Route 66/The Swan Bed

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The Swan Bed
Season 1, Episode 3
Airdate October 21, 1960
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
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A Lance of Straw
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The Man on the Monkey Board
Route 66Season One

Guest Star: Henry Hull (Amery Grant)

Also Starring: Murray Hamilton (Dr. Stafford)

Featuring: Zina Bethune (Carrie Purcell)

With: Louis Zorich (Bulloch), Elizabeth MacRae (Randy Spring), Louis Guss (DeSavo), Jerome Raphel (Hercules George)


Plot Overview

Tod and Buz drive into New Orleans in search of their next adventure. The city is currently experiencing a rash of fever outbreaks among its citizenry, threatening an epidemic. The disease seems to be being carried by exotic birds, and a physician named Stafford is in town attempting to trace it to its cause.

While looking for work, Tod meets a young girl named Carrie Purcell who helps him get a job. In gratitude (and not without an eye for her loveliness), Tod invites Carrie out with him and Buz for an evening on the town.

However, Tod is unaware that Carrie is living in a state of near-poverty with her mother in a shack by the river. Carrie’s mother is haunted by the presence of a derelict former showboat moored right next to their cottage. It is the same boat where she met Carrie’s father, not knowing that the man was already married. Mrs. Purcell now lives life as a callously embittered woman, exhibiting a cold indifference bordering on hatred towards her daughter. However, she does keep as the one decent piece of furniture in her home the ornate bed from the barge, its headboard decorated with carvings of swans.

When Carrie begs for a little money for a new dress from her mother, the woman refuses to give it to her, calling her daughter a tramp and becoming violent at the thought of her going out with two strange men. Carrie flees her home and goes to the old boat, where her elderly friend Amery Gant resides.

When Carrie is unable to rouse Gant from a drunken stupor, she takes the money purse he keeps hidden in the drawer of his desk, intending only to borrow a small amount. But the sudden arrival of two shady-looking men on the boat force her to hurry and take the entire purse with her so that she is able to hide from them before they see her. When Carrie goes to a local emporium to shop for her dress, she is astounded to find that Gant’s money bag contains several thousand dollars.

Tod and Buz take Carrie to a local nightclub, where Buz is delighted to find that a stripper performing there is an old school classmate of his. He takes the opportunity after the show to catch up with her.

The next day when Carrie goes to return the money, Mr. Gant denies that it is his, and in his desk drawer the missing purse has been replaced by an identical one. Carrie leaves the boat in a state of confusion and uncertainty, unaware that Mr. Gant is being bullied by a criminal named Bulloch into letting his gang use Gant’s derelict as a headquarters. Trusting that Carrie will be afraid to go to the police, Bulloch plans to let her keep the money until some of his men can steal it back from her. One of the criminals shadows Carrie from the boat.

Not knowing where else to turn, Carrie visits Tod and Buz, who convince her to go to the police. But without any information to go on, and no crime apparently having been committed, they are unable to provide any assistance. And as the trio return to their rooms, they are accosted by a pair of Bulloch’s thugs who make off with the money.

As the little group try to decide on their next move, Dr. Stafford arrives, searching for Buz. Buz’s old stripper acquaintance has just been stricken with fever and Stafford believes she got it from one of the birds she was using in her act. Buz and Stafford trace the parrot used in the act to the pet store where Carrie works.

Meanwhile, Tod and Carrie are returning to Gant’s boat in search of more answers. Once aboard, they are apprehended by Bulloch, who decides that the pair have become too inquisitive. Tod and Carrie are locked in the hold of the ship with several birds. The gangsters are running a bird smuggling operation.

Buz, searching for Tod and Carrie, visits Carrie’s mother and witnesses for himself the squalor that she lives in and her mother’s attitude towards the girl. He then moves on to Gant’s boat, where Bulloch is waiting for him with a gun.

But before Bulloch is able to lead him to the hold, Buz manages to escape from the mobster and then overpower him and knock him unconscious. Tod and Carrie are freed and the smuggling gang is arrested.

With the source of the parrot fever determined, the city’s health department orders the barge set afire, ending both the criminal racket and the threat of epidemic. Witnessing the boat go up in flames finally allows Carrie’s mother to let go of the bitterness of her past and she resolves to be a better mother to Carrie.

Tod and Buz are enlisted to carry out the swan bed, which Mrs. Purcell has consigned to the pyre.

Arc Advancement


Carrie's mother - Mrs. Purcell - is played by Betty Field (uncredited).