At the Burke & Walsh Circus, Corky is training Bimbo for a new act for the new owner, as Joey looks on. Pete comes over and tells Joey that the parade is in five minutes, just as armed men ride in firing their guns into the air. The leader, Hank Miller from Prairie City, tells the people to leave because the show is over. He says that the circus owes him $423 and demands to see the new owner. Joey tells Hank that if he lets them give the show then they'll pay him out of the take, but Hank demands his money immediately. When the workers can't pay, Pete summons everyone to take on Hank and his men.
New owner Big Tim Champion arrives, fires a shot into the air, and orders them to leave. He tells Hank that he's the new owner, and Pete explains that the circus owes him. Tim pays him and tells all of the witnesses to take note that Hank was paid. As Hank prepares to ride off, Tim demands money for the damage Hank's men caused. Hank chuckles and invites him to collect, and then jumps Tim. The two men fight and Tim soon takes Hank down. Hank pays him but warns that Tim hasn't heard the end of it.
Once the men leave, Tim tells the guests that the show is free and the big show is about to begin. Pete greets his old friend, and Tim tells them to get on with the show. They go to work, Joey and Little Tom working the audience with their clown act. Outside, Tim finds Swifty doing the three-shell game for some onlookers. When an onlooker loses, Tim tells Swifty to give his money back, saying that the onlooker didn't have a chance. Once the man leaves, Swifty complains and Tim tells him to go. Tim then tells Pete to get the operation ready to go, and heads into town. He asks who Corky is, and Pete explains that they took care of him after Corky lost his folks, the Flying Falcones. Tim figures the circus is no place for a boy alone, and has Pete bring Corky to his wagon so that they can talk.
In the wagon, Tim introduces himself and warns that circus life isn't the easiest in the world. He asks if Corky has had any other kind of life, and if he wants to see the rest of the world. Corky doesn't agree, and Tim says that he can fix it to go to a boy's home in Kansas City. The boy says that the circus workers are his family, but Tim says that he'll get over it and can come back when he grows up. Corky breaks into tears, and Tim tells him that's the way that it is.
Corky finds Joey and tells him what happened, and Joey points out that Tim can't fire him because nobody ever hired Corky. He goes to see Tim and tells him that Corky has decided to stay with the show. Tim figures that Corky will be better off with a school, and Joey assures him that he's been teaching him. He explains that he was a school teacher before he joined the circus, and insists that Corky is the heart of the circus. Tim insists that he isn't wrong, and Joey warns that if Corky goes then he'll go, too. The new owner tells him to go if he's going and goes back to work.
Later, Corky packs and says goodbye to Bimbo. He promises to come back when he's an adult and buy the circus. Joey overhears him and breaks into tears, and tells Corky that they have to get started. They head back to Prairie City and Joey says that they might be able to scrape up enough money for train fare and join another circus. He tells Corky that Tim only did what he thought was right, and that he has to accept what Tim did. Corky reluctantly agrees and breaks into song with Joey.
That night, Joey and Corky arrive in Prairie City. They see Swifty, and tell him that they quit the show. He figures that they got kicked out, same as him, and says that he talked with Hank. Swifty told Hank how to get even with Tim by intercepting him on the way to Kansas City alone. Furious, Joey kicks Swifty away and Corky convinces him to try and warn Tim. Swifty brings over a policeman who takes both of them in. The officer warns if Corky is with Joey, and Joey pushes him away.
Tim is heading to Kansas City when Hank and his men intercept him. They jump him and take him down with superior numbers, just as Corky arrives with all of the circus workers. They attack Hank's men and soon take them down, Hank orders a retreat, and Joey arrives to confirm that Tim is okay. He says that they got wind of what happened, and Tim admits that he needed Corky. He thanks them all, and Pete says that they did it because Corky said so. Tim admits that Corky's place is with them, and tells the boy that he's the heart of the circus.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 8, 2017