Jamie's friend Carrie Sturgis, herself an orphan, is the subject of a heated custody battle between her scheming aunt and uncle, Gifford and Vella Owens, and her gravely ill grandfather. The point of contention: The grandfather owns a gold mine ripe to be harvested, and Carrie is believed to be the heir. The Cartwrights become involved when Jamie rescues Carrie and the Owens couple want anyone named Cartwright arrested.
Hoss is seriously wounded while accompanying the Brennan clan, Virginia natives who are settling out West, across Nevada Territory. The Brennans debate whether to seek much-needed medical attention for Hoss or let him die.
In this adaptation of the Prodigal Son, Jamie - who is struggling to adjust to life on the Ponderosa and at his new school - damages Ben's valuable rifle. Refusing to take responsibility, he runs away.
Ben's dead-on lookalike, the scheming Bradley Meredith, causes serious problems when he poses as the Cartwright patriarch and sells area ranchers' land to the railroad. Ben, who refused to deal with the railroad, must find a way to expose Meredith and convince the farmers that he wasn't responsible.
Leslie and Gillian Harwood come to Nevada from England to take over the operation of a failing ranch near the Ponderosa. They have trouble adjusting to frontier life, which include cattle rustlers who threaten to put them out of business.
Gen. Ira Cloninger, an old friend of the Cartwrights, is toasted at a ceremony as a hero and asked to run for governor. Cloninger accepts and Ben enthusiastically backs the candidate ... unaware that Cloninger has a very sinister hidden agenda involving the massacre of all Native Americans from Nevada Territory.
When an influenza outbreak strikes the Ponderosa, the treatment methods and philosophy of two women from different generations clash. A nurse named Harriet Clinton believes in old-fashioned methods, while the other nurse, Evangeline Woodtree, has studied up on more recent methods. Not helping matters: Doc Martin backs Harriet, in large part because be believes Evangeline's husband is a fraud.
Little Joe is blinded by an explosion and wallows in self-pity as he struggles to come to grips with his condition, which may be temporary or permanent. Ben hires a teacher from the Institute for the Blind to help Joe deal with his predicament.
During a harsh winter that kills off the stock of many ranchers, Ben offers to test a new breed's endurance by herding a cow from the stock on Sawtooth Mountain. A rival rancher attempts to undermine Ben's plans by having his foreman shoot the cow, then claim it had succumbed to the cold.
A traveling professional wrestler named Tom Callahan is the only person who can prove Dusty Rhoades' innocence when the Ponderosa foreman is falsely jailed. But when Callahan stubbornly refuses to come to Virginia City to provide the alibi, Joe decides to pursue him and do everything he can to bring him back.
Against Ben's orders, Jamie drives a supply wagon on a route he's not supposed to; he loses control and wrecks the wagon. Jamie escapes uninjured but one of the horses is so badly hurt it has to be shot. To teach Jamie a lesson in responsibility, Ben decides to take his adopted son on an extended tour of the Ponderosa, to see how various residents and employees deal with their mistakes. The lesson makes an impression on Jamie, who is then asked to carve his name in the a tree, signifying he is the latest Cartwright to take "The Grand Swing" (Hoss and Little Joe also ...
Jill Conway is an alcoholic mother whose husband was sent to prison (for robbery) on Hoss' testimony. In a pent-up rage, Jill demands that Hoss look after her son, Petey. Hoss, however, wants Jill to see this as an opportunity to reform herself and is determined to use tough love to help her realize it.
Two ranchers find a seriously wounded Little Joe in the Nevada desert. As he struggles for life, Joe mumbles incoherently about his surrealistic nightmares about a teepee and a wagon wheel. Ben and Hoss are left to decipher what Joe is talking about and determine what happened.
The Cartwrights assist Jamie's friend, Cassie O'Casey, and Cassie's mother in dealing with their father and husband, Kevin, who is running a race horse scam. Hoss uses a "fixed" horse race of his own to outwit Kevin.
Jamie's girlfriend, Neta Thatcher, witnesses a drifter named Griff Bannon rob and kill a man at a roadside camp. Bannon - who assumes his victim's identity and inherits his fortune - is aware that Neta has witnessed the crime and begins stalking her. Neta is terrified to tell anyone about the crime she witnessed, but has even more problems on her hands: Her tough love father, who refuses to allow her to socialize with the Cartwrights. Meanwhile, Bannon takes a job at the Ponderosa using his victim's identity, and he and Jamie become friends. However, Bannon's cover is...
Jamie and three of his schoolmates - Lester, Judith and Roberto - are kidnapped after church by the nefarious Doyle gang, whom escaped from a wagon carrying them to prison. Doyle plans to use the teens as bargaining tools to ensure that the authorities will enable his gang's escape to Mexico. After Doyle makes his demands and warns that any attempts by the Cartwrights to interfere will result in the teens' deaths, Ben comes up with a plan to rescue Jamie and his friends, but is constantly undermined by the father of one of the boys, whose plan would surely result in ...
In the third and final episode featuring the Calhouns, Luke is bankrupted after a stock investment gone bad, so he and his daughter Meena, move to the Ponderosa until he can get back on his feet. Without Ben's permission, Luke turns the Ponderosa into a casino, with lap dances and gambling all over the place.
Ben begins the process to adopt Jamie as his son, but the process is complicated when Jamie's maternal grandfather, Paris Callahan, comes forward wanting custody. Ben must bear the heartbreaking news to Callahan that Jamie has bonded with the Cartwright family.