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The Wild Wild West: Night of the Casual Killer

John Maxwell Avery moved mountains in Washington. The president sought his advice and men followed him. Then he was discovered to be a ruthless political opportunist and an unprincipled scoundrel. He fled justice and has killed many men to keep his freedom. Some believe the President helped him escape. To prevent a scandal Avery must be returned alive to Washington – exactly the sort of job for Jim West and Artemus Gordon.

Episode Info
Episode number: 1x5
Production Number: 3224-0102
Airdate: Friday October 15th, 1965

Director: Don Taylor (1)
Writer: Bob Barbash

Guest Stars
John DehnerJohn Dehner
As John Avery
Ruta LeeRuta Lee
As Laurie Morgan
Bill Williams (1)Bill Williams (1)
As Marshal Kirby

Co-Guest Stars
Charles Davis (1)Charles Davis (1)
As Tennyson
Dub TaylorDub Taylor
As Guard
Len LesserLen Lesser
As Mason
Mort MillsMort Mills
As Harper

Ed GilbertEd Gilbert
As Hendrix
Main Cast
Robert ConradRobert Conrad
As James T. West
Ross Martin (1)Ross Martin (1)
As Artemus Gordon


Three men ride down a packed dirt path. One man precedes the other two; he is dressed in more formal clothes. The men pass under some trees and around a curve. Atop a nearby bluff a rifleman watches their progress. The three riders stop when they suddenly realize they are surrounded by riflemen. At least a half dozen men look down on them from the bluffs and crags above. One man asks what the riders want. The leader rider identifies himself as Thomas Hendrix from the attorney general’s office and tells the man he has come to find John Maxwell Avery...

Read the full recap
Episode Notes
Corner Slides
Lower Left: Captured by Avery. “Perhaps you’ll perform for us, Mr. Whitney. My men could use a little diversion.”
Upper Right: Betrayed! Avery talks to a paid informant.
Lower Right: Avery is calm even after capture. He acts like he's holding the winning hand. And maybe he is - Jim and Artie must still escape with him...
Upper Left: Avery captured, the train pulls away for Chicago.

What This Episode Needs is More Violins
Ross Martin played the violin himself in the early scene where Jim and Artie discuss their assignment with two locals. Martin was an accomplished concert violinist.

Where in the World is 'The'?
This is the only episode in the series whose title does not begin with 'The'.

Episode Quotes
James: Artie, have you ever considered returning to the stage?
Artemus: Yes, many times, and never more seriously than right now!

(Jim tries to get Laurie to help him by exploiting the former singer's feeling of kinship to other performers.)
Jim: I think there’s another way out… a way Avery knows...
Laurie: You’re going to get us killed!
(West kisses her…)
Laurie: That didn’t feel like no family!

Hendrix: I have my orders, Mr. Avery
Avery: So you do. And from Washington.
(Avery nods to a henchman who shoots Hendricks dead.)
Avery: I would advise you not to try anything foolish, Marshal! You can take the body back with you. You can tell Washington there’s my answer!

Avery: Right here and now this room could be a stage, and you and I, merely players.
Jim: Possibly. But we couldn’t know that till the curtain went up, could we?
Avery: (ominously) The curtain may already be up, Mr. Whitney. We could be waiting for it to come down.

Avery: You’re a clever and brave man, Mr. West, and I appreciate that.
Jim: So you’ll find it a shame to kill me?
Avery: No, I expect to find it a pleasure.

Episode Goofs
Alas poor misquoted Yorick!
Artemus misquotes Shakespeare when he says "Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well." The correct line is “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.” The line is often misquoted this way but one might expect better of a former actor! (The line is also often mistakenly associated with the "To be, or not to be" soliloqy, but it is from an entirely different scene.)

Black hat
Avery takes the black hat from the rack to signal his men that he’s in trouble. But earlier in the episode he was wearing the same hat when he visited Jim and Artie at their wagon. Why didn’t his men think he was in trouble then?

Lead on, Macduff...
Now it is Avery's turn it misquote the Bard. The correct quote is “Lay on, Macduff” - Macbeth is inviting Macduff to fight a duel with him (a duel that costs Macbeth his life). Like the previous example, the quote from the episode is a popular misquote.

Boy, the nights are getting shorter...
The performance is given in the early evening and Avery serves dinner afterwards. Dinner concludes with brandy during which Avery reveals that he knows who “Conrad Whitney” really is. Jim and Artie capture him and escape through the mineshaft. By the time they reach the end of it, it is full daylight! (No doubt this was done because a night time gunfight would be spectacularly uninteresting.)

Cultural References
Artie's dramatic reading and various bits of other dialogue for Artie, Jim, and John Avery are excepts from various of the plays of William Shakespeare. Born circa April 23, 1564, Shakespeare authored around forty plays and over a hundred fifty sonnets. He is regarded as one of the finest writers of the English language ever and he work has appeared in various forms all over the world.

John Maxwell Avery
The character of John Avery was well drawn. Through subtle dialog and Dehner's acting the viewer comes to understand how bitter Avery is at the reversals life has handed him, forcing him away from politics and into the wilderness. The story also dovetails nicely with the many allegations of corruption in the Grant presidency.

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