Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Five Best Episodes of "The Loner"

Lloyd Bridges as William Colton.
We originally wrote a post about Rod Serling's 1965-66 Western TV series The Loner back in 2009. At that time, it seemed destined to be one of those cult TV shows lost forever except for an episode or two on YouTube. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case. In 2016, Shout Factory released all 26 episodes of The Loner.

The premise has Lloyd Bridges playing William Colton, a former Union officer wandering through the Old West following the end of the Civil War. Serling, who wrote many of the episodes, uses that backdrop to explore issues such as racial prejudice, redemption, and resignation. While it's not as consistently thought-provoking as Twilight ZoneThe Loner is a different kind of Western and Bridges is excellent as its complex hero.

Here's are our picks for the five best episodes:

1.  The Oath - When Colton stops by an isolated inn on a rainy night, he discovers that its residents are being held at gunpoint by a critically-wounded outlaw. During the night, the outlaw's plight changes the lives of the innkeeper's daughter and an alcoholic former surgeon with one hand. Rod Serling once said: "Humanity is our business." That's the theme in this potent episode featuring fine performances from Barry Sullivan and Viviane Ventura. I love the unexpected conclusion, which is filled with both melancholy and hope.
Barry Sullivan and Lloyd Bridges in the background.

2.  The Lonely Calico Queen - Colton finds a letter on a dead man and delivers it. The recipient is a lonely saloon girl, who was waiting for the letter writer--a pen-pal she has never met--to "rescue" her from her mundane existence. She assumes that Colton is her knight in shining armor. Serling wrote this touching tale of dreams and disillusionment. Jeanne Cooper shines as the saloon girl's pragmatic boss, who has accepted her station in life.

3.  Westward the Shoemaker - Colton meets a naïve immigrant (David Opatoshu), who is traveling to a nearby town to open a shoe shop with his life's savings. Part character study and part celebration of the goodness in people, this one features a Twilight Zone-like twist at the climax. Writer Serling also fills it with natural little touches like the two men soaking their feet in a nearby stream as they talk.
Cindy Bridges (Lloyd's daughter) with Colton's horse Joshua.

4. Pick Me Another Time to Die - Veteran TV writer Ed Adamson penned this more conventional, but still compelling episode in which Colton is framed for the murder of a popular sheriff. Even worse, the man responsible is the deputy! The only flaw in this tight-paced, twisty tale is its hurried conclusion. Character actor Lewis Charles has some great scenes as the deputy's underling and there's a doozy of a fight in a jail cell between Bridges and Mike Mazurki.

5. The Flight of the Arctic Tern - En route to a friend's wedding, Colton encounters a beautiful blonde on horseback, who flirts openly with him. Later that day, when he meets the bride-to-be, she turns out to be the same woman! Producer Andy White wrote the teleplay for this offbeat outing about a manipulating woman (well played by Janine Gray) who doesn't know what she wants in life. Colton's look of disgust in the closing scene is not to be missed.

You can view clips from three of these episodes on the Cafe's YouTube Channel by clicking on the image below:


  1. This series sounds really good, and now that it's on DVD, I'll check it out! Thanks for the heads up. I'll watch these episodes you highlighted.

  2. This is another example of quality writing and acting in the sixties. I also enjoyed seeing the Bridges' children work with their father.