Clay Morgan is using the town of Black River as a gateway for contraband going back and forth across the border. He figures a preacher and church would be a foot in the door for a law abiding community and an end to his free rein. He runs the new preacher out of town and sends a couple of his men after him to make sure he doesn't come back.
Morgan's men are unlucky enough to run into Joe who's on his way to Black River on routine tour of duty to check on the towns with no law. We get a nice little action sequence here as Joe leaps off horse and behind a rock, shooting on the way down. One of the bad guys turns tail. The other shoots back.
When Joe runs out of bullets, he uses his knife to dispatch the bad guy. The preacher wants to return to Black River with Joe. But Joe sends him to Laredo to warn the Captain about Morgan while he brings the law to town.
The Captain is happy to see Reverend Thomas, the reformed version of the first man he ever arrested when they were both young lads. The Captain sends Chad and Erik to Erik's tailor for clothes more suitable for an evangelist and deacon. In Black River they tell the townspeople Reverend Thomas sent them to start raising money for a church.
Hearing that the good people of Black River will be tied up for the evening in a meeting about the church, Morgan invites Joe to a special party to keep him busy as well. He needs to move a shipment of stolen silver without interference. However, Chad sneaks out of the meeting and figures out what's going on.
The Rangers makes some plans which will show the town they can stand up to Morgan. They run a church bazaar to get the money for lumber. They con the saloonkeeper to let them use the saloon for Sunday service. Chad and Joe take the money to buy lumber and bricks to build the church (never mind that the wagon holds barely enough to build an outhouse). On the way to buy the building materials, Chad and Joe liberate a bell from a passing train. Morgan sends his men to ambush them on the way back.
At a creek where they stop for water, Morgan's men open fire. Joe is stricken when Chad takes what looks like a fatal bullet and falls in the creek. However, Chad flips a pebble Joe's way to let him know he's alive. The tables turn when Chad goes in close while Joe takes out one of the bad guys. The other one shoots Joe twice before Chad gets him. It's Chad's turn to think the worst. But Joe, being one of the stars, recovers nicely.
Meanwhile, back in Black River, the good town folks are about to decorate the saloon for a church service. However, Morgan confronts Erik with some clothes found in his room that clearly do not befit a preacher. Morgan almost has the townspeople convinced that they've been conned and their money is long gone. However, Chad and Joe return just in time, followed closely by the Captain and Reverend Thomas.
Our heroes return to Laredo just in time for payday. When they discover they're a little short, the Captain reminds them they "bought" a bell to donate to the church.
NiteOwl Review: This was one of the better episodes of the second season. Erik's character was appropriately used, not intrusive. The tone was not silly. But the ambush scene where Joe and Chad each fear for the other's life was a taste of what this series could have been. It would have been nice to have the emotions inherent in such a scene expanded upon instead of hurried through.
Production Note: The script of this episode shows that it was orginally written for all four Rangers but Brand was too incapacitated to work that week (our copy has the pencilled notes redistributing Reese's lines to the others or cutting them.) His absence was missed in several scenes. E.g. in the scene in the saloon where Deacon Chad has to convince the owner to allow it to be used for a church service, the script calls for Joe and Reese to stage a fight which Chad stops in exchange for the favor. The scene doesn't work as well with Joe going on a solitary rampage. One of our more intuitive Joe fans always insisted that it was out of character for Joe to steal the bell off the train for the church. Sure enough, the script shows that it was Reese and Chad who were originally supposed to steal it.
Erik and Chad go undercover as servants of God
Original air date Jan 6, 1967
Directed by Irving J. Moore
Teleplay by Joel Murcott
Neville Brand as Reese Bennett
Peter Brown as Chad Cooper
William Smith as Joe Riley
Robert Wolders as Erik Hunter
Phil Carey as Capt. Parmalee
Alfred Ryder as Clay Morgan
Wesley Lau as Rev. Thomas
Michael Vandever as Lacy Walsh
William Bramley as Luke Bergstrom
Michael Fox as bartender
Bunny Summers as Amy Bergstrom
Official Peter Brown Fan Site