the deadliest game
Bonanza Western TV
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The Deadliest Game Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #06, Episode #22

A troupe of lively Italian acrobats makes their way to the Ponderosa. Despite his longstanding friendship with Guido Borelli (portrayed by Cesar Romero), the leader of the acrobats, Ben Cartwright becomes unsettled by Borelli’s possessive behavior whenever his sweetheart Pitina (played by Ilze Taurins) shows interest in another man, such as Ben’s son Joe. Matters escalate when Borelli’s younger competitor, Carlo (played by Fabrizio Mioni), is stabbed, leading Guido to attempt to frame Joe for the crime. Lily Valenty joins the guest cast as Donna Luisa. The Deadliest Game, written by Jo Pagano, originally aired on February 21, 1965.

If you’re curious, explore the plot’s intricacies and discover some trivia, or sit back and enjoy the entire episode below.

Table of Contents

Watch the Full Episode of The Deadliest Game

Watch the Full Episode of The Deadliest Game:

Main Cast

Apart from the main cast, “The Deadliest Game,” the twenty-second episode of Bonanza Season 6 presents a diverse array of recurring and guest-supporting actors. The cast includes:

  • Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright
  • Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright (credit only)
  • Dan Blocker as Eric ‘Hoss’ Cartwright
  • Michael Landon as Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright
  • Cesar Romero as Guido Borelli
  • Fabrizio Mioni as Carlo Alfieri
  • Ilze Taurins as Petina
  • Lili Valenty as Donna Luisa
  • Ray Teal as Sheriff Roy Coffee
  • Grandon Rhodes as Doctor
  • Jimmie Booth as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Bill Clark as Ranch Hand (uncredited)
  • Martha Manor as Townswoman (uncredited)
  • Rod McGaughy as Townsman (uncredited)
  • William Meader as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Cap Somers as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Sailor Vincent as Townsman (uncredited)

Full Story Line for The Deadliest Game

Ben warmly greets his old pal Guido Borelli and his troupe of acrobats as they arrive at the Ponderosa. However, Ben’s joy is dampened by Borelli’s intense jealousy whenever any man shows interest in Pitina, his beloved.

Tensions rise when Carlo, a young suitor competing for Pitina’s heart, is found stabbed. Borelli accuses Little Joe of the crime to deflect suspicion, escalating the situation further.

Full Script and Dialogue of The Deadliest Game



MAN 1: Just might be done...

JOE: What's up, Roy?



GUIDO: Hey, hey, how's all?

Hey, you coming
to the circus, huh?


[WHISPERS] Stop that.
What's the matter with you?

The way he whistled
at you is an insult.

I'm tired of your jealousy.

Now, behave yourself.

GUIDO: So you're
coming to see us, eh?

Oh, what a pretty
little girl. Very...

On behalf of the entire
population of our fair township,

- welcome to Virginia City.
- Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.

For myself, for my troupe,
and for my sister, Donna Luisa.

- Ben. Ben Cartwright!
Ha, ha. BEN: Ha, ha, ha.

BEN: Hey, now. GUIDO: Oh!

Now this whole trip
from San Francisco

is worth all the inconvenience.

Well, I was wondering if you'd
have time to say hello to an old friend.

My delight is beyond expression.

Going on ten years
now, isn't it? Ten years.

Oh, Guido, my son, Joseph.

- Signor Guido Borelli.
JOE: That's all right...

GUIDO: Petina,
Carlo, I have the honor

to present my old
and good friend,

Ben Cartwright,
also his son, Joseph.

Signorina Petina Anselmi.
Signor Carlo Alfieri.

- How do you do?
JOE: How do you do?

Oh, Donna Luisa, you
remember Ben Cartwright?

LUISA: Who could
forget Ben Cartwright?

BEN: Donna Luisa.

It is such a pleasure
to see you again.

How wonderful to see you. This
is my son Joseph, Donna Luisa.

Now, this is what I've done.

Soon as I heard you
were coming to town,

I canceled your
hotel reservations.

My two older boys are
away on a cattle-buying trip

and there's lots of
room at the Ponderosa.

So you're all coming
out there to stay with us.

- Just like that?
- Just like that.

- Magnifico, we
go. BEN: Come on.


You carry this stuff with
you wherever you go?

But, of course.

How else could I
satisfy the inner-man?

And if the inner-man
is not content,

then the outer-man is not fit
to inhabit a civilized society.


A pinch of oregano,
the finest from Greece.

A pinch, no more.

Heh, heh. It is like the garlic.

One wishes only the
perfume, not a suffocation.


You know, it is not everyone I
would give my prized family recipes to.

Tonight, my old friend,

you will dine on a
caponata di melanzane

and a pasta di sarde
such as you have not eaten

since you were at
my villa in Palermo.

Yeah, well, I remember when
I was at your villa in Palermo,

my clothes fit just
a bit too snuggly.


Well, first, it has
to simmer a little.

While it's simmering, why
don't we have a little marsala.

I still have couple of bottles up in
that case I brought back with me.


So Ira gets sick on the vinegar

and Hoss ends up
winning the contest anyway.


BEN: Well, what's so funny?

Telling them about the time I entered
Hoss in that flapjack-eating contest.

Yeah, well, let's not bring up
those painful memories again.

And let us not
spoil my melanzane.

It will be ready soon, so I suggest
you ladies get dressed for dinner.

LUISA: Of course.

Come along, child.

Joe? Signor Alfieri?

- Yeah, thanks, Pa.
- No, thank you.

If you will excuse me,
I also have to change.

Ah, Sicilians and temperament.

They go together
like food and wine.

Oh, I don't know.

You're Sicilian.

And I've never noticed very
much temperament in you.

Oh, that's true,
of course, but...




Petina. Petina, I
want to talk with you.


I don't like the
way you say that.

Petina, please. Come in.

What is the matter now?

The same as always.

Does it give you pleasure
to give me such pain?

Pain, pain, pain.

Carlo, it seems to me you use
that expression much too often.

How do I give you pain?

You know without my telling you.

Do you think I'm blind?

The way you're flirting with
the one they call Little Joe.

Because I am being
courteous to the son of our host.

Your insane jealousy
calls it flirting. Now, that...

I can't stand this
much longer, I...

You sound like we were married.

- That's what I want.
- Carlo. Carlo, please.

Don't suffocate
me with your love.

What is the matter with you?

I love you, but...

I must feel free.

Don't you understand?


Free to do what, huh?

To flirt with every man you see?

That is what you
think I'm doing?

All right, from now on, I will
do just as you accuse me.

GUIDO: Tell the truth.

Have you ever
dined more royally?


Well, to tell the truth,

not since you cooked
for me in Palermo.

Aha! You see why I
love this Ben Cartwright?

I ask for a compliment
with outrageous bluntness

and from his magnificent heart,
he gives me willingly what I ask.


Pay no attention to
him, Ben Cartwright.

My brother is, as always, a
spoiled and mischievous child.

Pay no attention to her.
She speaks as she does

only because she brought
me up when our parents died.

When I have a white
beard down to here

I will always be to my
beloved sister, an infant.


Well, for an infant, you didn't do
too badly in that dark alley in Palermo.

Oh, that was nothing.

Nothing? Heh.

If it wasn't for that "nothing," I
wouldn't be sitting here tonight.

What do you mean?

That's how I met Guido.

I was going back to the
hotel, it was dark, late at night,

and I lost my bearings
and wound up in an alley.

And there were two fellows there
with stilettos and they came at me.

And for a little while,
it was nip and tuck.

Until suddenly, there was Guido,
jumping at them, swinging away.

Between the two of us, we made
short trip for those two, didn't we?

That was a fight, my
friend. Now, that was a fight.

And how did you
pay me back, huh?

Listen, all of you.

He challenged me
to a game of chess.

This ingrate who now so
charmingly poses as our host,

do you know what did to me?

He checkmated me in seven moves.

Seven. Heh, heh.

But never again.

Over the years, ever
since that disastrous night,

I have developed a
unique method of play.

I challenge you to a
return match, my friend.


- Tonight?
- Right now.

GUIDO: Good. Ha, ha, ha.

As usual, I have eaten too much.

JOE: Well, why do we go
outside and get some air?

That's sounds wonderful.

Come on, Guido, let's
not hold up the game.

- Which hand?
- Uh, that one.

So you have the
advantage of the first move.

But I warn you, it will
not affect the outcome.

Well, we'll see. We'll see.

What kind of a crazy move is
that, opening with your knight?

Crazy like a fox.

And I am ready to spring the
trap that you are headed for.


Well, take your
time. Take your time.

BEN: Hmm.


Your move.



- Good night.
- Good night. Sleep well.


- How you doing? Your room all right?
- Fine. Thank you.

Did Petina tell you that...

she and I are practically
engaged to be married?

No, she didn't mention it.

Well, let me tell
you then. We are.


Now that you
know, I must insist,

leave her alone.

Oh, what do you mean "insist"?

Let me put it in another way.

I'm warning you.

You're making a big
thing out of nothing.

Just stay away from Petina.

Eh. Heh.

GUIDO: En garde,
your queen is in danger.

Yes, so I see.


Take your time. Take
all the time you want.

This will take some
time to figure out.

I tell you what, Ben, suppose
we continue this tomorrow.

I'd like to retire. The food and the
wine, the long trip. I'm rather tired.

And I have to set up the
act tomorrow morning.

Oh, certainly. I think
I'll just stay put here

and try to figure out
what you're up to.

Good night, Ben.

Good night.

Yes, Guido?

I wanted to say good
night and ask how you felt.

I feel fine. Why?

Well, it was a long trip.

I thought if you were tired, I could
postpone the practice tomorrow.

No. I will be ready.

- That is, if Carlo will.
- Carlo?

We had another quarrel
about his insane jealousy.

I don't know what
to do about him.

Oh, little one,

do not bother your pretty head
with all the Carlos in this world.

They are just young
boys spouting puppy love.

Someday, when you are
ready, you will know real love.

And meanwhile, I must
endure Carlo's moods.

I told you, forget about Carlo.

Now, you go to bed and
get a good rest, you hear?

- Yes, master.
- Heh.

Oh, Guido, what would
we all do without you?

Good night.

- Who is it? GUIDO: Borelli.

CARLO: Enter.


You're getting ready for
rehearsal tomorrow, huh?

- I'll be ready, as always.
- Mm-hm.

Hold out your hand.

You call that being
ready "as always"?

It's Petina. She's
driving me crazy.

And I love her so much.

And she tortures me.
She tortures me constantly.

Always flirting with other men.

- Tonight, it was...
- Cartwright?

Yes. Yes. Right under my
nose, in front of everybody there.

Listen, Carlo,

Petina is old enough
to choose her own man.

Perhaps you're not the one.

- Perhaps you should give her up.
- No. No, don't say that.

But I must.

Our lives depend on each other,

each other's hands.

And I cannot afford
instability in the act.

If you cannot solve
your personal problems,

I will have to look for a more
mature, less romantic aerialist.


No, the trapeze is my life.

I thought Petina was your life?

I need both.

Well, unfortunately, few
men get everything they want.

So make up your mind, Carlo.

Either settle these
rivalries once and for all,

or give up Petina.

I'll give you until we
open in Virginia City.

In the meantime, get
yourself under control.

Now, remember, we set up the
rigging and start rehearsal tomorrow.

MAN: Hee!

MAN: Hee!

You were just great.
I couldn't believe it.

Boy, that looks like fun.



MAN: Hee! Aw!

After all these years,
you're still afraid.

I'm always afraid.

He's too old for the trapeze.

MAN: Hee! Aw!

Well, he looks in pretty
good shape to me.

He should have retired long ago.

I've told him and told
him, but he won't listen.

Why won't he retire?

I don't know.

Unless he's trying to punish
himself for the death of Angelina.


Oh, I forgot. You haven't
seen Guido for years.

Angelina was a young
aerialist he married.

Together, they performed
the salto mortale,

their death-defying leap.

Until one night in Seville,

only three months
after their marriage,

Guido failed to catch her

and she fell to her death.

He has been blaming
himself ever since.

If only he would
listen to reason.

Give up the trapeze
to the younger men.


JOE: Beautiful. GUIDO: Hey.


BEN: That was beautiful.


Well, Little Joe,

do you think you would
like to try the trapeze?

Oh, no, not me. I have enough
trouble getting on and off horses

let alone a trapeze.

That reminds me, I
have a favor to ask of you.


I have never ridden a
horse. Would you teach me?

- Sure. When do you wanna start?
- Right now?

But you can't ride in that.
Let's get back to the Ponderosa,

- get you something more appropriate.
- All right.


JOE: You know, I think you
did real well for the first time.

PETINA: Do you really
think so? JOE: Absolutely.

PETINA: Even with my handicap?
- Ha, ha.

Thank you for the
lesson, Little Joe.

Believe me, that
was my pleasure.

I guess I better
put up the horses.



"Don't touch. Game
still alive." Heh.

I want to talk to you.


I warned you to
leave Petina alone.

I can't fight you while
you're a guest in the house.

I'm challenging you to a
duel, don't you understand?

If you're not a
coward, you will accept.

What, are you serious?

Never more so.

Are you man enough
to defend your honor?


Oh, come on.

Now, this is
pretty silly, isn't it?

I fail to see the humor.

Do you accept or not?

A duel?

All right. Fine. I have the
choice of weapons, right?

- Correct.
- Okay. I choose fists.

I agree. Name the time.

This afternoon, about an hour.

That is acceptable.

Now, one more condition.

It's just between you and me.

You don't tell anybody
about it. Agreed?


All right, I'll meet you by the barn
in an hour. I'll have the horses ready.

JOE: Oh...

I neglected to warn you.

In addition to being an
expert on the trapeze,

I'm an expert with my fists.

All right, expert, let's
see what you got.

We both got in a couple of
good licks. Come on, let's forget it.

Now you've made me mad.


Come on, I'll give you a
hand up on your horse.

CARLO: Leave me alone.

Leave me alone.

JOE: All right. I'm sorry.

MAN: Mr. Cartwright.

Mr. Cartwright.

Mr. Cartwright.

What happened?

I don't know, but it
doesn't look good.

I came across him by the east
pasture on my way back from town.

Had that stuck in him.

It's my knife.


Is he gonna make it?

I don't know, Ben.

He's got, at most,
an outside chance.

Fortunately, the knife
was deflected by a rib.

Is there anything we can do?


It's out of our hands, Joe.

But somebody
should stay with him.

I want to.



Let me know if he
regains consciousness.

I'll be in the kitchen.

I could use some coffee.


- Joe.
- Hi, Roy.

How's Alfieri getting along?

He's still alive. That's
about all I can say.

ROY: Well, that's something.

At least it won't be
a murder charge.

But I am gonna have
to book you on assault.

Roy, you know I didn't have any
more to do with that than you did.

Wait, you admit to the
fight. It was your knife.

Somebody stole my knife.

- Now, Roy. ROY: Hi, Ben.

You don't believe that
Joe's guilty of anything?

No, Ben. I don't really
believe that Little Joe here

is guilty of
something like this.

But until... Until Alfieri
regains consciousness,

if he does and he's able to
tell us exactly what happened,

I'm gonna have to do my job.

Well, of course, you
have to do your job.

Well, we'll know what
happened when Alfieri comes to.

Joe, I think you better
go along with Roy.

- All right.
- Thanks, Ben.

And you will let me know if
there's any change in his condition?

- Of course, I will.
- Thanks.

There are times
when words are...

Well, what can I say except
you have my sympathy.

Thank you, Guido.

I just don't understand.

Who could have done such a
thing to that young fellow? Why?

You may think it a
foolish thing to suggest,

but to take your mind off your
worries, let's resume our chess game.


Why not?

Better than just
standing around waiting.

And we can get rid of this.


I believe it is my move.

You didn't give that
too much thought.

I told you, I've spent a long
time improving my game.

You must be pretty confident.


I am going to get
some fresh air.

Donna Luisa is staying by Carlo.


My move should keep
you occupied for a bit.

So if you will excuse me,
I want to talk to Petina.

Oh, poor child.

I am so sorry for Carlo.

And so ashamed.

You have nothing to be
ashamed of, dear Petina.

But I do.

I teased him, constantly
made him jealous.

Because he behaved
like a schoolboy.

He is young, immature,

unaware of real beauty.

But I should have understood.

I am young too.

But you're a woman, and
a very beautiful woman.

And you will need and
seek maturity when...

When Carlo goes to his maker.

Oh, don't say that.

We must face the truth.


My love.

LUISA: Guido.


I must speak to you.


Go away. I still haven't
figured out your strategy.

But I will.

Well, take your time.
I'll check on Carlo.

How dare you summon me that way.

What are you up
to, my little brother?

What kind of talk is that?

Don't try to put me off.

I know you too well.

Don't forget I was both
mother and father to you.

I know every beat of your heart.

And I know you for
what you really are.

- And what is that, my beloved sister?
- A child.

A willful, spoiled child

who thinks only
of what he wants.

What is it you want now?

I don't know what
you're talking about.


Guido, don't you know I
speak to you for your own good?

Don't you know I love you
as a mother loves her child?

Will you stop
calling me a child!

Don't raise your voice to me.

You resent my calling you
a child, but you are a child.

That is your genius
on the trapeze,

and your weakness in life.

Oh, Guido,

I have seen the way
you look at Petina

when you think no
one is observing.

I have seen the
desire in your eyes.

You talk like a fool. Petina
is like my own daughter.

Oh, no.

What I say is the truth.

Admit it. You hope to
have Petina for your own.

Why? To replace Angelina?

- Shut up.
- Not until I have finished.

- Angelina is dead. Dead.
- Quiet!


- God will punish you if Carlo dies.
- Must I strike you to make you stop?

Go ahead. Do what
you wish with me.


Leave Carlo alone, Guido.

Leave Petina alone.

It is too late for you.

You are too old.

I hate you.

Your move.

Hmm? Oh.

- Just like that, huh?
- Just like that.

Guido, I must say, you've
changed over the years.

In what way, my friend?

Well, in this chess
game for instance.

You've become a
player of daring and risk.

Well, what is wrong with daring
and risk so long as you win?

Well, nothing, of course.

It depends upon what
you wanna win and why.


You've done very
well for yourself.

You're a man of world renown.

You're at the very
top of your profession.

A risky profession.

Don't you think it's about
time you thought of retiring?


Why, Ben, I feel as
young as a boy of 20.


No. Age is in the
way you feel, Ben.

Surround yourself with
youth, and you stay young.

Well, I enjoyed being young,
and now I enjoy being the age I am.

Yes, but you have a family.

And I have nothing.

Only my sister Donna
Luisa, of course.

Yes, I understand

that since we were last together

you had a wife.


My beautiful young, Angelina.

You must be very
lonely without her.


My friend, you don't know the
torture, the anguish of such loneliness.

It is... It is more
than I can endure.

And I will not stand for
it any longer. I will not.

Have you, uh...?

Have you thought
of what you might do?


Why, get married
again, of course.

Another beautiful girl?

Like Petina?

Well, why not Petina?

No reason.

It depends on Petina.

Well, Petina is a woman. She
needs to be told what to do.



Ah! My friend, I'm afraid
you've lost the queen.

You moved right into my trap.


I sacrificed a knight and
captured a queen. Ha-ha-ha.


Yeah, that trap
worked very well, Guido.

Very well indeed.

Well, I guess without
this queen of mine,

game's pretty well over.

I am afraid so.

If you'll excuse me,
I must get some rest.

Remember, we give our first
performance tomorrow night.

Oh, you're going
on without Carlo?

Even without Carlo.

I am the star of the act.
The others are replaceable.

"Sacrifice a knight
to capture a queen."


BEN: You didn't see anybody?
You didn't hear anybody? Nothing?

Pa, it's just like I told you.

As far as I know, Carlo and I
were the only ones out there.

I didn't have the knife with me, Roy,
because I know I left it in my room.

Well, it's obvious that you
weren't the only ones out there.

And anybody around the
Ponderosa could have stole your knife.


Quite a chess game.

Quite a chess game.

Well, what's chess
got to do with it?

Oh, Joe.

Sometimes you learn a
great deal about a chess player

when he's willing
to sacrifice a knight

to capture a queen.

Borelli has been playing you and
Carlo against each other all along.

Borelli? I thought he
was a friend of yours.

Yeah, well, I guess he was.

But the years change
a man, I guess.

Particularly when he's
afraid of growing old.

Ben, you think
that Borelli done it,

but you ain't got a
shred of proof of that.

Roy, I think I can
prove my point

- with Hoss' help.
- Hoss?

I forgot to tell you. I rode into
town last night to send him a wire.

He'll be along
on the next stage.

Borelli's never seen him.

Roy, I want you to help
me set up a trap for him.

Before his performance tonight.

Borelli likes to play games.

But we're gonna teach him
a game that he won't forget.

Get me a piece of paper.

I wanna write a note
for Hoss to send to him.

Joe, don't worry.

Howdy there, partner, I'm
glad to see you got my note.

I don't reckon I'd even recognize
you, but I know you're Borelli.

I asked you to come only
because you aroused my curiosity.

What is it you want
to see me about?

Well, I thought I made
that downright clear.

Or would you like me to pay
a little visit to the local sheriff?

Come to the point. I have to
give a performance within an hour.

All right, Mr. Clown, I'll
lay it right on the line for you

and make it real simple.

Then you can stop
this fancy dee-daddling.

It so happens that yesterday
afternoon I was taking myself a little nap

up there in one of them big
pine trees on the Ponderosa.

When all of a sudden,
there's all this racket, see.

That's what woke me up.

Two fellows fighting.

One of them whupped the
other one, jumped on his horse,

run off and left that other
poor fellow just laying there.

He just sort of laid
down, passed out.

And then all of a sudden,

the strangest thing happened.

Would you like
for me to continue?


Then all of a sudden,
there was this other fellow.

He must've been hiding out there
behind one of them trees all along

because he comes sneaking
up about this time, see.

He's sneaked right up
on that poor fellow there.

And you know what he done?
He got himself a knife in his fist.


What do you want?

I don't... I don't hear
too good out of this ear.

I said, what do you want?

Well, now, I've been hankering
to take myself a little trip.

See a little bit of Mexico.

And I sure would hate to
go down there short of cash,

if you know what I mean.

How much?


How much?!

Oh, I figure 5,000, gold.


I could not raise that
money in so short a time.

My, oh, my, that's a shame.

Yes, sir, that's
a terrible shame.

I figure that fellow Ben Cartwright
would pay that and then some

to get that boy of his out of
jail, don't you reckon? Heh, heh.

All right. All right.

I have no choice in the matter.

You will have to wait until I
wire my bankers in New York.


I said you will have to wait until
I wire my bankers in New York!

Fair enough, partner.

ROY: Stop or I'll shoot!

BEN: Guido!

I said, stop!

Joseph. Joseph.

He's going to do
the salto mortale.

Enrico, go up there.

LUISA: It is too late for you.

You are too old.

It is too late for you.

You are too old.



Before I leave, I want
you to understand.

I did not know my
brother was guilty.

It is true, I suspected it.

But I could not face it.

Do you believe me?

Of course, I believe
you, Donna Luisa.

I can't tell you how sorry
I am about everything.

It is I who am sorry.

Then goodbye, Ben Cartwright.

Goodbye, Donna Luisa.

- You take care of yourself.
- See, I've learned my lesson.

I'm no longer jealous. I think.


DRIVER: Hiyah. Hiyah!


Behind the Scenes of The Deadliest Game

Cesar Romero guest-stars as the leader of a trapeze troupe, showcasing his talents as a clown. Romero is best known for portraying the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime, in the 1966 Batman series. Interestingly, Robin’s origin in Batman involves a trapeze troupe, which parallels Romero’s role in this episode. Joseph also references events from “The Flapjack Contest” (Season 6, Episode 15).

Looking for More Bonanza Episodes?

Bonanza offers wholesome entertainment suitable for both solo enjoyment and family gatherings. The Deadliest Game serves as the 190th episode out of a total of 430. NBC aired Bonanza from September 1959 to January 1973, spanning 14 seasons.

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

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