Paladin is at the opera watching a performance of Cyrano De Bergerac with two women, Mimi and Fifi. A rancher, Chris Sorenson, arrives as Paladin talks to them about the opera and how they can go back to his suite afterward. Chris sees a man kissing a woman's hand, brushes past Paladin, and shoves the man to the ground. Paladin watches him, amused, and Chris comes over and introduces himself. He asks Paladin for his help talking to ladies, and admits that he can't use guns and fists on a lady. Chris explains that he followed a new neighbor, Maria de Casro there, but he isn't doing any better. Maria was the woman who Chris defended. He offers Paladin a thousand dollars to teach him, and paladin reluctantly agrees to help him. Going over to Maria, Paladin chats with her briefly and nods in Chris' direction, and Maria laughs.
Later, Paladin rides with Chris to his ranch. Chris is amazed that Paladin invited Maria to dinner. Paladin says that he was supposed to take over. Chris brings out his men Clem the cook and Bud, and sends them to hunt, get wild rice from the nearby swamp, and bring flowers. The rancher says that Paladin is the ramrod around there, and Bud irritably tells Chris to come off of it before leaving.
Later, Bud comes back and finds Chris showering. He says that they found trouble on the roundup while Chris was in San Francisco, and explains that they have 300 more steers than they figured on. The Castro family is claiming that they're missing 300 head. Paladin comes out as Chris tells Bud that he doesn't care until he works things out with Maria one way or another. Bud talks to Paladin privately and tells him that Jeff Brewer tried inspecting their herd. If Bud hadn't stepped in then there would be trouble. Once Bud leaves, Chris asks Paladin what he should do once Paladin decoys Maria's Aunt Anna away. Paladin tells him to talk about the play and just nod his head and listen.
That night, the de Castros' ramrod Jeff brings Maria and Anna over and Jeff warns that Chris' ranch is a pigsty and he's responsible for their missing cows. Anna agrees with Jeff, but Maria tells her aunt that she's paying Jeff to run his ranch, not her social life.
Chris paces nervously until the de Castros arrive. Paladin has Chris let them in, and Maria says that they're surprised that it's so well decorated. With some prompting from Paladin, Chris engages Maria in conversation. They chat over dinner and Chris gives Clem wine tips thanks to the info Paladin has passed on. Bud comes to the door and motions Paladin out, and he joins the ramrod. Outside, Bud says that Jeff and a couple of his boys are in back talking up trouble.
Jeff is busy accusing Chris of rustling cattle when Paladin comes over. Paladin tells him to come back in the morning, and Jeff says that he's not going to back away from trouble. The gunfighter calls Jeff away and punches him, then draws his gun and tells Bud to put them in their wagon until the dinner party is over. Paladin goes back in and secretly reminds Chris of the name of the play. They go to the salon and Paladin invites Anna out to tell him about Spain. Once they leave, Maria asks Chris what he thought of the plan. Chris goes outside and asks Paladin for his advice, explaining that Maria beat him to the punch. Paladin advises him to talk about his shooting trophies, and Chris goes back in and stumbles through talking about his trophies. Meanwhile, Anna tells paladin that fences have broken and cattle have disappeared at their ranch. Paladin and Anna hear a gunshot and go inside. Chris admits that the gun was loaded and Anna insists on leaving with Maria.
The next day, Paladin goes riding with Maria. They spot Chris and Bud working on a fence, and Paladin slaps Maria's house. It runs away and Paladin goes after it. He stops her and Chris stares in dismay as Maria assures Paladin that she's all right. As the couple leaves, Chris rides off in disgust.
Paladin and Maria return to the de Castro hacienda, and Anna tells Maria that Jeff made another offer to buy their ranch. Anna thinks that Maria should sell, saying that the wilderness is no place for her. Paladin asks to see the offer, and Jeff says that he has nothing to hide. He suggests that he get Chris' opinion and leaves. Jeff points out that the ranch has had troubles, but Maria refuses to discuss it until Paladin returns.
Jeff meets with his men and tells them to start a fire. They'll seed Chris' herd with stolen cattle, push them, lure them to the de Castro ranch, shoot it out with them, and sell Maria into selling. Paladin is hiding nearby and overhears the whole thing.
Later, Chris comes into his house and finds Paladin reading. He says that he saw Paladin with Maria and think he's trying to take Maria away from him. Chris figures that Paladin is the kind of man Maria wants so he quits. Paladin tells him that he's seeing somebody that night and Anna won't be there. Angry, Chris asks if Paladin intends to marry Maria. Paladin just chuckles at the thought and leaves.
Paladin rides out to where Jeff' and his men are rebranding cows with the Sorenson mark. Chris follows Paladin there and spots the rustlers, and they prepare to shoot him. Paladin and Chris catch them, and Chris says that he took care of them. Paladin agrees with him and asks if Maria will believe him, and Chris says that they'll see. They take Jeff and his men to the de Castro ranch and Chris is tongue-tied. Paladin takes over and explains Jeff's plan, and Jeff agrees rather than face Paladin again. Maria tells them to go, and Paladin kisses Maria's hand and tells her that she's beautiful. Chris tells Paladin to stay away from Maria and punches Paladin. They fight and Chris explains that he hired Paladin to tell him how to talk to Maria so she would marry him. Maria says that she loves Chris, and Paladin tells Anna to have Chris send his fee to San Francisco and to send for him if he stops talking to Maria.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 18, 2018