Bonanza Wiki
Bonanza episode
“Desert Justice”
Season 1, Episode 23
#23 in Series
Air date February 20, 1960
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Donald S. Sanford
Directed by Lewis Allen
Episode Guide
Previous Episode:
Blood on the Land
Next Episode:
The Stranger
External links
Desert Justice on IMSb


A U.S. Marshal arrests one of the Ponderosa's workers for murder for transport to Los Angeles for trial, and a doubtful Hoss and Adam ride along to protect him. The question arises whether the ranch worker is really guilty and dangerous after all.


Hoss and Joe are stacking hay when Adam and a ranch hand, Dave Walker, come out. They're headed to town for a dance, but Dave offers to help stack hay. He grabs a pitchfork to toss hay up to Hoss when a man, with a rifle, rides in and orders Dave not to move. He's U.S. Marshal Emmett Dowd. He accuses Dave of being a murderer and will take him back to California. Dave turns, still holding the pitchfork, and Dowd knocks him to the ground.

The boys explain to Ben what happened and defend Dave. Dowd isn't bothered. He's quietly angry and confident. Since Dowd has the proper paperwork and authority, there's nothing Ben can do and Dowd takes Dave to Virginia City in cuffs. The Cartwrights decide they have to do something to help Dave.

The next morning, Ben wires a lawyer friend in L.A. asking him to defend Dave. Hoss arrives from visiting Dave in jail and says Dave is all beat up. The Cartwrights hurry over to find Dave bruised and beaten. The deputy says he wasn't on duty at the time, but Dowd returned later and did this. Ben doesn't understand since Dave was cooperating. He asks if Dave did anything to provoke it. Dave peers up at Ben through his black eye and asks if Ben thinks Dowd needed any provocation. Adam tells Dave about the lawyer in L.A., but Dave doesn't think Dowd will let him get to L.A. alive.

The Cartwrights arrive at the hotel to confront Dowd as he's checking out. Dowd isn't intimidated and leaves the hotel. An Austrian couple, father and daughter, are planning on taking the same stage as Dowd, but Dowd told them they couldn't go. They ask Adam if that's the case. Adam admits that a prisoner will be traveling and perhaps they should wait. But they have a boat connection to make and still plan to go.

As Dowd pushes Dave onto the stage, Adam and Hoss decide they'll ride along too, just to make sure everything goes well. Dowd doesn't like it, but he can't commandeer a public stage. He orders the Cartwrights to give up their guns, which are locked in the strong box by the driver and Dowd takes the key. The Straussers, Anton and Andrea, also insist on going.

Inside the stage, Andrea is bothered by the treatment Dave is receiving. Dowd doesn't care. He says Dave is a murderer and needs to be chained. Dave has given up hope and tells them not to argue with Dowd about it, "I'm finished anyway." This distresses Andrea even more.

The stage pulls up at a watering hole and there's a young rider waiting. Hurd Cutler says his horse came up lame and he'd like to ride along in the stage. Again, Dowd doesn't like it and believes he saw Hurd while in Virginia City. Hurd denies being in town and says he's headed to California. Dowd forces him to give up his gun too before riding on.

At the way station for the night, Dowd takes over. He orders the Straussers to sleep in the manager's room, much to Micah Bailey's (Will Wright) disapproval, and for the men to sleep in the parlor. He also takes Micah's gun and keys.

At dinner, Dave and Dowd sit separately from the others. Andrea is concerned that Dave's not eating. Adam reminds him that the trial hasn't happened yet. But Dave pessimistically points out that a lot can happen between now and the trial. Dowd calls an end to the evening and sends everyone to bed.

Dowd, who dozed off in the middle of the night, gets up to check things. He peeks into the parlor and hears Hoss whispering to Adam. Hoss says Hurd isn't there. Dowd goes out to the barn and finds Hurd readying his horse. Hurd releases all the horses at once and they stampede out of the barn charging over Dowd. Hurd comes out and throws a pitchfork at Dowd on the ground. Dowd fires and kills Hurd. Adam and Hoss hurry out at the noise and Adam accuses Dowd of murdering Hurd. Dowd claims Hurd was Dave's accomplice.

Anton Strausser is a doctor and he's bandaged Dowd up, but Dowd is badly injured. Adam has no sympathy for him and claims suspicion has rotted Dowd's mind. Dowd insists that Hurd came to help Dave escape. He says Adam has to take Dave into L.A. since he's unable to now. He hands Adam his marshal badge. Adam doesn't want it. Dowd says it's Adam's duty. Adam takes the badge and leaves the room.

Adam shows it to Dave, who's still cuffed to his cot. Dave can't believe it, but is glad because now Adam can release him. Adam refuses to do that, even though he hasn't decided to wear the badge. He hears someone outside and finds Hoss returning with one of the runaway horses. He takes his frustration out on Hoss. Hoss goes back into the night to look for the other horses. Adam stays outside trying to decide what to do.

Inside, Andrea talks with Dave, telling her that he's innocent. She believes him and he kisses her. He appeals to her to release him. She agrees to help him and he kisses her again.

Andrea goes into the parlor, taking the keys from Dowd's coat. She doesn't realize Dowd is awake and knows what she's done. She returns and unchains Dave. She's pleased that he's free, but he says he's not free with Dowd around. He's going to give Dowd a taste of his own treatment and starts gathering up the chains. Andrea is shocked, but Dave says "I killed his wife didn't I? He's not going to forget that."

Adam has made a decision and returns to the cabin. He tells Dave not to move. Dave hunkers down behind Andrea using her as a shield. He says if Adam shoots, Adam will have to kill Andrea first. Adam asks if that's what happened with Dowd's wife. Then Dave remembers Adam doesn't have a gun. He charges Adam and they tumble outside. Adam starts beating Dave, even though Dave is down.

Adam doesn't stop until Dowd, with his shotgun, orders him to quit. Adam asks why Dowd suddenly cares. Dowd says Dave has to get to the trial. Adam reminds Dowd that he would've killed Dave himself if he and Hoss hadn't been around. Dowd doesn't deny that saying he's thought of little else for a year, but says he didn't realize what he'd become until he saw Adam acting the same way.


The Cartwrights


  • Bud Osborne: Charlie
  • Claude Akins: Marshal Emmett Dowd
  • Fintan Meyler: Andrea Strasser
  • John Wengraf: Dr. Anton Strasser
  • Ron Hayes: Hurd Cutler
  • Tom Greenway: Deputy Dan
  • Wesley Lau: Dave Walker
  • Will Wright: Bailey


Did You Know?[]

  • Adam makes an amusing reference to the chow Joe says he was forced to eat in The Last Hunt.





See also[]