Friday, March 22, 2019

"A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" -- My Favorite "Maverick" Episode

I have probably seen "A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" more often than all the other Maverick eps I've seen combined.  It's not the first Maverick episode I watched -- that would be "Duel at Sundown" -- but it quickly became my whole family's favorite.  When I was a teen in the '90s, our local video store had only those two episodes, and we rented them both multiple times, but my dad eventually found and bought this one so we could watch it to our hearts' content.  And we did.  Twenty years or so later, he proudly introduced my kids to this series with this very episode.

We watched this so often when I was a kid that my whole family tends to refer to John Dehner by his character's name in this, Banker Bates.  Dehner was actually in five episodes of the show, playing a variety of characters, but he filled this role so perfectly that we will forever associate him with it.

I loved this episode so much as a teen that I named one of my cats after a pseudonym that Bart Maverick uses in it.  He calls himself Bartley J. Mansfield II, so I named my cat Bartley J. Mansfield III.

Anyway!  I think my dad and I both love this episode particularly well because it involves a con game, and for some reason, both he and I are fascinated by conmen.  From The Sting (1973) to Ocean's 11 (1960) to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) to Sawyer on Lost, I am endlessly fascinated by con artists! My dad is a fan of all but the last of those, and we count this episode right up there with the best of the con game movies.

Okay, so, what happens is, Bret Maverick has a super-lucky night at the poker tables in a little town called Sunny Acres.  So lucky, he ends up with $15,000 in winnings, which adjusted for inflation would be about $300,000 in today's money.  He doesn't want to hold onto that kind of money -- lots of people know he won a lot, and he doesn't want to get robbed.  So he stops by the local bank, which is closed, gets the attention of Banker Bates (John Dehner), and asks to deposit the money and get a receipt.  Banker Bates takes the money, give him a receipt, and Bret goes off to his hotel room to sleep the sleep of the deeply lucky and happy.

The next morning, he goes back to the bank to withdraw a little of his winnings.  Banker Bates says he's never seen Bret before, that the receipt Bret has is not official and worthless, and that Bret definitely did not leave $15,000 at his bank the night before.  And he couldn't possibly be lying, could he?  "After all, if you can't trust your banker, who can you trust?"

Bret knows he's been swindled.  But $15,000 is not chump change.  He sits down on the porch of the building across the street from the bank and starts to whittle.  He makes no secret of the fact that he wants Banker Bates to give him his $15,000 back, but whenever anyone asks him how he's going to get it back, all Bret will say is, "I'm working on it."

Enter a handsome stranger who calls himself Bartley J. Mansfield II, but who the audience knows is Bret's brother, Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly). 

"Mansfield" lets it be known he's a speculator out here buying up mining stock on behalf of a bunch of friends.  He gets to know Banker Bates and introduces him to the merry world of speculation.

"Mansfield" rides around the countryside buying shares in old mines for pennies on the dollar, then says he's going to sell them for much more than he'd paid.  Banker Bates finds this too good to be true, so "Mansfield" invites him to come along and see the transactions.

Fans of the show get treated to lots of familiar faces over the next few scenes, for the Maverick brothers have enlisted the help of several of their off-and-on associates for this con, recurring characters Samantha Crawford (Diane Brewster), Gentleman Jack Darby (Richard Long), Dandy Jim Buckley (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), and Big Mike McComb (Leo Gordon).

In the end, of course, Bret Maverick gets his $15,000 back, or rather, his brother gets it for him.  Banker Bates gets sent to jail for embezzeling, and Bret rides out of town with the satisfaction that he's left Sunny Acres a better town than he found it.

This has been my entry into the 5th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. 

If you love classic TV shows AND you love participating in blogathons, I hereby invite you to join the April blogathon I'm co-hosting in honor of Vic Morrow.  Morrow not only starred on the classic show Combat! (1962-67), he made guest appearances on dozens of classic shows, as well as appearing in many movies from the mid-'50s until his death in the early '80s.  Click here for details!


  1. The recurring characters, the familiar faces of favourite characters actors, AND both Bret and Bart! What's not to love? Classic TV at its best, and an excellent article. As well as the perfect name for a cat.

    1. Thanks, Caftan Woman! I agree that this is a great example of Classic TV at its best :-) Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Keith from Nostalgic Italian here...

    First, let me say I loved this episode. John Dehner was one of my favorite actors. He did so many great things on radio and I loved almost everything he did.

    Garner was great as Maverick! I have only seen this episode once and it was a long time ago, but as I read your blog I remembered it immediately.

    One thing I love about these shows is seeing some of the actors we have come to love in their early roles. Each time I see an episode of The Untouchables, it seems I see someone I recognize.

    Great blog!

    By the way, Oceans 11 is one of my favorite films, too!

    1. Hi, Keith! I agree -- John Dehner is always a joy, no matter what he pops up in. I loved him as the original Paladin in the radio version of Have Gun, Will Travel. I'm always happy when he pops up in a show I'm watching :-) Which is such a treat about watching lots of classic shows -- like you said, I almost always recognize somebody.

      Glad you enjoyed my blog :-) And man, that original O11 is just one cool film, isn't it? Totally dig it.

  3. I love the Ocean movies, and anything with a heist. I'll have to check this out.

    1. Skye, the new Ocean movies are a lot of fun, though I haven't managed to see Ocean 8 yet. But I still prefer the original Rat Pack version :-)

      I love heist movies! Not quite as much as con game movies, but when they combine them, zowie.

  4. Along with The Wild Wild West, Maverick is my all time favourite Western TV show. I never can decide if I like "Gun-Shy" or "A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" better, but both are my favourite episodes. What I love about "A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" is that every single major character on the show puts in an appearance, all to help Bret in what is the ultimate con ever run on the show! It is simply brilliant. I sometimes I wonder if it wasn't planned for "A Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" to be the ultimate Maverick episode. Anyway, thank you so much for taking part in the blogathon!

    1. Terence, both Maverick and the Wild Wild West are in my top 10 of favorite western shows. SO good, both of them. SO willing to be inventive.

      Thanks for hosting again! I'm already looking forward to next year :-)

  5. Very interesting article - in special the bit about naming your cat after the character! I don't remember watching reruns of Maverick, but I've always heard good things about the show.
    Thanks for the kind comment!

    1. Thanks, Le! I hope you can find an ep or two to try sometime -- it's a really well-made show, and they enjoy turning western movie tropes on their heads, which adds to the fun :-)

      Always a pleasure when you stop by!


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