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Cheyenne goes undercover as a traveling stage actor to stop the rebirth of the Confederate army.

The Conspirators
Season 3, Episode 2
Air date Oct. 8, 1957
Written by James O'Hanlon, Donald R. Wilson
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Episode guide
Previous
Incident at Indian Springs
Next
The Mutton Puncher

Episode Notes

  • The episode begins with scenes of the indian attack on a wagon train recycled from the season one episode Decision, even including the scenes of soldiers dressed in women's clothes (a trick used on the attacking Arapaho indians in that episode).
  • According to the book "Television Series and Specials Scripts, 1946-1992: A Catalog of the American Radio Archives Collection” this episode has an alternate title "Nightfall".

Errors and Continuity Nitpicks

  • Notice any? Add them here.

Real World References

  • Songs performed in this episode include:
  • Ford Theater could be a reference to Ford's Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.
  • When grasping for ideas during his fundraising speech, Cheyenne/Merritt declares that he is "but a voice crying in the wilderness" and Willis finishes by saying "prepare ye the way of him who is to come." which together is a loose paraphrase of Isaiah 40:3.

Plot

Cheyenne Bodie is called to Washington, D.C. for special duty by Colonel Danial Forrest. The colonel tells him about the mysterious Captain Baylor who disappeared with his Confederate cavalry company at the end of the Civil War. Forrest then brings Cheyenne to Ford Theater to watch a play titled The Marble Heart. Cheyenne is less than impressed with the play until the lead, James Thornton Merritt, takes the stage. Merritt and Cheyenne look like they were separated at birth!

Conspirators-performingwithnellie-cheyenne

Nellie and "Jim" perform together.

Forrest explains that Merritt and his fellow performers in the Thalia Reportoire Company are raising money to help Baylor rebuild the Confederate army. He wants Bodie to take Merritt's place and discover where Baylor is hiding. Cheyenne vehemently rejects the idea, but Forrest doesn't take no for an answer. Cheyenne is put through a strenuous training regimen of singing, acting, and enunciation to transform him from a frontier cowboy into a cultured stage actor. He also has to learn all the details of Merritt's life: he's a drunk, a gambler, a coward and is generally despised by people who know him, especially his wife, Nellie Barton.

In Atlanta, federal agents kidnap Merritt and Bodie takes his place in the middle of a performance. Suffering a case of nerves, he timidly takes the stage, lilts a solo of Beautiful Dreamer and is surprised when he receives enthusiastic applause from the audience.

After the show, Nellie questions Cheyenne about a meeting Merritt arranged for that evening, and he has no idea what she's talking about. Luckily, she blames Cheyenne's confusion on Merritt's drinking problem. The meeting turns out to be a fundraiser for Baylor and Cheyenne is expected to give a speech. He stumbles through it assisted by fellow actor George Willis. Afterward, Willis counts the money they've raised while Cheyenne pretends to celebrate with more alcohol. When Willis tries to leave with the money, Cheyenne's drunk act drives both Willis and Nellie into the hallway where they kiss passionately.

Conspirators-secretmeeting-cheyenne

The conspirators meet with their supporters.

The Thalia Company tour makes performance and fundraising stops in cities across the South. Cheyenne impersonates Merritt on stage and off, but his real personality starts to peek through. Inspired by his audience one night, he sings an impromptu trail song while snapping a whip around the stage. On a train ride through Texas, he calms a nervous passenger using his knowledge of indian ways. Willis takes note of these irregularities.

On that trip, a rough-looking man in frontier clothing enters the train car. Cheyenne recognizes him as an old friend named Prairie Dog. Despite his efforts to hide, Prairie Dog recognizes him with a boisterous greeting. Cheyenne does his best to disavow their friendship but Dog won't leave him alone. Nellie and Willis are shocked as the cowardly Merritt stands up to the rough man and punches him out cold.

When they reach El Paso, an informant slips Cheyenne a note saying the real Merritt has escaped and is heading his way. He also has another serious problem: Nellie. She likes the recent changes to her husband and can't keep her hands off of him. She wants Cheyenne to take the money for Baylor and run away with her to Europe. When Cheyenne asks about Willis, Nellie says the conniving actor was planning to do the same thing.

Conspirators-merrittshot-cheyenne

Jim Merritt meets his end.

Knowing that Baylor must be close by, Cheyenne goes out to find Dog, beg his forgiveness and ask him to sniff out Baylor. Unknown to him, Willis is spying on their meeting. The actor returns to Nellie and shares his suspicion that Merritt isn't Merritt at all.

During the evening's performance, Dog returns to report he's found Baylor. Cheyenne goes to his dressing room to change. Nellie visits and discovers that her husband has a tell-tale scar on his back. She confirms to Willis that Cheyenne is an imposter. Meanwhile, the real Merritt sneaks into the room, knocks Cheyenne out and hides him in the closet. While leaving, he runs into Willis who, thinking Merritt is Cheyenne, shoots him dead. The theater crew and Prairie Dog rush inside and see Merritt's body. Willis accuses Dog of the murder and slips away. He and Nellie go back to his room where they find Cheyenne to be very much alive and in possession of the money meant for Baylor.

Prairiedogbodielaugh-conspirators

Prairie Dog and Cheyenne share a laugh.

Cheyenne finds Baylor and his men in Juarez. He offers them amnesty if they will lay down their arms and rejoin society as U.S. citizens. Willis is already there and mocks Cheyenne's offer. When their argument escalates, Willis draws his gun and Cheyenne shoots him dead. Seeing Willis for the carpetbagger he was, Baylor accepts the amnesty offer. His men cheer now that they're returning home.

Prairie Dog is still in jail accused of murder until Cheyenne shows up with an order for his release. Now free, Prairie Dog invites his friend to join a cattle drive to Oklahoma. Cheyenne rejects the offer as beneath his new career as an actor. When Prairie Dog acts disappointed at this, Cheyenne loudly reveals that he's just joking. He can't wait to get back on the trail.

Quotes

"Not in this world or the next, Colonel! I don't mind dyin' for my country, but the day you catch Cheyenne Bodie up behind them footlights makin' a fool outta himself playactin'...Sitting Bull's gonna be squattin' in the White House!"

- Cheyenne refuses to become an actor.


“What’s gotten into him?”
“He’s probably drunk.”
“Find out what he’s drinking and I’ll spoon it to him.”

- Nellie and Willis wonder what made boring Merritt turn into an entertainment dynamo.

“Why, I know it’s been three years, but I haven’t changed that much.”
“From the smell of you, you haven’t changed anything.”

- Prairie Dog tries to get reacquainted with Cheyenne, who doesn’t want his cover blown.
Conspirators-kissingnellie-cheyenne

Nellie likes the changes she sees in her husband.


“Legally he’s my husband. I have to kiss him occasionally...if only for appearances.”

- Nellie Barton thinks up excuses to kiss Cheyenne


“You don’t know what a pleasure it is to tell you I’m not your husband.”

- Cheyenne reveals his true identity to Nellie


"Cattle? You mean those horrible creatures of the genus bovine? My dear fellow, my dramatic proclivities dictate that the theater is my destiny. To whom do you think you are talking?"

- Cheyenne uses his dramatic skills to play a joke on Prairie Dog

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