The High Chaparral

Through Thick and Thin:
A Closer Look at Character Relationships


NBC Publicity Photo

A large part of The High Chaparral's popularity was based not only on the fully developed characters, but on the depth and realism of the relationships among the characters.  Unlike the average soap opera that relies on complex, contrived, and ever-changing character relationships, HC was based on a very simple set of relationships:  one couple who remained faithful throughout the series, his son, his brother, and her brother.  Yet within that simple framework, the interplay of the various characters presented endless (at least we wish it had been endless) opportunities for story and character development.  Despite the ups and downs of their interactions, the loyalty and affection within the family remained strong.  Buck defined the role of uncle in his relationship with his nephew, Blue.  Three sets of adult siblings - John and Buck, Mano and Victoria, Sam and Joe - explored the lasting, sometimes impenetrable bonds between siblings.  The dynamics of blending two families from different cultural, religious, and language backgrounds as well as the normal frustrations of dealing with the in-laws wove themselves throughout much of the series.  

These pages explore these relationships and direct you to episodes that demonstrate them most clearly.  While many episodes had important character interaction, even though not a main part of the story, most of the episodes selected here had a significant focus on the particular relationship.  So while "Auld Lang Syne" has a very important (though short) interaction between John and Buck in the beginning of the episode, they have no further involvement together in that episode, so it is not listed here.  Where we draw that line of significance is always open to interpretation so let me know if I have missed an episode that you feel is critical to a particular relationship.  

"Thick" episodes are those where the strength and depth of the relationship is clearly shown.  "Thin" episodes usually end up there as well, but along the way they demonstrate a particularly low point between the two characters, when their faith in each other is at least momentarily shaken.  

 

The Primary Family Relationships
Primary Family Relationships include the marriage of John and Victoria 
as well as the blooded family bonds each with life-long histories.

John
&
Victoria
John
&
Buck
John
&
Blue
Victoria
&
Manolito
Buck
&
Blue
 

The Blended Family Relationships
The blending of the Cannons and Montoyas greatly increased 
the complexity and character dynamics.

Buck
&
Manolito
Buck
&
Victoria
John
&
Manolito
Victoria
&
Blue
Manolito
&
Blue
 

The Supporting Relationships
A few of the supporting characters had fully developed and on-going relationships with specific characters.

Don S. & Mano Don S. & Victoria Don S. & John
Sam & John Buck & Sam Sam & Joe 
 

The Gang's All Here
 Some episodes took on the entire cast of characters at once, allowing us to see the full interplay of multiple relationships.  Those episodes are here.  

Even Up

 The Music on this page, "Wistful Dreams", is copyrighted by
Dave Edwards and is used with permission.  Visit his site for other great selections.

 

John and Victoria


From NBC Publicity Photo

Thick

1.28 Threshold of Courage
2.44 Last Hundred Miles
3.74 Journal of Death
3.80 Too Many Chiefs

Thin

1.05 Shadows on the Land
2.50 Once on a Day in Spring
3.63 To Stand for Something More
4.89 Good Sound Profit
 
It is hard to choose a primary relationship for the series, but since John and Victoria are the characters who bring the Cannons and the Montoyas together in the first place, they probably deserve that distinction even though their relationship is new and developing throughout the series.  In the beginning it is mostly a one-sided relationship since Victoria is clearly enamored of John from their first meeting.  For John their relationship begins as strictly a business proposition that he has no desire to make into anything more than a cordial one.  John is still understandably caught in his own grief over his first wife, Annalee's, death and he works to close himself off from Victoria emotionally.  Victoria endures his indifference in the first few episodes as John gradually comes to accept and respect her.  By the end of the first season John is very much in love with Victoria, jealous of other men's attentions towards her, and fiercely protective of her.  In the final episode of the first season, "Threshold of Courage", they are both more committed to saving the other's life than their own. 


From "Once on a Day in Spring"

 


From "Champion of the Western World"

Victoria is very different than Annalee was and throughout the series John must come to terms with a wife who is head-strong, independent, and not hesitant to speak her mind when her opinion differs from his.  Their relationship, like several others on the ranch, is most seriously strained in "A Good Sound Profit" when John intentionally misleads her into thinking that he has lost his moral compass.  Victoria is usually able to win John's cooperation by appealing to his softer side rather than confronting him head on and most often John knowingly lets her manipulate him out of his genuine desire to please her.  

"What touches you touches me.  If you die, I die."
Victoria to John in "Threshold of Courage"

 


John and Buck


From NBC Publicity Photo

Thick

1.05 Shadows on the Land
1.26 Bad Day for a Thirst
2.42 A Way of Justice
3.60 A Piece of Land
4.82 It Takes a Smart Man

Thin

1.15 Widow from Red Rock
1.17 Filibusteros
3.56 Apache Trust
3.59 Brothers Cannon
4.95 The Badge
 
Without question, John and Buck's is the most complex relationship in the series and the one with the longest history, much of which we know only from passing references that often provide us with more questions than answers.  Intensely loyal yet frequently at odds with each other, John and Buck share a powerful sibling relationship that impacts everyone else on the ranch.  They share a very high moral standard, that values honor, loyalty, and respect, although that standard is expressed differently in each.  John is a man of the law who has a high regard for authority.  Even coming from Virginia, he fought with the Union.  He is unable to compromise those principles even when his son's life is at stake as in "A Hanging Offense" and even when he himself must cooperate with crooks, as in "The Legacy" or "It Takes a Smart Man".  For Buck, who fought with the Confederacy, the law and authority are secondary to doing what he perceives to be the right thing, especially as it regards loyalty to family and friends or sticking up for the underdog.  For John "The Law is the Law.", while for Buck "Right is Right".  


From "A Hanging Offense"  


From "Auld Lang Syne"

Yet as differently as they approach problems and as unalike as they are in language and deportment they understand and read each other at a deep level.  It is Buck in "Shadows on the Land" who carefully guides John back into the mainstream after his wife's death, and it is John who anticipates, understands, and ultimately supports, Buck's actions in "It Takes a Smart Man", even if it means losing him.  The most wrenching low point in their relationship is certainly in "The Brothers Cannon" when Buck suddenly erupts after years of feeling under-appreciated both for his own accomplishments and for the contributions he has made on John's behalf.  John is genuinely bewildered by his brother's anger and he attempts to rectify it, but the issue is not fully resolved until the subsequent episode, "A Piece of Land", when the purchase of Buck and Mano's ranch gives Buck the independence he needs to deal with John on an equal footing.  
 

Their relationship with each other is also defined by their relationship to Blue.  It is clear that Blue often feels closer to his Uncle Buck than to his father and John is sometimes painfully aware of that fact.  Rather than let it become an issue between the two brothers, however, Buck often works to get father and son to understand the other's viewpoint.  Even when Blue turns to Buck for paternal advice or support, Buck never oversteps his role as uncle or tries to usurp John's role as Blue's father.     

Buck:  But that's wrong!  It's the principle of the thing that counts, John. . . . . . . .  
Backing off is wrong, John.
John:  Breaking the law is worse. 
"The Legacy"

John and Blue


NBC Publicity Photo

Thick

1.13 Hanging Offense
1.20 Survival
2.33 The Stallion
3.55 Time of Your Life

Thin

1.02 The Arrangement
1.16 Doctor from Dodge
1.22 Peacemaker
3.63 To Stand for Something More
3.76 Generation
 
Blue begins the series as a twenty-year-old and as he matures, his relationships undergo more changes than most of the characters' in the series.  This is particularly true with his father.  In the first episodes, their relationship is especially tense. Blue has lost the mother who protected him and is dealing with his own grief as well as his distant and unavailable father who was absent through much of his adolescence because of the Civil War.  While John loves his son and is building an empire primarily for him to inherit, he believes the best way to prepare Blue as his heir apparent is to "toughen" him up by withholding approval and affection.  In the beginning John comes across as harsh, unsympathetic, and authoritarian while Blue comes across as whiney, self-centered, and defiant.  Yet even by the end of the first season they have each made significant strides towards building a closer and more respectful relationship towards each other. 


From "The Arrangement"


From "Generation"

By the end of the second season, while conflicts remain, Blue deals with his father in a more adult manner and it is more often John who is reluctant to move forward and give up treating Blue as a child.  The third season presents Blue in a noticeably more mature light, particularly apparent in the season opener, "Time of Your Life".   The third season includes two major clashes between the two in "To Stand for Something More" and "Generation", but by the end of "Generation" when Blue decides not to leave the High Chaparral after all, they seem to have reconciled with a new level of understanding for each other and John seems finally to accept Blue as an adult.  When Blue did not return in the fourth season, it left us forever wondering how this new adult relationship might have developed.

Blue:  I'm glad you see it my way.
John: 
I don't.  But you're you and I'm me.  That's what you've been telling me.  And you're right.
"Time of Your Life"

Victoria and Mano


From "The Little Thieves"

Thick 

2.51 The Lion Sleeps
2.54 For the Love of Carlos

3.58 Bad Day for a Bad Man
3.62 The Lost Ones
3.64 Trail to Nevermore
3.74 Journal of Death
3.75 No Trouble at All
4.97, 98 New Lion of Sonora

  Thin  

1.14  The Terrorist
1.23 Champion of the Western World
4.89 Good Sound Profit
 
As the youngest set of siblings at High Chaparral, Mano and Victoria often behave in an almost child-like sibling rivalry.  Close in age and raised in a world of privilege that they shared with few others, it is easy to see how their bond would be particularly close.  While they bicker often over trifles, serious issues never seem to come between them, as happens frequently with John and Buck.  Victoria is only superficially annoyed with Mano's laziness because she recognizes the burdens he does bear, as her protector, as the recipient of their father's continual disapproval, and as the eventual heir to a responsibility he does not want.  No one understands Mano as Victoria does.  


From "Auld Lang Syne"      

 


From "Auld Lang Syne"

For all his casual devil-may-care posturing, it is clear that there is nothing Mano would not do to protect Victoria, even though he will not often admit it to her.  At the same time, he is the only one at either High Chaparral or Rancho Montoya who does not put her on a pedestal, but relates to her as an equal.  It is Mano who reminds John that she is not "just a pretty and fragile creature. There is much iron in her", he tells him as they are tracking her through the desert in "North to Tucson".  Mano knows from long experience the strength and depth of Victoria's determination.  Some of their finest interactions occur in dealing with their father, Don Sebastian.  In the Montoya realm they obviously inhabit a space that none of the Cannons are ever really at ease in.  
 

Perhaps the closest Mano and Victoria come to a serious split is in "Good Sound Profit" when Mano leaves the High Chaparral in his dispute with John.  Even here, however, Victoria is sympathetic to Mano's position, but resigned to her obligation to stand by John as his wife even if it means losing her brother.            

Mano:  You know, of the two of us you have been the stronger.
Victoria:  If that is true it is because yours is the heavier burden.
"New Lion of Sonora"

Buck and Blue


NBC Publicity Photo

Thick

1.02 The Arrangement
1.19 The Kinsman
2.32 Sea of Enemies
2.49 Feather of an Eagle
2.52 Fella Named Kilroy
3.55 Time of Your Life
3.63 To Stand for Something More  
3.74 Generation

Thin

2.42 A Way of Justice
2.48 Stinky Flanagan
3.79 Reluctant Deputy
3.80 Too Many Chiefs
 
Father-son relationships are often portrayed in literature and film, but it would be hard to find a character who better defined the role of uncle than Cameron Mitchell did as Uncle Buck.  Younger and less authoritarian than his brother, John, Buck straddles the line between parental figure and protective older brother in his relationship with Blue.  Blue is Buck's pride and joy, as much so as though he were his own son.  Blue likewise often brags about the abilities and exploits of his Uncle Buck.  We know Buck was a part of the family constellation when Blue was young, but because of the Civil War, he was absent from Blue's life for five years during his early-middle adolescence.  In many ways they both seem to be making up for lost time and both seem a little adrift when the other is absent.  


From "The Price of Revenge"

 


From "Feather of an Eagle"

Blue often turns to Buck for the support and understanding he rarely gets from his father.  While Buck is always there for him, he also does not hesitate to lay down the law with Blue when he steps out of line with him or his father.  He also uses his authority, and occasionally his fists, to keep Blue out of harm's way "one way or other".  We see that in "The Arrangement", "Feather of an Eagle", "A Fella Named Kilroy", "The Terrorist", and "A Way of Justice".  As Blue matures through the first three seasons, he sometimes chafes at Buck's protective oversight, but compared to the shouting matches he tends to have with his father, Blue slips more gently out from under Buck's control.  This is particularly apparent in "Sea of Enemies" and "Time of Your Life" when Blue is determined to make his own decisions, but is still careful of Buck's feelings in the process.
 

When Blue takes on more adult responsibilities at the ranch and tries to emulate his father's authority, he is sometimes as exasperated as his father with his inability to control Buck, as we see especially in "Stinky Flanagan".  As protective as Buck is towards Blue, it is Buck who recognizes and supports Blue's transition into manhood sooner than John, who is reluctant to give up his image of Blue as a boy.  And as tough as John often is with Blue, it is Buck who ends up encouraging John to let him spread his wings and leave the nest.       

"No matter what happens you still got me, and I am your blooded uncle."
Buck to Blue in "The Kinsman"


From "Ten Little Indians"  

(This section written by Charlotte Lehan)

Blended Family Relationships

Supporting Character Relationships

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