Gunsmoke – Three Classic Episodes

Gunsmoke was a wonderful Western running for 20 years.  With all these entertaining episodes its very hard to choose just three favorites.  Here are three which might fit the bill.

“The Schoolmarm”, 1974

This episode was a little bit different than most westerns.  Sarah Merkle is a schoolteacher in Dodge City.  One day while at a school lunch she is attacked by a salesman named Stokes.  This attack is interrupted by Carl Pruitt who is a widower with feelings of love for Sarah.  She, of course, is unaware of his feelings.  Sarah goes to Doc Adams and finds to her dismay that she is pregnant.

Carl Pruitt wonders why Sarah is so distraught and then figures out her predicament after putting it together with remarks Stokes has made.  Pruitt confronts Stokes and during their confrontation Stokes is killed.  Matt Dillon has not choice but to arrest Stokes.  However, Stokes will not say why the two men were fighting since he wants to keep Sarah’s secret.  Sarah  does not say anything to help since she is afraid for the knowledge of her rape to be made public.

“Kimbro”, 1973

As a younger person Matt Dillion had as a mentor a famous lawman named  Adam Kimbro.  Mr. Kimbro is now a drinker and down on his luck. He arrives in Dodge and is found sleeping in the yard outside Adams Express.  The manager offers him money for beer, but Kimbro is more interested in a job.  He is hired to clean the stalls at the livery stables.

Matt Dillon comes in town and takes his horse to the livery stable.  He recognizes the scruffy man working there.  Kimbro tells Matt he has a sheriff job waiting for him, but Matt does not believe him.

Matt thinks Kimbro is still able to do some law work and offers him a job as a deputy to accompany him to a mining camp to transport some gold.

Kimbro accepts Matt’s offer and the two set out for the mining camp.  They pick up the gold to transport back to Dodge City.  Unfortunately,  a group of  crooked brothers plan to waylay the lawmen and rob the gold.

While Matt and Kimbro are traveling to the camp they run into Kimbro’s old girlfriend who has not married and has two teenagers.  Kimbro reflects that if he had chosen a different path he and Mary may have married and these could have been his children.  This makes Matt think about the choices he has made for his own life.

“Sam McTavish, M.D., 1970

Vera Miles guest starred in this episode as Dr. Sam McTavish.  Since I’ve always liked her performances, maybe this is the reason I picked this as a favorite.

Doc Adams needs to go away for a few weeks and needs a replacement.  Sam McTavish’s credentials are excellent and Doc has Sam come to town.  Both he and Festus, who happens to be in Doc’s office when she arrives, are shocked to discover the doctor is a woman.

Doc informs Sam the people will never accept a woman doctor.  She convinces Doc to allow her to accompany him on some rounds and he is impressed with her skill and competence.  His patients do relate to her.

Doc himself falls for her.

The two doctors team up to fight an epidemic which hits the town.  Doc McTavish becomes infected with the disease.

Sadly, the episode does not have a happy ending.  It is a bit of a tear jerker.

This is only a glimpse at three of the several hundred episodes of “Gunsmoke” aired between 1955 and 1975.  Many of the episodes are now available on DVD.


  1. joey cox says:

    Gunsmoke episode “vengeance” part I and II with james stacey and kim darby are extremely good. however it also has a sad ending. this is probably my favorite. next would be “mannon” with steve forest. also love “clevus” which stars robert totten,who by the way directed many of the gunsmoke episodes…and lets not forget the episodes with anthony zerbe…

    • the Rifleman says:

      I love these episodes as well. Mannon was such an evil, cold-blooded killer and he was fast with the gun. “Vengeance” was one of my favorites, along with “Pike”, “Whelan’s Men”, “Women For Sale”, and “The Tarnished Badge” with Victor French all have great writing & character development. Another great two-parter was “Snow Train”.

  2. Carol Keefe says:

    I just saw the Dr. Sam Mctavish episode. It was great. Always is when Doc is the focus. I had tears falling when it was over. Great story.

  3. Jane roberts says:

    Love all the gun smoke movies. I feel depressed like I’ve missed out when i don’t get to watch them . They are so great . And so real. It’s not like they are acting @ all. Thank God we still can watch them…

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