the return
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The Return Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #06, Episode #31

“Returning to town, former convict Trace Cordell (played by Tony Young) finds himself unwelcome by everyone, especially banker Paul Dorn (portrayed by John Conte), who was previously injured by Trace and is now married to Clara (Joan Blackman), Trace’s former girlfriend. The Cartwrights step in when Dorn uses his influence to eliminate Trace for good. Penned by Ken Pettus and Frank Chase, The Return debuted on May 2, 1965.”

Consider watching the episode below for the plot summary and intriguing trivia.

Table of Contents

Watch the Full Episode of The Return

Watch the Full Episode of The Return:

Main Cast

Apart from the main cast, “The Return,” the thirty-first 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
  • Tony Young as Trace Cordell
  • Joan Blackman as Clara Dorn
  • John Conte as Paul Dorn
  • Ray Teal as Sheriff Roy Coffee
  • Phil Chambers as Seth Hubbell
  • Robert Stevenson as Shaeffer (as Robert J. Stevenson)
  • Dan Riss as Latham
  • Bill Clark as Deke
  • Gene Coogan as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Russell Custer as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Rudy Doucette as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Betty Endicott as Townswoman (uncredited)
  • Martha Manor as Townswoman (uncredited)
  • Bob Miles as Thug (uncredited)
  • John Rice as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Danny Sands as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Jeffrey Sayre as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Clint Sharp as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Cap Somers as Townsman (uncredited)
  • Sid Troy as Townsman (uncredited)

Full Story Line for The Return

Upon Trace Cordell’s return to Virginia City after his bank robbery incarceration, Ben Cartwright stands among those greeting his former neighbor back home.

However, besides Ben, there’s little joy in the community as the ex-convict seeks to resume control of his family’s ranch just outside town. This decision is particularly unwelcome to banker Paul Dorn, who was left paralyzed by Cordell’s bullet five years prior.

Full Script and Dialogue of The Return



I wore these for
ten years, Mr. Dorn.

The Territory of Nevada says
that pays me up for what I did.

I know you don't figure it
that way, but I'm free now

and I'm back.

And I'm here to stay.

DORN: Cordell!

You get out of this town.

I told you, Mr. Dorn,
I'm here to stay.


What, Mr. Cartwright?

Welcome home.

I don't need anything
from you, Mr. Cartwright.

I don't need anything
from any of you.


That boy is real trouble.

Are you sure you're looking
at the right man, Roy?

Let's see now. Some mash,

and, uh, some corn.

You better keep that down to 50
pounds this week, Seth. Heh, heh.

Hop Sing says if those
chickens get any fatter,

they'll start looking
like Hoss. Heh, heh.

Anything else, Ben?

Something wrong?

I think there is, Seth.

All right, if you wanna know. I
didn't think you should've done

what you did out there on
the street a little while ago.

I mean, going over
to Trace Cordell

and offering him your hand,
right in front of Paul Dorn.

Well, would you rather I
did it behind Paul's back?

Oh, you know what I mean, Ben.

- Yes, I think I do.
- I thought you were a friend of Paul's.

I am.

Well then, why
did you do it, Ben?

Because I believe that when a
man has served his prison sentence

for something that he's done,
that should be the end of it.

That's easy for you to say.

But if you were the one that
Trace put in the wheelchair

for the rest of your life,
you'd feel just like Paul does.

I hope not, Seth.

Trace Cordell's got a
lot of gall coming back...

Seth, that was ten years ago.

Trace Cordell was
hardly 17 years old

and you knew his ma and
him just as well as I did.

Are you excusing
him for what he did?

I am not excusing
him for anything.

When Trace went into that bank, I
don't believe he intended to rob it.

- Oh.
- "Oh," nothing.

Trace was a desperate,
frightened boy with a dying mother.

He had a gun. He shot Paul.
He made a cripple out of him.

Oh, what's the use of talking?

Well, my boys will pick
up this stuff tomorrow.

Oh, Mr. Cartwright,
I've been looking for you.

I have a message from Mr. Dorn.
It's for you, too, Mr. Hubbell.

He'd like you to be at
his house tonight at 7:00.

What for?

He's invited about 20 of the
leading citizens in town to a meeting.

- A meeting?
- It's about Trace Cordell.

About laying plans to keep him
from settling down in Virginia City.

BEN: As far as I'm concerned,

Trace has every right to
stay in this town if he wants to.

He has to work if he
wants to stay here.

- He has to eat.
- Of course he does.

But he won't be able to do
either one. Not in this town.

He won't be able to
get a job slopping pigs.

He won't be able to buy so
much as a pound of beans.

People in this town
will freeze him out.

What makes you the spokesman
for the people in this town?

After last year's drought,

do you know how many
merchants and ranchers around here

owe the bank money
on demand notes?

Yes, I'm beginning
to find that out, Paul.

A man fights with
everything he has to fight with.

A man? Yes.

Well, you're not fighting like
the man that you used to be.

I am not the man I
used to be. Look at me.

Cordell got ten
years but I got life.

Cordell is free
but I'm still paying.

- Paul, please.
- Oh, now we hear from my helpmate.

You agree with Ben?
Forgive and forget.

Well, I haven't forgotten it.

And I won't forget how you
and Cordell used to hold hands

walking down the street like
a couple of mooncalf lovers.


If you ever so much as look at
Trace Cordell again, I swear I'll...

I used to think there
wasn't a man in town

who felt as sorry for you, for
what happened to you, as I did.

But I was wrong.

I don't feel nearly as sorry
for you as you do for yourself.


Just thought I'd, uh, stop
by and see how things were.

You got any plans?

- Know what you're gonna do?
- Get a crop in, raise some stock.

Well, of course, that's
going to take time.

Where I've been, Mr. Cartwright,

a man learns that there's just
one way he's ever gonna make it.

That's just one day at a time.

I don't think it's gonna
be that simple here.

I know.

I got the message coming through
town, if that's what you mean.

You see...

Paul Dorn is a bitter man.

Maybe he might be better
off if you went somewhere

new, where they didn't
know you, started fresh.

The way I figure it,

if I can't be free here, I
won't be free anywhere.

Besides, I want
to lick this place.

It broke my father's back
and my mother's heart.

For their sake, I'd like
to make the farm work.

Well, like I said, you're
gonna need a stake.

Now, it just so happens that I'm
short-handed at the Ponderosa

and I could still use
you and your rig.

I told you, Mr. Cartwright,
I don't need any help.

Now you listen to me, Trace.
I know the Cordell pride.

Your father had it.
Your mother had it.

Is there anything wrong
with pride, Mr. Cartwright?

The Cordell kind? Yes.

This farm didn't break your
father, his pride broke him.

This farm didn't break your
mother, her pride broke her.

- Now wait a minute.
- It's breaking you too.

You didn't learn a thing in the
ten years you were in prison.

I tried to help you. The
whole town tried to help you.

But that Cordell pride of
yours wouldn't allow for help.

Why, you wouldn't ask for help
when your mother was dying.

You had to try to steal for her!

Why are you talking like this?

Because I think it's about time

that you've discovered the difference
between friendship and charity.

I am not offering you
charity. I'm offering you a job.

TRACE: Mr. Cartwright.


When do I start?

First thing in the morning.

Well, that's it.

Trace starts work for us
first thing in the morning.

What good is it gonna do Paul
Dorn to run Trace Cordell out of town?

Well, keep him away
from Clara, for one thing.

Don't forget, they were almost
married before this thing happened.

They sure were.

You know, I can
understand Paul's bitterness,

being confined to
that wheelchair and all.

I sure hoped he'd be
a bigger man than that.

What sort of job you got
figured out for Trace, anyhow?

Well, you know that
hay we sell to the Army.

It's gotta be stored,

and the Army's rented
Luke Shafer's barn, in town.

I figure we could
store it there,

then the quartermaster
could pick it up any time.

So we use Trace?

Well, one man with a
rig making a trip a day,

he could complete
the job in plenty of time.


Don't you think Trace making a
trip into town every day is gonna

be sort of asking for trouble?

Well, there's a possibility of
trouble whether you ask for it or not.

And Trace might as well
face up to it now as later.

That's all right,
Mr. Cartwright. I'd like that job.

Well, Trace, there's one thing
that I think you ought to know.

There were 20 men in that
meeting that Dorn called last night.

They represent the
feeling of the whole town

and they agreed that you shouldn't
be allowed to settle in Virginia City.

That doesn't scare
me, Mr. Cartwright.

Well, maybe I made it
sound a little worse than it is.

Some of them have to go
along with Dorn, others want to,

the others just don't
know any better. Heh.

Well, I'm not gonna make it any
easier for them by staying out of sight.

Well, no one's asking you to.

The choice is yours, Trace.

Where is that hay
you wanted hauled?


Come on.

Do you think the
sheriff meant it last night

when he said not to give
any trouble to Cordell?

- Hey, Mr. Shafer.
- Yeah.

Mr. Cartwright asked me
to deliver this hay to you.

Pull it in here.

You gonna give
me a hand with this?

I got a contract with the
Army to store that feed

but that don't mean I got to
work with the likes of you, Cordell.

No, if you want help unloading,

you tell Ben Cartwright to send
a man in with you from now on.

I'll do that.

Why don't you move on, Cordell?

Why don't you get out of town

before somebody
takes a bullwhip to you?

They have,

many times in
the last ten years.

TRACE: How about this one?

It's real pretty.

I seem to remember you
having one just this color.

That was that Easter-time,
before I went away.

- That was a long time ago, Trace.
- Right.

I walked you home from church.

Your mother had
me stay to dinner.

Later, your pa let
us use the buggy.

We drove out to Sunset Falls.

We don't have anything to say
to each other anymore, Trace.

What do you want, Cordell?

Mr. Cartwright asked me to pick up
some supplies he ordered yesterday.

Well, you go back and tell
Ben to send somebody else.

I don't want you setting foot in
my store. Do you understand?

- I understand.
- Then get out and stay out.

BEN: And the Army rents this
barn of yours for you to store hay in it.

- Is that right?
- Yeah.

And if you don't store any hay in it,
you don't collect any rent. Is that right?

- I guess so.
- Guess so.

All right, then.

You better start
helping Trace Cordell

unload my hay when
he brings it here,

or when the Army comes to pick it
up, it's going to find an empty barn.

Now do I make my meaning clear?



Seth, how much do you figure I
spend in this store of yours a year?

Around 3,000, I guess,
figuring everything.

Well, until Trace Cordell gets a
little common courtesy from you,

you're gonna have to
count on 3,000-a-year less.

SETH: Well, that ain't fair, Ben.
- Fair?

You consider what
you've been doing fair?

Well, that's different with
you. You're a rich man.

You don't need Paul Dorn.
You don't owe him anything.

You owe Paul?


I guess I've been going at
this the wrong way, haven't I?

Maybe I ought to go

where the sickness starts.

Don't you think you ought to discuss
this with Mr. Dorn, Mr. Cartwright?

What's this all about?

Mr. Cartwright wants
to transfer his account

to the Miners' and
Cattlemen Bank in Gold Hill.

What's Mr. Cartwright's balance?

- Take care of it.
- But, Mr. Dorn...

Do it.


This hurts. You know that.

Well, like you said, Paul, a
man fights with anything he has.

Cordell's nothing to you. Why
are you making this your fight?

I think this is
everybody's fight, Paul.

There's no middle ground.
You're on one side or the other.

Even if it costs men
like us our friendship?

At the price you're asking,

I don't think I can
afford your friendship.

I was out for a ride,
I stopped for a rest.

- Nice spot.
- Yes.

- Do you come here often?
- Yes.

I used to fish that stream,

a little further
down, Forbes' Mill.

I can remember when the trout used
to practically stand in line to get caught.

But that was a long time ago.


I've never been here before.

I was waiting for you.

I'm sorry about the way
you're being treated in town.

I told you I understood.

Trace, why didn't you write me?
Why didn't you answer my letters?

I couldn't.

Why not?

It's hard to explain, Clara.

You don't know what
it's like living in prison.

You can't let
yourself feel anything.

You can't let yourself
remember how it was before,

or what it might be afterwards.

I saw a boy once.

I watched him count
the days for five years.

He killed a guard,
tried to escape

a week before his
sentence was up.

I counted the days
for five years too.

I'm sorry, Clara.

After Mother and Father
died, there wasn't anyone left.

I know what it is to be alone.

I understand why you're married.

No, you don't.

Maybe I did marry him
because I was lonely and afraid.

But I also thought I could help,

because of what happened to him.

I also married him
because I was angry.

Angry at you,

for spoiling everything,

all our dreams
of getting married.

I better get on to the ranch.


I didn't love him.

I still don't love him.

I love you.

I'm not ashamed of it.

Trace, take me away with you.

I'll go anywhere you say.
Just take me with you.

BEN: Hey, Trace.


Don't you remember what
day of the week this is?

- I guess not.
- Heh, heh.


I know it's been a long week,
but the weeks will get shorter.

I'm not so sure, Mr. Cartwright.

What's the matter? You
sound kind of down in the mouth.

Oh, it isn't that, exactly.

It's just that,

well, I guess I've been
wondering whether it's all worth it.

Virginia City isn't the
only place in the world.

You know, I recall having
that discussion with you

when you first got back.

I know.

And maybe you were right.

Maybe I would be better
off somewhere else.

You're the only one who
can really be the judge of that.

Paul went to Gold
Hill on business.

He won't be back until tomorrow.

Come inside.

CLARA: What are
we going to do, Trace?

What would you have
done if I hadn't come back?

You did come back.

You'd have gone
on being Dorn's wife.

What are you trying to say?

If we went away together,
where would we go?

- Does it matter?
- We belong here.

We belong anywhere
we can be together.

And it can't be here.

You don't wanna leave
Virginia City, do you?

Not yet.

Why not?

Everything stopped for me here.

This is where I've
got to begin again.

Is that really important to you?

I thought it was. I
don't know anymore.

Well, you'll have to decide.


Are you really as sure of
yourself as you say you are?

You've been married
to Dorn for five years.

Can you just stop being his wife
without any doubts, any questions?

It's getting late. I better go.

I'll be waiting for you.

DORN: Deke.

Mr. Dorn. I thought you were
staying in Gold Hill tonight.

I changed my mind.

Maybe it's a good thing.

Deke, you asked the other
day if Sheriff Coffee meant it

when he warned against
any rough stuff with Cordell.


Maybe tomorrow you ought to take

a couple of your
friends and find out.

I'm glad that
miserable job is over.

See you tomorrow.

I'm gonna get a beer.



What have they done to you?

I'm all right.

I came here as soon as I heard.

I've made up my mind, Clara.

We're gonna leave town.

Where are we going to go?

- You said it didn't matter.
- It doesn't matter.

- When?
- Tomorrow night.

I'll meet you in town
at Shafer's barn, 9:00.

You still wanna go, don't you?

From the moment you
came back into town,

all I needed was the
courage to admit it.

- I heard what happened.
- I heard too. I thought I could help.

Now that you're here, I suppose
you could take care of him.

I've got to get back to town.

I'll make sure he
gets back all right.

Goodbye, Trace.

Goodbye, Mr. Cartwright.

They worked you over
pretty good, didn't they?

Obviously, Dorn's men.

Could you identify them?

In this town?

What good would it do?

Well, Sheriff Coffee could
arrest the men responsible.

Could he put the
whole town in jail?

- The whole town isn't to blame, Trace.
- Isn't it?

Well, anyway, nothing
like this will happen again.

From now on, any time you go
out, one of us will be with you.

That won't be
necessary, Mr. Cartwright.

- You let me be the judge of that, now.
- I'd like to ask a favor.


I'd like you to buy my farm.

I'm leaving Virginia City.


Sorry to hear that.

That, uh... That first
day you came back,

you said something, you know,

"If I can't feel free here,

I can't feel free anywhere."

I was wrong. Will
you buy my place?

It's a good piece of land.

Worked properly, it could
be a good investment.

- How much?
- Three dollars an acre.

- It's worth more than that.
- Not to me.

Come by the Ponderosa tomorrow.


Here you are.

- Thanks, Mr. Cartwright.
- Well, don't thank me.

I got a good buy.

When do you plan on leaving?



Yeah, you're going off
with Clara Dorn, aren't you?

It won't work, Trace.
It just won't work.

You can fool yourself now but
you can't fool yourself forever.

One day you're gonna wake up
hating yourself for what you did

and then you'll wind
up hating each other.

If you thought Clara
was going away with me,

why did you give me the money?

One doesn't have
anything to do with the other.

I agreed to buy your farm because,
well, if you wanna leave Virginia City...

That's all right if you want to.

That doesn't mean you have the
right to run off with another man's wife,

no matter how much
she wants to go with you.

I didn't say I was
gonna do that.

Anyway, it's my life.

I've got a right to
do what I want with it.


Where's Trace going?
How come he ain't working?

If he's afraid to go into town
because of them jaspers,

one of us could
ride in with him.

No, no, he's not
afraid, he's just leaving.

- But what about his farm?
- I just bought his farm.


Well, I figure if a man has
the right to stay if he wants to,

he has the right to
leave if he wants to,

so I'm helping him leave.

What made him change his mind?

I don't know for sure.

I think I'll go over to
his place after supper.





- Paul.
- Get her out of here.

- Paul, please listen...
DORN: Take her to the house.

- Keep her there.
- Paul, please, let me explain...



DORN: Cordell.

Deke, don't! Please,
I've got to talk to Paul.

DEKE: You're gonna
do what Paul told you to.



CLARA: Oh, please hurry.
- What's the matter?

Paul's gonna kill Trace.

- Where is he?
- He's in Shafer's barn.


Trace, don't leave.


Help me, Trace. Please.

Please, Trace, help me.

Trace, help me. Help me.

Trace, Trace, don't leave.

Don't go, Trace.

Help me. Help me.

Trace, help me.

Help me, please.

Help me, help me.

Get back, get back.


- Get back.
- They're in there.

Get back. Go get the sheriff.
Get help. Now get going.

All right everybody,
come on, help.

Get those buckets.

Break that wood and
bring it down here.

Come on, get going.


Come on, hurry
up. Keep it going.


Hurry up, lads, buckets.

Go on, get that bucket.

Hurry up.

The whole thing's gone up.

Come on, hurry up!


Come in.

I was expecting the sheriff.

How do you feel?

You know...

you and Trace were
both pretty lucky.

An accident like that
could have been fatal.


That's what Trace
told the sheriff it was.

What's he trying to pull now?

I wanted to kill
him, I admit it.

Why is he lying to the sheriff?

Oh, Paul.

Why do you think
that Trace went to

Luke Shafer's barn last night?

Meet my wife, take her away.

Well, he went to meet
your wife, all right.

But not to take her away.

He went to tell her that
he was leaving without her.

Then he'd finally realized
that she wasn't in love with him.

I should have let them meet

so he could have told
her he was leaving.

It would serve her right.

Paul, what's the
matter with you?

Has your hate so
completely blinded you

that you can't see what's
in front of your face?

Now, when you went to
the barn and you saw Clara,

what was she wearing?
A travelling dress?

Did she have any bags
or a pack, any luggage?

Was she prepared to leave? No.

Because she'd gone
to the barn to tell Trace

that she wasn't leaving
for the same reason.

She couldn't have told you that.

She's been upstairs in
her room ever since the fire.

I know, she couldn't
have told me, but

when Trace pulled
you out of there,

you were both lying
unconscious on the ground,

and to which one of you
do you think she went?

Which one?

Let her tell you herself.

Looking for More Bonanza Episodes?

Bonanza provides family-friendly entertainment, perfect for both solo watching and gatherings. The Return marks the 199th episode out of the series’ 430. Produced by NBC, Bonanza aired 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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