Palms of Glory (also referred to as "PoG" by fans) is the title of the pilot episode for the television series, The Big Valley, making it Episode 1-1 (Season One, Episode One.) The original air date was September 15, 1965.
Synopsis: In 1876 Stockton, California, a young drifter reveals to the powerful Barkley family that he is the bastard son of the clan's late patriarch, but the revelation pales in comparison to the looming threat of the clash between Hannibal Jordan's hired thugs and the citizens of the valley being evicted by the railroad baron.
Plot: The episode begins with Nick riding into Stockton to meet Jarrod's train, but finding his way blocked by a stranger while trying to cross a narrow bridge. Neither rider will yield the right-of-way to the other, but the matter is abruptly decided when the bridge gives way under the combined weight of the two men and their horses, dumping everyone into the river. Nick ends up on the Stockton side of the river, while the stranger ends up on the ranch side, and both men chuckle at themselves as they each go on their way.
On the train that is about to arrive in Stockton, a group of men, led by Mr. Crown, plot on how they will arrange to evict three specific Valley ranchers--the first of many if railroad baron Hannibal Jordan has his way. Although he is Jordan's right-hand-man and in charge of making sure that there are dozens of hired gunslingers in Stockton to enforce the intended evictions, Crown urges the men with him to make sure that the mercenaries are kept under strict control, reminding everyone that Jordan wants to avoid a bloody confrontation like the one that had taken place six years earlier--one that killed Tom Barkley and set back Jordan's plans until now.
Crown goes to meet with Jarrod Barkley in the family's private rail car, hoping to get the lawyer son of the original Barkley to persuade the people to be evicted to accept their fates without resistance. Jarrod is clearly skeptical about this happening, but the men are interrupted when they spot a rider on a horse racing the train. Jarrod proposes a wager that the man will beat the train and Crown takes the bet, with the two of them avidly watching the progress until the rider finally wins the impromptu race. Crown pays Jarrod, but leaves him with an implied warning that, unlike the railroad, men die.
Nick rides through the town of Stockton, meeting the train from San Francisco that bears his brother. When the Barkley men get together, Nick informs Jarrod that the town is crawling with many mercenaries, no doubt bought by Jordan in anticipation of evicting ranchers from land that now belongs to the railroad. The pair set off for the Barkley ranch.
In the wooded area near the ranch, a rider comes across a lone gravesite in the middle of a clearing. Dismounting, he draws close enough to read the gravestone marking the site: "Thomas Barkley, 1813 - 1870". Even as he kneels by the grave, he is attacked by a crop-wielding Audra Barkley, who is angered by the stranger tramping on the flowers she herself had planted there. However, the stranger disarms her without actually harming her and she introduces herself to him, proudly proclaiming that Tom Barkley's funeral was very well attended, with people coming from miles around. After learning that the stranger is looking for a job, she tells him to go to the main house and ask for her brother Nick before watching him ride off.
Nick and Jarrod return to the family ranch, where they are greeted by their younger brother Eugene, who is home from his studies at Berkeley. Eugene tells his brothers that three neighboring ranchers--Swensen, Sample and Wirth--are inside the house to see Jarrod. The trio show Jarrod the notices of eviction they each received, becoming very disturbed when Jarrod has to tell them that the legislation that was supposed to protect the ranchers from losing their land to the railroad has been vetoed by the governor. Jarrod tells them that he will file an injunction in the morning if the three are willing to wait until then before taking any action. The ranchers reluctantly agree and leave.
After the others leave, Nick has a loud disagreement with Jarrod about the effectiveness of taking the legal route as opposed to simply fighting the railroad's mercenaries and calls upon Gene to give his own opinion, getting exasperated when the youngest brother says there is merit to both ways and he has to think on it. The brothers are interrupted by the appearance of their mother, Victoria, who brings their attention to a guest arriving before she leaves the room. When the brothers go the window to see the new arrival, the rider is recognized by both Nick and Jarrod, who each remember him from the incident at the bridge and the train race, respectively.
The stranger on the horse asks after a job on the ranch and introduces himself as Heath, assuring Nick that he has a wide range of experience as a ranch hand. Nick is reluctant to give Heath a job, but Jarrod overrides him, saying that Heath did him a favor. Nick begrudgingly tells Heath to report to the bunkhouse to have the boss there sign him on, but the middle Barkley brother is clearly very thoughtful about this sudden arrival from the town of Corning.
Later that night, Heath is still awake in his bunk when Nick suddenly appears and orders the young man to dress and join him for a talk. Once the pair are in a room away from the other ranch hands, Nick voices his suspicions about Heath, openly scoffing that any ranch hand would ride one hundred miles to get a job--not when there are a dozen or so ranches between Corning and Stockton where one could easily find work. The two get into a fistfight as Nick accuses Heath of being a spy sent by Hamilton Jordan or by Crown. Heath ends the battle by telling Nick that he is Tom Barkley's illegitimate son.
The pair return to the main house, where Nick's shouting brings Jarrod and Gene downstairs. Heath begins a diatribe about how very proper and beloved Tom Barkley was, with many people attending his funeral while his own mother was buried in a potter's field. Heath goes on to explain that he was called to his dying mother's bedside a month ago, and she directed him to a newspaper clipping in her bible before she passed away. His mother had never told Heath whom his father was, but the clipping was the story about Tom Barkley's funeral, so Heath felt that his mother was trying to tell him that the man had been his father. Now he is determined to have what should rightfully be his, part of the Barkley fortune and (more importantly) the Barkley name, too.
Naturally none of the others in the room believe it. Eugene silently fumes while Nick openly mocks parts of Heath's story, and Jarrod initially offers Heath several hundred dollars to leave the ranch. Heath insists that he wants his due as a true Barkley, prompting Nick to snatch the money from Jarrod's hand and stuff it into Heath's pocket, ordering him off the ranch and out of their lives. Heath refuses the payoff, jamming the wad of bills into a shot glass and leaving it on a nearby table before taking his leave. As he stalks out of the house, Audra is on the stairs, having overheard everything, but she is the only one in a position to see and hear the door to Victoria's room softly shut.
Audra rides into town after Heath in spite of the late hour, determined to prove that the man is lying about being her father's bastard son. She runs afowl of a bunch of the rowdier mercenaries, who actually pull her off her horse, and ends up being rescued by Heath, who takes her to his rented room in order to help bandage some of the scratches she's received. Audra attempts to seduce Heath in order to prove he's lying, but he resists her attempts and she gets mad at him. They're interrupted by a pair of the mercenaries who bust into Heath's room, but the sheriff puts a stop to everything and accompanies the siblings back towards the Barkley ranch.
On the way to the ranch, a big fire catches their attention--it's what's left of the Swensen ranch. By the time they get there, many of the other ranchers in the area--including Jarrod, Nick, Eugene and Victoria--are there. Swensen tells everyone that agents of the railroad came by and burned him out while he helplessly watched. Sample--whose ranch is due to be repossessed at 8 o'clock the next morning--vows that he will fight the agents should they come to his ranch, and he calls upon others to join him. The sheriff points out that any agents coming to Sample's ranch are doing so under the protection of the law, and that anyone resisting the agents can (and most likely will) be killed. First Nick goes to Sample's side, and then Eugene...and then, as their mother Victoria looks on, Jarrod does, too. The sheriff reminds the group one last time that anyone resisting will have no protection under the law, but the three Barkley brothers do not budge.
Heath, however, rides away from the tense scene, returning to the main house in order to find and retrieve the wad of money left on the table before hitting the road. However, even as he starts to leave the house, Victoria enters and speaks to him about Tom Barkley. She tells Heath that Tom was an imperfect man, but he made sure to teach his sons about building instead of destroying, instilling in them courage, pride and leadership. She goes on to add that, if Heath were her son, she would say that he should be proud of his heritage--"live as he would live, fight as he would fight, and no one--no one--can deny you your birthright." Heath becomes thoughtful but he leaves anyway.
The next morning there are a few dozen men at the Sample ranch, including Jarrod, Nick and Eugene. They are waiting for the agents from the railroad to make an appearance. Everyone is armed and expectant. The agents arrive, about two hundred strong, with the sheriff in tow. The sheriff makes one final appeal for the ranchers present to allow the repossession and eviction to go through without any resistance, but Jarrod counters with asking the sheriff to wait for the courthouse to open up instead. Even as they speak to each other, a lone horse gallops up to the ranch house--it's Heath, who joins the ranchers.
The sheriff considers Jarrod's proposal to wait until the courthouse opens, but one of the agents gets impatient and shoots Sample, touching off a massive shoot-out between the agents and the ranchers. The ranchers drive off the agents, but both the sheriff and Sample lie dead on the ground, with several others scattered about. Jarrod, in spite of suffering a flesh wound in his left arm, goes over to Heath and offers him a cigar. Heath accepts it.
At breakfast on the day after, everyone except Heath is at the table. Nick tries to begin eating, but Victoria reminds him that they don't begin a meal until after grace is said. Nick starts to say the prayer, but his mother points out that all of the family members are supposed to be present, silently implying the fact that the family has now accepted Heath's claim as a Barkley. Nick then makes an impassioned speech about how the San Joaquin Valley deserves the support of the Barkley family and that Heath has a way to go in order to cement his place in the clan. Even as Nick is making the semi-threatening statement that Heath had better pull his weight around the ranch, Heath finally enters the dining room, obviously having just hastily cleaned himself up a bit from already having worked a few hours. Heath tells Nick that there are at least two jobs that need to be done right away: burning off some mesquite, and fixing the bridge that had fallen at the beginning of the episode. Heath cheerfully gives Nick the choice of doing one or the other as he takes his place at the breakfast table. Nick sits down as well, but both men reach out to take the same steak for their plate, and neither one will give up the food. Jarrod produces his own knife and cuts the steak down the middle, resulting in agreeable smiles between Nick and Heath. Victoria then says grace now that everyone in her family is present and getting along with each other.
Quotes from the episode:
- -- "They don't know how to back up...so if you'll just pull that crock head off this bridge--"
- "Well, now I'd gladly do that for you, boy, except for one thing."
- "What's that?"
- "This one's a Modoc, too."
- (pause) "Hot, ain't it..?" Heath Barkley and Nick Barkley's dialog when they meet in the middle of a narrow bridge.
- -- "They're his sons. They still have his horns." Hoak telling Crown he expects the sons of Tom Barkley to fight the railroad expansion just as their father had six years previously.
- -- "Hey, Harry! Your new deputies having themselves a day?" Nick laughing as he addresses the sheriff of Stockton, who is breaking up a street fight.
- -- "Say, where you been? Through the mill?"
- "No, a millstream." Jarrod Barkley reacting to the fact that Nick is damp and dishevelled...and Nick's response.
- -- "Hey, you're gettin' fat."
- "What are you talking about? A mere pound." Nick teasing Jarrod, and Jarrod's response.
- -- "A thousand people came from the valley to bury him...he was that kind of man." Audra Barkley proudly telling Heath about Tom Barkley's status with the people of the San Joaquin Valley.
- -- "Hi, there, doctor...or is it lawyer this week? Nope--I have it, Nick...I think it's poet. He's got the look in his eye." Jarrod teasing youngest brother Eugene Barkley about his college major at Berkeley.
- -- "Oh, my God, no..." Sig Swensen realizing that there is no protection by law from the intention of Hannibal Jordan to foreclose on his property.
- -- "This is the state you're swingin' on, boy...or maybe you think you're up to it." Jarrod trying to convince Nick that physically fighting the railroad is not the best way to handle the foreclosure threats.
- -- "Oh, you're putting on weight!"
- "Well, a pound. I--"
- "Dear Nick, must you shout at the top of your lungs when I'm trying to take my afternoon nap?" Victoria Barkley remarking on Jarrod's physical condition and then brushing by his response to take Nick to task for being too loud.
- -- "Small world, ain't it?" Heath addressing Nick after stopping at the main house on the ranch.
- -- "All right, let's hear it."
- "Well, you just name the tune, and I'll try to hum it." Nick confronting Heath about his real reason for coming to the ranch, and Heath's reaction.
- -- "They sent you, didn't they?"
- "No man sends me anywhere." Nick accusing Heath of being a spy for the railroad, and Heath's response.
- -- "I said 'who are you?' "
- "Your father's bastard son." Nick's demand and Heath's revelation.
- -- "Now I've had me a day. Fight and dunked in a stream...and near killed by a train. And this one's gonna be peaceful, you hear?" Heath informing the other Barkley brothers that their confrontation in the parlor is not going to be violent.
- -- "Well, the old stud himself. Boy howdy, don't he look proper?" Heather remarking on Tom Barkley's portrait.
- -- "There's a first time for everything, isn't there? To run...to talk...to love..."
- "To test your brother--isn't that what you're doing?" Audra tempting Heath, and Heath's response.
- -- "I bow to no man in my regard for Tom Barkley, but he was only a man. He couldn't fight a giant and win any more than can you...or you...or any man. So worship him, pray for him...but follow him? You follow a dead man to his grave." Sheriff Harry addressing the area ranchers after Swensen's ranch is razed.
- -- "And so, if you were my son, I would say to you, 'Be proud'...because any son of my husband has a right to be proud. Live as he would live, fight as he would fight...and no one--no one--can deny you his birthright. That's what I would say to you...if you were my son." Victoria advising Heath after the confrontation at Swensen's razed ranch.
- -- "I tried to run for cover...but these claws were ripping right into my back, and the teeth were hitting my neck. I've been up against some cats before--"
- "How'd you get out?"
- "Her husband came home." Nick telling a tale to Abe Wirth--and Jarrod providing the ending.
- -- "This is a working ranch..!" Nick speaking before breakfast.
- There exists a sort of "alternate pilot" of this episode; it is basically the same as Palms of Glory with the exception of the "falling bridge" scene and the "railroad race" scene being switched within the episode plus a few other minor details.
- In the "falling bridge" scene, after both Nick and Heath plunge into the creek, Nick's hat is clearly shown to be floating away down the current--yet when both men manage to scramble onto their respective banks of the creek, Nick still has his hat on his head.
- In the "Tom Barkley's graveside" scene, Heath has a very large split seams on the outer left thigh of his pants--yet when he rides up to the ranch house, the rip in his pants have "magically" been fixed.
- In the "shootout at the Sample ranch" scene, a man wearing the same exact clothes as Heath is seen to be shot and falling to the ground (presumably dead) several times, but Heath very clearly survives the gunfight. This was due to the original intention of having Heath die in the pilot episode, but that plot twist was changed after the producers decided that it would be much better for the series if Heath remained as a regular character on the show.
- Since PoG is the first episode in the television series, it initially sets the timeline for its four seasons as taking place from 1876 through to 1880. Later episodes often showed conflicted timing of certain events, the most obvious of which was when Heath's mother is supposed to have died.