Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Bonanza Season 5 Episodes
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Chenoa
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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by Chenoa » Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:50 pm

This episode is a special one in my opinion, because Ben usually controls his actions, even when pushed to the limit; this time however, he is so lost in his attempt to fulfil the contact that he repeatedly overrules warnings, only returning to himself when that terrible accident happens.
Had the accident simply happened things might have been different, but with all the warnings even by his own son, Ben is bound to feel consumed by guilt. He values life above everything and to realize how careless and irresponsible he has been tempted to act, resulting in the death of one of his men, someone he was responsible for, is a horrible realization that can bring a man like Ben to his breaking point.
Therefore, his behaviour makes perfect sense to me, although I have to admit that I hate to see him in this state. Sure it seems rude, almost cruel to "throw" the Ponderosa at the boys like that, but perhaps it is a "warning" that Ben will not always be there and they have to be able to take over anytime.
It is a relief when the Lady comes to see him and helps him overcome his feelings, and when Barney Fuller dares to send him back to bed he finally returns to his former self, for Ben Cartwright will not be send anywhere by no one, least of all Barney Fuller :no .
Of course that ending scene with Adam's MOO is one of my favourite moments too and a light ending to a rather dark, but great episode.
"They´re three fine boys Jed...hard workers and a good head on their shoulders...they are close to each other as brothers should be!" Ben in "Springtime"

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by windward » Wed Jul 05, 2017 5:41 am

I, too, can understand that Ben needed some time out to come to terms with his guilt. As Chenoa has pointed out, there is a huge difference between an employee dying in an acident that nobody could foresee and deliberately taking a risk just to beat an old rival. His own son showed more responsibility than he, the presumably older and wiser father. On the other hand I have problems to believe that Ben would have stayed away from Ponderosa business for such a long time while his sons had to deal with such immense problems. That was unfair to them, and after all the Ponderosa was his lifework. He wouldn't have watched it go down the drain.

But what puzzled me even more were the events before the accident, I just cannot picture him to behave in such an irresponsible way. Competitve - yes, but not at the expense of his friends. Ambitious - sure, but always with an open ear for the thoughts and worries of other people. Otherwise, how did all these Bonanza episodes come about? :grin Definitely not by picturing him as a single-minded workoholic.

Nevertheless, an interesting story and an episode I enjoyed - it was just not Ben.

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by PJudith » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:30 pm

Been thinking some more about this episode. A lot of good insights offered here.

It WAS difficult to watch Ben in this position since he was usually so strong and decisive and in control. But he wasn't always that way Everyone has a breaking point. After Elizabeth died, grieved for a long time. When he wandered into Inger's store, he seemed liked a lost and broken man. Her love snapped him out of his grief.

In this case, Barney Fuller, did the job. Even though rivals, I'd say they had a grudging respect and liking for each other. Their competitiveness brought out the best in them. In their final encounter it seemed like Barney lost respect for Ben. And Ben couldn't take that! Yes, dislike him all you want, but Ben demanded respect from people.

Even though it seemed unfair to leave everything up to his sons, they were grown men. Plenty of men their ages and younger owned their own farms, businesses and/or ranches and they ran them without benefit of their "Pa". Since the Cartwright "boys" lived at home, fans seem to think of them as younger than they were.

They were smart, hard working, honest and capable men who were able to run the Ponderosa. That's how Ben raised them! After all, at that point, Ben would've been close to sixty, pretty much the lifespan of a man back then.

What if Ben had been closer to Gabe when those logs fell and he was also killed or permanently crippled? His "boys" would have had to take over running the ranch. Maybe this incident was a wake up call to them that they would someday have to run the Ponderosa without the benefit of their Pa's wisdom and expertise.

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by windward » Wed Jul 05, 2017 2:50 pm

Of course the "boys" were old enough to take over business, they were more than ready to make their own decisions. But Ben left the ship all of a sudden in a state of crisis when they did need his help and experience. Although I have to say that I was indeed disappointed that the three let themselves be duped by Fuller so easily. I would have expected especially Adam to come up with some clever plan to outwit him, but that would have changed the whole story. So in order to give Ben a good reason to come back, the writers made his sons seem more dependent than they appeared to be in other episodes.
Last edited by windward on Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by PlatoofthePonderosa » Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:54 am

I enjoy episodes like this because the Ponderosa is as important a character as any of the men. It's nice to have a whole episode centered on "ordinary" life for the Cartwrights, not just what they do on their weekends, holidays, and very eventful business trips. :grin

I have to agree with those who say that Ben's behavior in this episode was out of character—but wasn't that the point? I know a couple people who are very like Ben—the same natural leadership, the same fair, caring, nurturing, hardworking, goal-setting, always-alert-for-danger sort of personality—and I've seen them behave similarly. When they are sacrificing to the max, they expect the same output from everyone else. Under the pressure of a responsibility they feel inadequate to fulfill, they can become testy or harsh, feeling that everyone else's negligence is causing them to fail. But at heart, they are still nurturing, caring people, and the worst thing in the world for them is feeling that they've let down or somehow harmed someone for whom they are responsible. The depressed apathy afterward is certainly not Ben's normal reaction to death, but every grief comes at you from a different angle. Sometimes you react in ways that surprise even yourself.

I know what it's like to have a normally energetic, responsible parent undone by grief and just walking around in a daze for weeks or months, and I have a lot of sympathy for the boys in this episode. My family dealt with a lot of death while I was growing up, sometimes under really hard circumstances, and I remember feeling a great deal of pressure as the oldest child. But Adam handled it all just smashingly, didn't he? :applause1

Two more little notes: firstly, I think part of Ben's guilt (or what he's questioning about himself) is how important the Ponderosa is to him. He's ALWAYS stood on the principle that people's lives are more important than land, yet his land means so much to him that sometimes in the earlier episodes he walks a fine line. The Ben in The Prime of Life has matured a lot, but I imagine conversations like the one with Joe in Truckee Strip ("It means a lot to you, doesn't it? All that land?" "Yes—but it's not my whole life." "Are you sure?") or the one with Adam in Blood On the Land coming back to haunt him after Gabe's death. Secondly, I've always felt that Joe's little tantrum about using saddle horses for pack work was a very important moment. I think seeing his youngest son so hurt and bitter did a great deal towards making Ben wake up and snap out of it. :joe
Joe: Hey, where's the Plato of the Ponderosa this morning?
Ben: If you're referring to your brother Adam, he left on TIME.

(Season 6, "Between Heaven and Earth")

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by Adamant » Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:09 am

I find this structure interesting. The first part is to emphasize Ben's strength of character, his determination and virility. Barney Fuller reminds Ben of how he once distracted his only competition by sending a redhead his way (the bull of the woods is a stud bull!) It's a pleasant memory for both men of younger days but lets the viewer know two things --it's a long-standing competition and that Fuller is crafty. Then we see a determined Ben, full of vigor and barking orders because he is still in competition and wanting to prove himself - it overwhelms everything else.

And then Gabe dies and Ben blames himself because he didn't wait for the new piece but used an inferior, cracking piece of equipment, Gabe is crushed and Ben is wounded by falling on an axe. (The impression is that Gabe is still working just to give him something to do -- Ben didn't cut him loose and now he's just a puttering old man doing small chores. ) And then Ben realizes just what he's done -- that he was blinded by his driving need to be on top which caused him to give short shrift to everyone and everything except his own focused goal.

I don't find Ben's depression out of character. After all, he's been wounded, responsible (in his mind) for Gabe's death, and may feel he is becoming obsolete as well, nor do I find the sons' sudden sense of the center having dropped out surprising. When they finally accept that Ben isn't going to come back and help, they rally themselves and do just what they have to. Ben is left out of the work decisions and finds, when Joe comes for their saddle horses, that he has no say and he doesn't like it.

I also love the saloon scene and the "one more punch" Joe gives to Bob Miles after the fight is basically ended. And the Bull of the Woods scene where Adam ends up on top of the pile. ("He's the bull of the woods! Get 'im!] Nevertheless, Ben returns to the work site after Gabe's daughter shows she has no animus and that life is tenuous for everyone; he's not to blame himself and Barney Fuller visits and in a manner, taunts him for giving up so easily. Although it's a form tough-love, it works. Ben "the Bull" returns, ready for all on comers. His virility is intact and to prove it, he rides to town and takes back the leased horses, much to Barney's satisfaction. Ben is back on top. I don't know if Bull of the Woods was a common term in lumber camps, but it has all the connotations of strength, bull-headedness, determination and overt sexuality. Fits Ben.

The episode is worth watching just to hear the Bull (Adam) say "yes" at the close.
We never really grow up; we just learn how to act in public--anonymous

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by Julianna » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:29 pm

Adamant wrote: The episode is worth watching just to hear the Bull (Adam) say "yes" at the close.
I most definitely agree!
I like this episode and I don't think it's out of character for Ben to blame himself. It seems logical to me that he would blame himself for not being safe and waiting a few hours to get the pulley from town. Hoss didn't put up much of an argument either,but that was how Hoss would be. Which is why Adam and/or Joe are absent from that scene, cuz they would argue and convince Pa to wait and we wouldn't have a story. Many events happen that show Ben he is needed to get back to living from Adam telling him "this isn't your way" to Gabe's daughter convincing Ben he shouldn"t feel he was responsible for the accident. I like the Barney Fuller character mostly because of the actor who plays him. Jay C. Flippin was great and I recognize him as acting in several John Wayne movies. He made Barney likeable in spite of the fact he was unscrupulous. I felt he was concerned about Ben and did push his buttons to get moving! Love the Bull of the Woods scene and the very end with the trestle complete and Adam's moo! Well, written episode by someone that knew the characters. (or at least had seen several episodes)

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by Smorgana » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:16 am

I hate that Barney character. I can't relate to people like that. I like the brawl. I also like the scene where Joe tells his father off. The bull of the woods scene is also great to watch.

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Re: Episode 147 - THE PRIME OF LIFE

Post by TNTrue » Sat Mar 16, 2019 6:19 pm

January wrote: Do you think maybe the writer just wanted a reason to name Adam "Bull of the Woods"?
My daughters are I are not watching Bonanza in order, and all have lists of episodes we want to watch, so whenever we have time for a few eps, there's always a bit of discussion on which episodes we're going to watch. So here's how I convinced them to pick this one last time:

Me: Let’s watch “The Prime of Life.”
Middle Daughter: Why?
Me: Adam is the Bull of the Woods.
Middle Daughter: He’s the what?
Me: Adam is the Bull of the Woods. He says ‘moo.’
Both daughters: “Sold!”
patina wrote: Ben's pity party seemed way out of character since he'd had hired help (usually ranch hands) die over the years.
I thought it made sense because this time Ben was quite directly responsible for the death. I was actually pretty annoyed at how people -- including the victim's daughter! -- insisted it was "just an accident." Using a block and tackle that was cracked like that was insane at the best of times -- and it was outright petty to do it over what would likely be a missed hour of work! That was about the most predictable 'accident' imaginable. Frankly, I not only thought Ben was right to feel responsible, I was surprised Hoss didn't feel guilty as well!

What I thought out of character was that Ben had a handshake agreement with the stable guy; a good businessman would want all his ducks in a row on a contract that important. I can see Ben having handshake agreements, just not with a guy who has the stable guy's attitudes.
patina wrote: This ep has one of my favorite saloon brawls. Hoss hangs his guy from a hook on the wall and Joe throws an extra punch when the fight finally ends. Adam looks fantastic as he swings his fists.

I also love the Bull of the Woods fight--how kind of the timber men to take turns. :grin. Hoss enjoys the fight from start to finish and I get a chuckle out of him holding back Joe.
Yes and yes. Also the last scene.
PJudith wrote: In the episode it was made to seem like an envelope of "guilt money" , but in reality it was workman's comp since Gabe died on the job from a preventable accident. His family was entitled to it.
Agreed. While it was a long way from the standard, it was not uncommon for good business owners to give the families of employees killed or injured on the job a cash settlement of some sort -- or to keep an injured or elderly worker on in some other facility, even if he wasn't technically earning the pay, which seems to have been the case with Gabe. And seamstresses didn't usually earn enough for a woman to support herself in any kind of comfort, let alone support a child. Although if they owned the house outright and had a good garden and whatnot, I suppose she could have done it -- also if she rented out rooms, which was one way widowed women often supported themselves. Although there were interesting exceptions on the frontier where women took over the family business after their husband died, for the most part women didn't have access to jobs that would support them very well. That's one reason there are etiquette books from the 1850s that told men, "You have a responsibility to marry!" If enough men refused to marry, there'd be a lot of women needing financial help from elsewhere.
PJudith wrote: Even though it seemed unfair to leave everything up to his sons, they were grown men. Plenty of men their ages and younger owned their own farms, businesses and/or ranches and they ran them without benefit of their "Pa". Since the Cartwright "boys" lived at home, fans seem to think of them as younger than they were.
Middle daughter spent much time during this episode yelling at the screen, "They are not boys! Adam's practically thirty!"

But I do think it was unfair of Ben, because businesses run on established trust relationships, still, and even more so back then, and first Ben maintained enough control his sons hadn't established those sorts of relationships yet, and second he just disappears on everybody. Sons taking over a business often do have a hard time convincing people they can do the job as well as their father, and Ben made that an even bigger challenge by demanding the boys take over completely so abruptly.
PlatoofthePonderosa wrote: Two more little notes: firstly, I think part of Ben's guilt (or what he's questioning about himself) is how important the Ponderosa is to him. He's ALWAYS stood on the principle that people's lives are more important than land, yet his land means so much to him that sometimes in the earlier episodes he walks a fine line.
:yes

As someone earlier put it, part of Ben's problem is that keeping your priorities in order is important to him, and here he's gotten them so screwed up, someone died!

I also agree with you that seeing Joe influenced Ben, but I think all three of his conversations through that section did (son, employee's daughter, old rival). His problem was complicated, and having all three of them on top of each other was a nice way to address a lot of complicated issues in a short space of time. I think he needed Martha's forgiveness, but, perhaps even more importantly, he needed to hear her say that he has a responsibility to those still here, reinforcing Joe's point.
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