The Best Episodes of Bonanza
Last Updated: Oct 28, 2018
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 - 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.
#2 - 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.
#3 - 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 - 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.
#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.
#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 - 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.
#12 - 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.
#13 - 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.
#14 - 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.
#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 - 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.
#17 - 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.
#18 - 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.
#19 - 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.
#21 - The Deadly Ones
Season 4 - Episode 10
The Ponderosa becomes a war zone when it is invaded by a detachment of Mexican mercenaries under General Diaz. The general is furious when one of his men, Forsythe, disobeys his orders to get a hostage peacefully, and instead shoots Little Joe in the back. Diaz forces Ben to lead his men over the back roads of the Ponderosa, so they can ambush a gold train led by Emperor Maximilian's men.
#22 - 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.
#23 - The Weary Willies
Season 12 - Episode 3
The Weary Willies are hippie-like former Civil War veterans who are now drifters and live off the land. Despite protests from fellow ranchers and the people of Virginia City, Ben allows the traveling band to stay at the Ponderosa. The real trouble begins when a teen-aged girl is raped and the Willies are blamed.
#24 - 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.
#25 - A Woman Lost
Season 4 - Episode 25
Ben's attempt to rehabilitate an alcoholic singer he knew in better days are complicated by her involvment with a former prize fighter.