Gunsmoke's Pike Two-Part TV Episode: Jeanette Nolan & Dack Rambo Guest Star

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Gunsmoke's two-part episode Pike debuted over CBS beginning on March 1, 1971. Dack Rambo plays the title character, a young outlaw badly wounded in a Dodge City robbery who is nursed back to health by loner Sally Fergus (Jeanette Nolan). Regulars James Ar

The two-part Gunsmoke episode "Pike" was aired over CBS on March 1 & 8, 1971. Jeanette Nolan plays Sally Fergus, an eccentric old woman who shelters wounded outlaw Cyrus Pike (Dack Rambo) – wanted by both his vengeful partners and Marshal Dillon.

Gunsmoke's Pike: Cast & Credits

Jack Miller wrote the teleplay for "Pike," with Bernard McEveety directing the action. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Sally Fergus (Jeanette Nolan)
  • Cyrus Pike (Dack Rambo)
  • Macomb (Cliff Osmond)
  • Hawkins (William Mims)
  • Sutro (Jim Boles)
  • Hicks (Ross Hagen)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
  • Lathrop (Woody Chambliss)
  • Loomis (William Murphy)
  • Billy (Jon Jason Mantley)
  • Girl #1 (Marie Mantley)
  • Boy #1 (John Puglia)
  • Girl #2 (Susan Newmark)
  • Boy #2 (Billy McMickle)
  • Barfly (Hank Robinson)

L-r: Jeanette Nolan, writer Jack Miller and Dack Rambo on the set of Dirty Sally circa 1974 - CBS-TV

Pike: Episode Synopsis

Four men led by a gunslinger named Macomb hit the Adams Express Co. on a Monday night, blowing the safe and making off with nearly $2,800. With Matt Dillon out of town, deputy marshal Festus Haggen organizes a posse and pursues the robbers during a fierce Kansas windstorm. One of the men – Cyrus Pike – has two bullets in him courtesy of Festus. The outlaws take refuge in an old shack where they split their booty. Before Macomb can put the badly wounded Pike out of his misery, the latter turns the tables, relieving Macomb and his two confederates of the $2,800, scattering their horses and riding off into the wind.

Pike eventually winds up on the prairie, unconscious with his horse nearby. Spotting the wounded outlaw is old, eccentric Sally Fergus, who places Pike in her wagon and transports him back to her decrepit shack. Here she removes the lead from Pike's side and shoulder and patches him up. Meanwhile, Macomb and his two confederates rob a farmer of the $18 seed money he had hidden away, kill the man when he goes for a gun and steal three of his horses.

Sally goes into Dodge in order to secure some laudlum painkiller for Pike. She sees Doc for a phantom back ailment, who reluctantly gives her the laudlum for her old age. Sally returns to her shack to find the missing Pike unconscious outside. In time, Pike heals, later presenting Sally with $1,200 from the robbery, money which she refuses. Pike rides off in anger, only to return when he hears gunfire from Sally's place. Pike's three former buddies have found her, shooting up the place and putting a bullet into her beloved mule. After telling the outlaws that Pike had headed into Dodge City, Sally mourns the shooting of her mule as Macomb and his boys light out for Dodge, hoping to settle their score with Pike.  

Pike: Air Dates & Network Competition

The two-part "Pike" aired over CBS on consecutive Monday nights of March 1 and 8, 1971, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). 

Pike: Analysis & Review

During its long history Gunsmoke featured a number of tough, grizzled, eccentric characters, almost all of whom were male. In the two-parter "Pike," that changed a bit as women's liberation came to Dodge City with the introduction of Sally Fergus, an old, nearly toothless scavenger who combs the Kansas prairies for old bottles to resell. And recycle she does, selling the merchant Lathrop ten pounds of bottles for eighty cents in one scene. 

Jeanette Nolan (1911-1998) garners the pivotal role of Sally. It's an amazing performance, with Nolan carrying much of the two-part segment almost single-handedly. Memorable scenes are many, particularly the one in which Doc Adams examines Sally for her alleged back pain. Doc charges her $.70 for the office visit, which includes a bottle of the Old West painkiller laudlum.

Dack Rambo (1941-1994) ably plays the wounded outlaw Cyrus Pike. He serves as the young, shirtless stud in the episode, nursed back to health by Sally. When Pike retrieves the stolen loot from a tree trunk, he tries to give Sally nearly half of it for pulling him through. Honest Sally turns down the offer, telling Pike, "It's stole. It ain't yours to give."

Kudos to Cliff Osmond as the sinister outlaw leader Macomb. Osmond's Macomb is one mean bastard, as he and his boys shoot up Sally's bottle collection and threaten to burn down her shack if she doesn't tell them where Pike went. Macomb even goes so far as to shoot Sally's old mule Reckless, despite pleas from the old woman to spare the animal. Amazingly (well, this is television), the laudlum-saturated mule is taken into Dodge City by Pike and Sally where Doc Adams removes the bullet and the animal presumably makes a full recovery.

The big climax in "Pike" comes in Dodge, where Macomb and one of his men are shot down in the street by Pike and Marshal Dillon. Festus takes care of the third outlaw, convincing him to drop his gun and surrender. Sally also gets her new Old West dentures in the end, joyously flashing them to the jailed Pike as if she's auditioning for a Pepsodent commercial. 

"Pike" really doesn't warrant a two-part episode, as the entire story could have easily been compressed into one 60-minute segment. Nonetheless, it rates as one of Gunsmoke's better efforts, earning Jack Miller a Best Western Television Script Award from the Western Writers of America. "Pike" and the subsequent episode "One for the Road" (1/24/72) also spawned the short-lived Gunsmoke spinoff series Dirty Sally (1974), with stars Jeanette Nolan and Dack Rambo recreating their roles. And one other note: Look for child actors Jon Jason Mantley and Marie Mantley in Part I, both of whom just happen to be the children of Gunsmoke executive producer John Mantley (1920-2003). 

"Pike," whose unforgettable opening scenes feature a thrilling express company robbery committed during a violent Kansas windstorm, comes from Gunsmoke's 16th season and constitutes episodes #538 and 539 of 635 in the series. "Pike" was preceded in the Gunsmoke odyssey by "Lavery" (2/22/71) starring Anthony Costello. 

Top Image

  • Milburn Stone as Doc Adams in Gunsmoke - CBS-TV

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

 

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