"The Guilt of Matt Bentell"

(Original air date 12/08/65)


The Barkleys learn that their new lumber camp foreman is the infamous former
commandant of a corrupt prison during the Civil War


Writer: Paul Savage

Director: Lewis Allen

The Barkleys get ready to welcome Matt Toddman, (John Anderson) the man they hired as the lumber camp foreman, to a small get-together to discuss his idea of a flume to increase production. He and wife Cinda (Martine Bartlett) settle in the living room just as Heath enters. The young Barkley comes face to face with the man he recognizes as Matt Bentell, the commandant of a prison camp in which he suffered hell on earth. In a frenzy of anger, he pounces on him and smacks him in the face. He reveals his true identity and how he's sworn to kill him.

In a state of blind rage, Heath recounts to his family the agony he suffered during those seven months in Carterson prison and that despite the fact that the war is long over, he could never forget the barbaric treatments he and other prisoners were subjected to. Victoria feels her son's pain for having shared his hatred of a man to want him killed for her husband's death, but explains to Heath that the hate will only consume him deeper if he doesn't bury the past. Nick decides to fire the man but Jarrod has a different suggestion.


They ask Matt to stay on as foreman but Cinda is against the idea. When Matt accepts, Victoria and his sons further discuss the project. They are willing to invest the money into the operation but are afraid that if word of Matt Bentell gets out, the hired men might just turn on him. To maintain the peace, they propose having Heath accompany him to the camp. He will easily be able to recognize any former Carterson prisoners and protect Bentell from any harm. Heath refuses to comply with his family's demand, but Victoria finally convinces him to go.


They arrive at the lumber camp where Matt addresses the men as Matt Bentell as opposed of Matt Toddman. The name drives a few men to quit. Matt tells Heath he won't give up his job unless driven to quit and hopes that Heath will honor his promise to his family to watch his back.


Given the lack of workers, an ad is plastered around town asking for men, but the Barkleys have a tough time finding good hands on account of the foreman's reputation. Donlon, (Chuck Bail), a disgruntled former employee, threatens Jarrod to fire Bentell but when his demand is met with sarcasm, Donlon engages Jarrod in a fistfight. Two brothers Gil (Anthony Zerbe) and Aaron Condon (Morgan Woodward) jump in and lend a hand to Jarrod. Both are hired on the spot.


Bentell and Heath start interviewing the candidates. Romanian Polick (Gene Dynarski) is accepted but Heath turns down Abe Morley (John Goff), a man with a brother who died in Carterson, for he suspects he might be trouble. Same goes for the Condon brothers, but Matt proposes to send them to the construction camp against Heath's advices.


In the woods an attempt on Matt's life has Heath riding up to his rescue, only to have Matt accuse him of being behind the plot on his life. Heath admits to wanting him dead but had he been behind that murder attempt, he wouldn't have missed.

Polick approaches Heath about the murder attempt and warns him about the danger of protecting such a wanted man. Although Heath agrees with the man he nevertheless turns a deaf ear as he promised his family to watch the man's back at all cost.


Days later, while Bentell and the strawboss (Paul Sorenson) discuss the lateness of the work on account of the lack of men.

Up on the hill Gil severs the rope holding the scaffold, but Heath jumps on Bentell to shield him and goes after the culprit.

He finds the Condon brothers who, by recalling past events of Carterson, try to beguile Heath into joining them against Bentell.


Back at the camp, Heath ponders, torn between his hatred of Bentell and his promise to his family. Cinda goes to thank him for saving her husband's life, which Heath is not proud of. To make sure it doesn't happen again, he decides to leave. She slaps him in the face, saying that her husband suffered as much as those men did in that prison. He had no choice but to reinforce the rules the prisoners seem so intent on breaking on a daily basis. She says that her husband had been tipped off about the escape by a snitch within their group.

Bentell confesses that Aaron Condon was the informant. He did it in exchange for his help in saving his brother's leg, hence the reason why the brothers want him dead in fear he might expose them.

The Condon brothers plot their revenge. They propose to light a fire to create a diversion while they get to Bentell.


Heath spots the fire and alerts the men. All try their best to douse the flames but to no avail. Bentell suggests the use of nitro to stop the raging inferno. He and Heath get a case and start planting the bottles.


Gil tries to steal one flask but Heath stops him. He smacks the blond in the face and as he falls to the ground, he hits his head against a rock.


Bentell comes behind Gil and orders him to step away from the nitro while he goes to Heath, unconscious on the ground. Gil is intent on killing Bentell and therefore will throw that nitro.


Failing to get a response out of Heath, Bentell carries him away from the flames while Aaron pleads with his desperate brother to stop his foolishness. The nitro explodes, killing both brothers. Bentell shields Heath from the blast.


Back at the ranch, the Bentells and the Barkleys celebrate the end of the flume. Cinda is grateful to Victoria for her husband's laugh and Victoria returns the compliment, happy that Heath is okay and that the journey taught him to bury the past.


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