Saturday, 3 September 2016

Bonanza 01x09: Mr. Henry Comstock

You know what we haven’t seen enough of on this show? Trespassers. Trespassers and inaccurately represented historical figures. Luckily, this episode will remedy that, and also provide me with even more opportunities to drone on about the history of silver mining in Nevada. Because that’s the part you really come to read about.

Also, for a fun change, we get to watch an episode that's frequently criticized by fans of Bonanza for being boring and terrible. Let’s find out why!

It’s an easy, soft-weathered day along the Ponderosa side of Lake Tahoe. The sun is shining, the birds are fluttering, we’re looking at an actual location shot next to a real lake instead of a painting, and everything is pleasant. The Cartwrights ride up to the scenic vista, in good spirits but tired. Adam lets us know that it’s hot work moving cattle into the high country, and Hoss lets us know he’s super mega thirsty.

They all hop down to the shore and start drinking the nice, clean water. Little Joe almost falls in, but Ben pulls him up in time.

“Careful, Little Joe!” Ben chuckles, “That’s the closest you’ve come to taking a bath in months!”

First of all, that is disgusting. Second of all, if that’s the case then Ben should push Joe in there and not let him come out until he’s clean. Send one of the others home for soap and spare clothes.

Before they can follow my instructions, a shot whistles just above their heads and splashes in the distant water. They all stand up and whirl around to face the gunman, and find themselves looking at a crazy old prospector with a rifle that’s probably older than Ben.

The prospector tells them to get the hell off his land, and Little Joe’s like: “Why don’t you get the hell off our land?”

The prospector’s like: “I would totally do that if this were your land. But it’s mine, so get the hell off it.”

(Most dialogue recreations will be approximate during this recap, since I don’t particularly want to watch this one three times.)

Ben’s too furious to keep a clear head, and that means it’s time for Hoss to intervene and calmly ask why the old prospector thinks that a chunk of the Ponderosa belongs to him. Did he get too much sun, or is he maybe confused about directions? Compasses can be hard to read sometimes…

The prospector fires his rifle into the air.

“I know my rights!” He bellows, “And I’m allowed to shoot trespassers on sight!”

Ben tries to explain, for the millionth time, that they are not trespassers. The old prospector declares he paid for the land fair and square. Everybody looks all confused and turns to Adam, who’s in charge of that kind of thing, and Adam shakes his head. He’s never seen this weirdo before in his life.

Apparently, the old prospector thinks he bought himself the whole Ponderosa for twenty-five dollars. He has a bill of sale, and he hands it over to Ben. Ben looks it over, and finds that it’s signed by a man named Henry T. P. Comstock, a well-known swindler and con man. Adam rolls his eyes, while Little Joe decides to laugh at the misfortune of the man aiming a rifle at him, because Little Joe is just like that.

The boys then begin casually reminiscing at gunpoint.

Yes, it turns out that Henry Comstock was quite a character. Why, Hoss and Little Joe remember well the first time they ever met him…

The dreamy memory dissolve takes us to a time a couple of years before, and a scene on a hilltop in front of a sunrise. It’s a horribly fake sunrise, and the gnarled old elm tree from which a noose hangs looks like it was made for a class play. Stuck with his head in the middle of the noose, and seeming reasonably concerned, is an unshaven man in a black stovepipe hat. He sits on top of a sad-eyed mule while a group of shiny, scary cowboys on horses tell him that this tree’s seen a lot of action in the hanging department.

His death is going to make it an even thirty since the start of the year.

Our man in the Lincoln hat asks for permission to pray. The shiny cowboys say yes, and through his prayer, he manages to convince them that Hang Town – which is close by – is changing its name to Placerville and revamping its image. Hanging is now illegal within the city limits, and those limits reach a hundred miles to the Sierras.

The mob who’s caught him decide that it’s worth the trip. They’ll drag him to the ends of the earth if they need to, in order to legally murder him.

“Because, Mr. Henry T. P. Comstock,” the leader says, “you’re about the most crookedest, slimiest, most double-dealing, weaseling, lying, thieving, no-good claim jumper that ever hit the state of California!”

Comstock looks flattered to have merited so many adjectives, as his captors free him from the noose and prepare to take him to the other side of the mountains.

Over on the edge of the Ponderosa, morning has rolled in and finds the Cartwrights chopping down a pine tree. In 1857 they didn’t have as many men in their lumber camps, so they did more of it themselves. The tree falls, and Little Joe – who is only seventeen during this flashback – moans about how it took four hours to cut it down.

“That isn’t so long,” Ben huffs and puffs. “Not when it took four hundred years for it to grow.”

Hoss looks around at all of the trees and marvels at how many of them were already ancient by the time men started to immigrate to America from Europe. Ben looks around with him and says that there are trees in the Ponderosa forest that were a thousand years old when Christ was alive.
Ben’s right, trees are amazing.

Ben goes to get a pine sapling, and we get the “don’t cut unless you plant” speech in brief. I don’t know if I’ve been drinking the Cartwright Kool-Aid too long, or if this is just a well done pro-environmental scene, but responsible forestry practices are important and I’m enjoying this.

Adam starts to plant the sapling, and Little Joe says: “Well, little ponderosa, let’s see how you look in a couple of hundred years when you’re a big ponderosa!”

They really need to explain human lifespans to him.

Anyway, the Cartwrights get to conversing while they pass around a canteen. Hoss mentions that it took him three weeks to get to Salt Lake City to file paperwork recently, and you might be wondering why he didn’t just hop over to California like in most other episodes. At this point in time, Nevada wasn’t Nevada yet. It was Western Utah, so it was easier to go to Salt Lake because there wasn’t a border crossing.

Adam decides to be the weird one, and is all: “I’m going to tell you about the future!” And he makes space-hands, “What would you say if I told you that soon it will only take two or three days to get to Salt Lake City?” Hoss is like: “Oh no! Is there going to be an earthquake that physically changes the landscape?! Should we move the cows?!”

But Little Joe calls Adam a lying liar who likes to tell lies. Why would he pick such a stupid thing to tell a lie about?

“You’d be talkin’ about a railroad, son?” Ben asks. (The best thing about Season One Ben, compared to season two and onward, is how bad he is at grammar.)

“I’m talking about a railroad, Pa.” Adam nods.

“Dreams are a nice thing to have, but do you know what it takes to build a railroad?”

About three hundred and fifty minimum wage workers, a ton of iron spikes and rail, not much dynamite because you’d be going across flatlands, a year and a half in terms of time, and five hundred and twenty-five miles worth of lumber ties.

Adam just says “tracks.”

Ben’s kind of pissed off that Adam wants to cut down trees to improve the world for everyone, but Adam explains that he’d plant new ones every time. They’re about to have a speech-fight when a distant gunshot captures everybody’s attention.

One of this episode’s problems is repetitive action: the first scene is the Cartwrights hanging out in nature until a gunshot, the third scene is the Cartwrights hanging out in nature until a gunshot.

They head over to investigate, and find Comstock narrowly escaping the shiny, scary cowboys who are trying to hang him. On a nearby ledge, the Cartwrights watch the pursuit. They debate whether or not they should interfere, but ultimately decide that four men on horseback chasing one dude on a mule isn’t fair ball. Besides, Little Joe reminds everybody that too much gunplay and loud noises will “stir up the Paiutes.”

“The last time somebody stirred them up, three settlers paid for it with their lives.” Ben nods gravely.

But wait, you might be thinking, are they talking about the Paiutes we’ve met in previous episodes? The ones who are emphatically against violent retaliation unless forced into conflict? Yes. Yes, they are. It’ll be better for everyone if you stop expecting consistency or historical accuracy.

Ben decides that the best thing to do is to even up the odds for the man on the mule. He and the boys take cover behind one of those convenient rock-shields that are perfect for gunfights, and they start a fun little round of “Who’s the Best Non-Lethal Shot?”

“Hey Hoss,” Little Joe scoffs, “Even with that Sharps buffalo you’ve got, you don’t think you can hit a target at half a mile, do you?”

Hoss shoots one of the shiny cowboy’s hats off. Just because he’s the worst shot in the Cartwright family doesn’t mean he’s a bad shot. Adam asks to see Hoss’s “squirrel gun” for a minute, because he’s a good-natured snob, and he takes aim at the villains. (I wasn’t going to say anything, but I can’t stop myself from being a know-it-all – the Sharps buffalo rifle wasn’t available until the 1870’s. The Cartwrights could easily be using a different Sharps rifle in 1857, just not the buffalo. It doesn’t matter, it has zero bearing on the plot.) Adam hits one of them right in the canteen, and a stream of water runs out as the shiny cowboys begin to panic about evil spirits.

Hoss lets Little Joe have a turn with his gun, and Joe notices one of their targets trying to take aim in their direction, so he gives that fool the Cartwright Special. For those of you who might be new, that’s a crease or flesh wound in the shooting arm.

“That’s the kind of thing a New Orleans boys learns to do just about the same time he learns to walk.” Little Joe gloats.

For the eight billionth time, Joe: You are not from New Orleans. You have never been to New Orleans. You were born and raised in Nevada and the furthest you have ever been from home is San Francisco.

Ben takes his turn shooting at the shiny cowboys, and they finally decide to retreat. They vow to see Comstock hanged, but think they should come back on a day when there are fewer sharp-shooting ghosts. It’s a sound tactical decision. And it ends the sequence of everybody taking turns shooting, which is one of the most entertaining incidents in the episode. Tragic.

Comstock rides over to thank the Cartwrights and starts spouting malarkey. I think he’s trying to sound like an honest, homesick country boy who’s been wounded by the cynical suspicions of the average Westerner. He just sounds like he’s full of it. Which brings us to the next problem with the writing, and that’s Comstock’s dialogue. The man goes on and on and on (remembering that we are used to Ben speaking) and never says anything important. It’s kind of going for this W.C. Fields of the West thing, but it isn’t funny and, despite the more than serviceable performance from the always fun Jack Carson, it doesn’t work in the character’s favour.

Anyway, Little Joe decides that Comstock is probably a claim jumper being run out of California, and Comstock’s all: “Never mention that state to me again!” Adam asks how many claims Comstock tried to jump, and Comstock seems offended.

He says that if he’d ever jumped a claim, may god strike him dead. Little Joe has a rifle slung over his shoulder, so he pulls the trigger to let off a thunderous boom. Comstock freaks out and begs for more time before he meets “the hellfire of retribution.”

Everybody laughs, because Comstock is clearly a shady character of some kind. Nevertheless, Ben invites him to come up to the ranch house and eat.


Why would you invite this man into your home, Ben?

Western manners traditionally dictated offering new friends a meal; but this guy owes Ben a favor, not the other way around.

Later, during dinner, Comstock is raving about how awesome the food is. Hoss is all: “Our cook, Hop Sing, is a genius!” Comstock decides to compliment Hop Sing directly, and calls him an “honourable descendant of Confucius.” Because this guy is the worst and this episode is about to start getting casually racist. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg here.

Since Comstock’s from California, Ben asks him if he’s heard any news about his old friend, Captain John Sutter of Sacramento.

Aw, nuts.

Here we go with the peach trees.

Okay, so back in the day Ben Cartwright and Captain Sutter travelled across the plains together. The newly widowed Ben with his young son, Adam, and Captain Sutter with a dream. A dream and a wagon full of peach trees.

Comstock says that Sutter is getting worse, and that his mind is practically gone. Aw, no! Don’t tell the truth! You’re a liar! Lie! Say everything is awesome and Sutter got more peach trees and maybe a cat named Trinket? Do not encourage this line of conversation.

Hoss passes Comstock a plate of corn, and Comstock changes the subject to corn and lies about his nationality. He claims to be from Canada. I can understand why a con man would want to convince people he was Canadian – for who is more trustworthy than the gentle Canuck? Also, Canadians were as rare as sapphires then, usually preferring to stay in Canada with its abundant resources and lack of impending Civil Wars. (Fun Fact: Comstock wasn't Canadian, but Jack Carson was!)

Ben shuts that load of baloney right down so he can go back to getting pissed off about peach trees. He angrily declares that dinner is over, and everybody is going to adjourn to the living room for fresh coffee and a full report on the mental health of Captain Sutter. Yay, fun.

Adam, who never refuses a cup of coffee, decides he suddenly has to go to the sawmill and won’t be able to hear his father’s exhausting lecture. I’d call him a coward, but I want to go to the sawmill too.

In a desperate bid to change the subject before it’s in full bloom, Adam quickly asks Comstock if he’d like to have a job at the lumber camp. Sawing and hauling and doing things that require effort, that kind of thing. Comstock says that he has a doctor’s note excusing him from manual labour. But thanks for thinking of him.

Ben asks Comstock if he’s ever had a professional interest in panning for gold. Comstock says yes. This is a trick so that Ben can talk about peach trees. We spend six minutes hearing all about how Ben and Sutter planted a valley full of grain and grape vines and “fruit-bearing trees.” But hydraulic mining and other unethical environmental practices destroyed that orchard, and now John Sutter sits staring into the distance. Recognizing no one, saying nothing.

“I made my vow that the Ponderosa would never fall into the hands of spoilers and destroyers.” Ben menaces, “Mr. Comstock, if I so much as see a man digging for gold anywhere on my land, I’ll shoot him on sight.”

Comstock’s like: “There’s gold here?! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I’ll go get my pan and my shovel!”

There’s no gold here.

You might be wondering if this Henry T. P. Comstock has anything to do with why the Comstock Lode is called that. He does. The character is based off of the historical figure of the same name, but I’m not going to go into it all that much. The real guy’s life story was insanely depressing. Like an episode of Deadwood written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but with more horrible people.

Little Joe decides to be a helpful font of information, so he explains to Comstock that while there are men mining for gold in Washoe, they’re only finding negligible amounts. There’s a quartz vein, but ain’t nobody caring about quartz in 1857. After we need it to run our computers and New Age practitioners decide you can use it to talk to dolphins, folks can live like kings. But for now, all they’ve got is that stupid blue stuff that’s probably not silver ore.

Comstock appears to hear only the words “gold” and “Washoe” and decides to set out to make his fortune. Ben watches him go and is like: “There my sons passes an idiot.” Hoss thinks somebody should go after him and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed. Ben is surprised. Usually Hoss is only interested in protecting stupid animals, not stupid people.

“He reminds me of a jackass I know,” Hoss explains very earnestly, shaking his head.

Little Joe laughs so hard he almost falls over. But then he has an idea. If he goes with Hoss to Washoe Diggings, he can check out that dance they’re having tonight!

Ben’s like: “Are you sure they’ve got women to dance with, son?” And Hoss explains that the camp has a few washer women that do the laundry, and they usually go. He adds that those girls are probably a little too sturdy for Joe, even though they’re awesome dancers.

Little Joe gets permission to go play, then confides to Hoss that he’s got an idea of how to get himself a pretty girl.

This is going to be a disaster.

Hoss tells him not to do anything stupid, but I don’t think it’s going to stop him.

Joe goes and buys some turquoise silk, and rides very carefully to bring it to the Paiute village. Because he’s going to kidnap a Paiute girl and take her to the dance.

Little Joe, I don’t care if you’re seventeen in this story and I mentally vowed to cut you slack today, this is a bad idea.

So, the Paiute are dressed like the Bannock were dressed in previous episodes, and they shoot warning arrows at Little Joe. They take the bullets from Joe’s gun and lead him into the camp. Very ominous.

Meanwhile, Hoss has caught up with Comstock and they’re arriving at Washoe Diggings. The campsite is much smaller than the last time we saw it; right now it’s just a bunch of Mormons with gold fever. Comstock himself is the one who changes all that. As they ride in, Hoss explains that there’s too much blue stuff for people to mine gold effectively. Since the veins of gold are so small, and the mountains are practically made of the blue stuff, it’s all anybody can dig up. Hell, you can’t walk two feet without stubbing your toe on a massive chunk of that dumb blue stuff.

Comstock blathers on some more, and I can’t emphasize enough how little of this episode is plot content and how much of it is blather and unsubtle speeches. But he does refer to the imaginary gold strike as the Comstock Lode, in one of those awkward historical tie-in moments.

“You just got here!” Hoss scolds, “How can you even think about naming all this after yourself when you just got here?”

Hoss, sit down. I need to tell you about dishonest people…

So Comstock goes over to the two nearest miners, who are busily sluicing at their sluice box, and tells them that if they didn’t file a legal claim, they’re trespassing on his land. He just walks down the hill and starts swindling. I didn’t skip a part where any of this is explained, just straight over to the miners and calling them trespassers right after Hoss’s line.

Hoss pulls Comstock aside and whispers: “You can’t do a thing like that! You only just got here!”
(Hoss. This man does not want to work his way up from the bottom in an ethical fashion. Your arguments do not matter to him.)

The two sluicers angrily tell Comstock that they filed their claim two months ago up at Dutch Pete’s. Comstock turns to the side, strokes his beard, and is all: “Dutch Pete’s, you say? Well, perhaps we ought to pay this Dutch Pete a visit! Mwa ha ha ha!”

Suddenly, this episode realizes how dull it is to have everybody talking about nothing, and decides it’s time for a big ol’ Hoss Fight.

There’s no reason. All the miners just attack Hoss. It’s like the AI malfunctioned in a Skyrim town and everybody went hostile. Hoss breaks a shovel over one of his knees, just for some dynamic visuals? Or I guess he figured that he’d do something to inconvenience his attackers after the fight. It’s a little tricky to dig for gold without your shovels, jerks. Think about that the next time you try to take on Hoss Cartwright.

As the fight rages on, Comstock slips into the background to watch the goings-on from a healthier distance. Further away from the punching. He finds himself standing next to a different old prospector at a different sluice box, and this one is grumbling about how the blue stuff is gumming up the works. Ugh. Stupid blue stuff. Stop being everywhere! You’re not worth any money!

Comstock asks this man, Pike, how big his claim is, and Pike answers that he has one of the largest claims around, gesturing helpfully with his arms. But his is the worst one, because he gets the most blue stuff of anybody. No gold, not even that awful useless quartz. He holds up enormous chunks of ore and throws them to the ground in a rage.

This is probably the most historically accurate scene we’ll get this episode. These guys would go out trying to strike gold in the area, after a small vein was found running through the quartz, and dig up huge piles of this mysterious “blue stuff” which they would then leave in a communal garbage dump, because it wasn’t gold. The average Mormon amateur prospector didn’t know a thing about actual mining or minerals. It’s the best gold rush story ever.

Taking advantage of Pike’s frustration, Comstock offers to be his partner. Pike’s all: “Partner in a giant pile of worthless trash stones? What’s wrong with you?” Comstock then offers to buy half the claim for seventeen dollars. This stuns Pike, who feels obliged to tell Comstock that “all this dang blue stuff ain’t worth a nickle!” But he agrees to the proposition.

Important to note is that Comstock has no idea what the blue stuff is, either. He’s playing an unrelated long con. In fact, he has some very specific instructions for his new partner to follow over at Dutch Pete’s tonight. We can’t hear those instructions over the whirlwind of carnage that Hoss suddenly pushes into the foreground.

Well, I suppose we’d better go and see what kind of stupid nonsense Little Joe is up to his balls in over at the Paiute village, the scamp.

For this episode, Chief Winnemucca is played by Bruce Gordon, who you might know as Frank Nitti on The Untouchables. Personally, of all the actors who’ve done this role so far, I liked Anthony Caruso the best. If you’re wondering how come a different guy always plays Winnemucca, I’m not totally sure. If you’re wondering why Italian character actors are always playing Paiutes, the answer is Hollywood racism.

Winnemucca has been written with Injun Talk today, just to make modern viewers cringe:

“You brave man. You ride into Paiute territory alone.”

Little Joe awkwardly reminds Winnemucca that the Paiute know the entire Cartwright family. This will make anybody who remembers our tragically dead friend Young Wolf, Adam’s childhood best friend and Winnemucca’s son, want to rip out their hair in frustration.

I miss Young Wolf every day. Nobody was better at holding people at knifepoint for no reason. Nobody.

“You live way up on mountain. Why you come here?”

Regular Bonanza fans, can you spot the problem?

If you answered that the Paiute live on Sun Mountain and the Ponderosa Valley is in a valley, you get to be just annoyed with this scene as I am!

Anyway, Joe says that he brought Winnemucca the turquoise silk, and I really think it’ll bring out the old darling’s big brown eyes. It’s lovely. The chief is confused, because this whole thing is bizarre, and Little Joe clarifies that the fabric is for Saratuchi, Winnemucca’s daughter.

And that massive error means it’s history time:

Sarah Winnemucca, whose Paiute name was Shell Flower (Tocmetone, not Saratuchi) was one of the most interesting figures in the history of Nevada. She was a vocal advocate for cultural education, and an interpreter, scout, and messenger for the U.S. Army. In 1883, after spending almost a decade giving lectures and talks throughout the northeast, she published the first autobiography written by a Native American woman. It’s still widely read today and regarded as an important ethno-historical text.

Little Joe tosses Winnemucca the silk, and Winnemucca says that it’s useless dainty fabric that would wear out in two seconds. He tosses it back to Joe.

“Yeah, well.” Little Joe smiles tightly, “It’s for a dress, not a horse blanket.”

Being a smartass to the girl’s father is always a good strategy when fishing for dates.

Regardless, Winnemucca calls Saratuchi – let’s try and pretend that the character is supposed to be somebody different from the historical figure, since the name is wrong – and she steps out to show us she’s beautiful. She seems enamoured with the turquoise fabric, but oh! She can’t really speak English!

Fun fact: The real Winnemucca was insistent on all of his children, including Sarah, being fluent in English.

I don’t usually complain about the terrible portrayals of the Paiute this much, even though they bother me, but this episode is just so bad about it. It’s not even trying to match what was established on the show. I’m just going to power through the rest of this sequence.

Little Joe is going to take Saratuchi to the dance, but it has to be a secret. (The actual line is: “Don’t tell Chiefy!” In case you wanted to throw up in your mouth a little bit.) She is instructed to make a party dress out of the fabric he brought.

That night, Saratuchi has fashioned herself an outfit, and she and Little Joe walk into Dutch Pete’s while a square dance is in full swing. Hoss is already in the middle of it, getting his party on. He’s one of those big guys who can really bust some moves. Of course, Saratuchi instantly draws the attention of a drunken lout who hollers in delight and calls her a “real hunk of woman!”

Hoss, who has his arm around an adorably chubby washer woman, looks concerned when he notices that Little Joe has brought Saratuchi with him. Ah, if only Adam wasn’t doing fake work at the sawmill tonight! This situation would already be over!

Over at the bar, watching the crowd murmur over Saratuchi, Comstock is drinking glasses of tarantula juice. It’s sounds fun and colourful, but it’s actually expensive whiskey cut with gunpowder and strychnine so that it could be watered down without people noticing. It’s horrifying.

Hey! It turns out that old hollering drunk is historical figure Ol’ Virginny! He was from Virginia, but he murdered a man and fled to the West to avoid going to prison. Virginia City is named after him. True fact.

Okay, so Ol’ Virginny thinks that it was a bad political decision to kidnap Winnemucca’s daughter and bring her to a rowdy dance full of leering drunks, which is a strangely clear-minded opinion for an alcoholic fugitive whose pants are being held up with a rope. Hoss comes over to agree with him, and quietly tries to convince Little Joe to just take Saratuchi home. Little Joe declines, says some very sleazy things, throws his hat onto a mounted stag’s head, and demands a square dance be called.

Good luck getting your hat down, dork.

Hoss and his little girlfriend get back into the party, and Hoss suggests Comstock might like a dance with her, but Comstock acts all offended because she’s chubby. When everybody complains about this one being boring, they usually forget to mention that the second half is offensive to so many different kinds of people. Probably because they fall asleep or leave.

Little Joe kisses Saratuchi – Joseph! It is 1857! Kissing women on the dance floor is obscene! – and just as he does, Winnemucca and a handful of braves bust in wearing war paint, and I’m too tired to keep fighting this. It’s just a racist, poorly thought-out moment in a racist, poorly-thought out episode. Winnemucca is understandably angry, and tells Little Joe that Saratuchi is engaged to Lame Knife? Lean Knife? Somebody who wasn’t real and who Sarah Winnemucca was never engaged to.

Anyway, Comstock kisses the bride for good luck, and all hell busts loose. Luckily, Ben and Adam turn up just in the nick of time. Ben tells Winnemucca that he’ll punish Little Joe, probably by recounting the peach tree saga again. Winnemucca’s down with that, so he quietly takes his braves and his daughter and they leave. On the way out, Little Joe goes to give Saratuchi one last kiss, but Ben clotheslines him. Seriously. Arm straight out. Wham. Almost makes the rest of the scene worth it.

Adam is feeling sassy today:

“The thing I like about you, little brother, is that you don’t care how big of a mess you get yourself into. As long as somebody else gets you out of it.”

Ben decrees that everybody is supposed to go home right now and never have fun again. Hoss argues that this is unfair, since Little Joe is the one being punished. Besides, Adam came all this way and he deserves a dance. Hoss goes to get his little girlfriend from before, and finds her chugging whiskey at the bar. He says he likes her because she drinks like a lady, then pulls Adam over.

“Now, sure, she’s a little on the heavy side, but she can dance better than any of ‘em!” Hoss declares and pushes them out onto the floor.

It’s sweet. Also, Adam is the worst dancer ever.

Once the party’s just winding back up, it gets interrupted again. This time by Pike. I’m kind of sad that text messages weren’t a thing back then, because this night would have been hilarious.

Got here. Square dances. Bartender says only poison whiskey. 

Biggest Cartwright is crazy dancer! 

Little Cartwright showed up with a princess, idk if its good idea… :( 

Paiute braves r here. Chief is SUPER pissed. 

Old Cartwright stopped fight, music is back. Fancy Cartwright dances like a hunchback. 

OMG! Gold in the Washoe! Drunk prospector brought nuggets for everybody!

Pike is shouting about how he struck gold. He’s supposed to be doing this as part of Comstock’s scheme, except he actually found gold. Of course, whatever he found in the gold department isn’t going to be much and the silver will actually be more valuable, but whatever. Comstock sells his shares for one hundred dollars to anybody who wants to buy a piece of the Comstock Lode, while Pike tries to tell him that they really did strike it rich.

It’s trying to be funny, but it’s not funny because the gold is not the point of the Comstock Lode. Or maybe it is funny and I'm too uptight. Either way, I ain't laughing. 

Everybody pushes out of Dutchman Pete’s, and in the hubbub, Ol’ Virginny gets knocked over and lands on his whiskey bottle. He announces that the breaking of the bottle is the official christening of the city, which shall henceforth be known as Virginia City!

so drunk rnow lol but i think we named the town

The Cartwrights watch as everybody heads for the mountains, and they’re all super disappointed in humanity.

Ben seriously brings up the peach trees again.


We dissolve back into the present where Ben sympathetically tells the trespassing prospector that Henry Comstock is a pretty good trickster. He offers to pay twenty-five dollars for the fake deed, as a memento of the man who knew only how to deal with loads of crap, but not lodes of silver.

Ben finally explains that there’s very little gold in the Washoe, but it turned out that all the blue stuff was silver, and Comstock lost out on an actual fortune. The old prospector apologizes for the misunderstanding, and the Cartwrights ride home.

Hopefully to bathe Little Joe.

High Point: Hoss is a cutie and I still like Bonanza in general.

Low Point: Historical inaccuracy can be overlooked for a good narrative, but this wasn’t that. Also, lots of racism in this one.

1 comment:

  1. An insightful and fun review, Jaina, even if overly sensitive to perceived "racism." I actually enjoyed "Mr. Henry Comstock" while admitting there were shortcomings. I gave it an 8-star IMDb rating and I see it's currently sitting at a respectable 7.3 with 53 votes. I know a large part of my enjoyment was due to Jack Carson, whom I have seen and liked in many old movies and who hams it up here on BONANAZA. If anyone else played the role, it may have fallen flat. I like the historical episodes of BONANZA, even when they're more fictional than fact (the episode with Charles Dickens is among my top favorites despite being untethered from reality). For me, the "lots of racism" charge is unjust since I saw this episode as striving admirably to overcome racism by having Little Joe publicly challenge a taboo of his time. That was the takeaway message. This was a good not great episode and your well written and witty review heightened my appreciation of it (while also reminding me of the missteps along the way). Thank you!