"The Prize"

(Original air date 12/16/68)


A bounty hunter's quarry comes for his newborn son, left with
Heath when the mother dies


Writer: D.C. Fontana

Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Riding back to the ranch with a new mare on a tether, Heath encounters a deputy marshal bounty hunter posing as a preacher. Weaver (Bruce Dern) explains that he had to shoot his lame horse a few miles up the road and at gun point, forces Heath to allow him to borrow his new filly in order to pursue his quest for a wanted man, Ben Rawlins. Heath accepts to lend him the mare on the condition that he rides along with him until he finds another horse. Weaver is not thrilled by the idea of having Heath on his heels but agrees that two guns are better than one.

They arrive at Rawlins's rundown shack. Instead of the man, they find his sick wife in bed and her newborn son, Joey (the Dyer twins).

Getting nowhere with the woman, Weaver searches the place while Heath tends to her and the baby.


At night, Weaver stands guard outside for any sign of Rawlins while inside, Heath plays father by giving Joey his bottle. The mother, Amanda, (Ondine Vaughn) admires Heath's easiness at handling babies. He tells her about the time he was staying with a family of twelve and had to learn how to diaper in self-defence.

Restless, Weaver walks back in and badgers Amanda to reveal her husband's whereabouts. She keeps quiet, insisting that Ben is a decent man who wouldn't hurt anyone, but Weaver knows different.


Heath suspects Weaver's determination at nailing Rawlins is solely motivated by the ten thousand dollar reward. Weaver admits that he's in it for the money to compensate for the meagre salary he receives as a deputy marshal.

During the night, Amanda steals away with Joey. However her illness prevents her from going farther than the corral where she collapses. Heath carries her back into bed.

Weaver suspects she was off to warn her husband and therefore insists she tells him where he is right now. Heath's temper flares up and whacks Weaver in the face.


Feeling the end is near, Amanda makes Heath promise her to take care of Joey.

The next morning, Heath buries Amanda in the backyard and gets a few things together to ride out to the ranch with Joey, while Weaver decides to stay at the shack to await Rawlins's return.


On the road back home, Heath makes a brief stop along the way to feed Joey. As he lays him down in the basket, he starts to cry. Heath picks him up and burps him. He smiles, believing the problem is solved. Back in his basket, Joey continues to wail. This time, Heath figures he might be teething. He goes to Charger to cut a piece of leather off his saddle to give it to the baby.


Not far away, Ben Rawlins (Peter Haskell) and his three cohorts are nearing the house. Ben confides in his right hand man, Link Mason (Ed Bakey) that's he's tired of living the life of a fugitive and intends to make amends with Amanda and run off to Canada where US justice can't touch him.

Heath returns to the ranch with Joey and explains to Victoria that he's the son of a wanted murderer.


Rawlins shows up at his house to find his wife and baby gone. Link calls him out to the backyard where he sees Amanda's grave. He does notice that Joey's name is not inscribed and rides off alone to find his son. His three companions refuse to follow him for they know he's heading into a trap. Weaver tails him.


Nick comes home to find Joey in a crib. When he learns of the identity of his father, Nick chides Heath for bringing trouble to the ranch. He knows that once Rawlins picks up his trail, it will lead him to their doorstep. He suggests placing Joey in an orphanage but Heath won't hear of it. Victoria proposes to find Joey a nice home with lots of kids to play with and until she does, he will remain at the ranch.

Empty cans of milk and Joey's favorite doll are clear indications that Rawlins is on the right track. Soon, Weaver catches up with him. Rawling shoots him down his horse and rides away.


The next morning, Heath drives his mother and Joey to the Whittakers' house. Mrs. Whittaker (Peggy Ann Garner) is already quite smitten with the baby but shrinks back when she learns the name of his father.

They get the same reaction from the Stanleys (Noah Keen and Rhoda Williams).

They return to the ranch. Heath is disturbed and somewhat angry at the neighbours' reaction. Nick asks what will happen if they can't find Joey a home and Heath replies that they will simply keep him. Victoria happily seconds the motion.


During the night, Joey starts crying, prompting Nick to get out of bed in a huff. He stamps out of his bedroom and over to the baby's where he tries to calm him down. Seeing how he's alone, Nick's soft side kicks in. He cradles Joey in his arms and teaches him how to say "Uncle Nick". Audra stands by the door, admiring her brother's touch.


The next morning, while loading baby supplies onto the rig, Heath and Nick run into Jameson (Walter Coy) a loudmouthed neighbour who doesn't appreciate the fact that the Barkleys are keeping the son of a robber and murderer. He believes the boy will be trouble once he grows up to be just like his father. Heath doesn't stand for that kind of talk. As he's poised ready to swing a punch in his jaw, Nick's fist goes in first.

Listening in on the conversation is Ben Rawlins.

He later rides up to the ranch under the assumed name of Tom Barrett and asks Heath for a job.


Rawlins reports to Victoria for his next set of chores, cleaning windows. She is disturbed to see him staring at Joey but nonetheless let's him hold him.

Weaver shows up on the front porch, asking to set a trap for Rawlins at the ranch. Heath refuses and sends him on his way.


Before they have time to realize it, Victoria and Heath are held at gun point by Rawlins who insists on taking his son along with him.

As he opens the door, a shot is fired in his direction. He dashes back inside. Weaver has him cornered. He gives Joey back to Victoria.


As Heath reaches for his gun, Rawlins shoots at him but misses him by a mile on purpose. Heath reacts by gunning him down. Before heaving his last breath, Rawlins explains how he wanted Heath to kill him so that the reward money would go to Joey instead of Weaver.

Days later, the Stanleys show up at the ranch to express their desire to adopt Joey. Nick grants them their wish on one condition: that he and Heath be allowed visiting rights.


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