Cowboy Jake Miller is having a crisis of conscience — he can’t remember the faces of any of the eight men he has killed. His brother Ben rightly reminds him that even if he could remember their faces, they’d still be dead. Nearby, a preacher is having a bigger crisis as an alien materializes and possesses his body.
The brothers ride into town with their associates Frank & JD. The gang is in town to recover buried loot from one of their previous jobs. While Frank & JD go get liquored up at eight in the morning, Jake & Ben visit their father. We see where Jake gets his conscience. Their father is none too happy to see his outlaw sons, but grudgingly offers them their old bedroom since nothing had yet been invented to make it into a man-cave. Dad’s hands aren’t entirely clean as he dug up the loot and saved it for his boys.
Frank & JD go to the saddle boutique. The possessed Preacher strolls by and gives them a demonstration. Light shoots out of his eyes and he makes a horse disappear. He offers to give them the same power. Frank tests it out by making a wagon wheel disappear. With this amazing new talent, the best the can think to do is kill the storekeeper and steal a couple of saddles and horses.
While Jake visits his old gal Miriam, Frank & JD go to local cemetery dig up the loot. Maybe they should have used that skill to make 2,000 pounds of dirt disappear. They are not happy when they discover that the loot has been moved. Here is where I get lost.
Jake & Ben see Frank & JD at the cemetery. Frank says, “Let’s get going.” Ben stops them after a few steps and says, “Hold up, this is it.” They all start digging and unearth a steel box. Frank uses his superpowers to enable him and JD to steal the loot. OK, so Frank & JD didn’t get mad that the money had been moved; or that they dug a huge back-breaking hole for nothing. Maybe they were playing it cool until Jake & Ben took them to the real burial space. That kind of calm strategic long-game doesn’t seem like a good fit for Frank, though.
As for Ben & Jake, why did Ben immediately tell them the loot had been moved? And wasn’t their father holding the loot for them anyway?
Jake & Ben point their pistols at Frank, but he just makes them disappear. When Ben rushes him, he strangles him, with sparks flying from his hands. After Frank & JD take off with the loot, the Preacher happens by. He gives Jake & Ben the same power.
Blah, blah, blah. More people get killed, including JD. There is a showdown which is witnessed by the Preacher. I don’t get all the motivations, but it has a resolution that is very satisfying.
The Preacher explains he is from another planet. This was all a test from yet another condescending alien species. Jake gets on his horse and inexplicably rides off leaving Miriam, the only other survivor, behind. Well, she did kill his brother which could make Thanksgiving awkward, but he really had it coming. But again, the motivation escapes me. I like that she is left stunned, staring at the sky, but why is she alone?
There is actually a great deal to like here. The town, the snow, the frontier, the horses, the people — all perfectly rendered and believable. Major kudos are due to director Mario Azzopardi for the episode. Who knows to what extent he deserves credit for the production design, but dude knows how to use a camera. Thank God we get the occasional director who understands that the camera’s range doesn’t stop at the first actor in the view-finder. He frequently layers in a horse running away in the background, the Preacher passively observing, or simply the flowing river which give an immense texture to the scene and story.
As mentioned several times above, I wasn’t sure of the motivation in a few scenes, but the feel of the episode completely won me over. If I had to complain about anything it is that 2 of the cowboys are unbelievable assholes; I mean over the top, hammy, in your face assholes. And 3 of them are too much Hollywood purty-boys. Where’s Ernest Borgnine when you need him? Sure, dead now, but not in 1997.
Rating: Maybe not my heart’s desire, but fulfilled my desire for a fine hour of TV.
-  Apologies to the fourth. I’m sure he is a nice guy and fun at parties.
- Title Analysis: Heart’s Desire is the name of the town. Really a complete non-sequitur.