This week I rewatched two more episodes of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. This time we board a riverboat then deal with some pirates. Now that we’re past the episode switch up these next two are in the same order they aired. Saddle up and prepare to ride with the Chin That Won The West.
Episode 6 is “Riverboat.” I’ll let Bruce Campbell introduce it.
The episode begins with Brisco confronting an outlaw. Unfortunately the outlaw has reinforcements and Brisco is outgunned. Just then a telegraph delivery boy rides up on a bicycle. Brisco grabs the kid and dives with him behind a water trough. Brisco shots the latch off a nearby horse corral and the resulting stampede knocks down the outlaws. The telegram is from Socrates Poole and just says “Help.”
Brisco arrives in the town of Gateway, Louisiana (not quite New Orleans as Bruce Campbell said but close enough) to find Socrates locked up in the local jail. He lost to a riverboat gambler and refused to pay because the gambler was cheating. That gambler turns out to be Brett Bones, “the most gentlemanly member of John Bly’s gang.” Brisco doesn’t just want to get Socrates out of jail, he wants Bones too.
Brisco conceals his identity, trading his usual duds for something more fitting for a charming gentleman rogue (see episode note below). He even leaves his pistol behind (the distinctive hand-carved grips would give him away as well). Brisco encounters Bones while he’s watching his boxer train and introduces himself as Roscoe Merriwether. He arranges to play poker with Bones on his riverboat.
A sheriff rides up with a young black man, Wylie, who accuses Bones of murdering his brother. Bones pulls out a blanket pardon from the governor of Louisiana that protects him. When a couple of Bones’ goons rough up Wylie, Brisco takes care of them. They tie up the goons with a special weave of cotton (you can probably guess what it will be revealed to be at the end of the episode) that Wylie and his brother developed. Wylie’s brother was killed because he was tired of paying Bones’ unofficial tax on river traffic past Gateway. Brisco enlists Wylie’s aid.
At the poker game Brisco says Socrates works for him and wins Poole’s freedom (with a little cheating at the cards) as well as a bunch of cash. Brisco and Socrates return to Brisco’s hotel room to find Wylie knocked out then they are attacked and knocked out.
They wake up to find the money gone. Brisco says the first part of the con - provoking Bones - has worked so it’s on to the next step. Brisco sents two telegrams. One is for money from the tycoons in San Francisco (you gotta flash cash in a good con). The other is for Lord Bowler.
Brisco talks Bowler into boxing Bones’ fighter. Brisco sets up a match (flashing that cash to lure Bones). Unbeknownst to Bowler, Wylie visits Bones’ boxer and pays him to take a dive. Just as Bowler wins the match none other than Dixie Cousins shows up ringside. She’s in town to see Bones about a business proposition. Socrates play up his role as “disgruntled employee of Roscoe” in front of Bones, who doesn’t have the cash on him to pay off his losing wager on the boxing match. Brisco will meet him later on his riverboat.
But it’s a trap! Brisco is tied to a vertical wheel of fortune and spun as Bones’ henchman Mr. Hatchet throws a namesake at him...
Brisco stops the wheel at the right time for the hatchet to cut his binding. He escapes from the riverboat.
Brisco sends “disgruntled employee” Socrates to set up another boxing match. Socrates tells Bones that “Roscoe” cheated at the card game and fixed the fight because he wants to take over Gateway and Bones’ river traffic extortion racket. Socrates explains “Roscoe” is low enough on funds that losing a large bet on a fair fight will wipe him out. Bones isn’t completely sold but he wants back at “Roscoe” enough to go for the rematch.
Brisco meets Dixie. Bones overhears the conversation.where Brisco warns her to stay away from Bones because he’s nothing but trouble. After Brisco leaves Bones reveals himself and talks to Dixie.
Bones threatens his boxer to ensure he doesn’t take another dive. Bowler finds out the first bout was fixed and balks at fighting the rematch. Brisco offers Bowler the whole bounty on Bones (Brisco isn’t doing all this for the money). Bowler stays but isn’t confident of his chances of winning (but Brisco’s plan doesn’t require him to win anyway).
Dixie makes plans with Bones to open a club then reveals that “Roscoe” is really Brisco County Jr. to Bones. To prevent Brisco from snatching him away during the fight, Bones changes the venue to his riverboat. Bones has a reputation to protect so the fight will go on where he can win “fair and square” before killing Brisco.
Of course it turns out Dixie was part of the con (the dame is another essential element of a con). She and Brisco get control of the riverboat bridge while everyone is distracted by the fight. Dixie steers while Brisco returns to the main room and the fight.
Bowler is almost knocked out but then he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee with some fancy footwork and knocks out Bones’ boxer.
The riverboat runs aground and is boarded by lawmen. But since Dixie grounded the riverboat on the Mississippi side of the river, Bones’ pardon is useless and he is taken into custody.
Brisco and Dixie have time for a long kiss before she leaves on a stagecoach. Socrates wonders what to do with Wylie’s cotton fabric he calls denim and Brisco says he’s thinking of having some pants made from it. They ride off together.
- Like Bruce Campbell said, this episode captures the feel of an old Western show and Brisco’s alter ego dresses like Bret Maverick.
- It’s a caper episode and if you’re familiar with capers none of the plot twists will surprise you.
- For those pondering the geography, the town of Gateway is far enough up the Mississippi River for the riverboat to plausibly reach the Mississippi side of the river in a few hours judging by the map shown at the start of the episode as Brisco is riding to Louisiana.
Episode 7 is “Pirates!” Here’s Bruce:
We start off with a covered wagon racing across the desert. In the back are a sick little boy and his mother. While the father is driving the wagon. They are being chased by horsemen and an armored coach flying a pirate flag. The wagon is stopped and out of the armored coach steps the pirate captain Blackbeard LaCutte. In the distance Brisco rides up a rise and sees what’s going on...
By the time Brisco gets to the wagon LaCutte and his men have stripped the wagon and ridden off. Brisco takes the sick boy and his parents to the nearest town where the local doctor tells them that LaCutte and his pirates have stolen the town’s supplies. The boy will die without medicine that is in LaCutte’s hands.
Meanwhile back in San Francisco Lord Bowler finds out from Socrates that Brisco is out in Nevada tracking down LaCutte, another member of Bly’s gang who killed Brisco’s father. He follows Brisco’s trail (we see that Bowler actually is a skilled tracker).
In the town saloon Brisco gets into a fight with some of LaCutte’s men. He gets help with the timely appearance of Bowler. The two bounty hunters agree to team up (again, Brisco isn’t in this for the money so Bowler is game since he doesn’t have split the bounty).
They sneak into LaCutte’s hideout and find the medicine but are could before they can get out. LaCutte ties them up and throws them into quicksand (a classic Hollywood trope that had to show up sooner or later). The pirates ride off and leave Brisco and Bowler sinking in the quicksand...
Brisco manages to get Bowler’s boot knife out and cut their bonds. He uses the rope to form a lasso and snags the saddlehorn on Comet. The horse pulls Brisco and Bowler clear of the quicksand.
But LaCutte’s men return and recapture Brisco and Bowler. LaCutte has realized who Brisco is. (Remember his father’s custom pistol that I mentioned above in the previous episode?) LaCutte intends to ransom Brisco back to the tycoons for ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Bowler has no value however. LaCutte’s men begin flogging Bowler but Brisco gets loose and he and Bowler head for the exit. Only Brisco escapes (with the medicine. Bowler is still in LaCutte’s hands.
The tycoons refuse to pay so Socrates decides to ride to Nevada and try to bluff LaCutte. The plan falls through since LaCutte doesn’t have Brisco anymore and Socrates really doesn’t have the money.
Brisco gets the medicine to little Charlie and he gets better. Charlie’s father and Brisco head to LaCutte’s hideout.
LaCutte is about to abandon the hideout. Bowler and Socrates are tied up and set on top of a pile of dynamite. LaCutte double crosses his men and traps them in the cave as well. He sets a trail of gunpowder as a fuse (the tropes keep rolling out) but is confronted by Brisco before he can light it. The two engage in a swashbuckling sword fight (it is a pirate episode). Brisco disarms LaCutte but the pirate manages to light the gunpowder fuse and runs off while Brisco prevents the fuse from setting off the dynamite.
Brisco and Comet catch up to LaCutte and knock him off his horse. He lands in the quicksand patch. Brisco tries to help but LaCutte tries to pull him in so they’ll both die. Bowler shows up and using maximum effort pulls Brisco free. LaCutte sinks under the quicksand.
The town gets all its supplies back. Brisco will vouch for LaCutte’s death without a body to show so Bowler will get paid. Little Charlie thinks his father and Brisco are heroes. Brisco, Bowler and Socrates ride off together.
- In these two episodes Brisco and Bowler have moved from antagonists to friendly rivals willing to team up. This mismatched buddy cop relationship works much better.
- For those keeping track, LaCutte makes the fourth member of the twelve Bly gang escapees that Brisco has tracked down.
All images via screencap