Analysis of the Episode

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The quality of a tv program or a movie is its ability to accurately mirror the societal values, aspirations, tensions, and contradictions. This article analyzes a western tv series, “Have Guns Will Travel” episode titled “The Mountebank." The paper shall begin by providing a brief synopsis of the episode then proceed to evaluate how the program resolves and illustrates the social issues present in the context.

Synopsis of the Episode

“The Mountebank” is the 15th episode of the fourth season of the much acclaimed western tv series, "Have Guns Will Travel."  The program begins with a scene where Paladin is forced to kill his beloved horse. As he mauls over his frustration at the banks of a river as he cooled his feet in the water, a Mountebank, en route to Fort Pawnee, soon pulls over. The driver, Jack Burnaby, of the Mountebank, carrying performing regalia, offers him lift to Fort Pawnee. Paladin arrives at Fort Pawnee oblivious of the motives of his benefactor (Coburn).

Jack Burnaby is a puppeteer traveling to Fort Pawnee to organize a show. Also present at the show is senator George Croft, also known as “Pawnee” who is eying the white house seat. It is during the performance that Paladin realizes that Burnaby’s motive is not entirely to entertain but has other contrary purposes aimed at the presidential candidate. Paladin engages the Mr. George when he goes and borrows a horse. However, he warns the president-elect indirectly of impending danger ahead. Mr. George's wife appears overprotective of her husband. Nevertheless, Paladin does not succeed in his endeavors to advise the presidential candidate and borrow a horse (Coburn).

The show proceeds without any hitch at first, and everybody seems to enjoy including the general, George Croft, himself.  However, things took a different turn as the performance appeared to mock the presidential candidate. George orders the show to come to a halt, but Burnaby disregarded and continued to perform. The character depicting George seems to slice a lady character with a sword. A somber mood engulfs the audience as everybody leaves including George's wife. The lady cartoon character appears to dies as a result of the injuries from the sword.

At this point, the general looks for his wife, Maryanne, who confronts him and seeks an assurance that whatever depicted in the show was all true. Maryanne is disgusted by the turn of events and avoids the general. George looks disturbed and promises Maryann that he will organize some men and crush Mr. Jack Burnaby, but she won't hear any of that. Meanwhile, Burnaby continues to run his errands usually when Paladin approaches him. Burnaby opens up and reveals to Paladin that the Indian lady depicted in his performance was his dead wife.

Burnaby is overcome with grief as he narrates how Croft took way his wife's life as paladin comforts him. Burnaby wishes to buy Paladin's revolver gun, but Paladin kindly tells him that the gun is not for sale. Burnaby, sobbing, reminds Paladin that everything in this world is for sale and has a price fixed on it. In the meantime, Crofts' voice heard outside Burnaby's carriage ordering them out. However, Burnaby scoffs off and rhetorically says his audience has come for more "hardcore" performance.

Paladin moves out to see and finds the general with other soldiers; Croft orders his soldiers to burn Paladin and Burnaby down. Interestingly, the soldiers defied his orders and took away his military budge citing misuse of authority. Dejected Croft throws snatches a burning torch from one of the soldiers and throws it on Burnaby's caravan, but Burnaby is saved even though slightly burned. Paladin assures Croft that he is going to face the court-martial. The episode concludes when as Paladin comforts Burnaby and asks him now that the caravan is gone how is he going to make a living. However, Burnaby rhetorically replies that "there are so many ways a man can make a living" while crying out "Judy, Judy" as they watch the carriage burn down to ashes (Coburn).

Analysis of The Episode

The program correctly matches the description of a western movie, from the costumes to the setting. Western movies are movies based during the 1800s to the early 1900s. Western genres are found during the conquering of the wild west and based in remote desert locations (Qian 11). Women wore long flowing dresses with hats, while men restricted suites. The places for women in the society were mainly doing house chores and accompanying their husbands as flower girls but never included in any significant decision making. Also, art is consumed primarily to please the wealthy and for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, racism was strife in that era, blacks and Indians were seen as second-class citizens with no right to property. However, the episode “The Mountebank” departs from this early understanding and sets its path in history.

First, Maryanne rebels from the societal confinement of her roles and fights for her place when she influences and contributes to the important decision making of her husband. Further, she is the first to depart from her husband following the allegations. Second, the media is used as a powerful tool for correcting the ills in the society-Burnaby uses comedy inform the electorates the evil deeds of Mr. George when he murdered Juliet. Lastly, despite the places of the Indian population in the society, the general is forced to face the court-martial because of his actions on the Indians (Coburn).


The episode “The Mountebank” is a powerful entertainment and educative tool in the society. I would recommend it heartily for learning purposes.

Works Cited

Coburn, Kevin. "Have Gun Will Travel S04E15 The Mountebank". Youtube, 2017, . Accessed 28 Feb 2018.

Qian, Z. H. A. O. "The Use of Western Movies in British and American Literature Class [J]." Journal of Harbin University 7 (2013): 011.

September 25, 2023


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