(20) “The Last Laugh”

Original Airdate: (January 25, 1958)

Paladin is the center of blame when a practical joke set up by a rancher goes terribly wrong.

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, Written by Don Brinkley.

PETER WHITNEY as Judd Calhoun
MURRAY HAMILTON as Ed McKay
STUART WHITMAN as Gil Borden
JEAN ALLISON as Nora Borden
FRANKIE DARRO as Mickey
JACK HOLLAND as Hank
LOVYSS BRADLEY as Townswoman (uncredited)
CHICK HANNAN as Stage Driver (uncredited)
JIMMY NOEL as Townsman (uncredited)

You’ve had your big moment.
You’ve been judge, jury and executioner.
Now it’s time for you to take a look at the truth.

EXT. STAGECOACH TRAIL – DAY

Paladin is riding in a stagecoach into town.

EXT. IN A WESTERN TOWN – DAY

STAGECOACH DRIVER

Yah! Yah!

JUDD CALHOUN
You hurt my horse, and I’ll kill you!

ED MCKAY
Hey, Judd, know what’s good for a tired horse? Put a burr under its saddle. Nothing like a burr for spooking up a half-dead horse. Here, Mickey, show it to him.

MICKEY
Now, wait a minute, Ed, you know how he gets.

ED MCKAY
Oh, let’s have some fun with him. Come on, show him the burr. Come here, Judd – Mickey’s got something for you.

A woman exits the stagecoach first, then Paladin.

NORA BORDEN
Thank you.

GIL BORDEN
Welcome home, honey!

NORA BORDEN
Yeah! Oh, well, I guess I should visit my mother more often.

GIL BORDEN
Don’t you try it. How is she?

NORA BORDEN
Oh, she’s tedious. She still can’t understand how her Eastern daughter can stay married to a Western rancher.

GIL BORDEN
She’ll never be able to figure that one out, will she? Hey. What do you think you’re doing, mister?

PALADIN
Well, I was just trying to organize this, uh, personal…

GIL BORDEN
Yeah, well, this is my wife’s petticoat.

PALADIN
I recognized it. It’s Belgian lace and very pretty.

GIL BORDEN
I don’t like your sense of humor, mister.

NORA BORDEN
Oh, Bill, please don’t lose your temper.

MICKEY (O.S.)
Judd, I was only fooling, honest! Judd, put me down!

GIL BORDEN
Put him down! Put him down!

JUDD CALHOUN
I’m sorry, Mr. Borden, but they was making fun of Jenny.

MICKEY
It was Ed’s idea, not mine.

GIL BORDEN
You never know when to quit, do you, Ed? Someday, you’re going to start more trouble than you can handle. Judd, go on back to the ranch. These saddle bums aren’t worth your time.

PALADIN
Well, your husband handled that very well.

JENNY
He’s the only one around here who can control Judd.

MICKEY
I’m sorry, Ed, I-I guess I just got scared.

ED MCKAY
Go on, beat it.

MICKEY
But…

ED MCKAY
Go on! Hey, Judd! Come here. I want to talk to you.

Paladin helps the lady with her luggage.

NORA BORDEN

Thank you.

PALADIN
Welcome.

GIL BORDEN
What the devil are you laughing at?

NORA BORDEN
Well, it is sort of ridiculous, isn’t it?

ED MCKAY
Did you hear ’em, Judd, laughing at you?

JUDD CALHOUN
Me? Who’s laughing at me?

ED MCKAY
Gil Borden’s laughing at you. Look at them. Him and his wife and that other man. They’re laughing at you.

P
I’ll be glad to help.

GIL BORDEN
We’ll manage without your help.

MRS. BORDEN
Don’t take him so seriously, honey. You know, my husband isn’t always as hot- headed as this- just during his waking hours.

GIL BORDEN
Come on, Nora, help me pick this stuff up.

P
Bye.

NORA BORDEN
Bye. Thanks.

JUDD CALHOUN
Mr. Borden’s my boss. Now, don’t you say nothing against him.

ED MCKAY
He was once my boss, too.

JUDD CALHOUN
Well, he fired you, ’cause you’re always starting trouble.

ED MCKAY
He fired me ’cause I wouldn’t let him push me around, wouldn’t let him laugh at me and make me look bad in front of the whole world. You like being laughed at?

JUDD CALHOUN
Well, I don’t want to get fired.

ED MCKAY
Don’t it get you sore, being laughed at all the time? Gil Borden, his wife, that fancy-looking stranger- everybody makes fun of Big Judd.

JUDD CALHOUN
Mr. Borden wouldn’t make fun of me. Now, you stop that.

ED MCKAY
Even Mickey makes fun of you, and you let him.

JUDD CALHOUN
Not when he’s going to hurt my horse, I don’t.

ED MCKAY
Look, why not give Mickey a little of his own medicine?

JUDD CALHOUN
What?

ED MCKAY
A burr. Here. Slip it under Mickey’s saddle. Let him get laughed at for a change.

JUDD CALHOUN
That ain’t Mickey’s horse, is it?

ED MCKAY
Sure it is. Take a look. What’s wrong, you scared of Mickey, too? Big Judd Calhoun scared of a little tiny fellow like Mickey?

JUDD CALHOUN
I ain’t scared of nobody, I told you.

ED
Except little Mickey.

JUDD
No, I ain’t. I ain’t scared of nobody, you hear?

ED
Show me.

GIL BORDEN
Come on.

MRS. BORDEN
You know, Gil, that-that stranger was just trying to help us. You know, I thought he was rather charming.

GIL BORDEN
Maybe that’s why I didn’t like him.

MRS. BORDEN
Is this a new horse?

GIL BORDEN
Yup.

MRS. BORDEN
Let me ride him back.

GIL BORDEN
I just got him from Lou Spence. You wait for Hank. He’s bringing the surrey from the livery stable.

MRS. BORDEN
The surrey? Look, I have my new riding skirt to break in, and besides, I’ve been acting like a lady at my mother’s for two weeks. Are you going to make me act like a lady, too?

GIL BORDEN
Oh, all right,
I’ll ride the surrey.

MRS. BORDEN
Oh…

GIL BORDEN
I’ll meet you at the livery
stable and follow you home.

PALADIN
Can I help?

MRS. BORDEN
Oh, thank you. Aren’t you going to miss the stage?

PALADIN
No, it’s an hour layover.

JUDD CALHOUN
That’s Mr. Borden’s horse, Ed.
Why’d you want to tell me it was Mickey’s horse?

ED MCKAY
Do you want him to know that you
put that burr under the saddle?

JUDD
No… but Mrs. Borden’s
going to get hurt.

ED MCKAY
You’ll get all the blame
if you don’t shut up.

P
Now, there, all set.

MRS. BORDEN
Thank you, and please forgive
my husband’s temper.
Sometimes I think
he’d rather fight than eat.

PALADIN
Well, it’s, uh, good for the waistline and hard on the knuckles.
I hope we’ll meet again sometime.

NORA BORDEN
Good-bye.

PALADIN
All right! Halt! Ho! All right, whoa!

JUDD CALHOUN
Ed, what’ll we do?

ED MCKAY
Don’t say nothing, understand? Nothing!

EXT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE – DAY

JUDD CALHOUN
Well, what should I do, Ed? T-Tell me what to do. Sh-Should I run away?

ED MCKAY
I told you stay here. The minute you run, they’ll know you did it.

JUDD CALHOUN
Well, you told me to do it, Ed.

ED MCKAY
You think they’ll believe that? Look at ’em. They’ll track you down, have you swinging on the end of a rope.

JUDD CALHOUN
Ed, the stranger- he knows something. I-I seen him lookin’ at the horse, and then he looked at us.

ED MCKAY
You stay here. I’ll handle it. That horse is dangerous, mister.

PALADIN
He’s all right now.

ED MCKAY
You saw what he did to Mrs. Borden.

PALADIN
Yes, I did. Now, what causes a gentle horse to turn wild all of a sudden? Do you have any ideas?

DOCTOR
Well, both her legs are broken badly.

GIL BORDEN
I don’t understand it. That horse is no killer. I rode him around all week before I bought him. I wouldn’t put Nora on a horse she couldn’t handle. How did it happen? Did anyone see? Wasn’t anyone there?

PALADIN
Perhaps this’ll explain it. I found it under the saddle.

GIL BORDEN
A burr. You mean someone played a joke? A lousy, stinking joke? All right, now, I know someone here knows who did it. Now, who was it?! Now, tell me, who was it? Just give me five minutes with him. I’ll stake every cent I got as a reward. Now, who was it?!

PALADIN
Perhaps I can be some help.

GIL BORDEN
Do you know who crippled my wife?

PALADIN
I’ll find out.

GIL BORDEN
All right, you find out. You’re hired.

ED MCKAY
Wait a minute, Mr. Borden. Judd and me were right here. We saw the whole thing.

GIL BORDEN
What are you talking about?

ED MCKAY
We know who put that burr under the saddle.

GIL BORDEN
All right, who was it?

ED MCKAY
Him.

PALADIN
Borden, use your head. What reason would I have to hurt your wife?

ED MCKAY
Look at him. He’s a fast gun. He likes hurting people.

PALADIN
You don’t believe that, do you?

GIL BORDEN
I don’t disbelieve it.

ED MCKAY
He was right there at the horse, fussing with the saddle, fixing the cinch. Ask anybody.

MICKEY
That’s right. I saw him from inside the saloon. He was fooling around with that cinch.

GIL BORDEN
Better be the truth, Ed.

ED MCKAY
Think anybody’s crazy enough to lie to you? Ask Judd. He was there. Hey, Judd.

JUDD CALHOUN
He-he did it. I-I seen him, Mr. Borden, honest.

MICKEY
Yeah, he even went to the trouble of dusting off the saddle. How many times have you seen anybody do that?

ED MCKAY
Yeah. How come he was the only one who knew about that burr? He was covering himself, that’s all.

PALADIN
I don’t like to do this to you people, but I don’t have any choice. Now, go on home. All of you, go on.

GIL BORDEN
You know what Nora means to me, Paladin?

PALADIN
I think so.

GIL BORDEN
No, you don’t. Nora doesn’t even know, but you’re going to find out, ’cause I’m going to hunt you down. I’m going to get you, and I’m going to return every bit of pain you’ve given her.

PALADIN
Looks like I’ll have to find that man who hurt your wife for your sake as well as for my own. Now, you two, toss those guns. Throw ’em out there! Now, you four, get down, get down on you faces. Get down! Mister, I’ll blow you down. Put your face down. Stay down there.

Paladin rides off out of town.

GIL BORDEN
Get your horses!

EXT.

GIL BORDEN

I’ll see you later, honey.

NORA BORDEN

Gil? It’s been a week. Well, you’ve been riding with the posse every day.

GIL BORDEN

Well, Paladin is still running loose.

NORA BORDEN

Well, finding him’s not going to help me walk again. Honey, there’s a… There’s a marshal in the territory. Now, why don’t you let him do it?

ED MCKAY

Grab a horse. We just picked up Paladin’s trail.

GIL BORDEN

Where is he?

ED MCKAY

Look here. Nobody else in town smokes fancy cigars like this. Found it by the riverbed.

GIL BORDEN
All right.

NORA BORDEN

Gil, please stay.

GIL BORDEN

Honey, suppose I was in the wheelchair instead of you. And you knew the man who put me there. What would you do to him? Tell me.

NORA BORDEN
Oh.
Well, I’d make sure
he was the right man.

ED MCKAY
Who says he ain’t
the right man?

NORA BORDEN
Well, I don’t know. It’s just that I don’t think he’s capable.

ED MCKAY
Why not? ‘Cause he played up to you a little? ‘Cause he made jokes about your petticoats?

GIL BORDEN

Always doing exactly the right thing, ain’t you, Borden?

MICKEY
You ought to quit the posse, Ed. Let him find Paladin himself.

ED MCKAY
No. I want to be there when Borden finds him. I want to see him do something all wrong. Kind of mistake even he can’t fix. Come on.

PALADIN
Can I come in? The horse I borrowed- I’ve just returned it. It’s tied in the corral.

NORA BORDEN
The cook is here, and…and Judd, and all I have to do is scream. Do you know the whole town’s after you? They want to kill you on sight. Oh, they’re a mob. They’re a terrible mob.

PALADIN
A mob’s incapable of reason or trust. I’d like to believe you’re not part of it.

NORA BORDEN
Tell me the truth, Mr. Paladin. I have to know.

PALADIN
I had nothing to do with your accident. Nothing.

NORA BORDEN
I have to believe you. Your eyes give you away. Why do you stay around here? You could be miles away. It’s… It’s so dangerous.

PALADIN
Your husband hired me to find the person who did this, and if he hadn’t hired me, I suspect I’d be doing the same thing anyway.

NORA BORDEN
Well, that’s ridiculous. He’s-He’s out to kill you. I-I’d like to do anything I could to stop it, but…

PALADIN
You can. If I could just talk to the big man, the one with the ancient horse.

NORA BORDEN
Judd, Judd Calhoun.

PALADIN
If I could just talk to Judd for about five minutes. I think he knows who did it.

NORA BORDEN
Well, he’s down at the bunkhouse right now. But Mr. Paladin, he’s a monster. I mean, he can cripple a man with a handshake.

PALADIN
Or a burr under the saddle.

HANK THE COOK
Mrs. Borden?

NORA BORDEN
Well, that’s the cook. Go out through the back room, through Gil’s room and out.

PALADIN
Keep him here for about five minutes. I’ll be down at the bunkhouse, talking to Judd.

NORA BORDEN
Well, but they’ll come right back and find you.

PALADIN
I want them to find me.

HANK
Mrs. Borden?

NORA BORDEN
Come in, Hank.

HANK
Can’t figure it out, Mrs. Borden. That horse is back. The one that threw you.

NORA BORDEN
Oh?

H
It’s in the corral.

NORA BORDEN
And, are-are you sure?

H
Yes, ma’am, I’m positive. That Paladin fellow took the horse with him, and now that horse is in the corral. I better let Mr. Borden know.

NORA BORDEN
Oh, no, Hank, please.

H
Ma’am, he’ll want to know. That fellow must be close by if that horse is here.

NORA BORDEN
Um…Hank, please stay with me. I’ve… I’ve been so lonely.

H
Won’t take me long to find Mr. Gil, ma’am. Reckon he’d be mighty sore to know Paladin slipped by him again.

NORA BORDEN
Hank, uh…W-Would you get me a pillow over there, please?

H
You know how that horse got here, Mrs. Borden?

NORA BORDEN
No, of-of course not, Hank.

H
Well…I’ll send Judd back to keep you company. Ma’am.

JUDD CALHOUN
It’s a good thing we work here, Jenny. Where we can sit and rest a spell, and nobody cares too much.

PALADIN
Mr. Borden treats you well, doesn’t he, Judd? Want you to step inside the barn with me for a moment.

JUDD CALHOUN
What for?

PALADIN
Well, the daylight has become rather bad for my health. Come on.

JUDD CALHOUN
I know you. Your the fellow they’re looking for.

PALADIN
After you.

JUDD CALHOUN
You’re-You’re that gunslinger. They’re looking for you.

PALADIN
Why?

JUDD CALHOUN
Huh?

PALADIN
Why are they looking for me, Judd?

JUDD CALHOUN
‘C-Cause you hurt Mrs. Borden. You put that burr under the saddle.

PALADIN
Did I?

JUDD CALHOUN
Yeah, you did.

PALADIN
I put it there to hurt Mrs. Borden?

JUDD CALHOUN
No. All it was supposed…

PALADIN
Keep talking, Judd.

JUDD CALHOUN
No.

PALADIN
Mrs. Borden wasn’t supposed to ride that horse, was she? That burr was meant for somebody else, wasn’t it, Judd? Now you were there, you saw it. Tell the truth!

JUDD CALHOUN
I don’t know.

PALADIN
I think you do!

JUDD CALHOUN
I-I don’t know what you’re saying.

PALADIN
I want you to tell me the truth, Judd.

JUDD CALHOUN
You’re getting me all mixed up. I…

PALADIN
Was it you, Judd? Was it you? Did you put that burr under that saddle?

JUDD CALHOUN
No, I would never hurt Mrs. Borden, never.

PALADIN
It wasn’t meant for Mrs. Borden, was it? Meant to hurt somebody else, wasn’t it? Answer me! It was meant for Gil Borden, wasn’t it?

JUDD CALHOUN
No. It-It was for M-Mickey. Ed said the horse belonged to Mickey, and I…

PALADIN
What else did Ed say, Judd? You hear that posse? You’re afraid of them, aren’t you Judd? You afraid of that posse?

JUDD CALHOUN
No.

PALADIN
Afraid to go out there and tell those people exactly what you know?

JUDD CALHOUN
I ain’t scared of nobody.

PALADIN
No? Well, then, come on, Judd, come on. Come on.

ED
Hats off, Paladin.

PALADIN
Now, hold it. Judd got something to tell you people. Tell ’em, Judd. Tell ’em who put the burr under the saddle.

P

You heard him,
Judd, go ahead.

JUDD CALHOUN
It was him.

GB
My party now, bud.

PALADIN
Isn’t your wife invited to this party?

GB
She won’t enjoy it as much as I will.

PALADIN
Well, I think she’d like to see you as a hero- judge, jury, and executioner, all wrapped up in one.

GB
Tie him up, Ed.

PALADIN
She’ll be real pleased with you. Shooting an innocent man, unarmed man with his hands carefully tied. She’d really be impressed with you.

GB
One more word out of you, and I’ll…

ED
He’s trying to rile you up, Borden. Go on, put him away.

PALADIN
Oh, let Mr. Borden have his big moment.

ED
He’s trying to talk you into a fight.

MICKEY
Yeah, and he ain’t worth
it.

GB

You guys, shut up.

PALADIN
I was told you’d rather fight than eat. You looking for a change of diet?

GB
You talking awful big, Paladin.

ED
I tell you, quit wasting time. Put a hole through him, and be done with it.

PALADIN
Maybe you better do that. Here, you want to tie my hands? Make it easier for you. You might get hurt. Judd might not like that.

ED
You’re making a
mistake, Borden.

GB
We’ll see whose mistake it is.

PALADIN
Your own?

P
Take care of him, Judd.

J

Please, Mr. Borden. He’s hurting you.

ED
You leave me alone, Judd.

J
Please, please, Mr. Borden. There he is. You hurt him again, I’m gonna kill you. I’m gonna tear you to pieces.

ED
Let me alone, Judd, let me alone.

PALADIN
What about it, Judd? You gonna say who put that burr under the saddle?

J
No.

P

Come on, who is it? Do you want me to hurt him again?

J

No, no, no.

ED
Ah, Judd, watch that stupid mouth of yours.

JUDD CALHOUN
I did it, Mr. Borden. I put that burr under the saddle. And I…Ed told me to. I didn’t mean to hurt Mrs. Borden, but Ed told me to.

ED MCKAY
All right. Next one to try anything gets the same thing. I mean it.

Paladin shoots Ed McKay.

BORDEN
What can I do, Paladin? What can I do to make up for all this?

PALADIN
You want an easy answer, don’t you? Come on.

INT. RANCH HOUSE

NORA BORDEN
Gil! Gil, what happened?

GIL BORDEN
I got exactly what was coming to me, that’s what happened. Paladin’s got $2,000 coming to him.

NORA BORDEN
Oh. Well, I…I-I don’t under…I don’t understand anything.

PALADIN
Your husband will explain. I’ve got just time to catch the next stage. I want you to listen to me. I have a friend in San Francisco. He’s a surgeon. One of the finest in the country, and I think he can help you.

NORA BORDEN
Oh.

GIL BORDEN
Here you are, Paladin. And that’s not enough for the all the misery I’ve caused you.

PALADIN
Well, here’s the one that suffered the misery. I want you to take this. Mrs. Borden? For your medical expenses.

NORA BORDEN
I-I… really…

PALADIN
Don’t worry about it. I’ll get it back.

NORA BORDEN
How will you get it back?

PALADIN
That doctor I told you about in San Francisco- he’s a first-rate doctor, but he’s a second-rate poker player.