Two cowboys aim to fill each other full of lead following a dispute over a card game and woman who runs a restaurant for hungry cowboys aims to dissuade them in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Triggers in Leash,” reviewed here.

Season 1 Episode 3—aired 10/16/55

“Triggers in Leash” **½

Teleplay by Dick Carr • Story by Allen Vaughn Elston
Directed by Don Medford
Gene Barry as Dell Delaney
Darren McGavin as Red Hillman
Ellen Corby as Maggie
Casey MacGregor as Ben

Engaging performances salvage what seems to be a sort of formal exercise in this episode. The challenge: how to keep viewers interested in a story that takes place entirely in one room and during which very little actually happens.

Somewhere out West in the mid-to-late 19th century, Maggie (Ellen Corby, Grandma Walton some years earlier) serves up tasty vittles to cowboys and whatnot who pass through. Currently an older fellow named Ben has just finished up a plate of pancakes and Maggie promises him a steak and pie for lunch after he does some chores for her around the place.

After Ben leaves, cowboy Dell Delaney (Gene Barry, a pretty big name at the time, having just starred in The Atomic City and The War of the Worlds in the previous 2-3 years) enters. Maggie knows him and wonders what’s on his mind as she can see he is preoccupied and won’t remove his gun belt when he is about to eat.

Soon, another cowboy bursts into the room, Red Hillman (Darren McGavin, twenty years before Kolchak: The Night Stalker, another series I really should review).

Seems he and Dell had an argument over a card game the night before and now they aim to settle that dispute permanently (and fatally).

What follows is a lot of bluster and braggadocio between the two men and Maggie’s attempts to play peacemaker. Maggie seems to take their threats to shoot one another dead seriously but there is an element of childish boasting and insults with Dell and Red that suggests that both would prefer a face-saving way out of a violent confrontation. She insists that no one will win in the end—that whoever shoots first may kill the other but that she will testify against the “winner” and he will end up hanging for his crime.

Finally, Maggie makes a proposal that both men agree to: it’s just moments before noon and the only way to have a fair shootout is for each man to promise to draw together at the moment that the cuckoo clock sitting on a nearby shelf chimes.

She removes a large, heavy crucifix statue from the shelf, saying that she wishes to spare it from damage due to stray bullets.

With less than a minute to go, the clock stops, in Maggie’s view by the hand of God, and that therefore the cowboys must call off their duel or they will be dishonoring both themselves and God. They agree to leave together, peacefully.

Moments later, Ben returns and sees that Maggie has taken the crucifix off the shelf. “I told you last time the clock wouldn’t run right on the shelf unless it was set on the level,” he admonishes her as a bemused smile may or may not come to the viewers face.

As I said in the beginning, very little happens in this episode and it is fairly repetitive. It’s not a total success by any means but neither is it a complete failure. Ellen Corby projects honesty, morality, caring and believability in her role, Gene Barry’s character comes off as having the upper hand but is still nervous and Darren McGavin is quite funny as the more over-the-top of the two, getting on Dell’s nerves.

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