The High-Sierra adventures of Ben Cartwright and his sons as they run and defend their ranch while helping the surrounding community.
Little Joe finds true love in newcomer Alice Harper. Following a courtship, the two are engaged. Unlike most of the Cartwrights' previous girlfriends, Alice makes it to the altar. Joe and Alice are starting their new life together, and she soon becomes pregnant. All appears well, as Joe and Alice start their new life together in their new home ... until one day Joe is out. Alice's indolent brother owes money to a ruthless businessman and has not yet paid, so they find Alice instead. When she can't pay the debt, they brutally kill her and burn Joe's house down.
Little Joe learns of the tragic and savagely brutal circumstances of Alice's death and is determined to bring her killers to justice. While a good part of this episode focuses on the pursuit of the thugs that killed Alice, what made this episode was a moving scene where Ben comforts Joe over the death of his new wife. Sitting in the smoldering ruins of what was Joe's new home, Ben (who rarely gets emotional) and the ever-emotional Joe really grieve for Alice.
Ex-con John Dundee, a friend of the Cartwights, is being released from prison. Ben tries to help John readjust to society, but John wants revenge on those who sent him to prison - namely, ex-business partners, Anders, Bartlett and Sangster. Worse, the bad guys, who are friends with a corrupt lawman, are hatching a plan to send John back to prison ... this time, for murder.
Jamie's friend, Ted Hoag, is unfairly blamed for the death of another young fellow during a club initiation. In the end, it's a lesson in responsibility for the boys of Virginia City School.
While at the Nevada State Prison to inspect conditions, Ben is taken hostage in a riot. The riot is an attempt by frustrated inmates to expose horrific conditions at the prison. While Joe and Candy plan to resolve the situation, Ben begins a friendship with Griff King (who isn't exactly receptive), and helps communicate the inmates' demands to the warden and state prison board.
In what was essentially the second part of a two-part episode centering on Griff King, the young parolee arrives at the Ponderosa and is hired as a ranch hand. Ben, Joe and the others exercise patience as they tries to help an arrogant, resentful Griff adjust to society and life an honest life.
Ben and a pregnant woman named Teresa are held hostage by desperate outlaws, who plot to rob a stagecoach and force the two to go along with the scheme.
Mark Twain ruffles dangerous feathers in Virginia City with accusations of claim-jumping and murder.
The moving tale of Little Joe and his beloved black stallion, which Ben purchases for his son as a birthday gift.
Dr. Will Agar is Virginia City's new town doctor, and brings with him new skills and expertise to treat area residents' health maladies. Only thing is, Dr. Agar is seriously addicted to morphine, and it results in serious trouble for everyone.
A lonely old man opens his home to two orphan boys but runs into bureaucratic opposition when attempting to adopt them.
Jamie obtains an Irish setter pup and forms a special bond between dog and man. The dog's owner learns the puppy is at the Ponderosa and arrives to claim it ... so he can put it to sleep (since it was a runt and, according to the master, an inferior example of the breed. The dog is soon in a trial for its life.
Jamie becomes friends with the wife of an unpopular schoolmaster, who often browbeats her.
An elderly business associate of Ben's is killed after a man, posing as Candy, tries to rob her; the woman suffers a fatal heart attack, which - since it happens during the commission of a felony - is considered to be the same as if the assailant had pulled the trigger. The real Candy, who had been assaulted at a hotel by the same man, is held in connection with the old woman's death. A woman named Kate is the only one who can back up Candy's alibi, but she has left town with her husband, who is the thief. Griff agrees to go after Kate and have her provide a statement. Only thing is, he discovers - as Ben and Joe do later - that she, too, has a past that, if revealed at trial, could do serious harm to Candy's defense. Meanwhile, Ben is unsure about the young defense attorney's ability to defend Candy, particularly since the state's attorney has a nearly spotless conviction record. But the budding lawyer is determined to play David to the prosecutor's Goliath.
A serious game of ""let's pretend"" begins when Griff and government agent Theodora Duffy pose as husband and wife to capture a gang of war criminals.
In what turned out to be the series finale, Little Joe is making a delivery for Ben when he meets Bill Tanner, a psychotic killer that is posing as a soldier he has killed. His delivery wagon stolen and sans supplies, food or water, Joe - whom Tanner has called his ""prey"" - tries to evade the well-stocked madman, who takes sadistic pleasure in his role as a predator.