March 26th, 1994 :: episode #36

The First Circle

Robert E buys a house in town. When the auctioneer, Jedediah Bancroft, sees that he's sold the house to a black man, he tries to renege, but Mike intercedes. Later, Mike is surprised to learn that Jake, Loren, Hank and Dorothy are displeased to have Robert E and Grace living in their midst.

That night, at the homestead, Matthew tells Mike he's been invited to join a new men's club -- the Ku Klux Klan, which he knows nothing about but is heading out the door to investigate. At the meeting, Jedediah, the leader of the group, promises only "a big surprise" for the following night, then adjourns the meeting. The next night, townsfolk don white gowns, recite the KKK oath, and ride out to harass and beat Robert E. After treating Robert E, Mike storms into the barbershop, where she confronts Jedediah, Jake, Loren and Hank about the events of the night before. Jedediah tries to make offers to get Robert E and Grace out of town, even threatening Mike with the mortgage on her clinic if Robert E doesn't agree. Mike, declaring this extortion, refuses to capitulate, saying, "I'll practice in the street" before she'll agree to his strong-arm tactics and threats.

That night, the Klansmen hit Grace's cafe, vandalizing it in the process. Robert E fires a gun into the midst, and Loren is hit. Dorothy, horrified, prints up a slanted article in the gazette. When the KKK members waylay Grace at the clinic and chop off her hair, they seek refuge at the homestead. That night, the family is awakened by a lynch mob, who puts a burning cross in their yard.

Later, Mike enters the saloon and accuses Jedediah of burning the cross at her home. As proof, Sully lunges for him and pulls back his sleeve, displaying a gaping burn wound. Jedediah then threatens Mike's children, and Sully threatens to kill Jedediah if he lays a hand on any of them. The family, truly outraged, expresses to each other their intent to stand firm behind Robert E and Grace.

That night, the group, now including a reluctant Loren, form a lynch mob... Grace rushes into the clinic, hysterical. "They took Robert E!" The family rushes to the woods, where the KKK has Robert E sitting on a horse, a noose around his neck. Even Jake and Hank are worried by this time -- they had no idea it would go so far. Fortunately, Mike, Sully and the kids arrive in the nick of time, and Mike rips off Jedediah's hood, confronting him. She makes an impassioned plea, and the town finally sees the folly of their ways, to Jedediah's consternation. Even Hank looks remiss. Finally, Sully cuts Robert E down and everyone goes home.

The next day, while not exactly enthusiastic, the townsfolk allow Robert E and Grace to move into their new home unmolested, with Loren even helping Grace to carry a heavy box over the threshold.