The Lady from Baltimore

Writer: Elliott Arnold  Director: John Peyser
Guest Stars: Mercedes McCambridge (Deborah Banning), Audrey Dalton (Melinda Banning), Hayden Rorke (Horace Banning), Victor Sen Yung (Hop Sing), Robert Adler (Coachman)
Air Date: 14 January 1962

The Lady from Baltimore (or Joe falls in love…again) starts off with a comedic moment with Ben arriving in Virginia City all dressed up.  He arrives at the stagecoach depot and promptly gains the attention of three townsmen who decide to follow him and wait for the stagecoach with him.  The stagecoach promptly arrives and we see the reason why Ben is wearing his best clothes.

Alighting from the stagecoach is Deborah Banning and her beautiful, young daughter Melinda.  Deborah is the wife of an old friend of Ben’s and she had come for a holiday – well at least that’s what the Cartwrights think she is there for.

First stop on the trip back to the Ponderosa is one of the corrals where Adam, Joe and Hoss are breaking in horses.  Joe is immediately smitten with Melinda but she is more suitably impressed with Adam’s prowess.  Poor old Hoss, as we find out later, isn’t remotely interested in Melinda at all.

By the time they go to bed that night, Deborah has already summed up all of the pros and cons of each of Ben’s sons and has decided that Melinda should focus all of her efforts on Little Joe and marry him.  Marriage to one of the Cartwrights was the real reason, Deborah decided to come on this visit to the Cartwrights.  Melinda is not happy about her mother’s choice as she is very partial to Adam but in order to keep her mother happy she agrees.

While Deborah relegates stories about how grand their life is like in Baltimore (which everybody, except for Adam believes), Melinda works her charms on Joe.  A few days later we find Melinda and Joe in the kitchen.  Melinda is cooking up some French stew and wants some wine to put in it.  Joe says he doesn’t know if they have any and is about to kiss Melinda when Adam interrupts them.  Adam gently reminds Joe that there is some wine in the house.  Joe suddenly remembers where it is and goes off to get it.  While Adam is getting a drink of water (which he is drinking very, very slowly), Melinda approaches him and expresses some of her feelings towards him, leaving Adam wondering what kind of girl she is.

Joe inevitably proposes to Melinda but in this case, he says is that he wants to ask her something and she knows what it is and she says yes.  It seems that at this point it is unofficial as they are yet to tell the others by the time Deborah and Melinda decide to visit the boys while they are working.  Adam is not happy (probably based on the fact that he knows Melinda is attracted to him) about the women coming to watch them brand some calves.  Hoss and Joe don’t mind and neither does Deborah who says that they can handle it but as soon as the first calf is branded, Melinda promptly faints.  Adam goes to her aide and as she wakes up she gazes admiringly at him.  After Joe leaves with Melinda and Deborah, Hoss reminds Adam that they all have to live together.

Some time later, we see Adam hard at work near the barn. Melinda turns up and asks about the barbed wire that happens to be there.  Adam tells her why they need barbed wire and she makes a remark about a cruel life can be on a ranch.  Not wanting her around, Adam says something to upset and as she turns to leave her dress gets caught in the barbed wire.  Once again, Adam goes to her rescue and she uses the opportunity to kiss him.  Adam makes no real attempt to stop her until she tries to kiss him again and it is at this point that Joe and Ben appear.

At the sight of his brother and the girl he supposedly loves embracing, Joe naturally gets angry but thankfully Ben calms him down.  Joe heads off to find Melinda and Ben goes into the barn to find out from Adam what is going on.  After hearing Adam’s explanation, Ben informs that Joe intends to marry Melinda.  Adam tells his father that it won’t happen because of Melinda’s attraction towards him and wisely decides to skedaddle off Tucson, taking Hoss with him.

Meanwhile, Deborah has problems of her own with the arrival of her husband Horace.  Scared that he will ruin her plans, she tells her husband to leave.  We find out that the stories about life in Baltimore she has told the Cartwrights about isn’t true.  It seems Horace is not the successful newspaperman she has lead everyone to believe and in reality life has been a case of hard times and disappointments.

For the sake of his daughter, Horace decides to leave but is stopped when Melinda sees him.  Ben soon finds out his old friend has come to visit and is oddly surprised at the lack of luggage he has.  Eventually, Horace tells Ben the truth.  Melinda overhears the conversation and agrees with her father.  She realises she has to tell Joe the truth and goes off to do so.  This ultimately leads Deborah to decide what kind of life she really wants – a made up world or a world with two people who love and care for her.

Throughout the episode, it is never really stated who the Lady in the title is exactly.  The viewer also catches a brief glimpse of Hop Sing serving dinner.  Hoss is very much a background character, while Ben plays the role of mediator and counsellor.  There are also hints in the episode that Adam was a little bit interested in Melinda as well but backs off when he realises how serious Joe is about her.

The Lady from Baltimore is an episode that is pleasant to watch and uses a number of common Bonanza themes (e.g. Joe falls in love and asks the girl to marry him within days of meeting her) to make this a satisfactory entry for season 3.

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