Synopsis: Swiftnick’s apprenticeship is not going well because he’s foolhardy and talks too much. Turpin is not pleased with him, but agrees to give him one last chance as long as he can do as he’s told and keep his mouth shut. Within minutes of their arrival at the White Lion, however, Swiftnick is telling tales of their adventures to one of the staff, a young girl called Kate. Spiker has been tipped off and arrives on the scene, only to receive a splendid black eye during the fight which ensues. Turpin assumes it was Kate who informed Spiker, so he arranges for Swiftnick to serve an apprenticeship with a gunsmith and leaves him behind.
Meanwhile, Sir John Glutton and Spiker are laying a trap for Turpin. An actress sentenced to three years for scrumping apples is disguised as a rich widow travelling alone. Turpin holds up her coach and is captured. He is thrown into jail and sentenced to hang.
Kate visits Turpin in jail and tells him that he used to ride with her father, who was hanged by Spiker. Turpin informs Kate where to find Swiftnick, and the two lay an explosive ambush to rescue Turpin as he is transported from jail to the place where he is to be executed. Swiftnick is forgiven and reconciled with Turpin.
Commentary: the themes of betrayal and loyalty characterise this episode. The ‘squealer’ at the White Lion witnesses Turpin’s arrival and rides off to betray his whereabouts, motivated no doubt by the thought of the £200 reward offered for Turpin’s capture. The actress, who tells us she has played Cleopatra, is induced to play her part in Sir John’s plot in exchange for her freedom, but she cooks her own goose when she demands the reward and is instantly slung back in jail.
In spite of the generous reward on offer, there are those who are loyal to Turpin. Kate stands out as one who risks a great deal to help the man who once rode with her father, and when Swiftnick hears that Turpin has been taken, he charges to the rescue regardless, not worrying that Turpin had dismissed him from his service.
Something else to note in this episode is the way in which Spiker’s vanity and ambition is exploited by Sir John Glutton. Spiker spends quite a lot of time looking in mirrors (for which he is often berated) and Sir John knows that what the man wants is property, position and respect. ‘Rid the nation of this symbol of anarchy’, says Sir John, and promises to reward Spiker accordingly once Turpin has been safely hanged.
In spite of the seriousness of the heavy-weight themes and all the talk of hanging, it’s important to note that the series has a light-hearted touch throughout, with plenty of humour. The gunsmith comments that Swiftnick looks as if he’ll eat too much, for example. Our ‘Cleopatra’ gives a wonderfully hammy performance and Sir John can’t make up his mind whether or not he wants Spiker to knock before he comes in.