The High Chaparral

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Third Season
Plot and Character Highlights

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Mano and Donna Baccala as Mercedes

Julio Medina as the bandit, Sanchez

Don Sebastian and Victoria consoling Mano

3.57  Time to Laugh, Time to Cry         Mano
For the first time in his life, Manolito falls seriously in love but his romance takes a tragic turn when Comancheros decide to settle a debt.          Written by Jon Bennett Reed         Directed by Leon Benson

Story Line:  Enamored of beautiful Mercedes Vega De Granada, a childhood sweetheart who returns to the Montoya ranch for a visit after a long absence, Manolito proposes marriage. Their plans are disrupted when bandits led by the vengeful Sanchez and Teniente kidnap Mercedes in an ambush. Though seriously injured, a desperate Manolito joins the men of the Chaparral to search for his loved one.

Guest Stars:  

Donna Baccala 
as Mercedes Vega De Granada

Julio Medina 
as Sanchez

Victor Campos 
as Teniente

Argentina Brunetti 
as Duena

Character Highlights: Of all of Mano's many romantic involvements, Mercedes is the one who most believably steals his heart.  Although he tells her that she is unlike any woman he has ever known, she is indeed very much like his sister, Victoria.  She is well bred, aristocratic and head-strong.  Like Victoria she has refused to participate in an arranged marriage without love.  Like Mano she is playful and fun-loving and has been reluctant to settle down, preferring to acquire experiences rather than possessions.  It is easy to see why Mano would be genuinely in love with her.  So much so that he now seriously contemplates building a future with her at the Rancho Montoya. Ultimately their relationship is a casualty of the Montoya-Cannon dynamic that is unable to deal with the threat of the comancheros in a timely manner.  Don Sebastian shows more affection for Mano in this episode than in any other.  The closing scene with Victoria and Don Sebastian trying to console Mano in his grief is one of the closest scenes we see of the Montoya family, where Don Sebastian's compassion for his son is clearly expressed.   

Complete Episode Synopsis: Two comancheros happen upon a crippled carriage on Montoya land and make pretense to help right the vehicle. The occupants, Mercedes Vega de Granada, and her duenna, are grateful for the assistance, until the comancheros reveal their true motive of abducting the young senorita. The crime is over before it begins when Manolito trains his rifle on the bandidos, forcing them to drop their weapons. Manolito knows at least one of the bandits, Sanchez, and recognizes him as an officer decorated in the army of Juarez. For his part, Sanchez is incensed that Manolito has ruined his plans for a hefty ransom, and when he is allowed to ride away, he promises the young Montoya that he will have his revenge. Turning to the ladies, Manolito urges them to hurry on their way, but Mercedes has heard his first name, and wants to know if he is Manolito Montoya. When he affirms, she is delighted, as she was traveling to the Rancho Montoya for a visit. She reveals that they had played together as children many years before, and that she remembered Manolito well, because of his boyish attempts to knock her out of a tree growing along the bank of a river on Montoya land. Manolito remembers, too, and is pleased to see her. He accompanies the ladies near to the hacienda, giving them over to the protection of Montoya vaqueros, and promises her that she will see him again.

Back to the north, the Cannon ranch is being plagued by a gang of cattle-rustling comancheros. The ranch is shorthanded, without enough men to successfully ride down the bandits. John dispatches Manolito to use his influence with Don Sebastian for the loan of some men to join in the endeavor to rid the two ranches of the comancheros. When Manolito and Buck broach the subject, however, Don Sebastian is wholly unconvinced of the existence of the bandits, and refuses his help. Manolito, instead of departing with Buck, opts to stay a few days at the rancho, ostensibly to try to change his father's mind. The reality of the lovely senorita's presence, though, is not unnoticed by him. That evening, he turns his full attention to the girl. Mercedes reveals herself, quite artlessly, as a woman with definite ideas about the future. She unabashedly asks Manolito what his plans are for his own future, and is genuinely shocked and disappointed when he claims that he has none. Manolito's attitude toward her, up until now, was guarded, as she has made no attempt to hide her interest in him. However, when he probes her about why she left home, he learns that Mercedes is unconventional, in that she was unafraid to follow her heart, even if it meant estrangement from her parents. Indeed, she was traveling precisely because she wished to avoid an arranged, loveless marriage. Manolito is struck by this, and tells her that she is different from any other woman he has known, and that the two of them are much alike. She asks him to show her the rancho the next day, and professes wanting him particularly to show it to her. Her open and guileless demeanor isn't put off when he asks her why; she simply asks him, "Why should I pretend otherwise?" Her honesty and childlike charm disarms him, and he agrees, "Why should you?"

The next day is spent touring the vast Montoya rancho officially, and attempting to ditch the duenna unofficially. Senora Lopez proves a worthy opponent, however, and refuses to give up in her pursuit of the couple. Each attempt by them to steal a kiss is thwarted by the woman, who Manolito describes as "having the instincts of a bloodhound." Manolito brings Mercedes to an outlook offering a panoramic view of the land. He tells her that someday, it would all be his. She is surprised at his tone of voice. He opens his heart to her by explaining that the land wasn't what he wanted, and he never had wanted it. "I just want you to understand that I have always wanted to be left alone, to do what I want to do, in my own way. Just to be free. I hate responsibilities. That is for other men, not for me. And yet, when I am near you, when I look at you, I feel myself changing inside." She asks him how, and he replies, "Mercedes, you even make me want--all this." It is an earthshaking revelation for him, and that night in the moonlit hacienda garden, he seals both their futures by declaring his love for her, and proposing marriage. She joyfully accepts, returning his kisses with equal ardor.

Another day of riding and happy planning is interrupted by gunfire; Sanchez and his comancheros spot Manolito and Mercedes and fire on them. Mercedes' horse rears, she falls heavily to the ground and lies still. A bullet grazes Manolito's head, and he falls to the ground, unconscious. The comancheros descend from the rocks and carry the injured Mercedes away. Senora Lopez, who had been following at a distance, witnesses the attack and flees for help. Don Sebastian finds his son facedown in the sand, and tenderly strokes his face and pleads with him to wake up. Manolito wakes and tells Don Sebastian that Mercedes had fallen from her horse. His father apprises him of the severity of the situation, then learns, to his sorrow, that the girl the comancheros have taken is to be Manolito's wife. Don Sebastian orders a rider to ride to the High Chaparral and bring back John Cannon and his men to aid in the hunt for the bandits and their prisoner.

Back at the Montoya hacienda, plans are set to break the men into two groups in their search for the bandidos. Manolito, still unsteady from his injury, insists on riding with them. His father agrees, but requires him to ride with the Montoya vaqueros. A day of searching reveals nothing except Mercedes' necklace. Refusing to rest when the others do, Manolito strikes out on his own to search for his love. Teniente Garcia, one of Sanchez' lieutenants, meets him in the hills, offering to take him to Mercedes. Manolito is suspicious, but grabs at the chance to find her. Unbeknownst to him, the Cannon men have also been riding, and Blue spots Manolito with Garcia. John gives the order to follow. Sanchez, smelling a rat when he misses Teniente from camp, had followed his underling and ambushes both men as they approach the camp. Sanchez informs Manolito that Mercedes was going to die, taking pleasure in the pain he is inflicting upon his enemy. He orders Manolito to be held back from going to Mercedes, then changes his mind. Manolito races to her side, where he finds her near death. He cradles her in his arms, and implores her to look at him. She does, and recognizes him immediately. She murmurs that she is glad he came and of the good times they had had there. He realizes, with a broken heart, that she is no longer aware of her surroundings, and that she is slipping. He agrees with all she says, and when her head sags against him, he knows it is over. He weeps silently, holding her close. By this time, the High Chaparral men have found the comanchero hideout, and John calls for them to surrender. Gunfire commences, the bandits are routed, and the stolen cattle stampede. Manolito doesn't even notice when the cattle thunder past on either side of him; he knows only loss. When the commotion dies down and Blue sees Manolito still cradling the lifeless Mercedes, John holds him back, saying, "You leave him be, boy."

Manolito soon finds himself back at the river with the tree that had meant so much to Mercedes. There, he could vent his grief and allow the tears to flow. He is joined by Victoria and Don Sebastian. His father is troubled by the realization that much of what had happened could have been avoided if he had lent aid to John Cannon when he needed it. He comes to Manolito repentant, aware that his son's life was forever changed. Love, fairness, and compassion had already been working on Manolito, however, and he absolved his father of any part of the tragedy. He clasps his father's hand, and the two share a rare moment of quiet affection. Victoria asks if he is ready to come home with them, and he says that he is. United through grief, yet strong in their love for each other, the Montoyas ride slowly homeward.  (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

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