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Bonanza episode
“The Tin Badge”
Season 3, Episode 13
#79 in Series
Air date December 17, 1961
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Don Ingalls
Directed by Lewis Allen
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The Tin Badge on IMDb


Wanting to prove to his older brothers he's not a kid anymore, Joe accepts the job of sheriff of the small town of Rubicon. He doesn't realize that the people offering him the position, a gunslinger and shifty mayor, are setting him up to fail. They want an inexperienced sheriff because they're hatching a scheme involving robbery and murder.


Joe arrives into Rubicon, and he is being watched from the moment he comes in.  Joe attempts to enter the saloon but his way is blocked by the man who was watching him, whose name is Higgler.  He asks Joe about Sylvianne Goshen, the Mayor's attractive daughter, and Joe tells him it's none of his business, the man punches Joe and he warns him to stay away from her.  Joe gets back up and manages to punch the man down until he can't get back up, Sylvianne walks out of the saloon, asks Joe what happened and takes him into the saloon to clean him up.

In the saloon Sylvianne is taking care of Joe and asks what he was fighting about.  Joe tells her he doesn't know, and tells her what happened.  The Mayor walks cheerily into the saloon with another man and tells Joe the whole town is talking about him and the fight.  The Mayor goes to get a round of drinks in and the man who came in the saloon with the Mayor is introduced by Sylvianne as Mr Abe Brock.  Joe seems to know him by reputation as he owns most of the mining claims around the area.  Brock tells Joe that he knows of him and that he fought, Higgler, was a hard case and a trouble maker who he had to fire from one of his mines.  not to mention that everyone was surprised at the way he handled him and has made an impression on the town, while Joe is surprised himself.    Brock tells the Mayor, who that Joe maybe the one to help him, as their Sheriff broke his leg and has been taken to Reno for a couple of weeks; They need someone to cover for him until he gets back and believe Joe is the man for the job.  Joe questions their intentions since he still a young man, but Brock tells Sylvianne it's his civic responsibility and she agrees.  Joe tells them he'll think about it and let them know by tomorrow morning.

Higgler is watching Joe from across the street and laughs when he leaves town.


Joe returns home and talks to Ben, the discussion is quite heated.  Ben is suspicious as he didn't raise him, Hoss and Adam to live by a gun and his belief is that they all work hard to make the Ponderosa what it is and that they'd all be content and happy to share in its future.  Joe tells Ben he just wants a chance to see if he can handle a job off the Ponderosa as well as on it and it's only for three weeks;  Ben warns Joe it only takes one man to break the law,  tells him he doesn't like the idea and thinks it would be better for Joe to tell them to find someone else.  Joe believes that he's trying to say that believes he would prefer someone like Hoss or Adam, and not the baby of the family. He admits he's tired of being Little Joe, tired of being the little brother and wants a chance to do something by himself without his brothers' interference.  Ben says calmly that he never treated him as a baby, while Joe says that Hoss and Adam are different.  He feels that anything he does do they treat it like a big joke to deliberately undermine him, Ben tells Joe he understands how he feels and asks Joe if pinning a badge on his chest will solve that problem.

Adam and Hoss return home; After they joke about the girl(s) in Rubicon.  Ben tells them about Joe's temporary job offer; Hoss and Adam make a joke of it which doesn't sit well with Joe, he tells Ben that he can see now why he needs to take the job and leaves while Adam and Hoss are laughing under their breath.


Ben is staring at his still laughing boys and thanks them for forcing Joe into making a decision he didn't want him to make.  They question if Joe is serious about wanting to be Sheriff, and Ben confirms it.  Ben asks them if they've just been thinking of him as a little brother ,that they've forgotten that he's growing up, and that, like them, he's got grown up feelings and grown up pride.  Hoss tells them if he's being serious they should join him in case Joe needs backup, but Ben tells them that Joe has to handle his own troubles and wishes he didn't pick a hard way to start and hope he remembers that if he needs help, he'll call on them.

Joe returns to Rubicon, where the Mayor and Brock both greet him.  They talk about Joe going for it and that he thinks a lot about his daughter and he tells him he hopes Brock is worth it and asks about the men he's hired and Brock tells him all in good time. Afterwards, the Mayor swears Joe in as the Sheriff.


The Mayor and Brock talk outside afterwards; the Mayor tells Brock that Joe's taking it too seriously and that the others aren't even here yet.  Brock tells him they are as two men on horses arrive in town.

Joe takes a stroll towards the saloon as he sees the two mysterious men go there and that Sylvianne has given them rooms there.  Joe asks if they're the undertakers, but she doesn't know. Joe tells her he's written something for her and hands her a piece of paper, she opens it and sees that it's the town charter; he then hands her the correct one, it's a passage out of Romeo and Juliet.  Brock enters the saloon and sees them together, he asks Joe if his duties aren't too demanding and Joe tells him he's not exactly sure what his duties are.  He tells Sylvianne he better show the town what the new Sheriff looks like and leaves.

Sylvianne asks Brock why he's doing what's he's planning, revealing to the audience that Brock sent the Sheriff out of town, and he tells her it's because the actual sheriff wasn't injured at all; he was a hard nosed old man with 35 years experience wearing a badge and using a gun; whereas Joe is a romantic kid and, as she tells him, has no experience wearing a badge. Brock is confident that even if he does blunder into his plan believes his lack of experience will ensure his plans succeeds.  During their talk, it's revealed that Sylvianne is engaged to Brock, and that they've been together for the past five years; plus he's lost much of his money through the mining claims he's bought and has plan is to stage a robbery to recoup his loss; The reason he and the mayor, his accomplice, hired Joe was to have him as their fall guy.  Brock tells her she's been so patient and soon they have it all, though she claims she would have married him anyway even if he didn't have money.  Brock tells her a marriage without money is no good and now they can have both, they only have to wait a few more days when the robbery takes place.

Joe is taking a stroll through town during his duties and takes a trip to the stage office when he notices Higgler outside the livery stable before going in, On instinct, Joe follows him into the stable, extends his hand and voices his intention to bury the hatchet.  Higgler tells him to get lost, which miffs Joe, who did the gesture to be friendly.  Higgler taunts him again, Joe again tries to tell him he's only being friendly but is cut short with a punch to his face.  Joe slides across the floor and they begin fighting, with Higgler getting the upper hand. Higgler goes to leave the stable and Joe clobbers him when he opens the door, they fight some more again it's clear that Joe is no match for Higgler and he's beaten again.  Joe has no choice now and pulls his gun on Higgler to arrest him because he wants to know why he didn't nail him the first time he came to town, knowing how tough he is,  and reveals his arrest is assaulting an officer of the law.

After locking him up, he asks him who hired him to lose in the fight, Higgler refuses to answer and Joe tells him his answer will be his get out of jail free card; as they talk, Joe tends to his bruises.  Higgler tells Joe he'll have to beat the truth out of him, as Joe leaves.

Joe walks to the saloon, where he is watched by Brock and one of the undertakers. He goes over to Sylvianne and tells her his confusion over Higgler attacking him today, whereas yesterday he did beat him. He reveals to Sylvianne that it was all a set up, his first fight with Higgler and the whole job he walked right into it and asks her if she was in on it, she tells him she wasn't.  Joe doesn't believe her since it was Brock and her that talked him into getting the job, as he's talking a gun shot is heard outside.

Joe runs out the saloon and notices the door to his office is open; making it clear that Higgler has escaped.  Sylvianne tells Joe he shouldn't have taken the job at all.  Joe asks her what she knows that he doesn't, given her relationship with Brock, but instead she ends up insulting Joe by telling him take off the tin badge, quit playing grown up and, to rub salt on the wound, tells him he's just a kid and that there are some things he just can't do.  Joe coldly tells her she sounds just like his family. She tells him to go home since whatever is happening in Rubicon isn't his concern; (Although she's saying this to get him out of town so he can't be the fall guy in the robbery and lose his life).  Joe tells her his badge makes it his concern, the town gave him a job and he's going to finish it.  Angry that he won't take her seriously, Sylvianne asks Joe what he'll do if he runs into another Higgler; would he read him poetry or something out of Romeo and Juliet. With letting him answer, she runs out of his office.


Brock shouts at Higgler for beating Joe and not staying out of town, and one of the undertakers hits him.  Though Higgler claims he only went to town for one drink, Higgler wants to know what he told Joe.  Higgler swears he didn't tell him anything.  Meanwhile, The Mayor is worried and babbling, Brock tells him to shut up, then tells the undertakers to get Higgler out of town.  one undertaker asks if he wants him put under, but Brock tells him to just let him go since it would cause more complications if he did.

Sylvianne sees Higgler leave with one of the undertakers shortly followed by her nervous father, she asks what's going on, but he tells her to leave it be.  She refuses, wanting to know why Higgler is with one of the strangers and wonders how he got out of jail without Joe's keys.  The Mayor tells her to leave it alone and the less she knows the better off she'll be.  Since she's not getting any answers from her father she tells him her intention to ask Brock, but the Mayor tells her not to since he doesn't want her involved.  She tells him that since he's her father she's already involved and leaves to see Brock.

Joe walks into the saloon, promptly spots the Mayor,and demands answers from him.  The Mayor takes him to sit in the alcove and have a little talk.

Brock is talking to the other undertaker when Sylvianne.  Brock tells her he's busy but the stranger leaves to let them talk; Sylvianne asks him about the strangers and his plans.  She tells him that Joe has been asking her the same questions and she can't answer them because she doesn't know the answers.  She tells him that Joe wants to know about Higgler and how he became Sheriff in the first place.  After assuring him she told him nothing, She realizes that he was the one who set Joe up to fight Higgler and that she'd seen him leave with one of the undertakers.  Brock tells her he just sent him out of town and that they only need to wait one more day ; however their plans might get ruined since there's a man coming into town on the stage to buy Brock's mining claims, which he confirms; however the man buying the claims knows Brock from a different alias.  Sylvianne is puzzled by this; and Brock tells her that as soon as he gets off the stage there's going to be an accident;  As the man can blow his schemes sky high the minute he sees him, hence why he's doing this.  He didn't know who was coming until he received a telegram, so he has to die.  Sylvianne is shocked that his plan includes murder.  Brock tells her that while people murder each other for small reasons, his reason is big, it's for them and their future.  She tells Brock she doesn't want it that way and she won't let him do it.  He asks her if she'll go to the authorities, her father or their new young Sheriff.  Sylvianne scoffs that Joe may be young but he believes in the badge.  Brock tells her if he lifts one little finger to help then he'll be dead.  They argue some more and Brock tells her It's going to look like a robbery attempt on the stage that fails.  Sylvianne realizes what those two men in town are for and realizes that they're hitmen.  Brock asks her if she loves him and after she tells him she does,  He tells her that she can ensure Joe's survival by keeping him occupied until after the stage comes in; if she does this, nothing will happen to him.

Sylvianne goes to the bar where Little Joe is twirling a whiskey tumbler in his hand, and her father is passed out drunk on the table.  He tells her not to worry and that he didn't tell him anything.  He goes upstairs to look for Brock with her following.


Much to Joe's surprise, Brock's room is empty. Sylvianna gives Joe her apologies for what she said before since she was angry .  Joe is surprised because she suddenly has something to say.  , Joe tells her that with anger, truth shall out; which he reveals that he read that somewhere but not in Romeo and Juliet.  She tells Joe she tried to tell him she wasn't Juliet and admits to Joe that she's Brock's girl and that she's always been,.  She also confirms that making Joe Sheriff was because Brock asked her to put him up to it, and that she would do anything he asked her to with one exception: murder.  She tells him that it will happen tomorrow at sun up on the stage, and that they will try and kill one of the passengers but she doesn't know which one.  She also admits that Brock hired the undertakers.  she wishes that Joe could stop it, but could but strapping on a gun and pinning on a badge wouldn't make him a gunfighter.  Joe realizes that's the true reason he was given the job, that they wanted a boy for the job not a man.  Sylvianne disagrees by telling him he is a good man but he can't do it on his own, Joe tells her his family would agree with her and tells her the reason he took the job was because for the first time in his life someone outside the family offered him a job with responsibility and a chance to prove himself, independent of their influence,  Sylvianne tells Joe to summon his family, who could help him stop the whole thing, but he refuses, as that would make the point of Joe's argument invalid.  She implores Joe to realize he can't do it all by himself, but Joe tells her he can try, though she doesn't believe he stands a chance.  He tells her that's the way it was planned and he'll meet the stage when it comes in tomorrow morning.

After Joe leaves, Sylvianne is still in Brock's room thinking over the days events, she looks out the window and sees Joe at the livery stable with Cochise, she leaves to change. The Mayor is still at the saloon in the same spot with an empty bottle he sees her and asks where she's going at this time of night, she tells him what he doesn't know won't hurt him, She sneaks into the livery stable, where the stable hand is brushing down Cochise and then leaves. She saddles the horse and flees town.


The Mayor is over at the Sheriff's office asking Joe, who is lying on a chaise lounge, to find Sylvianne, Joe nonchalantly tells the Mayor she's a big girl now and she likely left town.  The Mayor asks if he's not going to look for her, Joe tells him he's the Sheriff not her father.  The Mayor staggers to leave and talks loudly to himself before he does saying that he shouldn't have sworn in a boy for a Sheriff.  When the Mayor leaves a smile spreads across Joe's face and he gets up, he walks over to the washing basin and looks at his reflection and starts talking to himself with a cheeky smile about how they wanted a boy, which is what he'll give them.


Joe is over at the saloon talking to Brock and the Mayor he's reporting the fact that his horse disappeared from  


the barn but that's not why he's there.  

He tells Brock he wants to talk to him about being the Sheriff and that in the beginning the whole idea about being the Sheriff appealed to him and tells him he thinks he's too young and the job is too much for him.  Brock tells reassures Joe by telling him he's doing a fine job but Joe isn't sure if he really is.; as he arrested Higgler and then he lost him, he was talking to Sylvianne earlier and now she's disappeared, and to top it off he can't find his horse.  Brock assures Joe he's still new at being a Sheriff and that with time he'll get better as time goes on; Brock reassures him and tells him he should look for Sylvianne but Joe doesn't know where she went. not to mention that his horse is gone..  Brock tells him the Mayor is worried about her and gives him the pick of the livery stable.  Joe thanks him and tells him he'll look for her in the morning, Joe tells them he better pack his stuff, Brock questions him about it and Joe starts rattling off a shopping list of things he needs to take and Brock interrupts him and offers him good luck.  After he leaves the Mayor tells Brock,Joe wouldn't find a needle in a pin cushion and Brock tells him he just wants Joe out of town otherwise he'll die if he stays.  

Brock puts down Sylvianne's disappearance to her not wanting to witness the events when it happens and that she'll come back when it's over.

Sylvianne is revealed to have rode all the way to the Ponderosa, tired and staggering to the porch; Hoss comes out and finds her on the ground; Hoss and Ben are puzzled as to why she's got Joe's horse and Ben


questions her about it. She tells Ben that she rode on his horse so they would believe her. She tells them her father owns the saloon in Rubicon and she works there Ben asks her about Joe, and She tells him nothing's happened to him yet but if he doesn't get help soon something might Ben presses her and asks her what trouble he's in Ben presses her even more, and she finally tells him everything. Ben tells Hoss to get Adam he then asks her if she's the girl Joe's been seeing in Rubicon and she confirms it. After Adam arrives, she agrees to guide them back to Rubicon.


Back in Rubicon Joe is writing a letter, he steps out of his office to look around and then goes back in. Joe reads the letter in his mind. It’s a last letter to Pa that even though the job of sheriff takes a great deal of responsibility and danger, he will see it through. He places the letter on the table and heads out.

Brock watches Joe as he leaves town. He turns and the two undertakers are with him. He reminds them that it's the man he shakes hands with The stage is on its way to Rubicon

The undertakers exit the saloon and then take up their respective positions, one by the livery stable and the other hides on the roof of a small building


The stage arrives and Brock walks to the stage just as he reaches it the first undertaker in the livery stable comes out and holds up the coach. Two women exit the coach without issue then a man backs out the exit wearing a dark jacket and a brown top hat The man is revealed to be a disguised Joe, and he grabs Brock when he turns, pulling his gun on him at the same time He tells the man to drop his gun; Brock shouts him not to shoot but it's too late as the stranger fires his gun and hits Brock; Joe shoots the stranger and has to contend with the other one. he rolls on the ground and fires off three consecutive shots at the man on the roof, who is dead, then summons the doctor. The Mayor joins them. Joe tells Mr Jennings, the man that Brock was targeting, and whose jacket and hat he was wearing, to come out of the stage; He tells Jennings that the man on the ground is Brock ; while Jennings tells Joe Brock's real name and that he witnessed Brock committing murder six years ago, hence why Brock targeted him.

Ben finally arrives with everyone else; Sylvianne jumps off Joe’s horse and runs straight to Brock on the ground. Brock tells her she was six years too late and after that fateful day hers was the best memory in the world a world that was almost his. He asks Joe if he's going to use his tin badge and admits he made a big mistake picking him.  Joe apologizes to Sylvianne as Brock finally succumbs to his wound, Sylvianne is visibly upset.

Joe tells Ben the job was a lot tougher than he thought it would be.  Ben tells him that he hopes he wouldn't have minded if they paid him a visit.   Hoss compliments Joe on his work, and Joe tells them he will come back once the regular Sheriff gets back. Adam asks if he wants them to hang around. Joe asks if it's to make more jokes about him and Adam apologizes and tells him never again and Hoss agrees. Satisfied at their appreciation, Joe invites them to his office for a cup of coffee.


The Cartwrights


  • Cody Fredricks : George Goshen
  • Karen Steele: Sylvia Ann Goshen
  • Stephen Chase: Mr. Jennings
  • Vic Morrow: Ab Brock


Did you know?[]

  • German episode title: "Little Joe wird Sheriff", meaning "Little Joe Becomes Sheriff".




Video:Bonanza The Tin Badge

See also[]