and Nick says that’s dumb. Jarrod would definitely say something in this case.

“Do you realize that that piece of land controls the stream that waters the whole north pasture, and if anyone fouls it up or diverts it, we’re going to have to haul water in here on our backs?”

Oh! That’s why this is so urgent!

Heath concedes that, yes, it’s unlikely Jarrod would sell that particular piece of land. But he doesn’t think the Kilkenny group are squatters. He thinks that they’re good honest people who maybe made a mistake.

Nick rolls his eyes at Heath’s naivety and scolds him for believing in human error. “Nobody accidentally stumbles onto someone else’s piece of fenced off land,” he says patiently, stealing all the best lines in this episode so far.

Heath then reports that Jarrod took the north boundary map to San Francisco, so all the ransacking in the world won’t find it. Heath, you knew that earlier! Quit padding the exposition and say pertinent things first!

“Whose side are you on, anyway?!” Nick balks.

Yeah, Heath! Whose side are you on?!

The simplest thing to do, according to treacherous time-waster Heath, is to go head down to Stockton and send a telegram to Jarrod to clear everything up.

So that’s just what they do, even though I would revoke Heath’s participation rights if I were Nick.

And who should they come across in Stockton, but Callahan and Sharon? They’re being pushed out of the General Store as the proprietor tells them he won’t extend them a line of credit. It’s nothing personal, apparently there’s a sign inside that reads: “In God we trust. Everyone else pays cash.”

Sharon gets her nose up in the air over the matter, though I can’t imagine why. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, but the shop owner had visible signage alerting customers to the policy.

Heading away from the store, Callahan literally bumps into Nick and then accuses him of assaulting people on the street. Nick kind of manages to not get too angry, and he explains to Callahan that he’s in town to send a telegram requesting confirmation of all of Callahan’s “documents.”

Callahan and Sharon haughtily make their way inside the hardware store, and another fist fight is averted. (Come on! Somebody fight!)

Heath asks Nick if he’d mind if he did some in-town stuff while Nick sends the telegram, and Nick says it’s fine as long as he doesn’t go into Big Annie’s to get drunk. Heath says that he’s going to the music store to get some sheet music.

“And I’m a trained bear,” Nick grumbles heading for the post office.

Of course, it’s not mugs of beer Nick should be worried about, it’s the milk of human kindness.

As soon as he’s on his way, Heath heads over to the Callahan wagon and takes a peek inside. It’s empty of all supplies. Heath nods to himself like he’s got a great idea.

Nick, meantime, is telling the clerk at the post office that when a reply comes from San Francisco, they need to send it straight out to the ranch. He finishes writing his message and turns it over to the clerk, who reads it all in front of him.

“Well!” The clerk gasps, “Is that a fact? They busted down the fences?”

Nick drops the pencil with a clatter and looks hilariously annoyed. He tells the clerk to send the message and quit being so nosey.

Out on the street, the proprietor of the General Store is helping Heath to load up Callahan’s wagon with staples like flour and… probably other kinds of flour. Cornmeal, maybe. It all comes in big sacks and there’s lots of it. Maybe one of those sacks is coffee?

Anyway, Callahan and Sharon leave the hardware store empty handed, only to find people filling up their wagon, which is a little unexpected. They hurry over to demand answers, and Heath explains that the General Store guy changed his mind about extending them credit. The General Store guy blows it, though, by saying he only did it because they had the word of a Barkley backing them.

This gets Sharon’s bristles up, and she orders them to take the goods back into the store at once.

Irish lasses being impossibly proud was a trend we can all thank The Quiet Man for, and while Maureen O’Hara wanting her furniture was frustrating but understandable, in most of the knock-off cases you just kind of wonder why everything is such a big deal.

She goes on to suggest that this sort of thing is never free, and that Heath probably wants sexual favours in exchange.

“When his kind give, they usually want something in return. I’ve had experience.”

Now it’s Heath’s turn to bristle, as he explains that he was only trying to help out their starving children and old people. Sharon says she knows his type and demands that they take their “filthy food” out of her wagon. Callahan shrugs helplessly and goes along with Sharon’s demand.

Heath looks defeated, and the proprietor looks annoyed, but they start unloading everything they just loaded. Now nobody wins.

Let’s go to San Francisco and see Jarrod’s fancy lawyering office!

It’s very masculine. Everything is natural wood and dark brown leather, and his name is painted in gold on the windows. It’s also reasonably sized – large, but not massive.

Jarrod is at his desk reading Nick’s telegram with some concern when his secretary opens the door for Victoria. Victoria’s got an armful of wrapped packages, because when you’re in San Francisco, you shop, and that’s how it’s always been. She even got Jarrod a new book.

He’s pretty pleased with that book, and almost forgets to mention the urgent telegram about squatters Nick sent him, but Victoria pulls it out of his distracted hand. Moms always think letters are for them. After reading it, Victoria asks if Jarrod’s been selling off land, and he says that quite the opposite is true. He’s been trying to get more land.

Turns out the book Victoria got for him was a collection of Mark Twain short stories. Nice.

Jarrod states his intention to fire off a quick reply, and then take his mom to Monty’s for dinner so they can try their famous pepper steaks! (Jarrod is so lame, but it’s endearing.)

“If I know your brother, he’s a lot hotter than those pepper steaks right now,” Victoria says worriedly, and somehow by virtue of being Barbara Stanwyck, she manages to not make that line a total giggle snort. It’s kind of amazing.

Anyway, turns out that Nick’s so mad about this particular fence being torn down because it was the first fence he helped put up with his dad when he was a teenager. Victoria wants to go home right away, and Jarrod agrees.

Jarrod is such a push-over.

The next day, out at the disputed section of the north pasture, Heath rides up because he can’t let well enough alone. He dismounts, and starts doing something by the fence while Callahan and Sharon look on. Sharon is angry again. What a surprise.

Turns out, Heath is harvesting pigweed to encourage the settlers/squatters to cook it like spinach. He uses the more flattering name of lamb’s quarters instead of pigweed, but it’s the same plant. And to the ancient Elves it is known as Kingsfoil.

“We don’t need someone telling us to eat weeds.” Sharon raises an eyebrow and puts her hands on her hips.

Heath tells her and Callahan that when he was a kid, he used to eat cactus with the spines peeled off, lamb’s quarters, and cornmeal mush, and he was pretty glad to get it.

Callahan says it’s not a bad idea at all. Would Heath be good enough to show Sharon which ones the lamb’s quarters are?

Heath would be glad to, and he smoulders just a touch to let us know that there’s romance in the air.

Funnily enough, Heath not being a full-blooded Barkley means that more often than not his love interests live to see another day, so Sharon might get out of this reasonably unscathed. We’ll see.

Callahan unknowingly puts Sharon’s life in danger by asking Heath to stay for dinner, and Heath agrees.

But all the blooming young love is interrupted when Nick rides up, looking kind of sinister in his black hat and gloves. He seems unimpressed with Heath’s explanation of coming to pick lamb’s quarters, but he’s got business on his mind. And step one is riding his horse through the land the Kilkenny farmers are illegally tilling, despite their obvious objections.

He’s got a telegram that proves they’re all trespassing, and need to GTFO or there will be injunctions, lawsuits, sheriffs and the like!

The bystanders tell Nick that they saved money for five years, paid a man, and got a deed. But instead of presenting this as a sympathetic misfortune, they refuse to acknowledge that there might be an actual misunderstanding going on. They accuse Nick of sending the telegram to himself as part of a “Yankee land swindle,” failing to realize that the swindling portion of this situation has already been conducted and falling for it is what’s landed them in this pickle.

Callahan challenges Nick to fisticuffs.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Grandpa announces that they’re both to follow Queensbury rules, and punches are finally thrown!

Callahan goes first, sending Nick tipping backward over a log. It’s an inauspicious start for Nick, who dusts himself off as the Kilkenny farmers cheer on their man. But Nick gets in a good, square blow and levels Callahan to a symphony of gasps and shrieks.

Nick gets the brunt of the next hit, falling into a barrel of potatoes because Ireland. He pulls a potato out of his shirt and stumbles back towards Callahan to deliver another punch straight to the teeth. Bam. Then a shot to the gut, and a nice finishing uppercut.

Callahan is out.

Or is he?

A bucket of cold water to the face, and he’s ready for round two. He charges at Nick like an angry bull and gives him the Captain Kirk hammer punch to the side of the head. Nick reels backwards, trips over a washing line, and collapses against the side of a wagon.

Come on, Nick! Back at him!

For no reason other than malice, Grandpa splashes Nick in the face with a bucketful of cold water, even though Nick didn’t need it. This causes Nick to Hulk out, and he swings at Callahan hard enough to send him flying back over a table, breaking said table in the process. But Callahan is just as stubborn as Nick and will not stay down, he’s back on his feet for one more punch to Nick’s gut.

Nick collapses amid the potatoes.

He’s not down for long, though, and soon enough he and Callahan are circling one another. They both swing and thud! Hit each other in the head at the same time! Both of them hit the ground and try to crawl to their feet. Using Nick’s body to help give him balance, Callahan pushes his way back to standing while Nick struggles to keep his face out of the dirt.

“Come on, you quitter!” Callahan demands in between ragged breaths.

“I’m… gonna throw you out of here… squatter…” Nick grumbles, staggering to his feet and grabbing Callahan’s shoulder.

The two of them then – seriously – punch each other in the head over and over again like Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. It’s fantastic. I am not disappointed in this bout.

Eventually, they just kind of slump into one another, and the last punch belongs to Nick Barkley!

Yay! Go team!

Heath decides that now is a good time to interfere, and he helps the semi-conscious Nick onto his horse so that he can take him back to the house.

Sharon, all of a sudden, decides that somebody ought to actually read the telegram Nick Barkley brought. So she goes to where Nick stashed his hat and papers before the fight and takes a gander. Apparently, the land company that they claimed to have bought the deed from is fraudulent, as confirmed by Jarrod Barkley.

She quickly rushes to Callahan’s side to tell him that things might be more complicated than they thought.

“We paid our money and we’ll stand our ground!” Callahan cries defiantly, before passing out.

After the commercial break, it’s back to the Barkley mansion.

In the gun room, Nick is loading up some ranch hands with some rifles and looking bruised and angry as Heath pleads with him to slow his roll. Heath says that he’s got perspective on matters because he knows what it’s like to be poor and Nick doesn’t. Nick asks if Heath’s argument is seriously that it’s okay for poor people to steal land because their lives are hard.

“Nick, sometimes you get mad and do things you’re sorry for,” Heath says, summing up every episode of this show ever.

Nick doesn’t see how running out people who are trying to unlawfully claim his father’s legacy is going to be regrettable in the future. He needs to calm down, but he’s not wrong about this. However! The audience and Heath both suspect that there’s more to the Kilkenny side than Nick is allowing, so it’s a frustrating conflict since both of the guys in charge are stubborn as oxen.

Heath pleads with Nick to do the court order thing Jarrod said in the telegram. He’s worried that the women and children will get hurt.

Nick angrily thanks him for suggesting that he would gun down women and children in the heat of the moment.

Chill out for like an hour, Nick. The punching addled your brain.

Heath, learn to express your concerns succinctly.

You can’t bust down a concrete wall with a water balloon, so Heath unsurprisingly fails to make an impact on Nick’s decision.

Seeing the looming disaster, he mounts up and rides down to the north pasture as fast as he can to beat Nick and his goons to Callahan. He tells Callahan that he believes he paid for the land, and that some non-Barkley swindled him somewhere along the line.

“Now Nick is not a bad man, but right now he’s mad,” Heath starts.

“Well, I’m mad too!” Callahan replies, looking about a third as angry as Nick did the last time we saw him. And also noticeably unarmed.

Heath repeats his theory that if gunfire breaks out, the collateral damage could be devastating. But Callahan is another concrete wall, and he fails to convince him before Nick arrives to level a gun at him.

It’s a tense moment, and in the end Callahan relents before any violence breaks out.

“I want you to be proud of yourself, Nick Barkley,” he speechifies, “You’ve got thousands of acres as far as the eye can see, and there are six families here who lost all their money and have no place to go, and when winter comes the children are going to be crying from the hunger and the cold. You be proud of that.”

Nick looks like he feels guilty.

I don’t think he should. While I certainly think it would be nice for him to, maybe, offer to relocate the farmers to a less critical piece of land while these legalities are sorted out, ultimately this is not his error. Is he being a temperamental ass? Yes. He’s Nick Barkley. Should he cringe with shame for trying to stop people from stealing his land? No. Okay… maybe he should feel bad about bringing armed goons… that was... yeah...

The Kilkenny farmers begin to pack up, and Nick puts his gun away. Heath won’t even look at him.

Later, Audra is dressed like Briar Rose as she finds her older brother moping in the office polishing off a letter. Nick tries not to notice her, but she asks him why he’s not talking to Heath.

Well, Audra, remember that conflict you enflamed earlier? It spiralled out of control and created a rift in your family.

Nick says that he’s not in the mood to talk to Heath, in fact, Heath can go “take a jump for himself.” Aw, come on, Heath is just dreamy and a little naïve about land grabs. And he had to eat pigweed and corn mush as a child while you dined on lobster with expensive sauces and multiple forks. Be the bigger man.

Audra tells him that he’s taken everything too far.

“Too far?!” Nick scoffs, “You’re the one who came in here screaming for action when you got your backside paddled!”

…there’s a chance he has a point.

Okay. I think what’s important here is that EVERYONE is wrong.

Audra storms off.

It’s Silas who manages to make a dent in the situation. He brings in a pot of coffee and masterfully doesn’t say anything. Nick warns that he doesn’t want to hear that he should do something for the Kilkenny farmers, and if Silas tries to tell him what his father would’ve done, he’s going to throw him through the window. Silas replies that it’s Nick’s window to break.

It’s a subtle jab that implies that Nick would care more about the window than the human being.

Nick announces that he’s not going to budge on this. He threw land thieves off his land, and it’s going to stay that way.

“Do what you want,” Silas nods, “that’s what you usually do.”

You are spoiled and do not care about the human costs of your decisions.

Nick asks if Silas would opposed to taking the wagon out to the Kilkenny farmers tomorrow with a couple of sides of beef and some sacks of flour. Silas says it wouldn’t bother him in the slightest.

“Then do it!” Nick bellows.

Silas smiles to himself as he hurries out of the room.

That evening, over at the Kilkenny temporary homestead – they haven’t left the north pasture yet – Callahan is pensive as he stares at the fire. Mother Callahan comes to tell her son that they’ve got some decisions to make.

“I made a great bargain for us, finding that land agent,” he sulks, finally realizing that there’s no such thing as a great bargain, “now look at us.”

His mother says that she’s glad he stopped the feud before it got out of hand.

“We’re law abiding people.”

But, according to Callahan, the law belongs to the rich.

Sharon comes to ask on behalf of the group if Callahan wants everyone to pack up. He seems uncertain of what to tell her.

It’s tough for him, and I feel bad for the people depending on him. If only the two hotheaded blowhards weren’t in charge of these groups…

Well, power over at the Barkley camp is about to shift, that’s for sure.

It’s dark as Victoria and Jarrod drive up to the house, the back of the carriage piled high with Victoria’s shopping haul. They both seem surprised that nobody’s come out to greet them. Jarrod wired ahead, and usually at least Silas is there.

Victoria jokes that nobody is excited to see them.

They head into a darkened house, only to find that it’s a mini surprise party! I have no idea how Nick, Heath and Audra managed to plan this since none of them are speaking to each other, but I guess Silas got stuck with a lot of go-between.

The sudden revelry at the Barkley mansion is contrasted by the Kilkenny farmers packed up in their wagons, waiting for Callahan to tell them what direction to go.

“No!” He decides, smacking his cap against a fence post for emphasis, “we’re not going to go! We paid our money! We’ve come seven thousand miles, and we’ve been duped and pushed around and laughed at, and now we are going to fight! The Barkleys have got more land than they can use, and we are not going to starve!”

Ignoring the pleas of Mother Callahan, he grabs up a shotgun and tells the others to stay in the wagon and arm themselves with clubs. He’s going to see the Barkleys, and if he comes back dead, they’re to give those aristocratic monsters the fight of their lives!

He rides off towards the mansion while jaunty Irish music plays, hinting that nothing serious is going to happen.

All the lights have been switched on and the surprise party is over when an angry fist pounds on the front door. Silas answers to find a shotgun pointed right in his face, and Callahan demanding to know where Nick Barkley is.

(Tell him “not here,” Silas!)

Victoria is wandering in to ask about one of the packages she brought in with her, when she notices the armed stranger in her foyer.  Callahan demands to see Nick. She politely says that she didn’t realize there was a visitor, and asks Callahan if he always comes calling with a shotgun.

“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t,” Callahan clears his throat, “who are you?”

“I’m Nick’s mother, and this is my home you’ve just broken into.” Victoria answers breezily.

She asks if Callahan intends to try and shoot her son with a shotgun, and warns him that Nick would probably fill him with six or seven holes before he could pull the trigger. That wouldn’t suit anybody, would it?

Uncertain now, Callahan adjusts his hands on the gun and says that he wants to make sure nobody is pushed around. He’s keeping the land he paid for.

Victoria calmly tells Silas to take the gentleman’s hat and offers him a glass of port, or perhaps some tea.

Callahan will not be defeated with good manners, though, and he says as much. He also tells Victoria that this isn’t business for a woman to be meddling in.

Well, it’s technically her land you stole, so…

“Perhaps a woman should’ve been meddling from the beginning,” Victoria smiles with a couple of daggers in her eyes. “We checked the land agent who swindled you while we were in San Francisco, he’s wanted by the law and you have no legal rights to occupy—“

“CALLAHAN!” An angry voice bellows.

Oh good. Nick is here.

Callahan levels the shotgun at him, and Victoria slaps the gun down like Callahan’s a toddler who reached for poison ivy.

Nick realizes he’s not wearing his gun, and makes to go get it, all but ensuring a blood bath.

“Nick, come down here!” Victoria commands, “You don’t want Mr. Callahan to shoot me while you’re gone, do you?”

Callahan swallows and looks sheepish as he says that he came here to shoot Nick, not her.

She nods and says he’ll want a drink of something before the serious work of murdering her son. He gets swept up in her baffling good graces and she leads him into the parlour for some Irish whiskey. Nick mopes along behind them.

Magically, she manages to corral both of the men into sitting across from one another. Nick barely sits on the edge sofa, though, as some kind of protest. And Callahan keeps insulting him under his breath.

Victoria tells them to try and be civil while she makes sense of things. Now, the way she sees it, Callahan ought to find the man who swindled him and get his money back. In the meantime, the Kilkenny farmers can stay where they are.

Nick objects. He thinks that Callahan will disappear under the pretense of trying to find a swindler – who may or may not exist, he adds – only to be gone for long enough for his people to get squatter’s rights and cripple the Barkleys’ legal options.

Victoria declares that this will not happen, with the self-assurance of a woman who has a contingency plan, and announces that all she asks is that once Callahan has his money back, he and his people leave and buy some other land someplace else. Barkley land is not currently for sale.

Callahan agrees.

Victoria then announces that Nick and Callahan better shake hands and make friends because it’ll be awkward if they still hate each other while they’re working together to find this land swindler. Awesome, Victoria. Callahan can’t run away if Nick’s got a suspicious eye on him the whole time.

Nick barks a little, but ultimately, he and Callahan shake while Victoria smiles triumphantly.

She toasts them both with a glass of Irish whiskey, and Nick looks so embarrassed.

Time skip!

A couple of weeks later, on a packed train, Nick Barkley is trying to get some sleep in his seat. The only trouble is that Callahan is in the seat next to him, snoring like a rhinoceros with a head cold. Nick nudges him awake and outdoes me in the simile department by saying that Callahan sounds like somebody’s strangling a sick moose. (Don’t make this a contest, Nick.)

Callahan angrily denies snoring, which wakes up the passenger behind them, who yells at them to shut up, waking everybody else up and getting the conductor involved. The conductor asks for an explanation, and the passenger tells him that “this Irish ditch digger was shooting off his face.” The conductor tells Callahan to keep it buttoned or he’ll throw him off the train.

Nick does not approve of this exchange, nor his fellow passenger's bigotry, and expresses this through grumbling and threatening to fight, as is his way.

The conductor says that anybody who is Irish or defends the Irish is going to get thrown off the train. Last warning.

Instead of quietening down, Nick pulls the bowler hat down over the rude passenger’s eyes and then just stands up in front of the conductor. Nick’s just shy of 6’4”, and the conductor looks to be about a foot shorter than him.

“You and what army?” Nick demands, peering down at the cowering conductor.

“Just try to keep it quiet in here,” The conductor gulps and scurries off.

When they get to San Francisco, they head into a small hotel where Callahan recognizes the clerk as the man who introduced him to the land swindler. Callahan cheerfully asks if Mr. Powell J. Welch is still staying at the hotel. Surely the clerk recalls that particular guest.

The clerk does not recall that particular guest.

Callahan grabs him by shirt collar and says that he’s going upstairs to find Welch and stop him from swindling anymore greenhorns. Nick suggests getting the police to come with a warrant, as two goon-type fellows position themselves behind them.

The goons announce that Powell J. Welch isn’t here, so it’s best if Callahan and Nick move on.

Fight time!

This one’s short. Callahan throws his bag at one guy, and starts to try to go upstairs only to find a third goon. Meanwhile, Nick throws another goon through the staircase railing and destroys like half the staircase, and it’s fantastic. Splinters everywhere. But not long after, more goons spawn like the hotel is some kind of goon nest, and Nick and Callahan are overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

When next we see those chuckleheads, Jarrod is bailing them out of the tank.

“Well, well, well…” Jarrod starts, clucking his tongue.

Nick tells him to stuff his wells and get them out with a minimum of superiority, please.

Jarrod can’t do that. He has to be smug the way Nick has to pick fights. It’s in the fabric of his being.

“If you’d bothered to ask me, I could’ve told you that the whole town is talking about your land swindler and they’ve already picked him up in Sacramento.”

Jarrod and Heath: keeping important things secret until the last minute just because it amuses them.

Callahan asks what this means for his money.

It’s bad news.

Welch gambled it all away and not a single penny remains.

Nick announces that’s the end of that, it’s time to go home.

But Callahan would rather sulk. He finally admits that this whole thing is because he fell for a conman, and now he can’t bear the idea of going back and telling everybody that their money is gone forever.

“You tried,” Nick shrugs.

“I’m a dumb, rotten clod,” Callahan mopes, grabbing his cap and following Nick out of the cell.

“You know?” Nick nods, “I think you’re right.”

So they’re kind of friends now, but not friends enough for Nick to actually like him.

Back in the north pasture, once Callahan’s returned, Sharon sadly takes down the Kilkenny Farms sign and goes to join the others. Everyone’s packed up their wagons and they’re leaving Barkley land for good. They’re looking grim and defeated, and mournful harmonica music plays.

But before they leave, three riders come to stop them.

Nick, Audra and Heath.

Nick tells them about a terrible piece of land the Barkleys own 70 miles to the south. It’s dry as a bone, but if somebody were to irrigate it and work hard – very, very hard because it’s terrible land – they might make a go of it.

Callahan scoffs and warns them not to do him any favours.

Audra reiterates that it’s useless garbage land, and Heath adds that it needs people who want to make it into something in order for it to be something.

Mother Callahan grabs her son’s arm and looks at him encouragingly.

But Callahan still thinks it sounds like charity, and asks if it was Victoria’s idea. Heath says that it was Nick’s.

Sharon, of all people, announces that they accept. She and Heath share an amorous glance, and she immediately falls dead. I’m kidding, she’s fine. For now.

Nick sends Heath to help them get settled and hands over a real property map and a real deed. He tells Callahan to try and get there without ripping down any fences, and Callahan smiles and promises that the next time the Kilkenny Farms sign goes up it’s going to stay up for good.

And the little wagon train moves on in the direction of their new home, while Nick and Audra look on. Smiling like they didn’t make this whole thing one hundred times worse to begin with.

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