Writer: Anthony Lawrence Director: Robert Altman
Guest Stars: Peggy Ann Garner (Cameo Johnson), Charles Aidman (Jim Applegate), Robert McQueeney (Gideon), Joe De Santis (Morehouse), Ray Teal (Roy Coffee), Orville Sherman (Jess Morehouse), Charlene Brooks (Peggy Morehouse), Bill Clark (Clem)
Air Date: 15 April 1961
For the first since The Newcomers (season 1, episode 2) Hoss is at the centre of a romance story. He is courting Cameo Johnson, a young woman from a nearby farm or ranch (it is never clearly stated). Being the shy and awkward guy (especially around women) he is, Hoss is having trouble making small talk with her as they sit on the front porch of her house one night. Even when she agrees to a kiss, all he can do is give her a peck on the cheek. This is enough to make him feel a bit giddy.
On the way home, he spots a group of men on horses and recognises one of them as his friend, Jim Applegate. Applegate and his friends have just lynched a homesteader and they are on their way home. Hoss, for a moment, contemplates calling out to his friend but instead chooses to remain quiet.
After watching the men leave, Hoss continues on his journey home when he comes across the homesteader’s wife lying down dead in the dirt. He also sees the man hanging and is distraught.
Meanwhile, the group that Applegate is with, also known as vigilantes are confronted by Roy Coffee and his posse. Morehouse, the brother of the man who was lynched is with them and recognises them immediately as the killers (he had watched in horror as his brother was hanged). The vigilantes attempt to get away but most of them are killed, except for Applegate and one other man.
The next morning, Hoss heads over to Cameo’s place to tell her about what happened and to his surprise he finds Applegate there. It seems that Applegate is also interested in Cameo and is a rival for her attention. While the three are chatting, Roy turns up to arrest Applegate in relation to the previous night’s lynching. Cameo is unwilling to believe that Applegate is guilty and she tells Hoss that she is going into town to see him. Hoss, who is struggling with whether or not to tell her what he saw, reluctantly agrees to go with her.
During their visit to the jail to see Applegate, Cameo and Hoss met the vigilante that was captured the night before. It is clear that Gideon hates Applegate (there is some sort of rivalry between them) and because of this Hoss, is even more uncertain about Applegate’s guilt or innocence. However, Hoss does eventually work out that Applegate is indeed guilty but is still not sure if he should tell Cameo.
Knowing that Hoss faces a dilemma, Applegate accuses him of wanting to use the information he has in order to get rid of the competition. Hoss decides to head home and ends up getting some fatherly advice from Ben.
While Hoss is on his way back to the Ponderosa, Applegate and Gideon escape from the jail. Applegate heads for Cameo’s place and this is where Hoss finds him (after he finds out that Applegate has escaped). To his dismay, Hoss sees Cameo and Applegate kissing. Cameo still believes Applegate to be innocent and decides to go with him. While she is inside her house, Hoss confronts Applegate and the two get into a fist-fight, which is eventually broken up by the return of Cameo.
Still unable to tell Cameo the truth, he lets both of them leave. Some time later, Cameo finds Hoss where she left him and asks him to help save Applegate who has now been captured by Morehouse and his group of men. Initially, Hoss is unwilling to help Cameo, but her pleas for help soon get through and they both head off to try and save Applegate.
The Rival is more than just a romance story for Hoss, it is a story where he is faced with a choice – to hurt the woman he loves or to let her go without telling her the truth. The writer of the episode, Anthony Lawrence described it as a dark story and the ending reflects this.
Throughout the course of the episode, there are two rivalries going on – a romantic one (between Applegate and Hoss) and one between Applegate and Gideon (the cause of which is explained towards the end of the episode). Usually, when there is a competition, there is a winner but by the end of this episode, it is clear no-one wins. It is up to the viewer to decide who is the biggest loser.
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