The Ballad of Bret Maverick - Recap

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A drifter, Justice Smith, rides into town on his elixir wagon. As he puts up signs for his medicine show at the Red Ox, Bret comes out and bumps into him. Bret apologizes and leaves for the stage. Inside, a distracted Tom tells Jack to order more beer, and Jack warns Shifty that it’s that time of year. One of the customers shoves Smith away and Tom tells him to get out. When Smith tries to convince Tom to let him stay, Tom prepares to throw him out. Mary Lou arrives with a bill for Bret’s advertising and when she mentions Maverick’s name. Smith recognizes it and realizes who he bumped into. He quickly leaves and Tom invites Mary Lou to a walk later. Outside, Mary Lou approaches Smith and gives him the handbills that he dropped.

Bret greets a C.B. Whitfield as he gets off the stagecoach and introduces himself as the owner of the Lucky Ace Silver Mine. He’s trying to sell the mine, which he won in a poker game. However, when Whitfield realizes he’s dealing with the Bret Maverick, he figures that it’s a con and quickly leaves. Smith approaches Bret and claims that he’s writing a song about him. Bret doesn’t want any more publicity and walks off, and Smith promises himself that he’ll get the song written.

At the newspaper, Mary Lou is pounding on the type bars and her mother asks what’s wrong. Her daughter says that it’s been ten weeks and she hasn’t received an answer. Estelle points out that neither dreams nor nightmares comes true and goes to make supper. Tom comes in and reminds Mary Lou about their date, but she says she’s running late. He points out that she never seems to have much time and asks to talk. Tom wants to talk about marriage and says that he’s settled down, and figures that she’s ready as well. Mary Lou tells him that they’ve shared the best times and they know each other, but she’s not the marrying type. Tom offers to let her work part-time and Mary Lou angrily insists that she isn’t there to help him. She says that she’s too smart and wants someone with imagination. As they argue, Rodney comes in with a letter from Boston. Mary Lou opens it and tells Rodney that the Boston Globe is buying a set of her photographs. As Mary Lou goes to work, Tom storms off and vows to show Mary Lou that he has imagination.

Smith gives his pitch for medical elixir to the townspeople while Dowd and Sturgess look on. When nobody buys, Smith gets out his guitar and starts performing. As Bret and Tom walk by, Smith calls out to Bret and tells him that he’s working on a special song, “The Ballad of Bret Maverick.” Bret tries to walk away but Tom insists that he stay. Mary Lou also comes over and Bret finally stops Smith from singing. Smith offers him a complimentary bottle of elixir and goes into his wagon. While Bret complains to Tom and Mary Lou, Smith draws a gun and prepares to shoot Bret. However, he hesitates and then puts the gun away. As Tom and Mary Lou argue, Smith gives Bret a bottle of elixir and says that it’s on the house. Bret isn’t interested and leaves, and Mary Lou offers Smith Bret’s background information. Dowd comes over and tells Smith to get out of town by the next morning.

That night, Smith remembers how Bret cheated someone out of their money and smashes his wagon wheel with rocks. The next morning, Smith rides into town and tells Dowd that his wheel is busted. Dowd figures that he’s harmless and tells him he can stay until he gets the wheel fixed.

Tom goes down to the river and collects several tree branches.

At the newspaper, Smith compliments Mary Lou on her photos and thanks her for her help on Bret’s information. He asks about what Bret was doing in Memphis 20 years ago but she admits her information doesn’t go that far back. She compliments him and Smith promises to write a song about her. Mary Lou is flattered but tells Smith that she’s busy. Titus Openshaw and his brother Tercius arrive to inquire about Bret’s silver mine. Smith leaves and the Openshaws ask to see the owner of Box 15.

At the Red Ox, Tom asks Bret for help convincing Mary Lou that he has imagination. Bret tells him to keep it simple and Tom agrees. Mary Lou comes in with the Openshaws and Bret introduces himself as Otis Culpepper, the owner’s lawyer. Titus is enthusiastic to buy the mine but Tercius doesn’t want to hear anything. As Mary Lou goes, Tom offers to go for a ride with her later but she says she’ll be printing all afternoon. However, she agrees to meet him for dinner and even offers to wear a dress as long as they agree it’s nothing serious. Tom agrees and Mary Lou leaves.

The Openshaws examine the paperwork and Tercius believes it’s salted. Bret tries to explain how he got the mine without saying he won it in a poker game, and calls over Shifty. When Shifty inadvertently calls him Mr. Maverick, the Openshaws realize who they’re dealing with. Despite Bret’s insistence that it’s a legitimate mine, Tercius goes to get the sheriff and Titus draws a gun and tells Bret to stay seated.

Smith is performing on the street and a boy steals his hat with the money. Dowd recovers the hat but reminds Smith that he told him not to beg. As he hauls Smith to jail, Tom comes and says that Smith is working for him starting tonight and that he’s not a vagrant. Tercius comes over and demands that Dowd arrest Bret for fraud, and Dowd tells Tom to keep an eye on Smith. Tom asks Smith to sing a love song for a lady after dinner that night, and threatens to send him to jail if he doesn’t. Smith agrees and Tom tells him to do something with imagination. The huckster says that he wrote a song for a girl named Delores and that he’d be glad to sing it for Mary Lou.

Bret tells Dowd that he’s selling a real mine and insists that he can prove every statement that he made. Dowd gets the Openshaws to drop the charges in return for Bret paying their expenses. Bret has no choice but to pay up. As Bret leaves, Tom tells him that he’s keeping things simple.

Outside of town, Smith practices his shooting without much success. He starts to take a drink of his elixir to “steady his hand,” but then puts it down and tries to shoot it. He hits it on the second try and smiles in satisfaction.

Tom and Mary Lou enjoy dinner alone and talk about old times. As Mary Lou prepares to leave, Tom tries to stall her long enough for Smith to get there and insists she have another piece of pie. Smith finally gets there and introduces himself on behalf of Tom. Mary Lou is impressed and Smith starts singing, substituting “Mary Lou” for “Dolores.” He gets carried away and kisses her, and Tom tips over the table and starts strangling him. The food ends up on Mary Lou and she leaves, disgusted with Tom’s grant gesture.

Bret is playing poker at the Red Ox and one of the players offers him a silver mine to cover his bet. Rather than end up with another mine, Bret folds and goes over to commiserate with Tom.

Outside of town, Smith perfects his aim and hits all of his targets.

The next morning, Bret leaves the telegraph office with a wire and Dowd asks if he has another live one.

Smith remembers having to leave his family after Bret took their money and vows to end his nemesis’ life once and for all.

In town, Tom collects the carved wood from a carver. Meanwhile, Bret goes to the stage and meets a leading geologist named Jacob Voorsanger. He uses his real name and Voorsanger admits that the advertisement sounded too good to be true. Bret gives him the assay report and Voorsanger congratulates him on a perfect forgery. Desperate, Bret offers to pay him $100 to look at the mine. Voorsanger agrees to do so for $1,000 and Bret promises that he won’t be sorry. The geologist checks into the hotel and Bret tells Dowd that he doesn’t need to listen in anymore and that he’ll soon sell the mine.

Tom buys two shocks of wheat from a local merchant, who has no idea what he plans to do with them.

Bret picks up Voorsanger and rides out to the mine. Smith follows them. As they go, Voorsanger talks about how Bret must be losing his touch. They arrive at the Lucky Ace and Voorsanger still doesn’t believe it’s real. The geologist goes in on his own so that Bret can’t lead him to a fake vein. Smith comes in with his gun and tells Bret that he’s there for revenge. He disarms Bret and ties him up, and then sings “The Ballad of Bret Maverick,” which describes how Smith’s father, a doctor, lost to Bret and then lost his wife and committed suicide. Once he’s finished, Smith draws a knife and cuts Bret loose, and then puts another gun and tells Bret to draw against him. Bret insists that he’s never been to Memphis, never cheated a doctor, and never forced anyone to play against him. He suggests that Smith’s father might have played one of his relatives, possibly Bart, but Smith doesn’t believe that Bret has a brother. Bret suggests that he have a drink to calm himself but Smith refuses and insists that he’s come a long way for nothing. He prepares to shoot but Bret says that he’s not much of a legend and that he’d rather not die against a man named “Smith.” Bret tells them that he could do anything if he wanted to, and Smith reconsiders and puts up his gun.

Tom comes in, holding a gun and flowers, and captures Smith. He says that he saw them from the ridge and decided to help his friend. Voorsanger comes back and insists that Bret must have tricked him. He refuses to give the $1,000 back and leaves, laughing.

The next morning, Mary Lou lets her cat out from the newspaper office and discovers that Tom has left her a massive tree-and-flower sculpture in the center of town. Attached is a note from Tom saying that they should just be friends. The townspeople gather to look at the display while Dowd wonders how someone snuck it past Sturgess. As Voorsanger rides out, Smith says that seeing Bret thwarted is revenge enough. A man comes up and explains that he was delayed a day and was supposed to check out a silver mine. He introduces himself as Jacob Voorsanger and Bret realizes that he’s been conned by a fake Voorsanger. Bret asks Dowd to stop the departing con man but the sheriff doesn’t believe him. Meanwhile, Tom and Mary Lou end up in bed and she congratulates him on his imagination.