Bonanza, Season 1
Lotta Crabtree is hired by mining tycoon Alpheus Troy to lure one of the Cartwrights into town and hold him for ransom in exchange for Ponderosa timber rights.
Welcome to the Ponderosa, the sprawling ranch owned by the Cartwrights in 1860s Nevada, just off the shores of Lake Tahoe. Throughout the series, it’s the envy of the nation, its largest ranch, and businessmen have wanted a piece of it right from the start.
In this pilot episode, Alpheus Troy see the Ponderosa as an obstacle to their mining business. If they can get timber rights in part of the ranch, their businesses will survive. So they employ beautiful actress Lotta Crabtree (Yvonne De Carlo) — you might recognize her as Lily of The Munsters fame — to seduce one of the Cartwright brothers into Virginia City. There, businessmen are waiting to hold him hostage and force patriarch Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) to surrender the timber rights.
So, the businessmen send Miss Crabtree onto Cartwright property, as if she’d gotten lost. The stagecoach loses a wheel and now she’s the damsel in distress, with initially skeptical Cartwrights cautiously aiding her because nobody just gets lost on the Ponderosa. It figures that Little Joe (Michael Landon), the youngest of the brothers Cartwright — who include Adam and Hoss — would be the one to get lured to her hotel room. When Lotta sniffs out that the businessmen weren’t entirely honest with her about their intentions, she helps Little Joe escape them.
There are fistfights and a drawdown with a gunslinger — what would a Western be without them? — and a conclusion that allows a 14-year series to be born, and to run in syndication to this day. This gives birth to a series that’s more about family than anything else — brothers who each are as different as night and day from the next, and how they come together despite their differences. Even when they fight among themselves, there’s no mistaking their bond, and the series merits Dove approval for All Ages.
The Dove Take
Even when they fight among themselves and things get thorny, there’s no mistaking the Cartwrights’ bond.