This not a favourite, favourite episode but itís a really nice Slim and Jess one, which proves Slim is A REALLY NICE GUY, Jess for one (and only?) time shows some common sense and also some discrimination but gets beaten up anyway. Maybe thatís why he decided common sense isnít worth the effort. He misses out on the fun and still gets beaten up.
It also includes a rickety fence, a train that runs through Laramie for the only time??? (I havenít seen all season 2. Does it appear again?) a Guernsey cow, some cute photography. A TBM (tender buddy moment) between Jess and Slim. Jess losing his hat and being clean and dandy but not for long.
It has four nasty villains including an evil temptress, which is pretty good to fit into one hour or slightly less, a favourite tag and if Andy ever wondered what he did to make Slim send him away to school, he only has to look back on this episode to find out.
The episode starts with Jess and Slim trailing some nesters who stole Slimís prize milker. They decide to deal with it themselves on the grounds that the Guernsey could turn into Guernsey steak if they didnít. Jess says to Slim nobody ever accused us of being smart (speak for yourself Jess) and maybe some foreshadowing for the tag.
Crazy Horse is looking particularly subdued in the beginning as Jess and Slim ride up a gully but then a gun goes off near them and the bad guys appear out of a cabin. Crazy Horse then keeps his reputation going because as John Smith/Slim steps off into one of those lovely swinging dismounts that only tall and/or athletic people can do, Crazy Horse moves left not right and it looks like he stood rather hard on John Smith/Slimís (take your pick) foot. John Smith/Slim snatches his foot back and pushes Crazy Horse out the way but whichever one got stood on I bet it hurt.
The boys dive behind a log that has an arch with a gap (and some nicely cut grass) as the bottom and there is a cute little conversation with both of them speaking as they peer through the gap. Some shooting occurs, Jess hits what he aims at, Slim misses. Jess grumbles, Slim blames the gun because the new seer???that makes it shot to the left. (Oh Slim my dad used to say itís a poor workman etcetera. I know nothing about guns what is a seer??? ). Jess is in a real grumbling mood because he complains he doesnít think heís going to like the new neighbours, Slim says sarcastically in between shots that Jess will love them when he gets to know them.
There is some exposition about cattle ranchers and nester problems and then the good guy on the nester side (Allen) comes out to stop the shooting. And we get to meet the first of the villains and itís Ben Casey (Craig) who looks all dark and brooding but give me Jess or Slim any day. Some more exposition about nesters and ranchers and Slim gets promoted to ďBigĒ cattle rancher which considering Saddle and Spur is coming up where Slim canít even afford groceries, let alone pay Jess gains Jess brownie points for not rolling his eyes.
Allen gives the cow back and guess what it is a Guernsey. I was sure they were going to bring out a Holstien. Craig calls off the shooter behind a tree, Jackson who looks very familiar. I think it is one of the regular stuntmen. There is some discussion where Ben Caseyís evil twin gives off some stupid reason for stealing the cow by mentioning a nasty cattleman Rawlins who is one of the other villains and Slim keeps saying why didnít you ask. Nasties go and Slim proves himself A REALLY NICE GUY by offering to lend the cow indefinitely to the nesters whose children seem to need milk. He asks Jess to confirm they donít need her and Jess proves what Slim said in Company Man. He is a terrible liar as he staggers and stutters around agreeing with Slim.
Slim and Jess ride away and poor Crazy Horse gets a second spook as another gun is fired right in front of him and we met villain number 2 Rawlins a nasty rancher who doesnít have a problem firing guns at people riding along minding their own business. A little bit of chatter about nesters and ranchers and an appointment is made for a meeting of cattle ranchers.
We cut to the meeting with Slim right in the centre arguing that they donít need to start a range war. and villain 2 saying he is sending for some nasties to drive the nesters out. John Smithís hair curl is particularly well framed. The scene is really well set up with Slim seated and part of the group, and all friendly spacing until Slim stands up then without actually moving his feet or stepping forward just towers over the villain and dominates the scene. Itís great staging. Jess is also at the meeting but sitting back with the extras. He intersperses a few comments but mostly just there behind and to one side of Slim. Mary keeps saying how generous the actors were with each otherís scenes and the location of both actors not even in the same camera shot says that. Itís also keeps Jess consistent. He is the hand who backs Slim up. It is just one of those set up things that makes the whole Slim/Jess relationship work. A little like Jess is rarely shown in front of Slim, except at the house, where he often walks through the door first. Usually he is behind or beside even when they ride together.
There is a cross to a scene where we meet villain Number 3, villain number 2ís evil blond wife who is having an affair with Ben Caseyís evil twin. Things happen and all 3 villains confront each other, and Ben Caseyís evil twin gets shot in the across the temple but not fatally, interspersed with a visit from Jess and Slim who donít even get a friendly invite into the house after riding all that way. Evil Blond is also dumb blond. After helping Ben Caseyís evil twin escape she locks the bedroom door and stands behind the door while extremely irate and evil husband is on the other side. The man is armed and evil. Anyone with a brain would realise he would shoot through the door, but (un) fortunately he misses the evil blond.
Followed by more confrontations between the three villains which resulted in a chase where Ben Caseyís evil twin kills the evil rancher villain number 2 after a chase.
Trains donít get mentioned that much in Laramie. I think there was train guy in the Circle of Fire episode and because Iíve watched this episode before I know Jess catches a train leaving Laramie at 10.30 PM. But some nice context here because when the villains chase each other they chase each other over a train crossing. Which is the only time I can remember seeing a train crossing on the Laramie road.
The boys find the evil rancherís body the next morning and track Ben Caseyís evil twin to the nesterís house and then get hoodwinked about finding him. Next thing we see is a funeral with evil blond widow all dressed up for the occasion. Followed by some more shenanigans between Ben Caseyís evil twin and evil blond widow where they try to out evil each other.
There is a cattlemanís meeting and Jess is doings some verbal fighting for Slim until Slim comes in with the nester Allen and does his own fighting. Lots of talk about Ben Caseyís evil twin until evil blond widow burst into the room. We canít see Jess who is out of camera but Slim does a really good ďWhatís she doing here?Ē eye contact in Jessís direction, just a nice little weíre in this together thing between them. Evil blond widow wants to bring in the gunfighters her husband was going to bring in so she can get even with Ben Caseyís evil twin and she is off on the night train to Denver. Slim does another quick glance in Jessís direction and Jess agrees to go with her to protect the cattlemanís interest. Itís interesting how two little glances by in Jessís direction can keep the characters connected even when Jess is out of camera range. I love that Slim silently asks Jess to go, just does not expect it.
Next is on the train trip to Denver. Jess is sleeping in the coach and all dressed up in his best suit and fancy vest, which he did not wear to the funeral. He is also nice. He calls the conductor who wakes him sir. He gets called down to the widowís lair, her private room, and is all shy and awkward while she makes her best play for him. Itís fun seeing Jess not quite sure what to do. His hat in his hands takes a hit of a beating. Evil blond widow pecks Jess on the lips and he stops being shy and awkward and indulges in a pretty raunchy kiss for Laramie before he gets an attack of common sense and leaves before she can entrap him.
We meet villain number 4 in Denver, Evil rancherís ex partner who apparently does not have Jessís scruples about getting close to black widows, and he and the widow make plans about taking a group of really bad gunmen back to Laramie to drive out the nesters. They are still making plans on the train back from Denver when we Jess in the coach carriage getting anxious as the nasty hired gunman around him talk. He gets up, leaving his hat, and goes back to the widowís lair, and has some words with the widow and the evil partner letting them know he is onto their evil plans. Villain number 4 would be twirling his moustache if he had one, to let the widow know Jess wonít make it back to the coach.
Jess gets hit over the head again and thrown off the train. He finally comes to and staggers off to find help arriving at another cabin where a woman is hanging out washing. His best Sunday suit hasnít done so well. Jess can be such a kid. It looks like he licks the corner of the coat and uses it to wipe his face before he goes to ask for help.
Jess makes it back to the ranch in time to let Slim know what is happening, bareback on a borrowed horse, and basically falls off so Slim can catch him. Followed by a TBM where Slim fixes Jessís broken head, and worries about how hurt he is, and then help Jess outside so Jess can go along to fight the bad guys. Sigh.
It all ends up in a 4 way fight between good nesters bad nesters gunmen and Jess and Slim where Ben Caseyís evil twin gets shot and evil blond widow professes her undying love for Ben Caseyís evil twin before getting shot by evil partner whom Jess despatches. In the middle of the fighting for once Jess runs out of bullets and has to reload or maybe the gun just misfires.
And then the tag is one of my favourites. Slim, Andy and Jess are all resting in front of the fire. Slim is on the sofa foot up on the stone work reading. Jess is on the rocker, also one foot up drinking coffee and Andy is at a table writing a letter to Jonsey and Andy makes the greatest mistake of his life. He asks Jess how to spell. Then all 3 have a discussion about grammar. I know Jess talking about grammar and Andy stupidly says writing letters is too hard while Slim and Jess exchange smiles. Itís all very sweet and family but I think that is when Slim decided Andy needed to go to school.