The High Chaparral

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Buck in "The Brothers Cannon"

Buck and John in "The Brothers Cannon"

John in "The Brothers Cannon"

3.59  The Brothers Cannon        John, Buck
Buck angrily parts company with his brother John when a long-smoldering family feud is brought out into the open.
Written by Ralph Hayes         Directed by Leon Benson

Story Line:  Fed up with menial jobs on the Chaparral, Buck is ignored when he complains to his older brother John and so he leaves the ranch once and for all. When Blue also turns against him, John finally agrees to go after Buck who refuses to return.

Guest Star: Lou Frizzell as Jeff Patterson

Production Order Note:  This is one of the most important episodes of the third season not only because of the intense interaction between John and Buck, but because it sets up a story line that recurs in at least five more episodes of the third season.  That story line is the purchase of the Patterson ranch by Buck and Manolito.  Patterson is first introduced here along with the basic background of his grudge with John and his interest in selling his ranch, all of which are critical to the next episode, "A Piece of Land".  This story line also plays a part later in "Lady Fair", "Trail to Nevermore", "Friends and Partners", "The Little Thieves", and perhaps others.  While its production order is after some of these, its air date was immediately ahead of "A Piece of Land", which is where it needs to be to make sense.  It has been moved back to that position here, even though the other episodes are listed in their production order.

Character Highlights: "The Brothers Cannon" is Buck's most ill-behaved episode.  While he may be justifiably fed-up with John, Buck's sudden angry onslaught towards him leaves John truly helpless and bewildered as to what Buck really wants. The episode shows clearly how integral John and Buck's relationship is to everyone else in the household and how helpless they all feel to repair it.  While both John and Buck insist that the issue is just between the two of them, clearly it is not.  As relationships start to unravel around him, John finally implores, "What's wrong with me, Victoria?"  Given John's character and history, he makes Herculean efforts in this episode to admit his emotional failings and reach out to the people closest to him. 

Complete Episode Synopsis:  Buck Cannon has finally had it with his brother's controlling and cavalier attitude. Not only has John reassigned Buck's projects without telling him, and overridden Buck's orders, but he has charged Sam with a task for Buck to do - the menial job of cleaning out the Chaparral tack room. And to add insult to injury, John has even provided a list of the things he wants done. Buck is both hurt and offended by what he sees as John's lack of respect, but his attempts to get his brother to understand that are futile. John does not see his actions as belittling, just expedient, and he has no idea why Buck is upset. He's sorry, in his way, but he sees no practical way to rectify the situation, and Buck's accusations make him a little angry, himself. He tells Buck that there is nothing holding him at the High Chaparral, if he truly feels there is no valid place for him there, or if he is not being treated fairly. Unable to get through to his brother, and frustrated beyond endurance, Buck decides to leave.

The argument has been witnessed by Victoria, Manolito and Blue. Blue and Mano try to talk Buck into staying, explaining that John's ways may be blunt but that he really does need and love his brother, but Buck is past consoling. All of his life, he says, John has made him feel small, nothing more than his brother's shadow that John has dragged around with him. Little things, small insults have built up over time and have finally grown into an intolerable situation. Buck is determined to strike out on his own and create something meaningful for himself, not just a reflection of his brother. Nothing Manolito or Blue can say will stop him. Back inside, Victoria is trying to get to the bottom of the issue with John. At first, her husband insists that it is between Buck and himself, none of her business, but when Victoria refuses to accept that, he explains to her how it is between him and his brother. He tells her that the problem has been building since they were boys, since their father died and left Buck in John's care, because the younger Cannon in the father's eyes, was one of those people who had a hard time growing up, and needed looking after. John tells Victoria that he has always tried to look after Buck, both because of his father's deathbed words, and because he loves his brother. But that maybe his constant care had been wrong, and maybe it was time to let go of Buck, to let him be free. Victoria doesn't like it, but she does understand. Blue, however, does not, and when John tells him that the problem is a private matter, Blue takes it as the same sort of thing he has seen his father do to Buck, and leaves the ranch in anger to join his uncle. John is shaken, unable to understand why he drives away the people he loves, and Victoria is unable to console him.

Up in Tucson, Buck searches for a way to make a life of his own. He starts up a conversation with Jeff Patterson, a man with a grudge against John Cannon over of a lost lawsuit. Patterson has decided to sell out, and Buck wants to buy his ranch. He has no cash, however, and Patterson is unimpressed by his promises and his hail-fellow-well-met charm. As it begins to dawn on Buck that making his own way may be harder than he expected, in walks Blue, ready to join up with him. But Buck is no more willing to share the root of his troubles with John than Blue's father was, and he resents his nephew's intrusion. He tells Blue, bluntly, to mind his own business and go on home. Hurt and angry, Blue leaves in a huff.

John, in the mean time, has been wrestling with his conscience, trying to justify his actions to Victoria about the kind of man he is. He only succeeds, however, in convincing himself that he has been a failure with Buck, and is in danger of becoming a failure with his son. He begs Victoria for help, and she advises him to reconcile with Buck. It's what he wants, anyway, and when Blue sees it, he, too, will come home, she says. John takes her advice, and rides to Tucson, but after he is gone, Blue's horse returns to the Chaparral lamed and lather - and alone. With the boss away, it is Sam who organizes the search party, sending Manolito into town to find John. Unaware of the trouble at home, John has found Buck in the saloon. He asks him to come back, but Buck is not quite ready to forgive and forget. The problem, he maintains, has not changed, John is still the way he has always been, treating Buck like a child who needs to be humored and looked after. A fight ensues, and, angry beyond words, Buck punches John to the floor. John refuses a physical fight, however, which Buck takes as just another insult, until John admits that he, too, is just as responsible for the trouble between them as Buck. The two are on the verge of reconciliation when Mano busts in with the news that Blue's horse has returned to Chaparral riderless, and Blue is missing. Suddenly with one dire purpose, the brothers Cannon put their differences behind them and ride off in search.

John, with Buck and Mano from one direction, and the ranch hands from the other, search all night. It is morning before John, Buck and Mano find Blue, though, barely conscious from a knock on the head, but unhurt otherwise. They struggle to get him to his feet, but their relief is short lived. John steps back and disturbs a rattlesnake. The snake bites him above the knee. As Mano holds him, Buck performs the necessary first aid, cutting deep into the bite and sucking out the poison as the two men reminisce about a similar incident years earlier while they were still boys. There is obvious affection and admiration in their voices, and Blue is baffled by the exchange. Not so much as he is baffled later, however, when, still struggling to understand the reasons for their reconciliation, he overhears his father and uncle battling again. The only thing he can conclude is that there is just so much feeling between the men that they just can't stand to show it. Manolito and Victoria agree that he has discovered a very important thing.  (Synopsis by Sheryl Clay)

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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