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Bonanza episode
“The Sisters”
Season 1, Episode 14
#14 in Series
Air date December 12, 1959
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Carey Wilber
Directed by Christian Nyby
Episode Guide
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External links
The Sisters on IMDb


Adam is courting Sue Ellen Terry, a woman of questionable reputation. When Sue Ellen is gunned down, the town drunk says he saw Adam do it. Adam has to find the real killer to prove his innocence.


Adam Cartwright, much to his father's displeasure, is about to participate in a duel. His opponent, John Henry, fires first. He misses, though Adam didn't even flinch. Adam tells John that if he ever insults Sue Ellen Terry again, Adam will kill him. He fires into the air, drops the dueling pistol, and leaves.

Back at the ranch, Ben is not happy and Adam asks why. Ben wonders if Sue Ellen Terry is worth it. He's heard that Sue Ellen has "been friendly with more than one man in Virginia City." Adam knows, but he likes her and wants to continue to see her.

Sue Ellen Terry is a lovely young saloon girl who John Henry had been seeing. He apologizes to her for causing a scene and hopes to make it up to her by giving her an expensive necklace. At first she doesn't want to take it because she doesn't want to hurt him, but he insists.

However, Sue Ellen continues to date Adam and the two go on a picnic. She tries to tell him what kind of girl she really is and that she likes expensive things. But Adam doesn't think much of it and kisses her instead. When he brings her home that evening, they're met by a drunk, Ol' Dixie. He insults Sue Ellen, but with Adam's hand on his neck, he apologizes. As he stumbles away, he claims he knew Sue Ellen too. Again, Adam ignores the insinuations. She worries that there will be more men like Dixie and hopes Adam won't hate her. Adam escorts Sue Ellen to her porch as her older sister watches from a window

In town, Adam runs into Sheriff Jesse Sanders who says he heard about the duel. Adam assures him that he and John Henry have worked things out. Jesse asks if Adam's seeing Sue Ellen. Adam tells him that that is none of Jesse's business.

Jesse goes to see Sue Ellen, but is stopped outside by her sister, Amanda. Jesse leaves a message for Sue Ellen: Stop seeing Adam Cartwright.

Amelia delivers the message, but notices how pretty Sue Ellen has grown. Amelia believed she was the beautiful one and in her day she could turn heads. Amelia warns Sue Ellen that she should stay away from Adam. He's not in her class. Sue Ellen is offended and suddenly realizes what her sister has become, a bitter lonely woman who drinks.

Sue Ellen has been invited to dinner at the Ponderosa. She tells outrageous stories about how wealthy her father was in St. Louis, how they traveled the world, having had many servants. Hoss and Joe are silent in their embarrassment of her lies. Ben is coldly polite. Adam doesn't seem to mind. Realizing she's making a fool of herself, Sue Ellen asks Adam to take her home.

When he drops her off at her house, Sue Ellen admits that none of what she said was true. Adam assures her that it doesn't matter. He kisses her, but suddenly a shot rings out and Sue Ellen collapses in his arms. He sees a man shooting from across the street. He fires back and then chases after the shooter, passing Dixie as he goes.

In the jail, Jesse arrests Adam for murder. Dixie said that he saw Adam shoot Sue Ellen. Adam denies it and starts to take back his gun to go in search of the real killer. Jesse knocks him out and locks him up.

The Cartwrights come to bail Adam out, but Jesse won't do it. Ben is allowed to visit Adam though. He tells Adam that he's sorry about Sue Ellen. Adam doesn't understand why anyone would want to kill her. The other men in her life meant nothing to her. He tells Ben that he knows Sue Ellen didn't love him. He doesn't think she even knew what love was. He was trying to show her, to make up for her sister.

In the saloon, Dixie is regaling the patrons with his version of what happened. He's making it up as he goes along. When the crowd decides they ought to lynch Adam, Dixie hurries out. He passes Amelia, all decked out and made up, on her way in. She finds John Henry and joins him. He comments on her manner of grieving. She tells him that Adam didn't kill Sue Ellen, but she has some idea who might have. He refuses to be blackmailed because he knows that she hated her own sister. She had more reason to kill Sue Ellen than he did.

The Cartwrights drag Dixie into the sheriff's office and Ben makes him tell the truth. He saw a man shoot at both Sue Ellen and Adam, but he couldn't tell who it was. Ben thinks Jesse should release Adam, but Jesse says he's safer in jail. The crowd is talking lyching. Ben goes out to defend his son to the mob. Jesse gives Adam a small gun. He doesn't want to leave Adam unprotected, should the mob get through. Adam asks why he shouldn't just use the gun on Jesse now. Jesse knows Adam is smarter than that. If Adam were to escape, he'd wait 'til evening when there's only one guard. Adam asks what Jesse would do then. Jesse says he'd give Adam eight clear hours, but then he'd come after him. He says if he catches Adam, Adam'll hang.

That evening, Adam holds the gun on the deputy and escapes. As soon as he's gotten his own gun back and goes out the front, he's shot at. The shooter gets away. Adam then goes to John Henry's and demands to know if he killed Sue Ellen. John says no, but Adam should talk to Amelia.

Amelia is in her room when a man enters. She sees him in her mirror and congratulates herself on realizing he killed her sister. And for that he's going to have to pay and pay and pay. Too late she realizes he isn't going to pay. He strangles her.

Adam has arrived when he hears Amelia scream, a scream that is suddenly cut short. He rushes inside to find Amelia dead on the floor. The killer gone out the window. Ben arrives and wants to know why Adam broke jail. Adam knows he didn't stand a chance there and had to find the real killer. Ben tells him that he has to turn himself back in as Jesse is gathering a posse. Adam is stunned. Jesse had promised him eight hours. He asks Ben to tell Jesse that he'll meet Jesse at Jesse's home.

Ben relays the message and reminds Jesse that they've been friends a long time. Jesse assures him that he'll be good to Adam.

Adam is waiting for Jesse in his house, sitting behind Jesse's desk. Adam asks if Jesse plans on shooting him for trying to escape. "Something like that," Jesse admits. Adam tells him that things would've gone easier for Jesse, if he'd killed Adam outside the jail. That was Jesse's first mistake. The second was to tell him he had eight hours, but then formed a posse right away. Jesse reaches for his gun, but Adam had his out and hidden behind the desk all along. He shoots first. Jesse collapses just as a crowd comes into the room. Adam asks why he killed Sue Ellen. Jesse says he wasn't aiming at Sue Ellen. He liked Sue Ellen and she liked him, until Adam came along. He was aiming at Adam. Then he dies there on the floor.

Cast and Characters[]

The Cartwrights



  • Bill Clark: Deputy Sheriff
  • Bob Miles: Deputy Sheriff
  • Buddy Ebsen: Sheriff Jesse Sanders
  • Charles Meredith: Referee at Duel
  • Clarke Alexander: Man at Bar
  • Fay Spain: Sue Ellen Terry
  • Jean Willes: Amelia Terry
  • John Stephenson: John Henry
  • Malcolm Atterbury: Dixie



Adam:  Pa, you must be getting old. Some women are worth the trouble



See The Sisters/videos

See also[]