Another very good season 2 episode of The Big Valley is the one that features a young Richard Dreyfuss. Originally, I was looking at the IMDb cast lists and reviews for each episode before watching them, but it was spoiling the fun. So with Boy into Man, I decided to watch first then read up later. Imagine my surprise when Dreyfuss turned up as a 16 year old.
What I really love about this episode, and I will not give away the outcome of the plot, is that there are two separate storylines running at the same time. We see an old gold prospector as well as this young boy whose mother has disappeared. The stories are not at all connected in the first half, and a murder neatly brings them together. The boy has taken his two younger siblings to live with the Barkleys, and while he attempts to runaway and locate the mother, he gets caught up in the murder.
At first, I thought it was going to turn out the kids were orphaned and the mother had died. But she turns up very much alive and in a most shocking way. Diane Ladd plays the mother, and she's truly amazing in this role. The scene where she and Victoria confront the boy in jail about whether he had anything to do with the killing is very powerful. All three of them-- Stanwyck, Ladd and Dreyfuss just nailed that scene.
This offering of The Big Valley was directed by Paul Henreid, and I've always found his episodes to be among the strongest. He brings out the human predicaments faced by the characters.