Bonanza (1959–1973)
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The Gold-Plated Rifle 

In this adaptation of the Prodigal Son, Jamie - who is struggling to adjust to life on the Ponderosa and at his new school - damages Ben's valuable rifle. Refusing to take responsibility, he runs away.


Joseph Pevney


David Dortort (created by), Preston Wood


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Episode cast overview:
Lorne Greene ... Ben Cartwright
Dan Blocker ... Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright
Michael Landon ... Joseph 'Little Joe' Cartwright
Mitch Vogel ... Jamie Hunter Cartwright
Jessica Myerson ... Mrs. Hagen
George Paulsin George Paulsin ... Frank
Victor Sen Yung ... Hop Sing
Ray Teal ... Sheriff Roy Coffee
John Daniels John Daniels ... First Boy
James Brown James Brown ... Second Boy (as Jimmy Brown)
Lou Frizzell Lou Frizzell ... Dusty Rhodes


Ben enrolls Jamie at the Virginia City School to get an education. Due to his previous lack of studies, 13-year-old Jamie is assigned to sit with the school's younger students, which makes him the butt of ridicule by a bully named Frank. Things become worse when Jamie fails miserably at a school spelling bee. Tired of constantly being beaten up and shown no respect, Jamie takes Ben's gold-plated rifle (which is against the rules) and shows it off to Frank. However, Frank attempts to steal the rifle and Jamie tries to run away, but in the process, the gun is dropped in a nearby lake and damaged. Jamie makes it home and tries to replace the rifle in its cabinet in such a way that nobody would notice it. Ben and Hoss don't see anything amiss, but Joe immediately spots the damage and suggests that Jamie must have taken the rifle. Ben's questioning results in a denial, so Joe tries to prod Jamie's conscience. After another tough day at school, Jamie snaps at Ben and says he damaged the ... Written by Brian Rathjen <>

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Release Date:

17 January 1971 (USA) See more »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Some book learning
11 March 2016 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

The presence of a younger than Little Joe adopted son on the Ponderosa kept Bonanza on the air for a bit more. It opened a wide range of plots dealing with teen angst that had not been seen since Michael Landon was a callow youth at the beginning of Bonanza's run.

It's time that young Mitch Vogel started getting a bit of book learning and he's sent to Jessica Myerson's school where he's put with the little kids until he catches up.

I've seen it in my own life with people I knew who were not that literate and how they struggle to fit in. It's what Vogel has to deal with and it's not helped when the school bully George Paulsin starts picking on him.

Ben Cartwright was one of the top dads in the history of television and this episode shows why. Lorne Greene's scenes with Vogel are the highlight of this Bonanza story.

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