the decision
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The Decision Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #04, Episode #12

Badly injured from a fall, Hoss Cartwright urgently requires medical attention. However, the only available doctor is Jones (played by DeForest Kelley), who faces a hanging sentence for murder. Despite Ben Cartwright’s pleas to Judge Grant (portrayed by John Hoyt) to release Dr. Jones for Hoss’ treatment temporarily, Grant remains unmoved, as it was his wife who fell victim to the condemned man’s crime. Completing the supporting cast are Lisabeth Hush as Karen Jones and Walter Sande as the Sheriff. The Decision, written by Frank Chase and Norman Jacobs, originally aired on December 16, 1962.

Explore the nuances of the plot and intriguing trivia, or immerse yourself in the whole episode by watching below.

Table of Contents

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Watch the Full Episode of The Decision:

Main Cast

Besides the main cast, “The Decision,” the twelfth episode of Bonanza Season 4 highlights various recurring and guest-supporting actors. The following are featured in the episode:

  • Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright
  • Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright
  • Dan Blocker as Eric ‘Hoss’ Cartwright
  • Michael Landon as Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright
  • DeForest Kelley as Dr. Michael Jons (as De Forest Kelley)
  • John Hoyt as Judge Franklin Grant
  • Lisabeth Hush as Karen Jons
  • Eddie Quillan as Danny Culp
  • Walter Sande as Sheriff Wall
  • Will J. White as Deputy Hoff
  • Bill Clark as Stephens (uncredited)
  • Michael Jeffers as Hanging Spectator (uncredited)

Full Story Line for The Decision

While riding with his father and brothers, Hoss sustains a severe injury, prompting them to rush him to a nearby town in search of medical assistance.

Unfortunately, the town doctor is incarcerated and facing a death sentence for murder. Ben arranges for the doctor to treat Hoss but soon realizes there’s more to the doctor’s situation than meets the eye.

Through deeper investigation, Ben uncovers the doctor’s innocence.

However, he also learns that the judge presiding over the case has personal motivations for wanting the doctor executed. Ben faces the daunting task of persuading the judge to uphold justice and spare the doctor from hanging.

Full Script and Dialogue of The Decision

Hoss, why don't you take
a little sip of this water.

Easy now.

There you go.

Thanks, little brother.


Is the doctor in?


When do you expect him?

I don't expect him.


Now, ma'am, my
son is in that wagon.

He's been badly hurt,

and he needs
immediate attention.

Now, I'd appreciate it if
you could tell me where,

when and how I
can see the doctor.

The doctor can't help your son.

He can't help anybody anymore.

When the sun
sets this evening...

they're going to take my
husband and hang him.

The law judged my
husband a murderer.

Ma'am... is there
another doctor in town?

No, none within 50 miles.

I-I-I don't want
to impose on you.

My son is in great pain.


Could we bring him
into your husband's office

un... until I can
decide what to do?

No, you can't bring him in.

- Mrs. Jons needs her rest.
- Oh, Danny...

Of course, bring him in.

I'll do whatever is possible.

I often assisted the doctor,

and Danny served
as his handyman.

Between us, maybe
we can ease his pain.

Thank you.

Is the doc in?

Across the street...
I'm going to get him.

Look, as soon as you
get Hoss into the house,

ride on back to the herd, huh?

Well, we'd like to stick around
and find out what's wrong.

Do like Pa says.

Don't fret over me.
I'm going to be all right.

You two would do anything
to get out of a little work,

wouldn't you?

Hoss is right.

Your worrying isn't going
to help him or yourselves.

Well, now wait a minute, Pa.

Now, don't argue
with me! Do as I say!

Now, please believe
me, it's better this way.

Get him into the
house, will you?

Hold up.

There ain't nothing in there
that you want to see, mister.

Dr. Jons is in there, isn't he?

That's right.

Him and Sheriff Wall got
the whole thing to themselves

and it's gonna stay
that way till this evening.

- I'm going to see the doctor.
- Now hold on!

They gave me two
extra dollars to sit here

and see that no one gets inside.

Now I'm gonna earn them dollars.

So now you back off.

Try anything and you're dead.

Now, Sheriff, I
come here for help.

My son needs help.

He jumped me, Sheriff.

- Let me have him!
- Hold it!

Put your pistol on the desk.

Come on.

Now what's this all about?

Sheriff, all I want is a couple
of minutes with the doctor.

My son's been injured.

Back outside, Hoff.

Well, if you're
willing to risk your life

for a couple minutes
with the doctor,

I guess you're entitled to it.

Five minutes, no more.

Back off.

An arm's length from the bars.

Uh, I have a trail herd bedded
down about ten miles from here.

Last night my-my son got hurt.

His horse stumbled
and rolled on him.

I think he has some
cracked ribs on one side.

He's in awful pain.

Why tell me this?

You're a doctor.

Not a doctor, a
condemned murderer.

You see, I couldn't
help your son,

even if I wanted to.

Well, the-the sheriff would
let you out for a couple minutes

just to take a look at him.

Wouldn't you?

The doc is a condemned murderer.

There's nothing I
can do to change that.

Well, who can change that?

The only man has that
power is Judge Grant.

The Honorable Judge Grant.

Judge Franklyn Grant.

Yes, he has the power.

The power of life or death.

Where do I find him?

Last house, north end of town.

Just a minute.

I haven't agreed
to treat your son.

You get permission
from Judge Grant,

then we'll talk about it.

Hold on.

Don't hope for too much.

You wouldn't like
to try that trick again,

now would you, mister?

- Yes?
- Judge Grant?

That's right. What
can I do for you?

It's urgent that I
talk with you, sir.

Won't you come in?

My door is always open
to anyone in trouble.

- Thank you, sir.
- Mr., uh...?

- Cartwright. Ben Cartwright.
- Yes.

Won't you sit down,
Mr. Cartwright.

You are... you're not
from around here, are you?

No, sir, from Virginia City.

I thought so. I know most
of the people in my district.

Judge Grant, I-I just left
my son at Dr. Jons' office.

He's been injured.

I need your permission to
let the doctor examine him,

treat him.

That is out of the question.

Oh, it could be a matter
of life or death, sir.

Last week, Jons killed a man.

He was tried and convicted.

As a criminal, he has
no rights or privileges.

All I want is for the
doctor to look after him.

I-I don't know and I don't care

about the-the
interpretation of the law.

But I do know and I do care.

It's my job to know and care.

Judge, I'm not asking
you to set the doctor free.

I'm begging you to let him
do what he can for my son.

The answer is no.

But, Judge, there's
no other doctor

within 50 miles of this place.

A horse fell on my son.

His rib has been broken...



I-I gave him something
to make him sleep.

How did things
turn out with you?


Oh... I failed all
the way around.

I think your son has a
serious internal injury.

You said...

you said you assisted
your husband, didn't you?

Why can't you do
something for him?

I don't know enough.

I've done everything
I can for him already.

What kind of a
man is that judge?

To risk my son's life
on a-a point of law.

The judge hates my husband.

Hates him?

Let me explain.

My husband once
treated the judge's wife,

and in his opinion, she
needed an immediate operation.

The judge opposed it.

But finally, because she
was suffering so much,

he gave in and it was too late.

My husband is a fine doctor,

but Mrs. Grant's infection
was so far advanced

nobody could have saved her.

She died on the operating table,

and the judge blamed my husband.

Feeling this way...

he sat in judgment
on your husband?


He condemned him to die,

not for Stevens'
death, but for his wife's.

The Right Honorable
Judge Franklyn Grant

is about to honor
us with his presence.

Come in, Your Honor.

Come on, Danny. I'll
get you some coffee.

This is your only son?

I have two others.

And you have your wife?


I have no children, no wife.

Mr. Cartwright, do you know
what it's like to be alone?

To lie awake night after night,

trying to drive back the
memories that flood your brain?

And force yourself
up each morning

to face another empty,
meaningless day?

I've had such moments.

Yes, I suppose you have.

Do you know why
I feel the way I do?

Yes, I know.

I'm not a cruel
man, Mr. Cartwright.

I'm not a callous man.

But my wife would be
alive today if Jons hadn't...

He's not a doctor;
he's a butcher.

That's why I don't want
him to treat your son.

But he is my son.

It's my decision as to whether
Dr. Jons treats him or not.

Yes, it is your decision.

I only hope it's the right one.

You come with me now, please.

Sheriff, this is
Mr. Ben Cartwright.

Uh, we've met, Judge.

Take the prisoner
back to his office.

Guard him until he attends
to Mr. Cartwright's son.

Then bring him back
here immediately.

Yes, sir.

- Hoff.
- He's to communicate with no one

other than the people
directly concerned

with young
Cartwright's condition.

You heard him. Let him out.

You heard the sheriff. Out.


Let me talk to him.

All right, Hoff.

All right, Doctor,

you said if I got the
judge's permission we'd talk.

Let's talk.

You are a very persuasive
man, Mr. Cartwright.

Either that or a
very powerful one.

I didn't think you'd
be able to do it.

I didn't; it was
the judge's doing.


Are you the Ben
Cartwright of the Ponderosa?

Yes, I'm the Ben Cartwright.

Well, now, you
are a powerful man.

And you mean to
see that your son

- gets every chance, don't you?
- Yes, I do.

Now, please, can we get started?

Well... you know...

it must be a comforting feeling
to have wealth and power.

I wouldn't know; I've
never had either one.

You see, all my wife will
have to remember me by

is a stack of unpaid bills

from grateful but
forgetful patients.

Now, that isn't much,
is it, to leave to someone

who you promised
to love, cherish,

provide for?

- Doctor, please, can...
- Mr. Cartwright,

if you want my services, you're
gonna have to pay for them.

I never expected anything else.

How much?

Ten thousand dollars.

Regardless of the outcome.

All right. Now, please,
can't we get started?

The money is to
be paid to my wife.

And, Judge...

you're witness to
this verbal contract.

For with your dedication...

and respect for the law...

I'm sure that you'll
see that Mr. Cartwright

carries out his part
of the agreement.

35 years of my life

have been given to that
dedication and respect,

and I've never abused
the power entrusted to me.

And what about you?

What about the power
entrusted to you?

How many people have you
butchered and maimed and killed

and then hid your
mistakes and incompetence

behind the protection
of your profession?

- Judge, please...
- You are a disgrace

to that profession,
Jons, and I'll tell you this:

of all the men I've
ever sentenced to die,

you're the only one

I haven't the slightest
regret or pity for.

- Oh, Michael!
- Leave him be.

There's little enough
we can do for him.

Something happened?
Are they gonna stop...

No. Nothing's changed.

Hoss... I got the doctor coming.

The sedative that I gave
the patient's worn off.

He's awake; he's in pain.

I'm Dr. Jons.

Hoff, back to the office.

Well, they tell me

you went and got yourself
roughed up a little bit.


They tell you about
the other feller?

No. Only that he outweighed
you by a thousand pounds.

Now, you tell me
when it hurts, huh?

You found it.

Has, uh... has he
coughed up any blood?

Yeah, he started
to this morning.

Well, I think I
know all I need to.

What is it?

Fractured ribs.

The jagged end of one has
probably punctured the lung.


It means your son will
drown in his own blood

unless the damage is repaired.

Now, are you sure?

I mean... the lung
could be all right.

Yes, there's that
possibility, yes.

But I won't know
unless I operate.

Do you have to operate?

It's a risk.

A grave one.

Do you think he's strong
enough for an operation?

I think so. He's
got a good pulse.

Of course, I'll check
him over thoroughly first.

Hoss... doctor says
you need an operation.

It'll be a tough one.

How do you feel about it?

If he says I need an operation,

I reckon I need
an operation, Pa.

Got to know he knows
more about it than we do.


I'm getting sort of tired
laying here on my...

on my backside.

I want this room cleared.

The only assistance I'll
need is that of my wife.

I'll be out on the porch.

You can wait in the study.

- Pa.
- Yeah?

Don't you worry none, you hear?

I'll be out to see
you in a little while.

Yeah, sure.

One good thing about
it, you big moose:

the scar won't show; you'll
still be as pretty as ever.

That's right comforting news.

I was really sort of
worried about that.

Mr. Cartwright.

No, thank you.

I wouldn't worry if I was you.

He's a good doctor.

He saved my life when
nobody else gave me a chance.



go upstairs, rest; I
can manage here.

No, you can't; you need me.

I'm all right.

- Are you sure?
- I'm perfectly sure.

We'd better get started, Doctor.

Michael, I-I know it's not
the time or place to say this,


I love you so much.

I love you.

There's never a time or a place

where it's wrong to say...

I love you.


More ether.


Back on it again,
after four long years.

Used to be quite a drinker.

But then four years ago, I...

I come down with a fever.

No doubt about it, I
was due for Boot Hill.

But... then Dr. Jons
heard about me.

Came to my house.

Didn't get five hours sleep
all the time he was with me.

Afterwards, he... he talked
me into kicking the bottle.

And gave me a job
as his handyman.

Doesn't like a man who...
could commit a murder.

He ain't.

I seen the whole thing.

But the judge wouldn't
listen; he said it was murder.

"You'll hang by
the neck," he said.

And the doc even
refused to help himself.

Refused to help himself?

Well, it's...

it's just that the doc
is a... spirited man,

not one to get pushed.

But at the trial...

he just didn't seem to care.

What do you mean,
didn't seem to care?

Well... he just, just sat there

and let the judge condemn him.



tell me what happened
the night Stevens was killed.

I can do that, all right.

I can't sleep for
thinking about it.

Whiskey's all that...
Whiskey's all that helps.

I remember every
minute of that night.

I was on my way home
the night of the killing,

and like I said, I
saw the whole thing.

As I was passing
the newspaper office,

I could hear two
men arguing inside.

I couldn't tell what
they were saying,

but they sure was
going at it hot and heavy.

I stopped and
listened for a minute.

Doc, he's dead.

He's dead, ain't he?

Doc, what happened?

What were you fighting about?

Nothing, nothing.

This must have been something.

Oh, it was about a bill, Danny.
It was about a bill he owed me.

He wouldn't pay me.

I seen the whole thing.

There is nothing
to worry about, Doc.

I'd better tell the
sheriff what happened.

What's going on
here? I heard a shot.

Sheriff, we got a dead man.

It was an accident.

An accident?

Like what happened to my leg?

You left it bent and twisted.

I did everything I
could for your leg.

Yes, it's bent, but
you're walking on it.

You could have lost it.

It's Stevens' own gun.

It sure is, and I saw
him pull it on Doc.

It was self-defense,
pure and simple.

Is that true, Doc?


Yes, we had a quarrel

and Stevens pulled
his gun, and in,

in the struggle for
it, the gun went off.

Well, with Danny
here as a witness,

you shouldn't have
too much trouble.

Why don't you go home now?

I'll need you in the morning,
though, to sign a report.

All right, Sheriff.

Come on, Danny. Let's go.

Hold it.

I wouldn't let the doc go
home just like that, Sheriff,

not without seeing
Judge Grant first.

Well, what's Judge
Grant got to do with it?

Yeah, and it seems to
me I'm still sheriff here.

I say who goes home
and who gets locked up.

And I'm a deputy,
sworn to uphold the law.

I say this man might
be guilty of murder.

Murder? It's a clear case of...

I didn't say it was murder;
I said it might be murder,

especially in view
of what I know.

What do you mean, what you know?

I know he threatened
to kill Stevens.

Sheriff, you say it
was self-defense.

Yes, sir.

What proof have you got?

The doctor is an honest man.

Under the law his evidence
would be classified as self-serving.

Danny Culp was there;
he saw the whole thing.

He'll swear to it.

Mr. Culp is Dr. Jons' employee.

That don't mean I'd lie.

You've often said
you credit the doctor

with saving your life, hmm?

He did.

Yes, yes, perhaps, but
the fact that you think so

categorizes you as something
less than a subjective witness.

But I saw the whole... Enough.

Jons, you say you
went to Stevens' office

about a bill he owed you.

That's right.

You quarreled about
it and you killed him.

Yes, we quarreled,
but I didn't kill him.

There are witnesses who
say you wanted to kill Stevens.

That's a lie.

Hoff here says it isn't a lie.

The other day I heard
you and Stevens arguing

outside the newspaper office.

He said, "I'll kill
you, Stevens.

Remember that: I'll kill you."

And do you still deny this?

I didn't deny we
were quarreling.

I told you, it was about
that bill he owed me.

Did you threaten to kill him?

I don't know. I was angry.

I might have said anything.

Well, perhaps you will have
sharpened up your memory

by the time your trial begins.


Exactly, Sheriff Wall,
trial for first-degree murder.

Meanwhile he's to be
held in jail without bail.

I feel very sorry for you,

for any man whose
grief is such a sick thing.

Please believe me, Judge:
your wife was doomed to die.

All right, Doctor.

"Please believe me: your
wife was doomed to die."

And the judge was
just the same at the trial.

The cards were stacked.

The doc didn't have a chance.

The quarrel that
started the fight...

What was that about?

Everyone claimed it
was about an unpaid bill.

Now, Danny...

Does the doctor impress
you as the kind of man

who'd resort to
violence to collect a bill?

Oh, no.

Matter of fact, half the
people in town owed the doc.

- Yeah.
- And he didn't seem to mind before.

Must have been something
else they quarreled about, then.

But the doc kept
saying it was the bill.

He said it to me right
after Stevens died.

So you said.

What was that again
about a piece of paper?


Well, he dumped
a whole tray of type.

He seemed in a sort of a daze.

But he kept looking
for something.

Then he found
that piece of paper.

He tore it up and
threw it in the stove.

Well, anyway, it was a...
kind of a strange thing,

under the circumstances.

A man killed,

and the doc stops and
tears up a piece of paper,

throws it into the stove.

How is he?

Well, the lung was punctured.

There was internal bleeding,

and I repaired that damage
and set the broken ribs.

It's going to be all right?

Well, I'll be better
able to tell you...

I mean my wife should be
able to predict his chances...

for you later on.

I've done all I can.

The rest is up to
your son's constitution.

Doc... thank you.

I hope you're not
being premature.

Oh, Mr. Cartwright,

I wouldn't try to see
your boy for a while.

He's had a pretty rough time.

The sheriff's impatient.



Come to pay your last respects

or complain about
the doctor's bill?

Can I talk to him?

Oh, yes. He's allowed
visitors an hour before the time.


Oh, just a minute. Your gun.


Not in here, Mr. Cartwright.

Don't call me "Doctor" in here.

How is your son?

My son had a very good doctor.

But I didn't come here
to talk about my son.

Sheriff, may we talk privately?

Hoff, will you get back outside?

Why are you
sacrificing your life?

Not sacrificing, Mr. Cartwright.

That's the wrong word.

The law is taking
my life... for murder.

Sacrificing is the right word.

What does Coaltown,
Pennsylvania mean to you?

Well, it's the place
where I grew up,

as did my wife.

And what else happened there?


We left there, came out
here to open a practice.

Then why did Stevens,
after all these years,

want to print a story about
Coaltown and your wife?

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

I think you do.

I talked to Culp.

I tried to save your
son's life, Mr. Cartwright.

I hope I succeeded.

If you have any gratefulness,
then forget about this.

I can't.

That same gratefulness
won't let me.

But it's-it's none
of your business.

I have to go to Judge Grant

and show him this new
evidence on your behalf.


Sit down.

I'm gonna tell you about it.

And after I'm through,
you're gonna agree that I...

I am doing the right thing.

You're going to know that
I'm making the right decision.

I'm listening.

In order to go to school
and become a doctor,

my wife Karen worked in
one of the coal companies

as a bookkeep and a
cashier to support us.

And in my last year of
school, why, she became ill.

Lung trouble.

And all the money
went for medical bills.

And it became impossible
for me to continue my studies.


she embezzled money from
the company where she worked.

You knew about this?

No, not at first.

She told me she made
a loan from the company.

They started to
audit the books, and...

then she told me.

You ran away, came here.

Then we started to save
the money to repay the loan,

and then Stevens
came out to start a paper.

He knew about your wife?

See, he was a reporter
out of, uh, Philadelphia

where the theft was discovered,
and he covered the story.

Well, a... a possible
jail sentence for...

for Mrs. Jons.

Surely that isn't
worth your life.

Have you ever been to
Coaltown, Pennsylvania?

Have you ever seen the
coal dust hang so thick

that it blots out the sun?

And breathe in that
black death day after day?

It kills people, Mr. Cartwright,

and it would have killed
her if we just stayed there.

And it will kill her
if she goes back.

What about Karen?

Don't you think she has a right

to know what's
happening and why?


She'd do what you want.

Go to Grant, tell him.

She's a beautiful
woman, Mr. Cartwright.

And out here, she'd have
years of life ahead of her.

But if you go to Grant,

hand him that paper,

you're sending
Karen to her death.


You're all finished?

All finished.

How is he?

We're still waiting.

Did you see Michael?

Yes, I... I thanked
him for what he did.

Mrs. Jons?

Are you going to see him now?


It would make it
more difficult for him.

I'm going upstairs.

If you need me for
anything, please call.

I will.

Thank you.

For everything.

I... love... you.

I just dropped by to see
how your boy was getting on.

Will he recover?

We don't know.

I'm sorry for you,
Mr. Cartwright.

Well, this will
never happen again.

I'm on my way to see to that.

You're gonna see the execution.

Yes, it's my duty to be there.

And if it weren't your duty,

you'd still be
there, wouldn't you?

Yes, I would.

Again, my sympathy.

Vengeance hanging.

What did you say?

I said you're going to
a vengeance hanging.

Your vengeance.

Because of the
strain you're under,

I'll excuse that remark.

No, don't.

I meant it.

What was your real reason
for coming here, Judge?

I told you, Mr. Cartwright,
my concern for your son.



To justify what you're
about to do out there.

'Cause if my son dies,

that would justify
everything for you.

That would prove
that you were right.

And you're not, and you know it.

Jons murdered a
man. He admitted it.

No. He admitted
to fighting a man,

not murdering him.

There's no proof of that.

What is this?

A newspaper article.

A story that Stevens was
using to blackmail Dr. Jons.

- Blackmail?
- Yes, blackmail!

When Jons tried to destroy
it, Stevens pulled a gun.

I don't believe it.

Read that article.

What you won't
find in that story

is that Karen Jons is ill.

If she were sent back East,
it might mean her death.

How do you know all this?

I learned it from Dr. Jons.

He begged me not to
say a word of this to you,

for fear that you'd take out
your vengeance on her, too.

Then why do you tell me?

Earlier today...

you said that you never abused
the power entrusted to you.

Well, I think
you're doing it now.

You're sending a man to death

because of what you think
he did to you, to your wife,

not because you really
believe him to be guilty.

You're a liar.

Then prove me to be a liar.

35 years of your life
have been dedicated

to seeing that men
receive equal and fair justice

under the law.

Prove me to be a liar.

Or better still, prove to
me that you're a judge,

not just a man using his
power to seek revenge.


You all right, son?

Yeah. Little fuzzy.

But a dang sight
better than I did.

Couple of days' rest, and
I'll be ready to go out there

and take on that old
fleabag that set on me

and give him a good whuppin'.

You didn't know if your
son would live or not.

Jons might have
caused his death,

yet you defended him.

If my son had died...

I'd still know that the doctor
had done all he could for him,

just as you know that he
did all he could for your wife.

He's only a human being, Judge.

Nothing more.

He can't play God.

No one can.

Pa... what was all that about?

Well, I'll tell you later, son.

Everything's ready, sir.

Just waiting on the
word from you, Judge.

Bring him down from there.

Now, just a minute, Judge!

This man's suffered
enough already.

I say if we're gonna hang
him, do it now; don't drag it out.

We're not going to hang him.

He's innocent.


There, there, now.

Easy, easy.

Dr. Jons.

Now that I understand,

I think I can use my
office to see that you...

both of you...

need suffer no further anguish.

Thank you.

Well, now...

I think we ought to be getting
back to our patient, don't you?

Thank you.

Mr. Cartwright.

Thank you.


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Bonanza provides family-friendly entertainment perfect for watching alone or enjoying together during gatherings. The Decision is the series’ 112th episode out of 430. Produced by NBC, Bonanza aired on the network from September 1959 to January 1973, spanning 14 seasons.

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