Having run for so long, it was meant that Gunsmoke would have some of its episodes being actually remakes of the previous radio show. One of these episodes is The Cabin, which was aired on the 22nd of February 1958. It is the 24th episode of the 3rd season and most of the fans think of it as being the best in the series.
And they are entitled to believe so, because The Cabin talks about the perils of the war: basically, it never ends.
After WWII, Hell’s Angels appeared as a gang of former Air Force recruits. Going further back, the Civil War produced some of the most iconic outlaws (if they can be called so), outlaws such as Jesse James, outlaws who continued to terrorize the smaller towns and settlements as if the fighting never stopped.
Such is the case of The Cabin, when Matt is forced to seek shelter in a cabin where two bandits have enslaved and have continuously molested a young girl, after killing her father. It is a gritty story about survival, just like it is a story about morality (or, at least, the lack of it).
And that is because this is the logical continuation of the war. Nowadays it is called post-traumatic stress disorder. But it can also be said, in a more poetic way, that it is actually the numbing of the spirit. When faced time and time again with near-death experiences, when being forced to commit murder (even if on the front-line), everything changes radically – what was once perceived as being beautiful and good has become tainted.
It doesn’t matter if on the outside everything seems just fine and dandy. On the inside there are scars which, one day maybe, will become open wounds again.
This is actually the statement made in The Cabin’s ending when the woman taken as a prisoner accepts a fate which wasn’t her own and becomes a prostitute. She is also numbed and the only way she can live now is by retreating in the face of life.
It cannot be argued that this was one of the best episodes of Gunsmoke – in 30 minutes it presented these ideas, which to this day they remained so powerful.