March 5th, 1994 :: episode #34

Luck of the Draw

When Julius Hoffman rides into town and engages Matthew in a poker game, Matthew thinks he's found a great way to earn money to finish he and Ingrid's homestead, although Mike and Sully disapprove. At first, Matthew wins steadily, though he and Ingrid get into a terrible fight when, after missing an elaborate dinner she cooked for him (he was in a game), he confesses he used her hard-earned laundry money, which she gave him for building supplies, as a stake.

Though Ingrid and Mike disapprove heartily, Matthew continues playing the game, even after he gets beaten up and robbed of his earnings. Eventually, townsfolk become so confident in Matthew's abilities that everyone but Mike, Sully and the Reverend back Matthew in the big poker game. The Reverend pulls Mike aside and confesses that he was once a gambler, knew Julius, and suspects that the town's been set up.

As Matthew makes his way to the big game, Ingrid breaks up with him over his poker playing. In the process, she returns the engagement ring which Mike gave to Matthew for her. The Reverend wants Mike to intervene, but Mike, realizing that this is one lesson Matthew must learn for himself, refuses. Ultimately, Matthew loses the big game, but before he does, he throws Ingrid's engagement ring into the pot. The town's disappointment and disillusionment is palpable.

Later, in a climatic confrontation between Julius and the Reverend, we learn that the Reverend was a gambler in his former life. Sully and Robert E help the Reverend get Matthew's stolen money back from Julius. Matthew donates the money to the church and, bent (and with broken ribs from his beating) but not broken, painfully makes his way out to his homestead, intending to carry on by himself. Mike, Brian, Sully, Colleen and Brian join him at the site to help him. He painfully confesses to Mike that he gambled away her engagement ring gift. She presents it back to him with a simple, "I know." (Sully bought it back from Julius). Mike declares that she'll always want to protect him, and that they'll always be a family. At this, the family sets the eagle loose and he soars majestically into the nethers. Matthew and the family work on, and Matthew's unspoken resolve to win Ingrid back shows plainly in his face.

Meanwhile, Brian decides to buy a caged eagle which Loren has on display at the general store, and takes on several chores to earn the money to do so, intending the eagle's freedom to be a surprise for Mike. Brian tries to set the eagle free, but it scratches pathetically in the dirt, refusing to seize the opportunity to fly free. Brian's heartbroken and dejected that the eagle refuses to "take the Cheyenne prayers" to the heavens, and collapses, crying, in Mike's arms. Sully comforts Brian by telling him that the Cheyenne believe the eagle's powers to heal are in its feathers and that "maybe it's staying around for a reason."