The High Chaparral

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Fourth Season
Plot and Character Highlights

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Mano contemplates an uncertain future.

Don Sebastian in flashback sequence.

Victoria and Mano before the reading
of the will.

4.97, 4.98  The New Lion of Sonora   All, especially Mano

Malachi Throne and Dehl Berti 
as the bandidos

Rodrigo and Don Domingo 

Gilbert Roland as Don Domingo Montoya

Gilbert Roland guest stars as the surprise heir to the Montoya ranch in this special two-hour presentation.
Written by James Schmerer, Don Balluck         Directed by Leon Benson

Story Line:  The sudden, peaceful passing of Don Sebastian Montoya brings his daughter Victoria, his son Manolito, John Cannon and Buck to the Montoya ranch to attend funeral services and to settle estate matters. All are amazed to learn the will leaves the vast Montoya holding to Don Sebastian's ne'er-do-well brother Don Domingo, a charming, irresponsible rascal currently living in Mexico City. Upon his return to the family home to claim his legacy, Domingo shocks the family by announcing he plans to sell the ranch and travel. A series of unexplained raids on his new-found cattle and property serves to uncover a little-known dimension of Don Domingo.

Guest Stars:

Gilbert Roland 
as Don Domingo

Albert Paulsen 
as Eduardo Nuervo

Val De Vargas (left)
as Rodrigo

Malachi Throne 
as Julio Armendaris

Roger C. Carmel 
as General Casados

Eddra Gale 
as Lola

Dehl Berti 
as Fuentes

Ref Sanchez (left)
as peon

Myron Healey (left)
as Tommy

Robert Carricart 
as proprietor



Nico De Silva 
as Guard #1


Character Highlights:  As a two-hour special episode, this is the only one that was made available commercially on VHS.  While it wasn't shown last in the season, it was the last episode in the production order and makes sense as the conclusion to the series even if that was not necessarily the intention.  Everything about this episode has to be viewed in the context of Frank Silvera's sudden accidental death.  The first half especially is a tribute to Silvera and it has several fine examples in flashback of his work on the series.  It is a powerful dramatic episode for all the main characters, especially for Manolito.  The scene between Mano and Buck where Mano berates himself for being a disappointment to his father is probably the strongest emotional scene the two men do together in the entire series.   The relationship between Mano and Victoria is also handled very tenderly.  John does a fine job being as supportive as possible of the Montoyas but as usual is at the mercy of this very strong family dynamic.  Good supporting work from Malachi Throne as Julio, the ruthless bandit, from Albert Paulsen as Nuervo, the double-crossing family attorney, and the strongest portrayal we have seen yet from Val De Vargas in the recurring role as Montoya foreman, Rodrigo.    

Gilbert Roland does an excellent job portraying Don Domingo and taking him from the sleazy, unsympathetic scoundrel we first meet in Mexico City to the principled and believable new patron of Rancho Montoya.  Mano is put in the position his father was in so many times with him, trying to instill some sense of responsibility in his ne'er-do-well uncle.  Mano finds that the responsibility that he always tried to avoid is one his principles will not let him ignore.  It becomes very important to him to not let the Rancho Montoya fall into disarray and eventually he and Don Domingo are aligned in their desire to uphold the Montoya name that they share.  In the final scene we get a refreshing glimpse of the playful nature of Buck and Mano that has been missing throughout much of the fourth season.


Complete Episode Synopsis
Buck Cannon is the bearer of sad news as he dismounts at the High Chaparral ranch. He begins slowly announcing the devastating news that Don Sebastian Montoya has died unexpectedly. His heirs, Victoria Cannon and Manolito Montoya, as well as John Cannon, must travel to Sonora.  Victoria and John leave immediately but Mano has ridden off and Buck stays behind to come to make the journey with him.

Buck, thinking how to break the news.

Everyone is painfully aware that Manolito is the rightful heir to the vast estate but it is also understood that he has never embraced the responsibilities of being a haciendado. 

Mano tries to ignore Buck's presence.

After the funeral services Mano retreats to work on a couple bottles of tequila in order to ignore his grief and remorse for not being the son his father wanted him to be.  Buck offers to go find Mano and ends up helping him find a way out of his confusion.

Mano gives in to his grief and

In one of the most compelling scenes of the series, Buck pulls Mano back from despairing over the disappointment he
felt he was to his father and encourages him to at least think about accepting responsibility for Rancho Montoya.

Mano reminisces about the past and contemplates his future.

As the family gathers at Rancho Montoya for the reading of the will, Mano rides alone through the desert, following Buck's suggestion to at least think about taking on responsibility for Rancho Montoya.  As he does he recalls some of the many conversations he had with his father about the differences between them, and particularly about his father's desire that Mano find a direction for his life.

In flashback, Mano recalls trying to explain how his goals are different than his father's.

The formal reading of the will.

His late father makes it clear in his will that he understands that position and respects it, leaving his vast holdings to his only brother, Don Domingo (Gilbert Roland). Don Domingo is a rogue and has no more interest in Rancho Montoya than a game of cards. The family is bewildered by the choice.

Mano is stunned to hear Rancho Montoya has been left to Domingo.

Fuentes and Julio watch as Manolito leaves.

John Cannon suggests contesting the will. The shock is understandable, yet Manolito vows to bring back his uncle from the bordellos of Mexico City, for the good of the rancho.

Meantime, a conniving bandido, Julio Armendaris, teams up with Fuentes, his henchman to consider how easy it will be stealing cattle from an unprotected vega while its new owner is not available, and their only true threat, Manolito Montoya, is in search of him.

In Mexico City, Mano walks the streets and finds Don Domingo in the thralls of a dangerous general who wants to win at cards, and a very dangerous gamble of his own.  Mano interrupts the game to deliver the news. Mano becomes painfully aware that his Uncle Domingo continues to live his life his way, gambling, womanizing, and enjoying his freedom to do as he chooses.

“I can see you are not overcome by grief,” Mano says to Domingo. Tio Domingo finds himself the sole heir to Rancho Montoya but as a silent insult, he returns to the game using his new fortune as his wager. The deal is played out, the stakes being his life, and Domingo wins. A spark of high interest shines in Mano’s eyes. The general loses his entire fortune as well and bellows with laughter. Honor among gamblers being what it is, the general allows the Monotyas to leave unharmed.

Mano finally catches up with his uncle.

The bandit's accomplice is the Montoya's lawyer, Eduardo Nuervo.

Back at the bandido’s hideout, Julio’s men have hit the herds relentlessly with the aim of catching the Montoya cattle and selling them for quick profit. The exchange of money from the Montoya’s personal lawyer, Eduardo Nuervo, to purchase more manpower is the driving force now.

Julio accepts cash from Nuervo
to hire more bandidos.

The lawyer knows where the herds are being moved, the inventory, and when the least amount of security is assigned to each herd. If all goes well, he plans to buy out the Rancho Montoya from Domingo and legally become the next Lion of Sonora.  Julio, in his effort to establish himself as the power over the land, continues his personal plan to decimate the herds and take over Rancho Montoya as the new Lion of Sonora himself. To continue his power play, he will send his men to steal Cannon herds, thereby keeping Cannon away from Montoya lands for awhile.  As the camera pans the final scene, Buck Cannon is crouching and shooting at more bandits who have struck at their herds daily. He scrambles for cover and says, “I do hope Mano gets Don Domingo here soon or there won’t be a ranch to inherit.”

Don Domingo explains his plans to sell Rancho Montoya and live off the proceeds.

At the Montoya Rancho, Don Domingo meets with John Cannon and learns of the alliance that will strengthen their two estates. But Domingo is aloof and extremely unaffected by the loss of cattle, the deterioration of the rancho, and the lack of loyalty from the peones. He wishes to remove himself from the problems thrust upon him and merely sell the estate and its assets. Victoria, and especially Mano, are shocked beyond words. To give up all for money is unreasonable. 
Sam Butler’s arrival at Rancho Montoya interrupts their disappointment. He reports that the Cannon herds are being hit hard. The bandits are moving in and wearing the crew down. John Cannon realizes that it may be too late to save the Rancho Montoya but there is still time to save the High Chaparral.  He makes arrangements to leave immediately to take care of business at home.  Mano decides to stay behind to see if he can get his Uncle Domingo to see the importance of his position and responsibility at Rancho Montoya.  Meanwhile, the bandit Julio shares his strategy with the Montoya’s lawyer, Nuervo. His plan of distraction, leading Cannon and his men away from Sonora, is working. Already he has captured much cattle and sold some off. Nuervo is eager to accept his part of the profit but not at the expense of being caught in the middle.
The two men battle over loyalties and who should be the rightful owner of Rancho Montoya. Julio has more clout, more men under his leadership, and more cunning. The lawyer must be careful how far he asserts his own power in front of Julio. He knows that a brutish, lazy bandit could never run the ranch or keep it a valuable estate without running it into the ground in a matter of months. Julio threatens the lawyer with his life to keep the plan in place.

Julio threatens Nuervo as they argue over who is really in charge of their plans.

Mano angrily tells Don Domingo why he
should accept his responsibilities.

Back at Rancho Montoya Mano gives Don Domingo a severe tongue-lashing in an attempt to resolve his disregard for the responsibilities to his vast inheritance and to the peones who depend on him as their patron for protection and stability. Manolito takes a proactive stance to explain what assets are in jeopardy if Don Domingo does not protect them. The loss of more than a 1,000 head of cattle, continual raids, and many good men killed or scared off are factors he cannot ignore. Domingo decides these burdens are not his so he travels to High Chaparral to offer the estate to Cannon.
Of course, John cannot afford to purchase Rancho Montoya when he can barely keep his own ranch out of trouble. Domingo leaves, knowing that his offer was turned down.
Back at the outlaw hideout, the bandit and lawyer confer again. The lawyer is getting nervous but accepts the money from another sale of a herd. This time the amount is significantly smaller. He is painfully aware that his time is limited with Julio. Once he returns to Rancho Montoya, he is confronted by Don Domingo. He, too, is suspicious about the timing of the herds being stolen and the possibility of an inside man. Domingo asks to calculate how long the raids will continue, and the lawyer tells him that the raids will most likely go on until nothing is left.

Don Domingo begins to suspect Nuervo.

This is exactly what Don Domingo had thought. He packs in preparation to leave. He relinquishes all rights to Mano and Victoria. He has refused to fight for whatever holdings might be left. It was never his to fight for since he had no direct investment in it.

Mano finally appeals to Don Domingo on the basis of protecting the Montoya name.

At this point, Manolito becomes nearly enraged. He makes another plea to get through to Don Domingo. This time he uses the fine name of Montoya and its rich heritage to drawn Domingo into the fight. As a rich hidalgo, Domingo has more than a rancho but a deep connection to its peones and the commitment to protect the land and its people. Domingo was never aware of this status. When Mano appeals to him on the basis of protecting the Montoya name that they share, we see the first sign of real commitment from Don Domingo.
Domingo decides to offer payment to his peones to fight for him, to protect what they have left. Together they will spend their last cent – all or nothing – to gamble on a victory over the bandits. Mano and Domingo finally agree on the biggest gamble of their lives.
In the meantime, Julio has amassed a fighting force with money he has made from the cattle. While the peones are rallying behind Julio, a house of peones is burned down as an example to keep the rest of the peones in line. This is a fateful mistake on Julio’s part.  Domingo is personally recruiting peones to fight. Riding from village to village, he comes upon the burned home, and is learning what loyalty and commitment are made of. He invites the displaced family to live and work at Rancho Montoya under his protection. Domingo has seen far more than he was willing to accept. He continues to learn how important his position truly is.

Fuentes burns the house of a peon.

Finally committed to each other's mutual protection, the Cannons and Montoyas develop their strategy against the bandits.

Manolito brings news to High Chaparral that Domingo is now offering a binding agreement to continue the alliance that Don Sebastian had originally made. They confer and soon figure out that Montoya’s faithful lawyer is the insider who has been supporting Julio all along. John Cannon plans to trap the lawyer by saying he will move all his cattle into a box canyon for safekeeping. The trap is set. Now Domingo rides with the lawyer as they move the herd on the trail to face the bandits. The battle is set in a narrow canyon. The bandits are defeated and Domingo leaves the lawyer and bandit to settle their differences.

At the fiesta Buck is back to his
playful and troublesome self.

Back at Rancho Montoya, the episode ends with a rousing fiesta celebration. Domingo decides to stay on as the New Lion of Sonora, surrounded by peons and villagers grateful to have a patron who cares about them and can protect them.

Don Domingo addresses his late
brother, Don Sebastian Montoya.

There is a toast and Domingo sits confidently in his big chair, and admits to his departed brother, Don Sebastian, “You would not believe what has happened to me.”

(Synopsis by Barbara Ann “Rusty” LaGrange)

Note: As the final episode filmed of the series, it was fitting that the chapter of Don Sebastian Montoya was completed. But it set into motion the promise of the continuing saga of a rejuvenated Montoya Rancho. If the series had continued, the stories between the Cannons and Montoyas would certainly have been rich and fulfilling.


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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