The High Chaparral

Previous Episode

First Season
Plot and Character Highlights

Next Episode

Vaquero responds angrily when when told to  "let the knife slip" on El Tigre.

Daniel Ades as El Tigre's brother, Rafael

Ricardo Montalban as El Tigre, recuperating under Victoria's care.

1.25   Tiger by the Tail
Ricardo Montalban guest-stars as a wounded bandit leader who is captured by the Cannons and tells them his followers will destroy them unless he is released.

Produced by William F. Claxton
Directed by Seymour Robbie
Written by Mel Goldberg  
Originally Broadcast:  February 25, 1968    

Story Line: When El Tigre's brother, Rafael, threatens to attack the ranch to free the notorious bandit, John Cannon has difficulty persuading his wranglers to hold the outlaw for trial in Tucson. During the attack Victoria frees El Tigre when he promises to leave peacefully and to stop the bloodshed, but he shows his true colors by making John his captive.

Guest Stars: 

Ricardo Montalban 
as El Tigre

Daniel Ades 
as Rafael

  Noah Keen 
as Travers

Character Highlights: Ricardo Montalban is the primary focus of much of this episode which sometimes sinks into political diatribe. El Tigre is a bandit who espouses a Robin Hood philosophy but never gets around to giving anything to the poor. He does his best to appeal to the Mexican loyalties of Vaquero and Victoria, trying to turn them against John or alternatively trying to turn Vaquero against the Montoya's. His manipulations are unsuccessful until he talks Victoria into releasing him in order to stop further bloodshed from the attack on the ranch after Reno and Blue are both wounded in a gun battle. The bunkhouse boys are more involved here than usual, with two separate debates that occur in the bunkhouse about what to do with El Tigre. The opener also includes an unusually sharp exchange between Blue and Joe when Joe balks at helping Blue with the wounded El Tigre and Blue shifts immediately into his position of authority as a Cannon, ordering Joe to help him.

Complete Episode Synopsis
The notorious bandido El Tigre is ambushed and shot from his horse in the opening scene, presumably shot to death. A little later on, however, Blue Cannon stumbles across him and finds him to be alive. Joe Butler tells him who El Tigre is and strongly lobbies to leave him where he is, but Blue insists on bringing him back to the ranch and caring for his wounds. A crisis ensues when the rest of the men see El Tigre; his reputation is one of theft and murder, and the hands want no part of him. Joe even suggests to Vaquero, who is removing a bullet from El Tigre's shoulder, that he "let his knife slip and do us all a favor."

Joe and Blue argue over what to do
with the wounded El Tigre.

By the time that John returns to the ranch, an angry group of hands from the Travor's ranch demands that El Tigre be turned over to them to hang.

Victoria refuses to let Travers take
El Tigre in his current condition.

 Both Travor's' anti-Mexican language and his disregard for due process is so offensive to Victoria that she settles the matter for good; they will keep El Tigre until he is well enough to ride, and then turn him over to the federal authorities in Tucson. John stands behind her proudly.

Travers demands that El Tigre be
turned over to him and his men.

In the meantime, El Tigre has begun a psychological campaign against as many people within the household as he can influence, particularly Victoria and Vaquero. He accuses Victoria's father of squeezing the lifeblood from the peons, which she protests, but his way with words starts to sway her.

Vaquero and Victoria listen to
El Tigre's rantings.

 He tells her: "I am rich with the knowledge that I am loved by my people, because they know that what I do, I do for the love of them." He is a self-appointed messiah to the poor peons. Vaquero, being a man of humble means, is especially a target of El Tigre's manipulations.

El Tigre tries to manipulate Victoria
and Vaquero with his ideology.

John talks to the men about
the rule of law.

Soon El Tigre's brother, Rafael, comes to the Cannon ranch, first to ask, then to demand, the release of his brother. He threatens to kill them all and burn the house down if they do not comply. Now Big John is faced with having his men fight so they can keep a hated outlaw on the premises. John wants to deal with El Tigre, but the bandido is so sure of his advantage that he treats John as if he has already won. He tells John that he, El Tigre, is in charge at the ranch now. John leaves him to his delusions and rallies his men with a speech about the rule of law and the law of the jungle, and it is settled--they will fight.
When the shooting begins, Victoria and Vaquero are busy helping the wounded. Victoria passes El Tigre's door and he calls to her, reasoning with her to end the killing by setting him free. She doesn't listen at first, but after Blue is brought in with a graze to his head, she takes the key to El Tigre's room and lets him out. He immediately forces her into Blue's room where he sees the safe. His true self is exposed when he becomes wild at the sight of the safe and the promise of money. John opens the safe for him, but he finds only a small amount of cash, which enrages him further.

Victoria discovers she has been
taken in by El Tigre.

Victoria tries to protect wounded Blue from
the desperate escape attempt of El Tigre.

The question resounding throughout the episode of who El Tigre really is, murderer or savior, is partially answered at this point. John accuses El Tigre of robbing and killing, but never giving anything back to those he calls "his people", and for once, El Tigre is at a loss for words. His only thought is to escape, and as he is attempting to leave the room with John, he spies a man with a gun at the window. The man and El Tigre fire at one another, El Tigre is mortally wounded, and Rafael sees in horror that he has shot his brother. As Rafael mourns his brother, John tells him to take El Tigre home to his people, the peons who loved him. 

(Synopsis by Lisa McKenzie)


Much of this material, including the Story Line descriptions, comes from The High Chaparral Press Kit released in 1971. The Character Highlights were written by Charlotte Lehan.  The Episode Synopses were written by members of the HC Discussion Group and are attributed at the end of each one.
Especially good portrayals of these characters

Return to Season One Directory

Return to Home/Contents