The Pressure Game

Writer: Don Tait
Director: Tay Garnett
Air Date: 10 May 1964
Guest Stars: Guy Williams (Will Cartwright), Kathie Browne (Laura Dayton), Katie Sweet (Peggy Dayton), Joan Blondell (Lillian “Aunt Lil” Manfred), Charles Bateman (Rick Bonner), Robert Karnes (Jeff Bonner), Bern Hoffman (Sam the Bartender), Grandon Rhodes (Doctor), Dee Carroll (Townswoman)

Episode three out for four in the Adam Cartwright/Laura Dayton romance story begins with Adam promising to take Laura and Peggy to the Annual Independence Day Picnic.  As they are about to leave (in a wagon) Adam and Laura are accosted by two ladies who are curious to find out where their relationship is heading.  By this time Adam and Laura would have been an “item” for at least 6 months judging by the period of time covered in the last two episodes Laura appeared in and other episodes in-between.  Not wanting to give the ladies the satisfaction of a response, Adam replies with the announcement of how hot the summer has been.

The notion of everyone expecting Adam and Laura to marry is carried throughout this episode especially with Laura’s Aunt Lil, who has come to visit to check things out for herself.  Aunt Lil’s philosophy is to get married first and fall in love later and so she decides both Laura and Adam need help in making up their minds.  She finds the perfect (initially unknowing) accomplice in Adam’s cousin Will.

Both Adam and Laura are unsure of how they really feel about each other.  Adam wonders if he is just being kind or not and is very hesitant about proposing marriage.  His first proposal to Laura is more the result of trying to say the honourable thing and isn’t as heartfelt as Laura expects it to be.

Ben senses that Adam is having doubts about his relationship with Laura and offers his son some sagely advice…

“When a man has been single as long as you have Adam, you can’t blame him for being a little spooked by marriage. But if you’re not sure – absolutely sure maybe you ought to back out of this. It’s better than living a life with the wrong woman. I said it and that’s the last you’re gonna hear from me on the subject.”

Meanwhile, Laura is having doubts about her feelings but this is further complicated when she meets Will Cartwright.  There is an instant attraction between them when they first meet and you can see the disappointment when they learn who the other is.  Tired of Adam’s behaviour (and maybe her own) she decides that it is time to sell her ranch and move to San Francisco to live with her aunt.

Adam readily accepts her decision and is very reluctant to change her mind.  It isn’t until she is hurt in an accident that he realises that he needs her.  He once again proposes marriage and this time it is accepted.  Although Laura seems happy it is Will who gets her attention, leaving Aunt Lil and the viewer to wonder if Laura did catch the right man.

Observations about this episode…

  • Joe is San Francisco making his appearances in the Laura Dayton quartet of episodes at this point 0 out 3.
  • Hoss is mainly kept in the background with ranch duties and occupying Peggy Dayton as part of Aunt Lil’s machinations.
  • Hop Sing is mentioned but not seen adding to the myth that he was in a lot more episodes than he actually was.
  • During the episode, the Cartwrights are using dynamite (Ben is seen loading it when Lil turns up at the Ponderosa and you can hear the explosions in two scenes).  Dynamite wasn’t patented until 1867.  Since this episode is set in the early 1860s (approx. 1861/62) you have to wonder what they were really using.

By this time in Season 5 things had changed.  The Laura Dayton romance was originally contrived to be a longer set of episodes (approx. 9-10) to help facilitate the exit of Adam Cartwright.  The original (unfilmed) ending of The Pressure Game had a post-wedding scene with Laura and Adam leaving to go on their honeymoon.  At some point, Pernell Roberts had a change of heart and decided to stay with the show for one more season.  Coupled with the fact that Guy Williams (Will Cartwright) wanted out due to be made aware (among other things) that the other stars of the show didn’t want him as a replacement lead to the script being revised and the next episode Triangle being written.

The Pressure Game is an episode that has another Cartwright proposing marriage (the fourth one for this season) – Hoss, Ben and Joe all proposed marriage during the season with only Joe making it to the altar.  It also can be seen as a part one of a loose two-parter as the episode ends with a cliffhanger which is resolved in the next episode.

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