Episode First Shown: April 20th 1969

Fourteen year old Coley inherits a gold mine when his father dies. Then, Coley’s long-lost mother and sister return after four years away and try to win the boy back. However, Coley’s greedy uncle, Caleb Melton, has his sights set on the mine. Ben and Hoss are drawn into a custody battle.



The storyline is a good one. Basically it’s about an obsessed miner, Clayborne, who badly neglected his wife Margaret, his daughter Beth and little boy Billy. (Unfortunately the writing, direction and
production don't do the story justice.)

In desperation, Margaret took the younger children with her to
Placerville some years ago and then to the west coast where she made a successful life as a dressmaker though young Billy died because of his poor start in life. Inevitably Margaret is seen by the Virginia City people as a woman of low morals for leaving her husband and oldest son.

Clayborne kept his oldest son Coley with him to search for gold but had the foresight to make a will in which Judge Butler, Ben Cartwright and Caleb Melton are given power of attorney. When Clayborne is killed, Coley is alone in the world. In V.C Joe finds the youngster alone and taciturn but the mature Joe is reflective rather than angry. Hoss stands in while Ben is away for a while and tries to both befriend Coley yet teach him respect. Nice "fatherly" performance from Dan/Hoss.

The bombshell is dropped when we learn that Clayborne has died and he had discovered real gold so his son is rich. Consequently Coley needs the protection of the Cartwights, chiefly Hoss.

Coley, having been turned against his mother by his father, suspects her of coming to VC just for the money (she isn't), he initially trusts Caleb Melton (who is after the money!) and both the Judge Melton and Ben are honest guardians.

Eventually Margaret Clayborne meets with the judge, Ben and Caleb and Coley, (upstairs) learns the truth from the conversation downstairs when Margaret tells the truth with conviction and courage. She had
even written to the relevant people who did not return her letters. Coley actually has the letters but didn't know what they were because he is illiterate. Eventually Caleb is seen for a scoundrel and
Margaret, Beth and Coley become a family again.

Now, while the story line is good there are two major faults for me: suddenly losing the continuity of the Hoss/Coley relationship and very little about the Cartrwights. The episode might just as well have been called "The Claybornes of Virginia City". Dan gives a great performance with Coley (nice surly teenage performance by Kevin Burchett) and then suddenly almost disappears when Ben arrives on the scene. Very disjointed and bad writing IMO. The Cartwrights also seem subordinated to the guest stars. (Grrrrrrrrr!!)

Kudos for Patricia Smith (who also appeared in 2 Highway to Heaven episodes) as a strong woman, a realistic mother and not a trace of a "Bonanza Bimbo" about her. Also a nice supporting role by Debbie Smaller as Beth.

Chandler was a little OTT for my liking as the judge and I didn't like the way that he took over the Great Room, judge or no.

There is a good Joe/Candy bantering opening scene which is funny as the two friends (well Candy LOL!) load a supply wagon. There is a nice Candy/Coley scene where Candy is kind to the boy. Also a great
fight scene in V.C when Hoss and Joe see off the baddies who are threatening Margaret and her daughter.

Mostly I found this episode pretty boring, chiefly because of the exclusion of the Cartwrights in so much of the story. The only parts that I really enjoyed were the above scenes, some of Hoss with Coley
and a few Ben words of wisdom to Coley e.g. the importance of being willing to listen.

I couldn't help feeling that if the script had been handed over to Michael he could have done great things with it and really brought the story to life. That's it!! This story never really comes to life!

I wouldn't recommend this episode unless you had something else to do while it was playing!!




Use browser back arrow to return to episode guide page