BONANZA. “The Spanish Grant.” NBC, 06 February1960 (Season 1, Episode 21.) Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon. Guest cast: Patricia Medina (Isabella Maria Ynez Y Castra De La Cuesta / Rosita Morales), Sebastian Cabot, Celia Lovsky. Director: Christian Nyby. Currently strreaming on YouTube (see below).

   Bonanza was one of the most popular and long-lived TV westerns of all time – but not, of course, the most – we all know what that one was – and by this far into the first season both the audience and players knew who was who without a lot of (or any) explanation or preparation for their characters.

   This episode begins with a gang of things on horseback attacking a pair of homesteaders, and killing the husband, under the guise of the law. It seems as though a claimant (female) to an old Spanish grant has appeared, and she, under her uncle’s guidance, is asking all of current residents to clear out, or pay the price. Among those resisting are the men of the Ponderosa (father and three sons), a part of whose holdings is among those claimed by the stunningly beautiful (as it so happens) Isabella Maria Ynez Y Castra De La Cuesta, played by the stunningly beautiful Patricia Medina.

   A question quickly arises in the viewer’s mind – and soon enough the Cartwrights as well — is she who she says she is? Adam (Pernall Roberts) takes the lead on this one, romancing the lady while investigating the possibility that she is not.

   Standard enough western affair, even if stolen from other sources (e.g., the Anastasia controversy). But what makes the story line so enjoyable is that it manages to never quite answer the question, even after Adam locates the grand old lady of the Spanish family who, under the law, own the land. Bringing her to Virginia City to settle matters leads, quite surprisingly, to a most satisfactory ending anyway.