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** a favorite episode

® worth rewinding and checking out again

§ worth stopping and staring awhile

[: source



This has been a very difficult episode for me to write about. It has many, many things I love about it, not the least of which is the incredible story of Kid being bullied and humiliated. But it also carries with it so much sadness in my heart, because Peter is so obviously not the vibrant, emotional, beautiful man he was in episodes past. It is on this episode and The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg that I based my poem, Fade to Black. I could write pages on Peter’s unsteadiness on his feet, his gaunt, deteriorating appearance, his acting without affect. But I will try instead to write about this episode as any other, with only some mention of particular moments of Peter’s situation. And privately, more tears than usual...

  • It bugs me that Alias Smith and Jones had no rhyme or reason to the two minutes before the opening credits of the show. In some episodes, we see a clip from later on in the episode, in others, like this one, it is part of the opening of the story. This series seems to be so haphazardly put together, with no cohesive continuity of story or character—yet somehow it managed to become a wonderful, often really quite special show.
  • In the opening scene, I love the couple’s moment as the boys are slowly riding and talking…Kid has his feelings hurt because he feels that when he tries to express what is on his mind, Heyes thinks he’s crazy. It is a scene where I remember this amazing dynamic between these two men;—both the characters and the actors—that dynamic being that one of these characters could be a woman and it would also work. These men are a couple. There are no two ways about it.

  • The actor who speaks for the group of men sent by McCreedy to “escort” our boys looks very much like Luke Wilson to me. It startles me every time I watch the episode.

  • Peter is obviously ill during the scene of the meeting with McCreedy. His eyes are glassy, his voice evident of a swollen throat.

  • Ok, I am aware Burl Ives is a beloved American Icon…but damn, the man just creeps me out. It isn’t as bad in this episode as how he affects me in The Bold Ones, though. Icky.
  • I do like the cute little song, I’ll Be There So Don’t Be Late. It is a nice change from Roy Huggins’ favorite, and hugely overused, Simple Gifts.
  • I love how the boys look when they take their time on the horses; just walking them lazily down the path toward the abandoned well Big Mac has sent them to. I find I like most scenes of them riding horses…when I can see that it is really them and not a stand-in. I do very much understand the appeal of a cowboy.
  • It cracks me up that Ben still hasn’t learned how to mount a horse…I have seen a variety of misguided attempts. In one episode—The Fifth Victim, I believe—he jumps into the saddle, forgoing the stirrup altogether. In this scene, as the boys leave the well, he first misses the mount completely and on the second try, kind of hops and manages it, but awkwardly. It makes me appreciate Peter’s comfort with a horse all the more.
  • There is the amazing Bradford Dillman, my choice for absolute best guest star on Alias Smith and Jones. His acting in this episode is truly brilliant. I will talk about his scenes as they come, but want to give him his props on overall performance.

  • I wonder what Heyes, or Peter, is looking up at as he opens the door to the hotel. He does it twice, as if looking up has something to do with the mechanism of the door actually opening.

  • Heyes looks good as he puts on his vest to get ready to go out and mingle with the masses. He looks like the old Peter for a moment and it makes me smile. And then I see him adjust his hat strings, and then his ring…and because of what I personally believe about his ring, my heart drops.

  • I wonder if the director, Alex Singer, purposefully gave us a great butt shot of both our boys because he knew women want to see that. I can almost hear his direction: ‘zoom in and pan their asses…these guys have female fans…’

  • It doesn't make any sense that the Kid is mad when he finds no "head" in the well and slams the cover back over it. No one has been threatened yet. The boys are presumably enjoying some time relaxing while waiting for the bust to show up.

  • Lee Majors has kind of a weird way of speaking. I don’t think he is a particularly good actor.
  • There is a moment in the scene where Briggs confronts the boys for the first time, just after he says his name is Briggs, that takes my breath away—it is when there is just a close up on Peter’s face, and he smiles slightly, and I believe I see a bit of a smile in his eyes, which is lacking elsewhere in this episode. ®§

  • I have never before uttered the words: “Peter Duel overacts.” But everything he says, every movement he makes in the scene where he and Kid are fighting about the forgotten breakfast and Kid wearing his gun is over-exaggerated. His facial expressions are lacking any reality, his “putting up his dukes” is embarrassing—and I suspect probably embarrassing to Peter as an actor; his face—his usually beautiful left profile—is without affect or expression, and appears harsh and gaunt. It hurts my heart to watch this scene. I know on most fan sites this scene is actually a favorite, as is this episode. But try as I might to find the humor in it, I simply cannot. It carries for me the banner that speaks so clearly to me: I am watching this beautiful soul fade away.

  • Ben’s acting in this scene, however, is surprisingly good. I see some true emoting from him I have not had the pleasure of seeing before. Kid is cute when he is mad and poking Heyes in the chest.

  • Heyes facial expressions when Kid is explaining to the bully why he has his gun on are almost reminiscent of the old Heyes, but not quite. I do get a slight chuckle out of him rolling his eyes as Kid says he feels like he doesn’t have his pants on without his gun. Kid has always exasperated Heyes with the things he says, and it is demonstrated here. He knows, and his rolling eyes show us he knows, that Kid has just opened himself up to further ridicule by saying what he has said.

  • Peter does clearly express concern, by facial expression alone, when Briggs tells Kid to do a jig for him, and I feel encouraged to see a glimmer of his enormous talent…
  • Ben’s eyes are absolutely haunting in this entire episode. Kid appears to have true hatred for Briggs and his eyes are quite expressive of that. I think it is important that the director, Alex Singer, saw fit to have many close ups on Ben’s face, letting us see the communication in his eyes. And great job, Ben, some really top notch acting in this episode!

  • It is art imitating life as Heyes tells Briggs, in an attempt to protect him from having to do the jig, that the Kid “can hardly get on his horse right.” I love it!!

  • Ever notice how bullies always have a couple of back-up men hanging with them, to cheer them on, laugh at their stupid jokes and kiss their asses? A disgusting dynamic of cowardly men needing an audience to feel big.

  • Ok, I know this is completely irrelevant, but I have just become quite enamored with the freckle on the bridge of Bradford Dillman’s nose! I find him very attractive in a pointy sort of way. I love his eyes, and his unruly hair…plus, I have always found talent—really extraordinary talent like his and Peter’s—adds a certain sexiness to a man that I can’t quite pinpoint to looks or style or anything other than having “it”.

  • Even when I can find so little humor in this episode because of the subject matter and because of Peter’s situation, I manage a chuckle at Heyes choking on his beer. And even with his ring so prominently visible, I so love his hands…his beautiful, strong, masculine hands.

  • I am perplexed and disappointed and even hurt by the scene when Heyes tells Spencer, “Actually, Mr. Jones here is too modest. The truth is he is a philosopher. Sort of a people’s philosopher, home grown if you know what I mean. He hasn’t read much, uh, maybe Tom Sawyer three or four times is all, but uh, at heart he really is a philosopher. It’s just that he can’t express himself very well…he’s somewhat inarticulate, you might even say stupid.” Kid has watched him as he was saying this, trying to understand where Heyes is going with it…and his face expresses confusion, and then hurt. I have never before seen Heyes mean. I have never seen him hurt this man who he loves and who loves him. I have watched 31 episodes of this relationship; I have seen bickering, and sometimes real anger between the two of them, but I have never seen either of them say or do something purposefully hurtful to the other. Kid is emotionally bruised and humiliated and even emasculated by what he has been forced to endure. I don’t think it is in keeping with Heyes’ character to hurt him further when he is down. I am impressed with Bradford Dillman in this, as I am in all his scenes, but in general, I hate this scene. I do not like Heyes mean…not to the Kid anyway. And I truly do not understand the reasoning behind the writing of the scene this way.

  • I love the scene where Heyes distracts Seth with a card trick while Kid checks the well. I actually laugh out loud when Seth complains he is getting a headache from all the concentrating! The whole scene is good, Heyes is crafty and personable and draws Seth right in and the actor who plays Seth is right on the money. ® That face...*sigh*

  • I notice something fun as I watch the scene of Heyes distracting Seth with the card trick. It is obvious the filming of the close ups of the hands manipulating the deck was done somewhere other than where the scene takes place. My guess is that the deck of cards is placed face down on top of the card Seth chose, on some surface under something covered with dirt and sand and NOT on actual ground. Just for the hell of it, and to aggravate my friends reading this…I am going to ask you to try to figure out why I say this. Which, of course, may require watching the episode again!
  • When did the Kid begin wearing spurs? I haven’t noticed them until now, as he opens the well and finds the bust is still not there.
  • Spencer’s discourse about Kid’s impact on him and then his confession about his loss of faith and turning to the bottle is quite powerful. Bradford Dillman is an actor who speaks with his eyes and his face as much and as articulately as his words. He and Peter have some of the same style, and in my opinion they are both exceptional actors.

  • The boys seeing the depth in Spencer and being moved by it is quite touching. Seeing a positive value in what Kid has been forced to tolerate is a character building experience for both of them, I think.

  • I adore the natural teamwork between our two boys as Heyes removes Kid’s gun from its holster and holds it on Seth while Kid begins to tie him up. This is what has been so special about this series from the beginning…the unspoken nuances between the two; the seeming ability to communicate without words…beautiful.

  • A very typical and savored Heyes moment as he blindfolds Seth and Kid says they are doing it because, “you never know what might be around ya out there” and Heyes tells him they don’t want him to get worried, “unless of course some hungry coyotes come along, and then you can worry.” The beautiful appease then drop the bomb Heyes style. I suspect Hannibal Heyes was probably a pretty ornery kid…but one so endearing he was hardly ever punished.

  • Having sat “Indian style” for some hours nearly every day in the 70’s myself, I chuckle at the very familiar way Heyes rises to his feet from that position after tying up Seth. I have seen so many friends and boyfriends use that very same move so many, many times. And I have done it countless times as well. Ah, to be that agile again…

  • Peter’s face looks gaunt and his eyes flat as he reads the note Heyes has written about Seth to Kid. But when he turns around to face Ben, he almost looks his old normal and beautiful self again. It is just the most painful thing to witness…the deterioration of such a physically beautiful and exquisitely talented man.
  • Kid, please, use some sense…why not let Heyes just go buy a sandwich and bring it back to the room for you? Did you ever think of that?? It is like you lose all sense when you are hungry, Thaddeus, and that seems to be always.
  • Aarghhh…when Kid asks Heyes, “Haven’t I been turning the other cheek? Haven’t I been taking all this pain and humility?” I want to scream!!! This is a man who quite comfortably and easily used the word remuneration in a conversation with Mr. Harlingen in Never Trust an Honest Man and yet he supposedly doesn’t know the difference between humility and humiliation? I don’t buy it.
  • I love how Heyes, overwhelmed by frustration at Kid, gets up, stomps across the room and angrily puts on his gunbelt and hat while haranguing Kid with, “Boy, now that you’re a dancer you’re turning into some prima donna, you know it?” Very funny. I love the angry swipe at his hat brim and march to the door…and his response of “I’m too scared to be hungry!” when Kid asks him why he’s not hungry. Good comedy relief to a sometimes dark episode.
  • I believe that Peter is impaired during the filming of this episode and the scene where he and Ben come out of the hotel to find “Spencer” sitting on the porch is one of the reasons why. I believe he is either slightly drunk or on some kind of strong pharmaceutical. He is unsteady on his feet, and as they leave the porch, his walk is broad and ungainly. This is the only episode where I have suspected that Peter is drunk, and I really only mean slightly…and even if he is, he is still a better actor than most actors are sober. Yet it is a very sad reality to me.

  • Is it just me, or does Lee Majors slightly resemble Elvis Presley? Too bad he doesn’t have anywhere near the talent Elvis had.

  • Heyes seems to have taken Spencer’s rectification deeply to heart and implores the Kid to forgo his fastdraw “if not for me, for him?” and trying to defuse the standoff between the Kid and Briggs, reminds him of the minister’s words… “Thaddeus, noooo…the other cheek”…but Kid is very conflicted on how to deal with Briggs and Ben exhibits it well. Against what we know to be his usual way, he does not listen to Heyes; he makes his own decision to stop this bullying coward in his tracks. I think this episode and Smiler with a Gun are Ben’s best performances in the series (excluding any Ben/Roger episodes, which I have not seen and doubt I will ever be able to bring myself to watch)

  • Lee Major’s delivery of the lines "You have exactly two seconds to start dancing…in which case life goes on…or you can start walking across the street…in which case life doesn’t go on…” in such a strangely inflected way is very unsettling. I really think, other than the actress who played the dimwit Margaret in Root of It All, Lee Majors did the worst acting job of any guest star. Oh, wait a minute. I may be wrong. We haven’t yet discussed Wally Cox in Hadleyburg!
  • The most amazing acting in this episode falls squarely on the shoulders of Bradford Dillman. After Kid has gunned down the bully Briggs, he confronts Spencer with some harsh realities about himself. Bradford Dillman does not utter a sound as he is being chastised by Kid, and yet he conveys so much emotion it is painful…his nostrils flare, his eyes redden as they fight back tears. He looks hurt and sad and ashamed and betrayed. When Kid turns and walks away we can see his face and his chest struggling for emotional control. He very clearly shares an acting depth with Peter…we have witnessed Peter so many times allow his body to become involved with his emotion in his acting. In Smiler With a Gun, in particular, we watched Peter’s stomach quake as he falls to the ground in utter exhaustion; anyone who has had pneumonia knows that reaction to loss of air—and we also see his breathing and the flush of his skin change when he is overcome with rage at Danny Bilson. But there have been other, more subtle examples of this amazing acting skill. In The McCreedy Bust, the way Heyes swallows when Mr. McCreedy threatens to investigate who the boys are reveals the nervousness Heyes is feeling, as it does in several of Peter’s other performances on this series and in other projects. In The Fifth Victim, when Heyes feels the deck is short in the poker game, he breathes an exhibit of concern…it is quite spectacular. If you watch all the other actors at that poker table, they all act with words and maybe some facial expression but Peter is the only one who uses body functions as part of his acting. Bradford Dillman has done the same thing here. Truly superb. Just absolutely perfect.

  • It’s a sweet comedy moment as the boys gingerly hand the heavy suitcase up to the driver, with Heyes telling him to handle it carefully because it contains something very valuable only to grab his head in exasperation as the fool drops it!

  • I am glad our boys seem to be back to their old selves. Heyes joshes the Kid after he apologizes for not being able to tolerate the bullying any longer, by replying, “I’d be ashamed too, if I couldn’t do a better jig than that!” and pats the Kid on his side. Of course in true form, the Kid takes it personally and follows Heyes into the stagecoach with a fightin’ look on his face!
  • Spencer is handsome when he is clean shaven and dressed in his Sunday best. I have now become a fan of Bradford Dillman, 35 years too late. I guess I better google him and see what I can rent that he has been in…I hope it doesn’t turn into another obsession…

  • I love the whole auction scene…I even enjoy Burl Ives in it. I laugh out loud when the auctioneer’s voice changes and goes all gravely as he says “No other bids for this magnificent bust of Caesar?”
  • I am happy this episode ended on a funny note. It was a difficult episode for me to watch and for the few moments I was able to laugh, I was not thinking about Peter’s loss of joy.