The Best Episodes of Bonanza
Last Updated: Feb 9, 2019
The show chronicles the weekly adventures of the Cartwright family, headed by the thrice-widowed patriarch "Ben Cartwright" (Lorne Greene). He had three sons, each by a different wife: the eldest was the urbane architect "Adam Cartwright" (Pernell Roberts) who built the ranch house; the second was the warm and lovable giant Eric "Hoss" Cartwright (Dan Blocker); and the youngest was the hotheaded and impetuous Joseph or "Little Joe" (Michael Landon). Via exposition (Bonanza, "Rose For Lotta", premiere September 12, 1959) and flashback episodes, each wife was accorded a different ethnicity: English (Bonanza, "Elizabeth My Love"; episode #65) Swedish (Bonanza, "Inger My Love", episode #95) and French Creole (Bonanza, "Marie My Love", episode #120) respectively. The family's cook was the Chinese immigrant Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung). Greene, Roberts, Blocker, and Landon were billed equally. The opening credits would alternate the order among the four stars.
#1 - False Witness
Season 9 - Episode 6
While at the bank in Sandust, Little Joe and the bank's secretary witness an armed robbery. During a subsequent gunfight, the main culprit kills the banker, but is quickly brought to justice. Joe, Hoss and Candy agree to be witnesses but must avoid being killed in the meantime.
#2 - Meena
Season 11 - Episode 9
Little Joe and Candy defend Meena Calhoun and her crusty father, Luke, from horse rustlers. In the process, Joe helps Meena become assertive and stick up for herself.
#4 - It's a Small World
Season 11 - Episode 14
A prejudiced Virginia City banker spurns Ben's recommendation of a recent widower (with an infant daughter to raise) for a bank teller's job because he's a midget. The midget, a former circus performer, steals money from the bank to support his daughter.
#5 - Is There Any Man Here
Season 11 - Episode 19
When the daughter of a friend declares her love for him, Ben agonizes over what to do.
#6 - The Power of Life and Death
Season 12 - Episode 5
A man called Davis has shot Colonel Clayton and escapes on horseback. Joe and Ben join the posse that sets out to find Davis. Ben and Joe volunteer to cross the desert. Ben and Joe find Davis hold up at a water hole, when Indians attack and Ben is wounded in the leg, and steal the horses. Joe unties Davis, who tends to a wounded Ben, who is suspicious that Davis will try to escape. After playing a game of cat and mouse, Ben and Davis come to an agreement: survival. Joe makes the decision to cross the desert on foot, while Ben and Davis are at the water hole, both men in need of medical help and justice.
#7 - The Night Virginia City Died
Season 12 - Episode 1
In the 12th season premiere, a series of destructive fires strike Virginia City, and always late at night. Is it the work of a ruthless arsonist, or someone very close to Deputy Clem?
#8 - The Trouble with Jamie
Season 7 - Episode 25
The Cartwrights attempt to straighten out the snobbish young son of Ben's cousin.
#9 - The Gentle Ones
Season 9 - Episode 7
Most people consider Mark Cole a coward, but he does not hesitate to step forward when his brother attempts to break a horse by torturing it.
#10 - The Thirteenth Man
Season 9 - Episode 17
The ranchers are once again losing stock to rustlers and not everyone agrees with range detective Marcus Alley's preventive methods.
#11 - Mrs. Wharton and the Lesser Breeds
Season 10 - Episode 17
Candy sets out to help a feisty and elderly British woman recover the jewels stolen from her in a stage holdup.
#12 - An Earthquake Called Callahan
Season 12 - Episode 28
The only person who can get Dusty out of jail is a professional fighter who will not return to Virginia City, so Joe stays on the man's heels no matter where he goes.
#14 - The Courtship
Season 2 - Episode 16
Hoss plans to marry the widow of one of Ben's friends, not knowing she is a compulsive gambler and refusing to believe it when the other Cartwrights confront him with the truth.
#15 - Woman of Fire
Season 6 - Episode 17
Ben's friend, Don Miguel, visits the Ponderosa with his two daughters, Margarita and Elena, and Elena's two very anxious suitors. Their mission? They're on their way to California to meet Margarita's suitor, Don Luis. Trouble is, Margarita is a "woman of fire" who manages to scare away all suitors with her hot temper. Since Margarita is the older daughter, she must be married before Elena. Elena's two suitors are quickly losing their patience, and Don Miguel fears his name will be disgraced if Margarita rejects Don Luis.
#16 - Judgment at Olympus
Season 9 - Episode 4
Candy is arrested for committing murder in the town of Olympus. He is accused of killing Jed Wheelock, the son of wealthy A. Z. Wheelock. He insists on finding his son's killer but he wants a fair trial for Candy. Joe accompanies Candy to make sure things go smoothly, but when Joe is accused of killing a witness who claims he saw Candy kill Jed, Joe is locked up for murder with Candy, and it is up to Hoss to find the killer.
#17 - Justice Deferred
Season 9 - Episode 13
An anguished Hoss discovers that his testimony helped hang an innocent man accused of murder. As he struggles to bring the real killer to justice, Hoss must also combat the cowardice of another witness and the jury foreman, an influential banker.
#18 - The Way of Aaron
Season 4 - Episode 24
Adam takes a shine to Rebecca Kaufman, the daughter of a Jewish peddler, and bandits are convinced the Kaufman wagon is worth robbing.
#19 - Star Crossed
Season 9 - Episode 23
Candy falls in love with a beautiful young woman, unaware that the man claiming to be her cousin is a bounty hunter who is not only harassing her but has framed her for murder and robbery.
#20 - Emily
Season 10 - Episode 25
Joe is shocked to see his ex-fiancee, Emily Anderson, in Virginia City. He had met her in Monterey five years earlier, and they had planned to get married. But her strict father thought Joe was too wild, and he burned all of Joe's letters before Emily saw them. Emily and Joe are still in love with each other, but Emily conveniently forgets to tell Joe that she is now Emily McPhail, the wife of Deputy Marshal Wade McPhail. Wade is on assignment with Marshal Calhoun to help guard a $90,000 currency shipment. Emily tells Wade they have to leave Virginia City immediately, since Joe's presence might interfere with their marriage, but he refuses to leave. He finds Joe and Emily embracing and engages with Joe in a savage fight, almost killing him at gunpoint. That is the first Joe hears of Emily's marriage. That is by no means the end of her lies, which eventually get Joe shot and nearly framed for murder.
#22 - Forever (2)
Season 14 - Episode 2
Little Joe learns of the tragic and savagely brutal circumstances of Alice's death and is determined to bring her killers to justice. While a good part of this episode focuses on the pursuit of the thugs that killed Alice, what made this episode was a moving scene where Ben comforts Joe over the death of his new wife. Sitting in the smoldering ruins of what was Joe's new home, Ben (who rarely gets emotional) and the ever-emotional Joe really grieve for Alice ... and in a way, this was their way to grieve the death of series star Dan Blocker.
#23 - Silent Thunder
Season 2 - Episode 13
Captivated by the pretty, deaf-mute daughter of a reclusive mountain man, Little Joe teaches the young woman sign language. Thrilled with her newfound ability to communicate, Annie mistakes her gratitude to Little Joe for love, much to the chagrin of Albie, who is determined to have her for his own.
#24 - Trouble Town
Season 9 - Episode 24
The Ponderosa ranch hands are at Riverbend during a cattle drive. While there, Candy meets an old friend, Lilah Holden, working in a saloon. When the cattle drive is ready to move on, Candy resigns to stay and help Lilah. It is not long before Ben, Hoss, and Joe are involved.
#25 - Yonder Man
Season 10 - Episode 12
An army scout Ben once knew comes to the Ponderosa and asks Ben to stake a cattle ranch in Mira Flores, Mexico.