Episode 5: The Soul is the Warrior
Again, the Old West theme is being played out with Caine as a peripheral character. The theme is the legitimate law, as personified by the righteous sherrif, against the corrupt power of the boss, wonderfully played by boom-voiced Doucette. The frontier, with its absence of order except that which is imposed by strength, puts in question which is the greater power, the law or the money. Boss Rankin has a bit of Apache blood in him and credits some of his virile, angry behavior to this. He's also obsessed with snakes, because he is afraid of them. He keeps a big pit of venomous rattlers on his property precisely because it is one of the few things he fears.
The situation between Rankin and the sheriff escalates until Caine finds a way to intervene. In a showdown, Caine asks Rankin if Rankin will forget his vendetta if Caine faces Rankin's snakes. Rankin, the Apache in him finding perhaps some instinctive kinship with the Shaolin in Caine, agrees to this test. We have seen by now that one of Caine's supernatural, Shaolin-taught abilities is that he can calm animals (he used it on a wild horse in the first episode, and calms various dogs and things). Caine centers himself and walks through the snake-pit. When he emerges unharmed, Rankin is incredulous, moved, the situation resolved. Doucette even has a great line in Apache – I'm sorry, I don't remember what it was, I'll have to look it up, but it was something like, "Damn! That Shaolin dude is the man!"
Though I have tried, over the years, to familiarize myself with movies of all genres, I'm not terribly familiar with westerns. Doucette is apparently a veteran character actor who played a lot of bad guy roles. Wikipedia says he was considered by many to be the fastest draw in Hollywood! Hingle is excellent, too, and apparently a well-known character actor like Doucette. You'll probably recognize them both if you see this episode.
Five out of five yin-yangs. I just feel this episode is what the series is all about: Caine as spectator-participant in a classic western story with great actors personifying the genre and an ending you don't see coming. IMDB for the episode here; IMDB on Doucette and Hingle. And apparently, Ron Bishop, the guy that wrote this episode, was a veteran writer for "Gunsmoke" and is considered by many to be one of the best TV western writers ever.