Robert Fuller plays Buck Harmon a childhood friend of Johnny's who's thrown in with a bad crowd, presumably due to his rejection by his own father, a self-righteous religious bigot. Jack Gorman and his gang are planning to rob the Laramie bank. Gorman sends a telegram to Laramie which lures Dan and a posse on a wild goose chase after the gang.
Since Buck was raised in Laramie, Gorman sends him in to see if there's any law left in town. When one of the men suggests that Buck may have some ties to Laramie, he makes it clear he doesn't give a damn. Buck finds out in the saloon that Dan has left a deputy in town. He also finds a couple of rowdies who remember Buck, a man who made enemies according to Johnny because he was lucky at cards and with women.
Johnny hears the ruckus of the fight and figures his peaceful day is short-lived. He catches sight of Buck's back as Buck leaves the bar and almost recognizes him. He tells the two rowdies they would have been better off tackling a mountain lion.
Buck hasn't been in Laramie for five years but despite that his father hasn't a good word to say. He just notes that neither readings from the Good Book nor whippings took the devil out of Buck who was never any good and never would be.
Buck's meeting with Johnny is more friendly. Johnny is thrilled to see his old friend and vice versa. That is, until Buck finds out that the job that kept Johnny in Laramie is deputy marshal. At that point, he knows he will have to choose between his friend and the gang.
Johnny figures that Buck's abrupt departure might have to do with his father. Johnny visits Mr. Harmon and sticks up for Buck against his father's continued animosity. He chides Mr. Harmon for treating his son so badly and never showing he cared.
Buck tries to get Gorman to hit another town instead of Laramie. He warns him that the deputy left in town won't turn tail. He'll face them down and they'll have to kill him. And he's a friend. When Gorman refuses to change his plans, Buck quits. As he rides off, he tells Gorman he'll try to get the deputy out of town. But Gorman tells two of his men to follow Buck and kill him.
Buck finds Johnny in the barbershop getting a haircut and tries to lure him out to a nearby town for a special supper. Johnny insists he can't leave. As they walk out into the street, two of Gorman's men shoot Buck's hat off his head. Buck and Johnny draw simultaneously and one bad guy goes down, permanently.
When Buck explains that Gorman will be coming in to take the bank after dark, Johnny has to know that he came by that knowledge in a way that puts him in tight with the gang, but he makes no comment. When Johnny goes back to the office and starts loading a rifle, Buck follows. When he sees that Johnny isn't going to back down, he asks Johnny if he can borrow a rifle. Johnny tosses him one without comment but with what might be the barest hint of a smile.
The two friends patrol the streets together, then take positions at the windows of a building overlooking the bank. When Buck's father comes walking down the middle of the street, Buck has to run out and bring him to safety, thereby exposing their position. In the exchange of gunfire, neither Johnny nor Buck can get a clear shot. Buck runs across the street to get a better position. He takes out two of the would-be robbers but gets a fatal bullet from Gorman. Johnny takes out Gorman and the only remaining robber, but too late to help his friend.
Although Buck's father seems regretful as he carries his son's body down the street, we have a distinct feeling of too little to late and we don't have much sympathy for him.
NiteOwl Review: You're not going to get us to say anything bad about an episode that teams Peter Brown and Robert Fuller. Although Fuller dies for the second time. Johnny killed him in "The Souvenir." According to the gal who does Bob's official website, Bob told her that while he was doing "The Friend," he bumped into Bill Orr (man in charge of Warners television in those days). Orr told him he had just seen him in the dailies (what they shot the day before) and would like to sign him up 'under contract' to Warner Brothers. Bob said he wishes he had told Orr, "You are a day late and a dollar short," but he simply told him that he had just signed for Laramie.
Peter and Bob would appear together again in two episodes of Wagon Train. William Smith (Laredo, Wildside), a man who took pride in doing his own action stunts admitted he couldn't hold a candle to either Bob or Peter when it came to using a gun, for real or on-screen. And the women in our video group mentioned that Peter and Bob were the two western stars whose slim hips were most likely to raise the question, "What the hell is holding up those gunbelts?"
Our Favorite Scene: We liked this whole episode so much that we couldn't pick a single scene. We will note just a single touch we liked. When Buck seemed so surprised at Johnny's job as deputy, Johnny reached out with his forefinger and knocked Buck's hat up on his head while asking what was wrong. This friendly and familiar gesture said a lot about their history as boyhood friends.
The great photo above comes from the Doug Abbott collection of western tv photos. According to Doug, it was a photo used in a press release the week the episode aired. Bob and Peter look like they were having so much fun its a shame this scene wasn't used in the show.
Hank the barkeep tells Buck Marshall Troop is with a posse
Two rowdies can't lick Buck
Responding to the bar ruckus, Johnny looks at Buck retreating back with a flicker of recognition
Buck can't get a kind word from his own father
Buck greets Johnny with "Boy, I figured you to cut a trail out of this town long ago." Johnny reckons how he always planned to but then he got a good job, as deputy marshal. Buck is stunned. Asked what's wrong, Buck just says he always figured Johnny for a lover not a lawman. Johnny says being a lawman doesn't stop that. To Johnny's surprise, Buck abruptly rides out of town.
"And your way of life is supposed to be based on love."
Jenkins the barber regales
Johnny with cures for baldness
Buck interrupts with a plan
for supper, out of Laramie
Two of the best gun handlers on TV
"You going to stand up against them, four against one?
Well, I guess one of the things it takes to be a deputy marshal is no brains."
Johnny & Buck wait for the robbers
Johnny surveys the dark street
Johnny takes the other two
"Just make sure there's a town here when I get back"
Original air date Jun 28, 1959
Directed by Mark Sandrich, Jr.
Written by Clair Huffaker
John Russell as Dan Troop
Peter Brown as Johnny McKay
Robert Fuller as Buck Harmon
Robert F. Simon as Mr. Harmon
Nestor Paiva as Jack Gorman
Roscoe Ates as Jenkins
Emory Parnell as Hank
Brad Von Beltz as Harry
Paul Lukather as Mack
Official Peter Brown Fan Site