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Episodes appear in order of original air date which may not coincide with when they were actually filmed. Episodes that are linked have an In-Depth article.

Season 12: Episodes #362-369 | #370-377 | #378-385 | #386-389

Top Hand

Episode #378: Top Hand

Air Date: January 17, 1971   Written by: John Hawkins, Arthur Heinemann   Directed by: William F. Claxton
Guest Stars: Ben Johnson (Kelly James), Roger Davis (Bert Yates), Walter Barnes (Weatherby), Jerry Gatlin (Quincy)

The Cartwrights join forces with neighboring ranchers for a cattle drive. Deciding who will be trail boss leads to a dispute.

Trivia: This is Ben Johnson's third and final appearance in the series. He initially turned down the role of Sam the Lion in The Last Picture Show (1971) when it was first offered to him by Peter Bogdanovich because he thought the script was "dirty," and he did not approve of swearing and nudity in motion pictures. Bogdanovich appealed to John Ford, who got Johnson to change his mind as a favor to him. With the permission of Bogdanovich, Johnson rewrote his part with the offensive words removed. Johnson went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the role.

Deck of Aces

Episode #379: A Deck of Aces

Air Date: January 31, 1971   Written by: Herbert Kastle, Stanley Hawkins   Directed by: Lewis Allen
Guest Stars: Alan Oppenheimer (Wentworth), Linda Gaye Scott (Dixie), Jeff Morris (Turk), Ray Teal (Roy Coffee), Victor Sen Yung (Hop Sing)

Bradley Meredith, a Ben Cartwright look-a-like, causes trouble when he sells land to the railroad. Ben has already turned down the deal, but Meredith, acting as Ben, accepts the deal, which stirs up all kinds of trouble.

Trivia: This was Alan Oppenheimer's first of three appearances in the series. Oppenheimer was a regular on 1960s TV sitcoms as eggheaded foils to Lucille Ball and many others, playing official types. He is also one of the finest animated voice artists in the business, Oppenheimer has provided many famous cartoon voices including Mighty Mouse, Skeletor, and Ming the Merciless, among hundreds of others over a four-decade career.


Episode #380: The Desperado

Air Date: February 7, 1971   Written by: George Lovell Hayes   Directed by: Phillip Leacock
Guest Stars: Louis Gossett, Jr. (Buck Walter), Ramon Bieri (Sheriff Solomon), Marlene Clark (Eliza Walter)

Hoss is held prisoner by a fugitive black couple who they admit hate white people and have nothing to lose by killing them.

Trivia: Gossett made his professional acting debut at the age of 17, winning the Donaldson Award as best newcomer to theatre. He went to NYU on a basketball scholarship and was invited to try out for the NY Knicks, yet he decided to continue his acting career with a role in the Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun.

He was originally cast as Gale Sayers in the 1971 TV movie Brian's Song (1971) (TV). Just days before shooting began, Gossett tore his Achilles' tendon while working out for the film. The studio execs scrambled and quickly hired Billy Dee Williams as a replacement. Gossett, depressed over missing his "shot", was promised by producer David L. Wolper the first great role that came along. About six years later, Wolper called Gossett to play "Fiddler" in Roots (1977), the Emmy-winning role that made him a star.

Reluctant American

Episode #381: The Reluctant American

Air Date: February 14, 1971   Written by: Stanley Roberts   Directed by: Phillip Leacock
Guest Stars: Daniel Massey (Leslie Harwood), Jill Haworth (Jillian Harwood), Victor Sen Yung (Hop Sing)

An English couple comes to Nevada to learn why a ranch owned by the British investment firm is the only company holding not showing a profit.

Trivia: This is Daniel Massey's first and only appearance in the series. Golden Globe winner for Star! (1968) in which he played Noel Coward, his real-life godfather.

Shadow Hero

Episode #382: Shadow of a Hero

Air Date: February 21, 1971   Written by: John Hawkins, B.W. Sandefur, Mel Goldberg   Directed by: Leo Penn
Guest Stars: Dean Jagger (General Ira Cloninger), Laurence Luckinbill (Freed), John Randolph (Judge), Linda Watkins (Bertha Cloninger)

Ben is shocked to learn the Army general he is backing as governor, advocates a policy of genocide towards all Indians.

Trivia: This was Dean Jagger's first and only appearance in the series. Jagger found his niche as a character actor and the highlight of his career was winning an Oscar for "Best Supporting Actor," in the 1949 movie Twelve O'Clock High (1949). Jagger was very taken by the character of Brigham Young, reacting warmly when his performance was praised by then President of the LDS Church, Heber J. Grant. This led to a careful study of the Mormon faith for Jagger, who was ultimately baptized a member of the faith in 1972. Subsequently, he willed his personal papers and movie memorabilia to the Harold B. Lee library at Brigham Young University.

Silent Killer

Episode #383: The Silent Killer

Air Date: February 28, 1971   Written by: John Hawkins, Edward DeBlasio   Directed by: Leo Penn
Guest Stars: Meg Foster (Evangeline Woodtree), Louise Latham (Harriet Clinton), Harry Holcombe (Dr. Martin), Ion Berger (Dr. George Woodtree)

An epidemic of influenza hits the Ponderosa and the only person who seems sure of what to do is the wife of a doctor, whom Doc Martin says is a fraud.

Trivia: This was Meg Foster's first and only appearance in the series. She was the original Chris Cagney in the 1970 CBS series, Cagney and Lacey, but was replaced by Sharon Gless after 6 episodes because CBS reportedly wanted someone 'more feminine'.

Terror at 2:00

Episode #384: Terror at 2:00

Air Date: March 7, 1971   Written by: Michael Landon   Directed by: Michael Landon
Guest Stars: Steve Ihnat (Mr. Ganns), Dabbs Greer (Sam Dawson), Bing Russell (Deputy Clem Foster)

A man plans to rid every person on the street of Virginia City that has come to witness a peace treaty signing. With his Gatling gun pointed out the hotel window, Joe realizes something is wrong and stops him only minutes before a tragedy takes place.

Trivia: This is Steve Ihnat's second appearance in the series. He had the rare ability to turn a one-dimensional stereotype into a multi-dimensional character, and possessed a marvelous speaking voice that could imbue even the most banal dialogue with emotion, interest, and charm. Ihnat was raised on a farm in Lynden, Ontario. His family settled there after fleeing his native Czechoslovakia in 1939, when he was five. Ihnat, his mother, father and two young boys from other families left Czechoslovakia, three days before Prague was closed. He died in 1972 at the age of 38. In a eerie twist of fate, his only son also died young - at the age of 32 from complications of diabetes.

Stillness Within

Episode #385: The Stillness Within

Air Date: March 14, 1971   Written by: Suzanne Clauser   Directed by: Michael Landon
Guest Stars: Jo Van Fleet (Ellen Dobbs), Harry Holcombe (Dr. Martin), Victor Sen Yung (Hop Sing)

Joe is blinded by an explosion of nitroglycerin. Joe's prolonged blindness, along with the depression that sets in causes Ben to hire a teacher for the blind. Ben is quite upset to find out she is also blind. Miss Dobbs reassures Ben that she is more than capable to teach Joe how to deal with his blindness and live in the world around him. She then sets off on her mission with Joe, not telling him that she too is blind.

Trivia: This is Jo Van Fleet's second and last appearance in the series. She played the role of the Stepmother in the 1965 television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, but was replaced by another (uncredited) actress when the cast album was recorded.

When Suzanne Clauser originally wrote this script, Miss Dobbs was to be a younger woman who Joe would fall in love with. When Michael Landon read the script, he changed her to an older character as he was tired of Joe falling in love with every woman that crossed his path.