Episode Number: 15, according to broadcast order. Airdate: February 5, 1995. Director: Jesus Trevino. Writer: Jon Boorstein.
Guest Stars: Duncan Fraser (Colonel Munro) / Hothgar Mathews (Pvt. Warder) / Scott McNeil (Josh) / Jason Gray-Stanford (Franklin) / Andrew Airlie (Lt. Humphries) / Darren McAdam (Sentry).
Other Titles: In German: "Verräter" ("Traitors").
Fort Bennington is under another attack by French forces, and Hawkeye has scouted a way around to attack them in from the flank through the woods on Whistler’s Ridge. Captain Taylor Shields tells Hawkeye that the forces under his command must mount a frontal attack against French batteries. Hawkeye tells him that his soldiers and the colonial militia will be slaughtered, and Shields big red backside would make a tempting target for a disgruntled soldier, but Shields stubbornly mounts the attack the following morning. As Hawkeye watches from the rear where he is picking off French gunners with his rifle ‘Killdeer’ he sees the attack begin to fail, then watches as Captain Shields is felled by a shot, and the British forces begin to retreat.
When Taylor regains consciousness, he is being nursed by Elizabeth in the fort hospital. The battle turned out to be a success, and the bullet that hit Taylor struck his spyglass case and just knocked him out. But when Hawkeye enters the hospital to congratulate Shields, he and Elizabeth are amazed when Shields accuses Hawkeye of being a traitor, and orders his arrest for shooting him in the back.
Colonel Monro confronts Taylor and accuses him of arresting Hawkeye out of petty vindictiveness, since he and the scout have quarreled before, and Hawkeye helped win the battle that Shields was losing. Taylor refuses, and presses his charges in an official court-martial against Hawkeye.
Taylor, as Elizabeth fears, uses the law against Hawkeye by calling witnesses and twisting their words against the woodsman. Lieutenant Humphries testifies that Hawkeye threatened Shields life after learning of the plan to mount a frontal assault, and Private Warder tells how he saw Hawkeye shooting behind Shields during the attack. The evidence makes the woodsman look like a traitor, to Elizabeth’s dismay. But Hawkeye sits calmly and refutes all of Taylor’s evidence, so that to him, things seem go his way. The trial recesses for the day, but Elizabeth is troubled.
Satisfied with how the trial is going, Hawkeye is reading “Gulliver’s Travel’s” in his cell when Elizabeth comes to visit him. She admonishes him about being so calm, but he says that everything Taylor is saying is the truth, and, with only a small distortion here and there, Hawkeye cannot call him a liar. She feels that Taylor is twisting the law with cunning words, and asks Hawkeye to take an advocate, but Hawkeye feels that such a person would also twist the truth to defend him, and that would not be honorable. Elizabeth leaves feeling a sense of dread.
The next day, Hawkeye tells his side of the battle, that when Taylor was shot, Hawkeye tried to help and showed the men how to win it. But in a final piece of evidence, Taylor shows the court, and a horrified Elizabeth and dismayed and incredulous Hawkeye, the rifle ball taken from his telescope case, which struck Taylor in the back and knocked him unconscious. The ball has Hawkeye’s mark on it. The court finds against Hawkeye, and Colonel Monro sentences him to be face a firing squad at dawn. Elizabeth watches Hawkeye led away to the prison with tears in her eyes.
Desperate, Elizabeth seeks out some of the soldiers who fought with Taylor and Hawkeye, and asks them what really happened. Josh and Franklin, two of the militiamen, tells her that it was Hawkeye who saved all their lives, and that if the soldiers were not afraid of Taylor, they would come forward and tell the truth about the battle. Elizabeth confronts Private Warder, and asks him to go to Colonel Monro, but he refuses.
That night, as they sit together in Hawkeye’s prison cell, dreading the morning, Hawkeye and Elizabeth sit and talk. She tells him that she never could have survived at Fort Bennington without him, but he says that she is stronger that she thinks. Talking about the trial, he says that he was certain that the truth would come out, and that he is innocent. He admits that he should have listened to Elizabeth and sought a lawyer, but he knew that a lawyer would have lied to protect him, and he could not abide that stain on his honor. She does not want him to die, and desperately she tells him to go to the Colonel, even to confess that he shot Taylor to save his men. He refuses, saying he is not a backshooter. He tells Elizabeth to give his rifle and belongings to Chingachgook. As she goes to leave, he catches her arm, and, knowing this is the last time they will have together, they share their first and last bittersweet kiss.
Later that night, Colonel Monro visits Hawkeye. The Colonel is troubled about what he has been hearing from his men, and asks Hawkeye to give him some reason to overturn the sentence. But Hawkeye says that he would own up to it if he did it, as he is an honorable man, but he is innocent, and does not know how his rifle ball came to strike Taylor when it was not he who fired it. The Colonel leaves, saddened by what he must order to be done.
At dawn, the firing squad, made up of men whose lives he has saved in the battle, is facing Hawkeye, and a distraught Elizabeth and self-satisfied Taylor watch as the woodsman is asked if he has any last words. Hawkeye says only that the men of the firing squad know the truth about the battle, and asks them to remember what they saw. The Colonel gives the command, and as Elizabeth look away in tears, the volley is fired. She looks back to see Hawkeye
standing straight and tall, untouched by the firing squad. In an act of defiance, all the men missed Hawkeye deliberately, and Hawkeye sees Private Warder, in the front rank, give a small smile of triumph. A furious Taylor readies his pistol to shoot Hawkeye, but Elizabeth pleads with Colonel Monro, pointing out the sentence has been carried out, and that Hawkeye has “faced the firing squad!” The Colonel, amused by what he has seen, tells Taylor to release Hawkeye.
In the trading post, Hawkeye tells Elizabeth that even though he has been freed, he must find the real culprit, and remove the stain from his honor. Elizabeth and Hawkeye go over what occurred to find the truth about who shot Taylor. She asks Hawkeye to think back before the battle, and asks who would have had occasion to take some of Hawkeye’s bullets to use in battle. Hawkeye remembers that before the battle Josh and Franklin, the militiamen, were watching as Hawkeye was making his special bullets, and may have taken some, since their rifles are of the same caliber. Delighted to find that she has helped him find the truth, he kisses her again and leaves to seek out the militiamen.
Finding Franklin outside the tavern, Hawkeye confronts him, and Franklin confesses his guilt. Hawkeye tries to persuade him to come to the Colonel to confess. But he tries to escape by killing Hawkeye, and Hawkeye is forced to defend himself and kills Franklin.
When he goes to Colonel Monro and Taylor with his evidence, Shields does not believe him, and accuses him of planting his bullets on Franklin after killing him. Colonel Monro is exasperated with Taylor, and forces him to apologize to Hawkeye for accusing him of trying to kill him, which he does, reluctantly.
That evening, Elizabeth writes in her diary “Most of us while schooled in life’s treacheries know that the truth is never enough. We create plausible lies to cover our questionable acts, and we hope the world won’t tell the difference. But Hawkeye is not like the rest of us. He believes in the truth completely, and acts on his belief with utter conviction, and the truth which is never enough for us, is all that Hawkeye needs.”
All "Hawkeye" episode synopsis are © 2001 by Mark Meader for Wonderland.
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