The Virginia City bank is robbed and a clerk killed. Cully Maco, just released from prison, is the only suspect. When the posse catches up to him, he claims he didn't know about the latest incident anymore than he knew who sent him away to prison for 5 years. So who did kill and steal $161,000?
Attorney Cato Troxell's is defending his brother against a murder charge. When he's found guilty, Cato threatens the judge in front of witnesses. When the judge is killed in his own barn, Cato is naturally brought up on charges. But several days before, a photographer was hired to take a group photo of the Ponderosa and some hands from several surrounding ranches. But how did Cato get in the picture? Everyone swears he wasn't there!
The Cattlemen's Association hire a range detective to put an end to the cattle rustling affecting all in their area. What they soon learn is that he has a shady past which includes killings with never any witnesses.
The Cartwrights hire a new bronc buster who brings along a new bride -- an Indian woman who a few locals just don't feel comfortable around. One neighbor in particular takes a dislike to her and she uncovers a secret he has been ashamed to reveal.
The salt bed is now exhausted and the only supply left is in a warehouse and controlled by its new owner. Since everyone needs the salt and they need it now or their cattle will die, the biggest buyer tries to set the price. When a price is reached, they are all up in arms. But the monetary price is nothing to what is finally paid.
Ben Cartwright finds himself in a fight for his life when he acts too late on his suspicion that there is more than meets the eye to an amiable, young drifter that Little Joe brought home to the Ponderosa.
With Hoss being the lone hold-out during the murder trail of Johnny Mule, he will only have a short time to gather evidence before a new trail is set. But when Johnny breaks out of jail, things look bad.
Candy falls in love with a new arrival but she is being pursued by a blackmailer. When the blackmail plot is revealed, Candy seeks help from the Cartwrights but he returns lodging house of his future bride to find her murdered.
Candy finally leaves the Ponderosa and the Cartwright family to marry his longtime fiancé, Lila, in River Bend. His life changes radically, however, when he arrives in the town and finds himself arrested and thrown in jail for something he didn't do. Getting word of his plight, the Cartwrights travel to River Bend, only to discover that the town is controlled by a murderous, corrupt sheriff and his equally crooked deputy.
While in the nearby town of Angeles to treat Candy's injured hand, Little Joe offers horse wrangling work to an out-of-work miner friend, Steve Regan. But, when a rearing horse accidentally kills Steve, Little Joe and Candy stay to help the grieving widow and instead find themselves embroiled in a dangerous mine strike, resented by the angry Angeles miners, and discovering that there may be real cause to doubt the mine's safety...and their own.
Little Joe devises a mission to claim some government land that would impede deforestation by a timber baron. He encounters a cantankerous old lady living on the land and Joe finds she is reluctant to file a claim.
While visiting a remote town to await the arrival of Ben, Little Joe and Candy, Hoss is wrongly arrested for the murder and robbery of a hermit miner. When a lynch mob starts to gather, cowboy Child Barnett breaks Hoss out of jail. Both are chased by a posse whose interest is not justice, but the retrieval of the money that the miner was thought to have stashed away.
Candy relives his past when he and the Cartwrights help a Cavalry unit that is pinned down by bandits. In that Cavalry unit is Candy's ex-wife, who he still has feelings for. Her new husband is the Captain of the unit.
Ben sells a prize bull to an old friend, whose unscrupulous son has taken charge of the ranch from his father. The son double-crosses Ben over the agreed price of the bull, only offering to pay well below the selling price. Upset over the deal, Ben stays in town to seek proper compensation.
While in small town Tin Bucket to sell Ponderosa cowhides, Candy is accused of cheating in a card game and the Cartwrights are dogged by a mysterious rumor that claims they have fallen on hard times and are desperate for money.
A white woman, abducted by the Paiutes and thought to be dead, is brought back to Virginia City and reunited with her husband. When it is found she has an Indian baby to a Paiute chief, she is outcast by the towns people and her husband alike. Only the Cartwrights remain her friends.
Brand new U.S. citizen and vintner, Georgio Rossi, riles his neighbors and risks government wrath when he allows an Indian family to break treaty and camp on his land; meanwhile, Candy woos pretty Regina Rossi, stirring up some trouble of his own when she and her mother try to take over the smitten ranch hand's life...and Hop Sing's kitchen!
Ben's friend Beaudry visits the Ponderosa, meets Noreen, a beautiful girl at the Virginia saloon, gets into a roust, ends up in jail but Ben gets the instigators to own up and pay for the damages, so he is free. He asks Ben Cartwright for help starting a cattle ranch, without revealing his rustling and political crimes. Deputy Stryker comes to Virginia City from Montana with a warrant looking for Beaudry.
A town bully humiliates Hop Sing by cutting off his ponytail. Joe goes to deal with the bully. Later the bully ends up dead and Joe is charged with the murder. Hop Sing clears Joe of the murder charges by using an ancient Chinese method for identifying a person's finger prints.
At an old friend's request, Ben agrees to shelter a witness in a government case. He's a witness to several felonies and they've tried to kill him several times already. When he asks to see his wife, he puts them all in danger since she is being watched.