The High Chaparral

Previous Episode

Fourth Season
Plot and Character Highlights

Next Episode

Mano and Victoria in "The Badge"

Sweets in "The Badge"

John and Buck in "The Badge"

4.95  The Badge
In a flashback sequence, John Cannon and brother Buck retrace their lives of years ago when lawman John captures Buck, who is wanted for bank robbery and murder.
Written by Walter Black         Directed by Arthur Nadel

Story Line:  En route to town for trial, the brothers are followed by Buck's former partners, who are determined to see that the true story never is known.

Guest Stars:

Morgan Woodward 
as Billings

Alan Oppenheimer 
as Sweets

Jonathan Lippe 
as Mobley

Gary Busey 
as Rafe

Robert Broyles 
as Loosh

Lew Brown 
as Parsons

Henry Wills (right)
as Tommy


Character Highlights:  The Badge is probably the most universally panned episode of the entire series and it certainly has problems and incongruencies, but it is not entirely without merit.  As a flashback episode late in the series, its attempts to give us some insight into the backgrounds of the characters run up against the fact that we already know these characters pretty well and have picked up a fair amount about their background already that does not mesh properly with what is portrayed here.  Its first problems are with the timing.  It is set in Oklahoma in 1866, just after the end of the Civil War, and is the first time John and Buck have seen each other in over 5 years.  Buck tells us that within 2 or 3 months of that meeting they were on their way to Arizona together.  We have already heard numerous references to situations and characters from "back home", in several different states, presumably after the war, that would be hard to fit into that short a time frame.  Secondly, neither Blue nor Annalee are ever mentioned.  John never speaks of them and Buck never inquires. Yet we know Buck was involved with Blue as a young child and was likely as devoted then as he was later.  We learn that their mother has been dead for 2 years and since their father is not mentioned we might presume he passed sometime before the war.  It is difficult to see them unsuccessfully try to make two men in their fifties look twenty years younger with hair dye and a mustache.  They look like men in their fifties with dark hair.       

In terms of merit, however, it does have some good interaction between John and Buck as they go back and forth trying to figure out the degree to which they can trust each other.  The scenes in the farm house with a young Gary Busey as Rafe are well done.  Excellent work also by Alan Oppenheimer as the patriarch.  This very backwards family is much clearer than John and Buck about their values and the way they order allegiance to family, political ideology, and the law.  John and Buck are still working it all out.  As the family starts to turn against John and support Buck, Buck goes right on eating and says, "You figure it out, John."  The implication in the end is that in order to save his brother, John lies about Parson's deathbed confession, both to Buck and later under oath at Buck's trial.  If that is the case, this may be the only time we see John cross that line - where his allegiance to his brother is greater than his allegiance to the law.  


Complete Episode Synopsis:  Victoria Cannon, dressed in pants, with a kerchief around her hair, is cleaning house. Manolito has returned from Nogales just in time to help her open a locked trunk. Inside it they find some curious items - a Wanted poster, handcuffs, and a marshal’s badge. Buck appears and tells them the Wanted poster is supposed to be of him. And if it wasn’t for the poster, he wouldn’t be on the High Chaparral now. He proceeds to tell them the story of how it came to be.

Mano helps Victoria with the lock.

Buck first recognizes John.

In 1866, in Oklahoma territory, Marshal John Cannon is tracking a wanted man. When the marshal pulls his gun and his quarry turns, it is Buck and John Cannon facing each other. They haven’t seen each other for five years. John has to tell his brother that their mother has been dead for almost two years. Buck grieves, remembering how hard their mother took it when he joined with the Confederates. John assures him that she never stopped loving him.
Over coffee, John shows him the Wanted poster. He had no idea the man he was hunting was Buck, since the man on the poster is unnamed and has a mustache. Buck says he lost his razor in Gettysburg and grew to like the mustache he still is wearing. And he is innocent. He can tell John doesn’t believe him – it’s written all over his face, “just like when we was little boys. You don’t believe me, you don’t believe in me.” John disagrees. He was the older brother, he wanted to guide him. Maybe he didn’t go about it the right way but that didn’t mean he didn’t care. He wants to know what happened. They need to put aside their childhood differences.

John reminisces about their past.

Buck with his post-war gang.

Buck tells him the story. After the war, some of the men decided to take off together. They were a wild bunch, and poor, and they just wanted to forget the war. There was Billings, Mobley, Parsons, Dawes, and one whose name he can’t remember. Billings was the one who decided they could make their money robbing a bank. Buck wouldn’t go along with it. He decided to make sure they weren’t going to do it and went into the bank during the hold-up to stop them. Buck pulls his gun to try to stop them but everyone is shooting at everyone else and he is assumed to be one of the gang. Buck makes a run for it, in the opposite direction of his friends.
John says it is the dumbest story he’s ever heard. It doesn’t make any difference if he believes Buck or not, he still has to take him in. Because he was the only one not wearing a mask, Buck is the only member of the gang there is a picture of. So Buck goes along voluntarily. He says he let John talk him into it because it’s what he always does. But this time, John had better be right.

Meanwhile, Buck’s friends have spotted him. Billings can’t wait to put a bullet into Buck for ruining their plans.

While they ride, John tells his brother about the land in Arizona. The government is anxious to have it settled and the land is there for the taking. Buck tells him that two could handle more land than one. All they have to do is turn the horses around and head west. John says he does want Buck with him out there but he wants him free, like the land. Buck wishes he had the same faith in the law that John does.

Billings and Mobley watch the Cannons.

Billings and Mobley appear in the distance.

Two riders appear in the distance. Buck recognizes Billings and Mobley. He knows they want to gun him down, and John in the bargain. Buck wants to take off on his own so John will be safe but John thinks he’s using that as an excuse not to face the judge. John takes Buck’s gun from his holster as insurance.

John and Buck take off on a run, Billings and Mobley in pursuit. But the Cannons have a good head start and disappear.

John asks for help from the Sweets.

They arrive at a farm. John asks for food and shelter and when pay is mentioned, they are welcomed inside. This is the Sweets family – the father and his two sons, and cousin Rafe. Sweets is shocked to discover that his guests are brothers. “Where we come from, a man’s kin’s the most important thing there is.” “It’s unnatural to turn him over to the law,” Rafe says.

Rafe doesn't take to John's idea
of family loyalty

Sweets then notices that John’s pants are Yankee cavalry issue. “We don’t hold with the North,” he tells John. He can recognize that Buck fought for the South. Sweets thinks it would be a shame if a slew of Southerners couldn’t help another, while his son grabs a bottle as if it’s a weapon. John tells them not to interfere, and stands to leave. Sweets tells him he can go but they won’t let him take Buck to a stinking, Yankee prison. Still eating, Buck says calmly, “You figure it out, John.” John draws his gun. When Sweets observes that he can’t shoot them all John turns the gun on Buck and forces him outside.

John turns the gun on Buck rather than
take on the whole Sweets family.

Billings and Mosley arrive at the Sweets farm and ask if the family has seen Buck and John. As the Cannons watch from the barn with the youngest son, Sweets says they haven’t seen anybody. When the two men ride off, the Cannon brothers take off in the opposite direction.

Buck, furious with John for chaining him.

That night, Buck and John sit together around a campfire. Buck asks what John would have done if it wasn’t for the “bank robbery foolishness” and he had just run across him. John smiles and tells him that they’d both be on their way to Arizona. With difficulty, Buck confesses that he missed him. He thought of him all through the war and wished they were together, even if all they did was argue. John tells him he felt the same way. “And that is why I’m doing this,” he says, as he snaps a handcuff around Bucks wrist. He doesn’t want Buck to have any second thoughts.
While they sleep, the Sweets sneak up and Rafe hits John over the head. Buck declines their offer to finish John off. Mr. Sweets thinks they should get a reward and Buck replies that they will – in Heaven. With a gun pulled on Mr. Sweets, he orders them back to their farm. Then he handcuffs John to a log and takes off.

At the Sweets farm, Billings has Mr. Sweets in a forceful grip for lying on their previous encounter. The man explains he had no choice – the Cannons had his son as hostage. Besides, didn’t he send the boy to get him? At least now they only have one man to chase after.

The Sweets, threatened by
Billings and Mobley

By now, John has freed himself and found Buck, making him drop his gun. Buck tells John that he would have been dead ten times over if he himself hadn’t stopped it. Buck wants to go after Billings and Mobley but hasn’t been able to pick up the trail. John merely asks if Buck is ready to ride. But he won’t return Buck’s gun.

Billings and Mosley find Buck’s deserted campfire. Mosley is sorry that Buck is no longer alone. But Billings doesn’t mind. He’s never killed himself a marshal before.
The chase is on again, the Cannons in the lead. They ride into another farm house and rush into the barn. Their chasers are pleased – this is the gang’s meeting place. Shots are fired until a voice tells John and Buck to drop their guns. A man in a Rebel shirt and hat is standing behind them with a gun, greeting Buck. He is Parsons, another of Buck’s former comrades. Parsons has no more than hollered that the Cannons are covered than he slumps to the ground, and Buck grabs his gun. The man is in bad need of a doctor. When he regains consciousness Buck tries to get him to tell John how he tried to talk the group out of the robbery. But Parsons is delirious and thinks that Buck is Billings.

Buck tries to rouse the delirious Parsons.

Billings and Mobley as Buck sneaks up on them

Buck offers to try to sneak around behind their foes. John likes the plan, but he wants to be the one to go. Saying that he is closer to the ground than his “long drink of water” brother, Buck insists, and runs out the back while John covers him. Just as Billings and Mobley are wondering if that is indeed the plan, Buck appears behind them and shoots Billings’ gun out of his hand. Mobley immediately gets his in the air.
John comes out of the barn. He tells them that Parsons is dead. Billings laughs and tells Buck that now he will hang just like they will, because it will be his word against theirs. “What makes you think he’s going to stand trial?” John demands. Casually, John tells them that Parsons “came to” before he died and confirmed Buck’s story. And John’s word of this will stand up better in court than theirs.

Billings and Mobley plan to implicate Buck.

Buck contemplates John's old badge.

Back in the present, Mano asks if the judge did believe John. John comes in and tells them that Buck got a lecture on bad companions and was released. Buck now asks something he’s always wanted to know. Parsons reviving just before he died seemed so convenient. “Are you saying I was lying, Buck?” John asks. Buck quickly says no. And John tells him there is nothing more to talk about then.

Synopsis by Ginny Shook


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 Four Directory

Return to Home/Contents