the waiting game
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The Waiting Game Full Episode – Bonanza, Season #05, Episode #10

Aired for the first time on December 8, 1963, The Waiting Game introduces Kathie Browne in her recurring role as Laura Dayton. Laura, grappling with the sudden loss of her husband Frank (portrayed by Wade Preston), decides to shield their daughter Peggy (played by Katie Sweet) from the tragic news as she continues to await her father’s return. Adam Cartwright sympathetically agrees to help Laura maintain this heartbreaking secret and soon finds himself drawn to her romantically.

Penned by Ed Adamson, “The Waiting Game” was intended as the inaugural episode in eight to ten installments leading up to the marriage between Laura Dayton and Adam Cartwright, ultimately resulting in Pernell Roberts’ departure from the series. However, due to objections from Bonanza’s female audience, the storyline took a different trajectory than initially planned.

Watch the full episode below for a detailed plot summary and intriguing trivia.

Watch the Full Episode of The Waiting Game

Watch the Full Episode of The Waiting Game:

Main Cast

Apart from the main cast, “The Waiting Game,” the tenth 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 (credit only)
  • Kathie Browne as Laura Dayton
  • Katie Sweet as Peggy Dayton
  • Jackie Loughery as The ‘Other Woman’
  • Wayde Preston as Frank Dayton
  • Bill Quinn as Walt
  • Craig Duncan as Wagon Driver
  • John Breen as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Betty Endicott as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Martha Manor as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Hans Moebus as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Murray Pollack as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Cosmo Sardo as Party Guest (uncredited)

Full Story Line for The Waiting Game

After Laura Dayton’s husband, Frank, passes away, she decides to protect her daughter, Peggy, from the painful truth while Peggy eagerly anticipates her father’s return. Adam becomes increasingly fascinated by Laura and takes on the responsibility of helping her and Peggy cope with their grief. His approach? Encouraging Laura to reveal the truth to Peggy.

Full Script and Dialogue of The Waiting Game

Well, hello, Peggy, haven't
seen you for a long time.

Hello, Adam, Hoss.

Hi, Peggy, what you doing?

Waiting for my daddy.

Is that right? He's
been away again?

Yes, but he's coming home today.
He wrote me a letter and told me so.

You been waiting out here long?

Since morning. But he'll
be along anytime now.

I bet you before I can
count to a hundred.

A hundred? You're not going
to do any skipping, are you?

No skipping, not one number.

Peggy, we'll see you. We
gotta go mend some fences.

- All right, bye.
- Bye, sweetie.

Giddyup. Giddyup.





Taking a shortcut home
through The Ponderosa.

That is, uh, if you
land barons don't mind.

Well, I don't reckon
we land barons mind.

Especially today seeing

as how you've got such a
welcoming committee waiting for you.

That ever-loving wife of mine.

I was talking about Peggy.

We passed your
place a while back.

She's out there waiting
for you all by herself.

Well, thanks, friend. In that
case, I'm glad I took the short cut.

Can't leave my favorite
girl waiting, no, sir.


I hope he knows what he's doing.

Oh, come on, boy,
afraid of a little jump?

Come on, you can make it.

He's dead.



One hundred.















I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

- Laura.
- Adam.

- You been here long?
- No, just stopped by to say hello.


If you're heading home,
I'll walk along with you.

Four months and
I still can't adjust.

Now, you be a very good
little girl and go back to sleep.

Shut your eyes.


And maybe when you wake up...

Hello, Peggy.


I thought it was Daddy.

I thought you were
bringing Daddy home.

Bringing daddy home?

Is she still waiting for him?

She's just a child.

What did you tell
her about Frank?

That he's gone
on a long, long trip.

Laura, that was four months ago.

Well, that's all she's prepared
to understand just now.

Would you like a cup of coffee?

That is, if you're not
in too much of a hurry.

No, I'm not in that
much of a hurry.

Adam, I'm so glad you came by.

You're the first person
that Peggy and I've seen...

well, in quite a while.

Well, I don't think
that's very good, Laura.

I think you ought
to get out more.

See people.

I know, Adam, and
I will before long.

As a matter of fact,
the reason I came by is

we're having a spring
roundup dance Saturday night.

So why don't you come?

No, I couldn't.

Why not?

- Well, I appreciate your asking me...
- Laura, it'll do you good.

Now, why don't you just pick
out the gayest dress you've got

and come on to the
dance, huh? Why not?

Well, I might, Adam.

I just might. Heh.

Hey, hold on there.
What's your hurry?

Your mother's gonna have
a cup of coffee with me.

Why don't you get yourself
a glass of milk and join us?

Then we can have a kind
of, uh, coffee-milk tea party.

Peggy. I'm glad you came in.

I was about to give
Adam some coffee.

I suggested that, uh, she
get a glass of milk and join us,

and then we could have
had a coffee-milk tea party,

but she didn't think
it was very funny.

Well, I think
that's a good idea.

Peggy go and get yourself a
glass of milk from the kitchen.

I still can't get over the way she looked
when she'd come running out there

and discovered that
I wasn't her father.

Laura, I really don't
think you're being fair.

Really, Adam,
she is my daughter.

And I do think I know
what's best for her.

Of course. Sorry.

Get out of that chair.


Get out of it! That's my
daddy's chair! Get out, get out!

Peggy, what's gotten into you?

Don't you ever sit there again.

Hey, you stop it.


You apologize.


Peggy, you go to your room.

Go on.

Adam, I'm sorry.

Don't worry about it, Laura.

Besides, I've gotta get along.

I really don't know
what's gotten into her.

I think I understand.

But about the dance Saturday night,
now, what time shall I pick you up?

Oh, well, I don't know.
I'll have to think about it.

Long as you don't
change your mind.

I think it'll do you good.

And who's he?

Oh, he's an old
friend of Mrs. Dayton.

Adam Cartwright.
One of the Cartwrights.

They're important around here?

You don't know much
about this territory, do you?

Why, the Cartwrights, they practically
own most of Nevada, outright.

You don't say so.

And, uh, he's a very good
friend of Mrs. Dayton's?

Drive me back to town.

You said you wanted
to visit Mrs. Dayton.

I've changed my mind.

Come on.


I'm sorry.


But I said I'm sorry.

Just go to your room.

You wouldn't go to a party
without daddy, would you?

Well, would you?

I told you, he's away
on a long, long trip.

But he is coming back just
like you promised, isn't he?

- Yes.
- Daddy always keeps his promises.

He always did.

So we just have to wait, Mommy.

We just have to wait.

She told Peggy he
was on a long trip.

Boy, I don't understand
that. He's been...

Frank's dead.

Yeah, it's a
difficult thing to do,

tell a child that
her father's dead.

Particularly for someone
as young as Laura.

Now, granted, she's young,

but she's still the
child's mother.

I remember...

when I had to tell you
that your mother was dead.

Hardest thing I ever had to do.

I'm not saying
it's an easy thing.

The longer she waits,
the harder it's gonna be.

It's not doing Peggy any good
and it's not doing her any good.

Ah. So I think we
ought to help them.

That's why I think you were right
in asking her to come to the party.

Yeah. If she comes.

That's a party dress, isn't it?

- Yes, it is.
- You're going to that dance.

- Yes.
- You're going with Adam.

Peggy, it's just a party.

I've arranged with Mrs. Walton

to stay with you on
Saturday night while I'm gone.

Peggy, if you don't want me
to go to the party, I won't go.

You do what you want to, Mommy.

- Ben, uh, I could use a refill.
- Hmm.

Just, uh, don't tell my wife.

Hmm. Well, why don't you
stand where I'm standing, Walt?

Oh, that's what I call
punch with a punch.

What's in it?

- Oh, an old Cartwright formula.
- Oh?

Seems to me that the Cartwrights
have the formula for just about everything.

Yeah, seems so.

Heh. I haven't danced in
so long, I can't get my breath.

Well, you want some air?

Oh, yes, let's go
out where it's cool.

- Nice party.
- Yeah, where's Little Joe?

Oh, he's in the kitchen

helping Hop Sing whip up
some more of this punch.

What about Adam, where's he?

Well, Adam just went
outside with Laura Dayton.

Ain't that just like this family?
Little Joe out playing with the punch

and Adam out playing in the
moonlight while I do all the work.

Now, hold on there, boy.

What work have you been doing?

Dancing, Pa. I've been dancing
up a storm. I'm plum tuckered out.

Heh. Have some punch. Heh.

- Ah. This is much better.
- Yes, it is.

- Right here.
- Right here?

Right here is the freshest
air on The Ponderosa.

Oh. You're right,
Adam, it's perfect.

And the whole evening
has been perfect.

I'm so glad you
thought of inviting me.

- May I have this dance?
- Oh.

I'm glad you decided
to come, Laura.

For a while there, I thought you
were gonna change your mind.

Well, I almost did.

I was afraid Peggy
wouldn't understand.

Well, there's no reason she
shouldn't want you to enjoy yourself.

And I am, Adam.

I'm having such
a wonderful time.

- Are you? Are you really?
- Yes, I am.

And I'm so grateful to
you. I'm so very grateful.

Adam, what are we doing?

I believe it's called kissing.

But we shouldn't, Adam.

- We shouldn't.
- Was it that bad?

No, you don't understand.

Well, what's wrong, Laura?

Adam, please take me home.

Home? The party's just begun.

I want to go home now.

I have a terrible feeling that
something's wrong with Peggy.

Well, Mrs. Walton
is with her, isn't she?

Please, Adam.

All right, Laura.

I'll get my wrap.

Well, if you're going
to sleep in my bed,

you have to promise
to go right to sleep.

All right, Mommy.

That's a good girl.

I'll be up in a minute
and tuck you in.

- Everything all right?
- She's fine now.

- What was wrong?
- Oh, she had a nightmare.

I'm so glad I came home.

Well, couldn't Mrs.
Walton have handled it?

Well, it's not the
same thing, Adam.

Adam, you just don't understand.

You know, that's twice
you've said that tonight.

Now, just what is it
that I don't understand?

About Peggy,

about how I'm
trying not to hurt her.

How I'm trying to protect her

and shield her from pain.

Do you really think allowing her to
believe that her father is coming back

is shielding her from pain?

What do you want me to do?

Make her forget her father?

I just want you to
tell her the truth.

Well, ah, when she's older.

Not now.

Laura, I know you love Peggy.

Maybe too much.

But just because she's a child

doesn't mean that you
should underestimate her.

Children do adjust to the
problems of life and death.

I know.

I had to when I was a child.

Well, I can't.

Why not? Why can't you?


Please, Adam.

Please, leave me alone.

You know, I understand
what's wrong with Peggy,

but I don't understand
what's wrong with you, Laura.

I can't discuss it now. I
have to go upstairs to Peggy.

She needs me.

I know, that's what I've been
trying to tell you all evening.

Good night.

Mommy? Are you
coming to bed, Mommy?


- Mr. Cartwright?
- Ma'am?

- You are Adam Cartwright?
- That's right. Can I help you?

I think perhaps you can.

I was waiting in town to see you
but I decided to come out here.

Well, what's on your mind?

Frank Dayton and his wife.

I understand that you're what they
call a very good friend of Mrs. Dayton.

Excuse me, I don't
quite follow you.

Well, just before he died, I
loaned Frank Dayton $500.

Why are you telling me all this?

I don't particularly want
to embarrass Mrs. Dayton,

and I thought that you, as a
good friend, might intercede for me.

I see.

Why don't you talk to
Mrs. Dayton yourself?

Would you like me
to tell Mrs. Dayton

that her husband and I
were going away together?

That he was sick
and tired of her?

That all he wanted was to
take his daughter with him?

Peggy, I think her name is.

That's why I loaned
him the $500.

And he was going to, uh, take Peggy
away from her mother just like that?

I've told you. He didn't think much
of her and she of him, for that matter.

Well, how do you know all this?

Here's the last letter she wrote
him in which she told him so.

Would you like to read it?

I'll tell you what,
Mr. Cartwright.

If you can make arrangements
for my loan to be repaid,

there's no need for me to tell
Mrs. Dayton anything about this.

And I'll throw in that
letter as a bonus.

All right.

Ride into town, I'll
make the arrangements.

Thank you. You're a very
understanding gentleman.

Where did you get
it? From a woman?

That's right. I got
it from a woman.

Always a woman.

He thought so little of me, he
even shared my letters with them.

Well, she's gone back
and you have the letter.

- Did you read it?
- Yes, I did.


I'm sorry, Adam.

You've been so kind
and tried so much to help.

I'd still like to help.

I'm afraid it's too late now.

You did read the letter
and you know what I wrote.

It doesn't matter.

Oh, yes, it does.

I wrote Frank that I hated
him, that I wished him dead.

I wished him dead
and now he is dead.

Laura, it was an accident.
Frank was drinking.

I was there when it happened.

But the point is I
wished it to happen.

Laura, a child might believe that
a wish had something to do with it,

but you are not a child.

Your feelings are
perfectly normal

for a woman who has just discovered
that her husband has been unfaithful.

Just found it out?

Oh, no. I've known
it all the time.

He was always going
off more and more.

Staying longer and longer.

Drinking, carousing
while I waited.

And he always came back.

But not to me. To Peggy.

To Peggy, he was the most
wonderful father in the world.

And now he's dead.

And you had
nothing to do with it.

It was an accident and
can't you understand that?

Night after night, I
prayed for his death.

I knew he was with
some other woman.

Now, don't you understand
that? I hated him.

But now there's no
more reason to hate.

There is no more
reason to feel guilty.

Is there?

No, I guess not.

Well, you don't sound very sure.

- Is there anything else?
- No.

No, nothing else. I...

I understand.

And I feel better.

All right, then you've
gotta help Peggy

because she's a part of all of this
and you've got to tell her the truth.

No, I can't.

Not right now. I'm
tired. I'm very tired.


Well, she was always
her father's child,

I could never even
really talk to her.

Adam, you tell her.

No, Laura, it's
gotta come from you.

No, Adam, you've helped me
so much. You can help her too.

I'm sorry, Laura.

You are the child's mother
and you have to do it.

Adam, please.


All right.

I'll see what I can do.

Wow, where did you come from?

Are you lost?

You're nice, and you're the
prettiest pony ever. Yes, you are.

He's yours?

Well, he's from the Ponderosa.

- My mommy isn't home.
- I know.

What's he doing here?

Well, it was his idea,
he, uh, led me here.

He seemed to know that there
might be a little girl waiting for him.

He's been kind of
lonely over at our place.

Matter of fact, we've been
trying to find a new home for him.

So if you would be willing to
take care of him, he's yours.

Are you trying to
make friends with me?

Sure. And he needs a friend.

He's never ridden, so, uh, it
hasn't been very much fun for him.

I won't take anything from you.

Well, you'll be doing him a favor. I
think he needs a little girl's attention.

You look awful sad.

Maybe he thinks
you don't want him.

You mustn't think
that. It's because...

Well, if I did take him, it
wouldn't be because of you.

Of course.

And I still don't
like you, you know.

Sure, but, uh, one thing has
nothing to do with the other.

You don't have to worry anymore.

I like you very much and I'm
going to take very good care of you.

- Why don't you take him for a ride?
- Would you like that?

Yeah, he hasn't been ridden
very much. He sure misses it.

All right.

I can do it myself.

See? By myself.

Absolutely, a real expert.
Now, which way you headed?

Down that way.

Funny, I was riding that way
myself. Mind if I ride along with you?

I don't care. If you
want to. Come on, boy.

Come on.

He's awful fast but I
bet he could go faster.

I bet he can too. Um,
how about a race?

All right, where to?

Well, you know where
Leffert's Pond is?

Uh-huh. Over that way.

Okay, you ready?


Let's go.

Adam, are you sure you
didn't just let me win that race?

Nope, you won
it fair and square.

- He is fast.
- Well, now, sure,

that's what I was telling you.

Will my daddy be
surprised when he sees him.

Sure will.

Where is your daddy?

He's on a trip.

He's been gone a
long time, hasn't he?

- It's pretty, isn't it?
- Yeah, sure is.

Now it'll die.

No, it'll just go away and
come back again next spring.

No, they never come back.

Well, there's lots of
others to take their place.

But it won't be the same.

You're right, Peggy.

You know, it's kind of
like that with people too.

Nobody can take my daddy's
place. He's coming back, he promised.

Now, let's go home.

It wouldn't be fair.

Why isn't it fair?

Because you've got to give
me a chance to get even, see?

You won the last race, and I'm going
to see if I can win this one. All right?

All right, but I'll bet
you I'll beat you again.

Okay. Heh.

- All right, you ready?
- Let's go.

What's the matter?
The race over?

I don't want to race anymore.

You can win if you
like. I'd like to go home.

All right, come on,
I'll ride along with you.

Well, come on. This
is the way, isn't it?

What's the matter?

I don't want to go that way.

Why not?

I don't know.

Are you afraid?



are you afraid because you
know that your father's dead?

- Where's Peggy?
- Upstairs.

What'd she say to you?

She wouldn't even talk to
me, she just ran up to her room.

Adam, what happened?

Oh, I brought a pony
over from the ranch,

I thought she'd
like to ride him.

Well, that was very sweet,

but surely that
isn't what upset her.

No, no.

We were becoming
pretty good friends

until the ride took
us near the cemetery.

You showed her Frank's grave?

No, she ran away.

Then you never really
got around to telling her?

I didn't have to Laura.

She knows that
Frank is buried there.


- She couldn't know, that's impossible.
- But she does, Laura.

And she ran off
because she was scared.

She's afraid of the truth.

She's afraid because she knows
that her father is dead and buried there

and because she loves him
and because the only other person

she loves won't tell
her the truth about him.

Well, she doesn't love me.

Well, even if that were true, it
doesn't make any difference.

She still needs you.

So you have got
to tell her the truth.

All right. Tomorrow.


Not tomorrow, today. Now.

I don't know how to start.

Well, start by telling
her what's happened.

Tell her that her father
isn't coming back again.

No, if I tell her the truth,
she'll hate me, just like Frank.

Oh, yes, he hated me

right from the beginning.

But I don't really blame him

because it was so terrible.

What was so terrible?

Me. Everything.

I was afraid of him
right from the first.

I was afraid of him
from the very first night.

And I was afraid of myself.

I was afraid that I...

That I would do the wrong
thing or say the wrong thing

or act the wrong way.

I was afraid that I
might be silly or foolish

or childish.

And I cried.

And Frank broke down the door.

And then he came in
laughing and I was crying

and I was calling for my mother.

Can you imagine that?

A married woman
crying for her mother.

Well, he kept on
laughing and I was crying.

And the more he laughed,
the more I hated him.


Oh, yes, I hated him so much.

I wished he was dead.

I wished he would go out and
get killed and never come back.

Oh, oh. Oh, I hated
him. I hated him.

Nobody can blame you,
Laura, for feeling like that.

You don't understand.

I drove him to other women.

I made him what he became.

It was all my fault. It's mine.

So that's where it is, huh?

Laura, you couldn't
help what you did.

But Frank couldn't
help what he did either.

When two people fall
in love and get married,

there's no guarantee that it's
gonna be a beautiful and easy life.

You and Frank couldn't
talk your problem out,

so he drank and went
someplace else for comfort

and you began to hate.

You see, if we're lucky enough

and, oh, wise enough,

we know that sometimes you can
love a person for the things they're not

as well as for the
things they are.

But you...

You and Frank
couldn't seem to do it.

So there's no blame now
for either one of you, really.

Do you really believe
that, honestly and truly?

Mm-hm. Honestly and truly.

I was so frightened.

So confused and so alone.

And there's nothing worse
in this whole wide world.

But you're not
alone, you know that.

Yes, Adam, I know that.

Thank you.

You don't love
Daddy, you never did.


You don't want
Daddy to come back.

I can explain.

It's all your fault
because he isn't home,

because he doesn't
want to come home to you.


Don't you talk
to me, I hate you.

- Listen to me...
- And I hate you too.

I don't want you,
I want my daddy.

It's all your fault
because he isn't home,

because he doesn't
want to come home to you.

It's all your fault,
and I hate you.

Peggy. Peggy.

I have to tell her.













Forty. Forty-one.







- Peggy?
- Forty-eight.


- Peggy, I have to tell you something.
- Fifty. Fifty-one.

- He's dead.
- Fifty-two.

- Fifty-three.
- Peggy, your father's dead.

Fifty-four. Fifty-five.

Don't look for him there.

- He won't come there.
- Fifty-six.

- Fifty-seven.
- He's dead

- and he's buried in the cemetery.
- Fifty-eight.

- It's the truth, Peggy.
- Sixty.

- Sixty-one.
- And I have to tell you

- because I love you.
- Sixty-two.

- Sixty-three.
- Peggy, dear.

Sixty-four. Count, Mommy, count!

And he'll come,
you'll see, you'll see.

- Sixty-five.
- Peggy.



- Sixty-eight.
- Peggy, he's dead.



Stop it.

Count, mommy, count,
and he'll come, you'll see.



- Peggy.
- Seventy-three.


- Seventy-five.
- Seventy-five.

- Seventy-six.
- Seventy-six.

- Seventy-seven.
- Seventy-seven.


- No, Mommy. No, he's dead.
- Seventy-nine.

- He's never coming back. Never.
- Eighty.

- Eight...
- Stop it.

I know, Mommy, I know.

I love you. I love you, Mommy.

Oh, Peggy.

- Good morning.
- Adam, heh, you're early.

Yeah, which means that
you're late getting ready.

Come on, Peggy, Adam's
here to take us to the picnic.

- Well, good morning, Peggy.
- Morning, Adam.

That is a beautiful dress.

It's new.

Well, we better hurry.

Come on. We won't be a minute.

Would you rather have
a coffee-milk tea party?

No, why don't we
just do as we planned.

Behind the Scenes of The Waiting Game

Following Pernell Roberts’ announcement of his departure from the series, “The Waiting Game” initiated a planned narrative arc spanning 8 to 10 episodes leading to his character’s exit. One of Roberts’ primary concerns with the show was the unmarried status of the Cartwright sons, particularly Adam, who seemed most likely to marry. Advocating for progressive themes and civil rights, Roberts proposed that Adam’s romantic interest be an Indigenous woman portrayed by an African American actress. While David Dortort did not fully endorse this idea, he developed a romantic storyline between Adam and a new recurring character, Laura Dayton, played by Kathie Browne. The episode, set in June 1861, is supported by a recently placed headstone dated February 1861, providing context for the depicted events.

Looking for More Bonanza Episodes?

Bonanza is a superb choice for solo viewing or family entertainment. The Waiting Game marks the 144th episode out of 430 in the series. Produced by NBC, Bonanza aired on 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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