Agreed. OTOH, sometimes when I think someone is way out of character, others here disagree! How people react to a situation depends partly on their personality, and partly on their past experience (past trauma makes people incredibly sensitive to some situations, so that they act "irrationally" according to people who know them well and expected something different), and partly on their world view. For example, a rigid Marxist who is normally a very compassionate person might look at a situation where a poor person did something horrific to a rich one and easily forgive the perpetrator, while they would blow off the rich person's pain as if it were deserved, while if you reversed perpetrator and victim's social status, they'd show compassion on the victim and see the perpetrator as pure wicked for doing the exact same thing.
But someone with an identical personality and background (not that any two real people are ever that much alike), who has a more mercy and grace-based world view, would treat both victims the same. How the person believes the world works matters, and TV shows aren't always clear on a character's ground philosophy. With Bonanza there are further complications. I tend to see the Cartwrights as more true to the nineteenth century than they really were, while others see them as solidly planted in the 1960s.
But in this case it does seem very odd that no one went after Ben. I like to think Hoss and Adam did mean to go after him, but some other crisis came up, maybe involving Little Joe doing something stupid, which delayed them. I've also speculated that the boys all saw their father as more capable of dealing with things, and respecting him enough to take his word when he said he could handle something until the events of Death at Dawn, which is when all three of them first grapple with Pa's mortality. I'm sure Adam had thought about it before, but that episode would bring it home to all of them in a very visceral way, which might explain why they're willing to let Ben go off alone in this one, while chasing after him in similar situations later.
But I know it's really that Julianna is correct, and they do what the writer tells them to.
I think he meant everything pertinent there, everything that would likely become an issue in their lives. There's a difference between hiding information from your children about a mother and wife, and just not naming all your lovers. In the first case you're hiding information that ought to belong to them; in the second case it's really none of their business, unless and until the situation changes profoundly.
Hubby doesn't like this episode in part because he thinks it cheats. When Little Joe shoots the deputy, Hubby says Joe started the fight and so that ought to be considered murder. If someone now fights an officer of the law to the point that the officer feels their life is threatened, barring a media storm over racial issues, most juries nowadays blame the shooter and consider the cop in the right. I'm not sure I agree with my husband -- the fact that the cop in question punched Little Joe out a day or two back would probably be brought up in the trial, and would certainly be something that would interest the jury. If Joe was the hothead in shooting the cop, the cop was clearly the hothead the time before.
But my husband's opinion reminds me of a historical case where a Very Bad Man named Sam Brown had decided he didn't like a local guy named Henry Van Sickle. Van Sickle ran a hotel/bar/restaurant/stage and Pony Express stop on the Emigrant Trail and was well known in the community -- and apparently well liked, or Sam Brown was deeply hated, because when Sam Brown decided to take some pot shots at Van Sickle, first Van Sickle ran, but when the coast was clear, he went after Brown, got ahead of him, and killed him in an ambush. The law at the time (Utah Territory law) was dead clear; a man who laid in wait to kill someone should be hung for murder.
But people swore that they'd heard Sam Brown say he was going to kill Van Sickle as a form of celebration for his birthday and that if Van Sickle hadn't killed Brown, Brown would most assuredly have killed Van Sickle, soon as he got his chance. The judge let Van Sickle off, just asking him to give Brown a decent burial. While Van Sickle seems to have been a reasonably low key businessman and not known for being a hot head, I wonder if the locals wouldn't have given Little Joe the benefit of the doubt as well -- Joe himself says he doesn't want an inquest for fear of exposing his mother, and doesn't seem to consider getting hung a likely possibility.
And on the subject of Marie's reputation, I have to admire Ben for his position that what Marie did before he came along is none of his business -- that was an unusual position in the 1960s, let alone the 1860s, and held only by men of deep character.
I'm watching episodes in air date order again, and right about the time I wrote in my notes, "It's an unexpected juxtaposition, broadcasting this one right after Desert Justice," Eldest daughter observed aloud, "Interesting decision, airing this right after such a similar plot." Watching them one after the other, you can't help but compare Ben Cartwright's efforts to manipulate Leduque with Dave's efforts in Desert Justice to manipulate the Marshall. While the structure of the two plots is different, the core issue is the same:
Desert Justice -- basically honest lawman who has grown bitter over time, in pursuit of a person he has a personal grudge against because that person did him personal harm, where the pursued man knows the lawman well enough to yank his chains.
The Stranger -- basically honest lawman who has grown bitter over time, in pursuit of a person he has a personal grudge against because that person did him personal harm, where the pursued man knows the lawman well enough to yank his chains.
The major difference is that Dave in Desert Justice was a wicked man who yanked the Marshall's chains in order to enrage and manipulate him, while Ben in this story is a merciful man wants to help the Inspector reunite with his better self. I have no idea why Dotort or the network or whoever decided to air two such similar plots back-to-back, but I think the contrast actually enhances this episode by shining a bright light on Ben's compassion for a man who is determined to harm him. I have sometimes wondered if Ben was modeled in part on John Mackay, a Virginia City "Bonanza King" who was known for his fairness with his employees and his compassion on the poor, and for his philanthropy. From a few stories I have read, Mackay, like Ben, often demonstrated a surprisingly deep understanding of human psychology, and I can imagine Mackay having compassion on a man who was out to get him, so long as he saw the man as basically good and not as a generally destructive force.
Both Mackay and Ben would be less compassionate about a man who is actively trying to harm his family, but I think in this case Ben both felt he could control the damage Leduque could do, and also that he felt Leduque was a good man destroying himself with bitterness, and so redeemable. I can see Mackay thinking the same way.
I also wonder if Leduque's arrival made Ben rethink his interest in a political career. Frankly, I'm surprised he was that interested in the first place. The framers of the Constitution expected most Federal politicians to be part-timers with real jobs in their home states, but from quite early on elected State government officials took on a full-time job, and I wonder if Ben was starting to realize he'd have to give up running the Ponderosa if he were elected, even before Leduque came along. He made the decision to back out of politics awfully quick and easy, considering that the lady involved was dead and gone and couldn't be hurt by it. Part of that was no doubt concern for Little Joe, but frankly most people on the frontier didn't care nearly so much about a woman's past as people further east did, or about anyone's past, really (the frontier was where you went to start over), and if Little Joe weren't such a hot head and so easily baited no one would have gotten too wound up about the potential past of a woman who had been dead for years.
While Ben continued to be involved in politics in the sense of supporting politicians and being active on local committees, I don't think he would have been happy as a full-time politician. He had the people skills, but he would have had to give up the more direct power of being boss; wouldn't have had the satisfaction of direct, physical labor (he didn't directly labor that much, but there's still a satisfaction to seeing a pile of cut trees and other physical evidence of constructive work that moving a piece of paper from inbox to outbox doesn't supply), and his time would be more dictated by outside forces. I think he'd agreed to run for governor out of a sense of responsibility to his neighbors and those who suggested it, and when faced with a reason not to do it, he realized he couldn't put his whole heart into it, because it didn't represent his family the way the Ponderosa does.