Season 2 Episode 17 (Aired: 1/1371966, NBC)
A tribe of Seminoles falls under the spell of a magician and he stirs up big trouble for everyone.
Daniel Boone (Fess Parker) and his trusted, Oxford educated, half-Cherokee sidekick Mingo (Ed Ames) scout for new territory for white settlers in Florida. Mingo asks why they should choose Florida, since it was so far away from Boonesborough in Kentucky. To which Boone replies that it seems ideal because there were not too many Indians, mostly Seminoles, the land was good, the weather warm all year around and most important, there was room for everybody. Mingo then declares that, "If it's not Florida, it must be the garden of Eden".
Their musings are interrupted by howling and gun fire that indicate an attack by Indians in the typical way of the genre. Boone and Mingo come to the rescue of the couple that the Seminoles charge at. The man vents his feelings while Mingo is standing right next to him, saying that the Indians are nothing more but savages, nothing but animals and boasts that he'd killed them all if Boone hadn't come along. The couple then introduce themselves as Fletcher Cameron, better known as Fletcher the Flamboyant (Channing Pollok), and wife Ronda (Diane Ladd). Fletcher, who is very full of himself, tells Boone and Mingo who's faces grow ever more incredulous that he is an illusionist - not a magician, mind you - who has performed for crowned heads in Europe and in the shades of the pyramids. To thank them for their rescue, Ronda invites them to dinner. Mingo offers his help and when Fletcher shoots him an alarmed look he tauntingly placates him by saying that there's no cause for alarm because he's been tamed. Once dinner is over, Fletcher treats Boone and Mingo to a performance of his craft. From Ronda they learn that both of them are on their way to New Orleans to board a ship to South America and that they are broke. Fletcher lost all their money in a card game where he was accused of cheating after someone recognized him as a magician.
In the middle of Fletcher's performance they get attacked again by the Seminoles. As before, the attack is lead by Oontah (Leonard Nimoy), son of the chief of all Seminoles. Once Oontah has secured the premises, Chief Hotalla steps forward and declares all Seminole territory forbidden to white men. To cross into their land would mean death. To get them out of the threatening situation Boone suggests that Fletcher is in possession of big medicine and urges him to demonstrate his tricks. The Indians draw back in fear.
The next day Fletcher is taken with the idea that the Indians were not just his audience but his subjects as his ego inflates into more and more megalomaniac proportions. They are caught by the Seminoles again when their wagon breaks down with a dry axle. Oontah has been sent to bring them to the tribes village. He follows the order against his better judgment and while he lets Fletcher know his father wishes to honor him, he also states that "he is old, his ways are ancient, he believes you're a god". Ronda knows not to trust the situation, but her husband's face shows his lust for power too clearly. In the evening Fletcher performs in front of the assembled village much to the displeasure of Oontah and Ronda. Oonta accuses him of tricking his tribe but gets shut up by a display of a ball of fire coming from Fletcher's hand. Impressed, Hotalla names him Mantiola - White God of the Air.
In the meantime, Boone is visiting with settlers that have already spent some time in Florida and have managed to get along with the natives. It is imperative for him to find new land because he is afraid of bloodshed should he not find room for the never ending influx of white people. That he and Mingo were attacked twice is a concern to the settlers but they conclude that the party in question had been on Seminole territory. Where they live, an unwritten rule is in operation that settlers and Seminoles stay on their side of an imaginary fence and nobody gets hurt. While they show Boone and Mingo around Oontah approaches the settlers to demand tribute in food and skin because they stay on Seminole land. He doesn't sound too enthusiastic about his task and holds back on immediate action when the settlers flatly refuse. Boone gets suspicious upon hearing the word tribute. Back in the village he finds Fletcher who now poses as protector of the tribe.
Next, the cabin where Boone and Mingo stay as guests is attacked during the night. What they discover alarms them further when Boone knocks out a member of Oontah's party and he is not a Seminole. When he presses the Indian for information he learns that the tribes have come together to chase the white man from their lands. Both decide that the time has come to floor a god. Mingo gets caught but Boone manages to make contact with Ronda and enlist her help during the commotion. She does so with a heavy heart, knowing what it will do to her husband, but she sabotages his equipment nonetheless. Oontah gets to pronounce once more that someone is going to die and baits some alligators with meat to show what he has in mind for Mingo before taking his seat among the circle of chiefs for the show. The animals have to fend for themselves that night, though, because Boone rescues his friend in time. In the village Fletcher is loosing his face as trick after trick produces humiliating results (i.e. a small goldfish instead of a white dove). Oontah, who has grasped the workings of one of his tricks, demonstrates to the others how they were fooled. Fletcher, who won't let go of his divine status, is challenged to a fight with knives by him. Boone manages to keep Fletcher from shooting Oontah in the nick of time and takes some satisfaction from slapping the man around a bit when Fletcher offers resistance. Because Boone saved Oontah's life, all is forgiven and the Seminoles return to their former way of peaceful co-existence with the white population while Fletcher and Ronda are sent on their way for good this time.
I really love this episode. It concerns itself with questions of old vs. young, belief vs. rational thought, self-delusion, arrogance, the problems created by the insatiable hunger for land by the settlers and the harmful view of the natives in the classical noble savage/animal dichotomy. But that is not why I like it so much. It is because Leonard Nimoy gets to throw all those dark and ominous looks at people. Oontah really is not to be envied. For all he gets to do is to deliver messages and follow orders while he is smart enough to know that what Fletcher has commanded of them is not in the tribes best interest and that he is ripping them off. Only, he cannot prove it for the longest time because he is not in a position to be heard.