return to honor
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Return to Honor Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #05, Episode #25

“Return to Honor,” initially broadcast on March 22, 1964, introduced Guy Williams, renowned for portraying Zorro as Ben Cartwright’s nephew, Will. Will’s arrival hinted at his potential to fill in for Adam Cartwright should Pernell Roberts decide to depart Bonanza, as he had threatened. The narrative unfolds with Ben learning of Will’s purported murder in the neighboring Pine City. In reality, injured and seeking refuge, Will hides from a gang of counterfeiters he has tangled with over their stolen engraving plates. The episode features a cast including Arch Johnson as Butler, Robert Wilke as the Marshal, Hugh Sanders as the Doctor, Gregg Palmer as Gannett, and Bill Clark as Jenner. Jack Turley penned Return to Honor.

Delve into its plot intricacies and intriguing trivia, or view the episode below.

Table of Contents

Watch the Full Episode of Return to Honor

Watch the Full Episode of Return to Honor:

Main Cast

Apart from the main cast, “Return to Honor,” the twenty-fifth episode of Bonanza Season 5 presents a diverse array of recurring and guest-supporting actors. The cast includes:

  • Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright
  • Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright
  • Dan Blocker as Eric ‘Hoss’ Cartwright
  • Michael Landon as Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright
  • Guy Williams as Will Cartwright
  • Arch Johnson as E.J. Butler
  • Robert J. Wilke as Marshal Hollister (as Robert Wilke)
  • Gregg Palmer as Gannett
  • Hugh Sanders as Dr. Moore
  • I. Stanford Jolley as Bixby
  • Bill Clark as Jenner
  • James Tartan as Townsman
  • Ralph Montgomery as Bartender
  • Bill Borzage as Townsman (uncredited)
  • John Bose as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Gene Coogan as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Russell Custer as Stage Passenger (uncredited)
  • Herman Hack as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Michael Jeffers as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Bob LaWandt as Telegrapher (uncredited)
  • Bob Miles as Gunman on Roof (uncredited)
  • John Rice as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Danny Sands as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Jack Tornek as Townsman (uncredited)

Full Story Line for Return to Honor

Upon receiving news of his nephew Will’s alleged murder, Ben embarks on a journey to Pine City to pay his respects. To his astonishment, he discovers Will alive but wounded at the gravesite. Will confides in his uncle, revealing that he is evading a gang of counterfeiters from whom he had stolen engraving plates, and he wishes to maintain the façade of his demise to thwart their pursuit. Recognizing the danger, Ben resolves to bring Will back to the safety of the Ponderosa.

Full Script and Dialogue of Return to Honor


If you're looking for
a drink, it's too early.

I'm looking for
someone, friend of mine.

Maybe just hit town.

He's about my height, black
hair, and a smooth talker.

We got a whole town
full of smooth talkers.

You might ask the clerk
at the hotel over there.


- Will?
- In here, Jenner.

I've been waiting for you.

Where are the others?

They're still sniffing that cold
trail you left back at Rim Springs.

Me, I play hunches.

Especially when
it's worth $5,000.

Butler want me that bad?

That bad.

I got a better idea.

I'm coming around with
my hands empty, all right?

All right.

What's on your mind, Jenner?

Let's you and me make a deal.

Them plates are
worth more than 5,000,

even if we split between us.

You're too late. I
don't have them.

That's too bad.

But there's still the 5,000.

You think $5,000 is gonna
make you that fast with a gun?

Butler said dead or alive.
I'm betting you want it alive.

That's a bad bet.

Hey, what's all
the shooting about?

Someone better call the sheriff.

Help! Stop him,
he's getting away!

Help, help!

Something's in his pockets.

All right, step aside.

He's dead.

- Who did it?
- He took off south.

But he's carrying a bullet in his
side. I seen him slump when it hit.

He won't get far.

This is the fourth robbery and
murder this month, marshal.

We're getting mighty sick of it.

Anybody know him? CLERK: No.

We was just trying to identify
him. Took these out of his pockets.

Anybody who's interested
can get signed up for a posse,

leaving as soon as
we can organized.

Find anything interesting there?

Nothing but $22 and a name.

Will Cartwright.

Well, come on, we
haven't got all day.

Yeah, come on, will you, Hoss?
I'm getting kind of dizzy up here.

Something gonna
make you a lot dizzier

if you don't quit yapping at me.

Anyhow, it's about time one
of you fellas got on this rope.

No, that hook's dangerous.
You might hurt yourself.

Uh, I can't let you work up here,
Hoss. You're liable to slip and fall off.

We'd be half a day filling in the
hole where you hit the ground.

You two give me a pain.

Hey, Pa.

Joseph, will you stop fooling
around up there and come on down?

"Stop fooling around.
Come down." Heh.

"Stop fooling around."

I've got some news.

It was wired from the
marshal in Pine City.

My nephew, Will Cartwright,
was killed there this morning.

What happened, Pa?

I don't know, it doesn't say.

But I guess they must have
made positive identification.

Marshal just wanted to know
if he was any relation to us.

Well, Will's the cousin
that disappeared, isn't he?


Yes, the last time I saw
him, he was about 5 years old.

Adam and I were coming out west,

we stopped off in Ohio
to see my brother, John.

John was mixed up in one of those
hairbrained business deals of his

that never got anywhere.

You remember that,
don't you, Adam?

Well, not really. I was
about the same age as Will.

But I do remember you tried to
find him later on, when his father died.


I sure did try. He
disappeared without a trace.

I'm gonna go to Pine City,
make the arrangements.

- Do you want us to go with you?
- No, no, no.

I'll go pack a bag.



Ben Cartwright?

- Yes.
- Oh, I'm Marshal Hollister.

- I got the wire you were coming.
- Thank you for meeting me.

Well, I figured you'd like to get
this over with as quick as possible.

Well, yes, I would.

My office is just
down the street.

If you're not too tired, we can
take care of a few details right now.

All right, good.

Hank, take Mr. Cartwright's
luggage to the hotel.

I wish I could tell you
we caught the killer,

but he cold-trailed us
about four miles out of town.

We found his horse with a broken
leg. I guess he stole himself another one.

We got a shaky description of
him, but maybe it'll be good enough.

I hope so. Marshal?

Can you tell me how it happened?

Afraid I can't tell you
much about that either.

Witnesses didn't get there
till after the shooting was over.

All they saw was the killer
bending over your nephew's body,

going through his pockets.

You think it was robbery.

Well, it sounds like it, but
there's one part I can't figure.

Your nephew still had his
watch and $22 in his wallet.

The killer could've
been scared off

before he found what
he was looking for.

Let's go inside.

Here they are.

The money is still there,
if you wanna count it.

No, that won't be necessary.

I gave this to his father.

There's some papers to
be signed, Mr. Cartwright.

Receipt for the personal
effects, a release for the body.


Where is the, uh...?

Where's my nephew?

As a matter of fact, I wasn't
sure whether I'd get the answer

to that wire I sent you, so I
went on with a temporary burying.


Well, that takes care
of everything here.

Maybe it'd be better if you
checked in over at the hotel

and let me take
care of the rest.

You'll be needing a wagon
to take the body back.

I can have everything
ready in the morning.

I think I'd like

to pay my respects before
I check in to the hotel.

Cemetery's just west of
town on the far side of the hill.

I'll find it.

Mr. Cartwright,

my horse is the
bay right outside.

You're welcome to
take him if you want.

Thank you.

Hold it.

Drop it, Butler.

My name isn't Butler.

Now turn around.


Who are you?

Name's Cartwright.


Ben Cartwright?


You picked a rotten time

to visit relatives, Uncle.


All right, easy, Will.
Easy. Not all at once.

Nothing like coming back
from the dead, is there?

Well, I don't know
what happened, Will,

but whatever it was, I thank
God it wasn't you in that grave.

Well, I still got a fifty-fifty
chance of making it.

Well, we gotta
get you to a doctor.

No. Look, I've been carrying
this slug around for two days.

A couple more isn't
gonna make any difference.

- Oh, you're talking nonsense now.
- No.

That grave, the one you
just paid your respects to,

belongs to a man named Jenner.

He was paid to kill me.

Now, there are half a
dozen more just like him

waiting to do the same thing,

unless they believe
I'm in that grave.

I was waiting here to see if
someone would come and check it out.

I never expected to find you.

Well, the marshal wired

when your identification
was found on the body.

No, no, you ride out of here.

Butler and his men, they don't
like anybody called Cartwright.

Who's Butler?

Like I say, he's a man
that doesn't like Cartwrights.

We're getting to a doctor now.

Ben, I'm gonna do this my way.

You've gotta let me
help you out of here.

Would you get
out of here? Wait...

That was a fairly nasty wound.

Must have been carrying
that bullet for quite a spell.

You said it was a
hunting accident?

Yeah, happened
up in the mountains.

That so?

Slug looks like it
come from a .44.

You fellows do your
hunting with pistols?

Of course, I guess a .44
will stop a deer quick as a rifle

- if you're close enough.
- Yeah.

You live around here, do you?

- No, we're from Virginia City.
- Oh.

Guess you haven't heard
about the shooting we had here.

Man named Cartwright was killed.

Witnesses say that the killer
caught a slug before he got away.


More than likely just a grudge fight
between a couple of saddle tramps.


Unless maybe the fellow who
got away killed in self-defense.

Could have.

Of course, he'd have
to be able to prove that.

Well, maybe he can.

Oh, I don't know. The town's
all primed for a quick hanging.

Been too many
robberies, murders.

Are you saying

that he's convicted already
even though he's innocent?

Well, I'm saying he'd
be smart to find a town

that's friendlier,
to start with.

One like, say, Virginia City.


Of course, being a doctor,
I'm more partial to saving lives

than to seeing them choked
off at the end of a rope.

But then I guess I'm
just plain getting too old

to enjoy a good
Saturday hanging.


I doubt if you ever
did enjoy one, doctor.

You better have the
doctor over at Virginia City

check that wound
when you get back.

Thanks. I'll do that, doc.

How soon do you
think he can travel?

Tomorrow morning.

Oh, he can sleep on
the cot in the back room.

Now, just set
yourself down easy.


Don't worry. He won't
even turn over till morning.

Yeah. Oh, doctor...

I'm not interested
in any speeches.

Past my bedtime. I gotta get up
early and make some ranch calls.

I'll be back about
noon tomorrow,

which is when I'm gonna
make a report to the marshal

about patching up a bullet hole.

- About noon?
- Mm.

Thank you.

Here's a blanket.

There's the back door.

He's welcome to use either
any time he feels like it.

Very good.

Well, I'm locking
up. Good night.

Good night, doctor.

- Now, Will...
- Yeah?

I've gotta go back to the hotel
just in case the marshal comes by.


Now, I'll be by to pick you
up in the morning, early.


You never give up.

When you're yourself again, you
can take care of your own affairs.

You can do whatever
you wanna do. Good night.

See you in the morning.

- Mr. Cartwright?
- Yes?

Uh, forgive me for intruding
upon your moment of sorrow,

but may I have a word with you?
It's quite important. My name is Butler.

Butler. Uh, come in, please.

Thank you.

I see we share the
same inconvenience

in the quality of our lodgings.

I just arrived in town, had to
settle for an oppressive room.

Excuse me, Mr. Butler, I'm
just in the midst of packing here.

You said it was quite important?

Oh, yes, to the point.

Well, your nephew was a
business associate of mine.

My business is of
a financial nature.

I deal in investments,
securities and stocks.

- You understand.
- Yes.

Shortly before his tragic death,

your nephew resigned from
the business without notice.

He took some valuable
securities with him.

To be blunt, Mr. Cartwright,
he stole them.

I'm sorry to hear that.

I wouldn't have thought my
nephew capable of dishonesty.

- Excuse me.
- Yes. Uh, to be sure.

However, as a relative, you obviously
inherit your nephew's personal effects.

For that reason, I wonder if you
would mind if I examined them,

uh, only to ensure any
recovery of stolen goods.

Uh, I'm sure you'd like the
Cartwright name to remain unsullied.



There was nothing
else? No package?


No, just the gun and this.

That's all the marshal gave me.

Perhaps the, uh,

securities were the reason
for my nephew being killed.

Hmm. Perhaps you're right.

My condolences, Mr. Cartwright.
I won't trouble you any further.

No trouble at all, Mr. Butler.

I'm sorry that I couldn't
have been more helpful.

I'm sure you are. Good day.

- Well, has he got them?
- I'm not sure yet.

Maybe I ought to
talk to him myself.

Your percentage in this little
operation depends entirely

upon a successful and
inconspicuous recovery of the plates,

not on your ability to kill.

As long as I get my cut.

I have every intention of
making absolutely certain you do.

Did you find Jenner?

Ah, he's disappeared.

And I scraped
this town clean too.

- Hmm.
- Hey. Uh...

Maybe he took the plates

and decided to go in business
for himself. What do you think?

Jenner's greedy,
but he's not stupid.

You forget I still have the press,
the paper and the ink and the skill.

Without those, the plates
are absolutely useless.

Ah, he could be
holed up somewhere.

Remote possibility.

So, what now?

I think you will keep an eye on
the grieving uncle for a few days

in the event that he may
have discovered something else

in his nephew's possession,
more than he would care to claim.

If I get a line on the killer,
Mr. Cartwright, I'll let you know.

Sorry everything took so long.

I'm very grateful for everything
you've done, marshal.

The mare's kind of bit shy.

You might have to whip her
across the rump a couple of times

- before she settles.
- I'm sure she'll be fine.

By the way, there was
a gent looking for you.

I sent him over to the
hotel. I suppose he saw you.

Yes, yes, he did, marshal.
It was a personal matter.

- Bye, marshal. Thank you.
- Goodbye.


Well, I think I'll go to the café
and have me some breakfast.

- You wanna join me, Bixby?
- No, thank you, marshal.

I've got a whole
stable full of customers

waiting for their own breakfast.


Oh, morning.

Something I can do for you?

Yeah, you can saddle up that
chestnut in the second stall.

I knew there was
something I forgot.

- The one with the loose shoe, ain't it?
- Right.

Well, it'll only take me a
minute if you wanna wait.

That's all right,
I'm in no hurry.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.


that's the second time
you've almost got it from me.

- I got a wagon outside. Let's get out.
- No, no, this is where I check out.

- We settled this last night.
- That was last night.

But I feel better this morning.

- That's good, then let's go.
- Now, now, wait a minute.

You helped me out of a
tight spot, and I'm grateful.

The only way to show how grateful
is to put some distance between us.


- Yeah.
- Well...

All right. Oh, uh, your
friend Butler is in town.

Came to see me
early this morning.

Imagine some of his
friends are with him.

You can go out there and
face them down single-handed

or you can get under that wagon
tarp I've got outside and come with me.

Well, when you put it that way, it
sounds pretty clear-cut, doesn't it?

Yeah, pretty clear-cut.

All right, let's go.

Give you a hand.

This way. Now, easy.

Hyah! Hyah!


- You still all right?
- Oh, I'm just fine.

Get up and stretch a bit.

Where are we?

We're just outside
Virginia City.

We should make the
Ponderosa by nightfall.


The Ponderosa.

I remember my
father talking about it.

He said it was such a beautiful name
for such rough and rugged country.

Yep, rough and rugged it was,

and rough and rugged it is.

He always said that you'd make a
success of anything you ever tried.

He had his big dreams too.

Only he died chasing gold in
every wild-goose corner of this world.

I'll tell you
something about him.

He may have died broke,

but that man was never poor.


- Piece of roti?
- No.

You know,

I went looking for
you after he died.

You'd left without a trace.

Well, I...

I didn't wanna be part
of any other family.

You see,

I loved and admired my father.

Maybe that's why I'm like him.

I've chased my dreams
around the world too.

As you can see,
not too successfully.

Well, let's get on
to your Ponderosa.

We'll see what you've got.

- Hmm?
- Yeah, I'm okay.

Hyah! Hyah!

Hey, I wanna send a wire.

Yes, sir, where to?

Pine City Hotel.

Mr. E. J. Butler.

Have found Will alive.

Kind of a long jump, isn't it?

Give up?


You know, Pa should
have been back by now.

Yeah, if he don't hurry up,
supper's gonna be all dried up.

He didn't say for sure
when he'd be back.

Well, I still think one of us
should have gone with him.


Even though none of us
did know this cousin Will.

Couldn't have been easy for Pa.


Hey, that's him now.


Now, let me see how
we can manage this.

I'll give you a hand there, Pa.
- Boys.

Thank you.

I have a surprise for you.

That wire from the
marshal in Pine City?

It was a mistake.

It's your cousin, Will.

Howdy, Will.

- That's Hoss.
- Hoss.

Little Joe.

- Will, a pleasure to see you.
- Little Joe.

- Adam.
- Adam.

Like Lazarus rising from the dead.
Welcome to the Ponderosa, cousin.

Now, we're kind of tired.
You boys save us any supper?

We sure did, Pa. Come on, Will.

Oh, what do you got there, Pa?

Tell you about it later.

Let me get this straight. You
were gonna bury that man there

under your name, right?

That was my plan till
your father showed up.

Well, Will figured that if Butler
accepted the fact that he was dead,

Will could feel safe.

Safe? Safe to do what?

Spend the rest of his life running
using somebody else's name,

living like an outlaw?

If it'll make you feel any
better, I make a rotten outlaw.

I think I proved that.

You mean with this fellow
Butler you were talking about?

He cranks out a
very fancy $20 bill.

Oh, yeah? So it's counterfeiting
this Butler was involved in, huh?

Well, our friend prefers to
call it the investment business.


Well, nobody can say the Cartwrights
don't go in for trouble in a big way.

Tell me.

How did you ever get hooked
up with a fella like Butler?

Well, when you're between
jobs, Uncle, you take what's handy.


You can hardly call
counterfeiting handy.

Now, just relax. I didn't
circulate any phony money.

Butler said he
needed a bodyguard.

The money looked
good, so I signed on.

That's when I found out the
money wasn't quite good enough.

I didn't bother to say goodbye.

And he wanted
to kill you for that?

Oh, well, not exactly. Uh...

On my way out, I borrowed
his engraving plates.

Ah. That's what
Butler was looking for.

Well, this food has made
me feel like a new man.

Now, if someone can lend me a
razor, maybe I can look like one.

Well, there's some hot water and
a razor in the kitchen. Come on.

Looks to me like our cousin Will
has got himself into a little trouble.


All that talking he did about taking
those plates from that fella Butler,

he didn't mention nothing about
turning them over to the authorities.

That's right. And what
about this running away, Pa?

You're not going
along with that, are you?

I wanted him to give himself up.

But I couldn't let him do it in Pine
City. They'd have strung him up.

It's an open and shut
case of self-defense,

so I'm hoping that he'll give himself
up to Sheriff Coffee here in Virginia City.

Yeah. Did he agree to that?

No, not yet, but
I think he will.

At least I hope he will.

And I think we ought
to try to persuade him to.

I got a feeling our cousin needs a
little more help than just a shave.

That's exactly what
we've been talking about.

And I think we're the
ones that ought to help him.

If he'll accept it.

He seems to be pretty
satisfied with his own plans.

Look, Pa, we know
he's a Cartwright.

We know he's a relative, but how
do we know he's telling the truth?

I may not be the best judge of
character in the world, but I think...

And not because he's a
Cartwright or a relative.

I think that, basically,
he's an honest man.

Yeah, but how are we gonna
persuade him to give himself up?

I don't know.

But at least let's show
a little faith in him.

All right.

Bullet holes in these plates?

That's right.

I put them there myself

just in case I didn't get a chance
to turn them over to the law.

Now, get me a
horse and I'll leave.

Put the coffin out in the barn.

We'll tend to it in the morning.


For what?

Well, for finally
agreeing with me.

What are we agreeing about?

To bury that coffin out
there under my name.


You still think that's
the thing to do?

Of course it is.

Listen, when Jenner
doesn't show up

and Butler remembers that
you brought a body back here,

he's gonna come nosing around,

the way he would have at
Pine City if you hadn't shown up.

Well, so he noses around

and finds a grave with Will
Cartwright's name on it. Then what?

Well, show it to him.

I'll be out of here by then.

- Where you going?
- Maybe China.

I've never been to China.

The world's full of places, Ben.

That's right,
world's full of places.

Full of people too.
What about people, Will?

Have you ever found people
more important than places?

Well, sure. A girl now and then, a
few friends. What are you getting at?

I'm just trying to
figure out who you are.

Well, that's simple.

I like the sea, I
like French food,

I like to dance a
fandango, if the girl's pretty.

Cards, anything
that's going. That's me.

You might put all that together
and say that I'm my father's son.

Are you?

Did you forget that
I knew your father?

We were boys together.
We grew up together.

I went to sea, but
whenever I came back,

we managed to meet
somewhere, somehow.

We'd talk and plan and dream.

But there comes a time
when a man stops dreaming

and settles down to make
one dream a reality, like I did.

Like your father would
have done if he'd lived.

What about you?

Not me.

And not my father.

I knew him better than you did.


Yeah, maybe you did.

Maybe you did.

I guess we'll never know what
your father would have done, will we?

But there's one thing that
we both know about him.

He was a proud man.

- Yes, he was.
- Yes, he was.

And he was proud of his name.

And he would never have
done what you wanna do.

Discard his name, bury it,
run off to China or wherever

on the pretext
that it's adventure.

Not John Cartwright.

Maybe Will Cartwright,
but not John.

Well, I guess I had a long trip.

I'm tired. I'm going to bed.


Tomorrow we'll put whatever
name you want on that grave.

I sure hope we're
doing right by Will.

Those counterfeit
plates he's gonna turn in,

the government will
give him a medal.

Yeah, after we dispense
with that little item.

Well, they'll
believe him, all right.

What about that fellow Butler?

Well, after he gets through
telling the sheriff his story,

it'll be Butler who'll wanna
get his name changed.

Hmm. Hey, Joe, come on.

Yeah, I'm coming.

- Better tell Pa we're ready to go.
- Yeah.

- Everything's all set, Pa.
- Good.

Sure glad you made
this decision, Will.

One thing I learned
drifting around the world,

there are a few men,
not too many, mind you,

that are smarter than me.


Your resurrection is a
most welcome surprise.

May I introduce a business
associate of mine, Mr. Gannett?

And another member of my staff.

And in the unlikely event they should
require some assistance, three others.

It's me you want, not them.

You're only partially right.
I want you and the plates.

I buried them.

Now, if you'll let them
go, I'll show you where.


How about it, Butler?

Do we ride out of here or not?

All right, hold it.

Take care of them, Hoss.

Yes, sir.

You should have let me go with
them. You could have all been killed.

What, after you'd decided
to keep the Cartwright name?

We couldn't let the
likes of them change that.

We ain't about to lose
a cousin that easily.

Especially we've hardly had a
chance to get acquainted yet.

Yeah, give it a little
time, you'll get used to us.

How about it, Will?

You got the time?

All for one, huh?

Well, it's better
than one all alone.


I kind of think it's gonna
take some getting used to.

Well, take your time,
Will. Take your time.

You might get to like the idea.

Let's get to town, boys.

Behind the Scenes of Return to Honor

Guy Williams appeared in five episodes towards the conclusion of the fifth season, portraying Ben’s nephew, Will. His potential to join the cast full-time in the sixth season arose due to Pernell Roberts’ desire to depart from the show. Plans were in place for a storyline involving Adam Cartwright’s departure through marriage, paving the way for Will’s integration. However, Roberts’ last-minute decision to stay another year led to Will’s departure from the series. The other three principal actors expressed dissatisfaction with adding a fourth lead and preferred to continue without this alteration. Following Roberts’ exit after the sixth season, the series persisted with just the original trio of leads.

It’s noteworthy that Michael Landon and Guy Williams shared the screen previously in “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.”

Looking for More Bonanza Episodes?

Bonanza is an outstanding, family-friendly series, ideal for solo and group viewing. Return to Honor is the 159th episode in the series’ run of 430 episodes. Produced by NBC, Bonanza graced their network from September 1959 to January 1973, encompassing 14 seasons.

You can find more about any of the 430 Bonanza episodes here>>

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