Plot: The tax collector and his nephew are on their way to Los Angeles, when they are waylaid by Jack Elam and a friend. They try to flee unsuccessfully, and the taxman is divested of his official papers, and his nephew, then sent to wait for them to contact him at the mission, but to tell no one what has happened. As he limps away, it turns out his nephew is part of the scheme. The next day, Elam’s pal has set up in the town square, levying new, extremely harsh taxes against the peasants. While all this is going on, Diego is busy teaching Bernardo how to fence and ride horses, so that he can pose as Zorro if need be. After much practice trying to get on a horse in unusual ways, they take a break by visiting the inn, just as Maria’s brother, Eusebio, is arrested because he can’t pay his tax. Diego keeps Maria from assaulting Sergeant Garcia by promising to do something. Over at the cuartel, he sees Eusebio is hardly the only one who couldn’t pay. The jail is full to the point Garcia actually tries standing up to an official of the King, stating he won’t jail anyone else (though “stating” may be too strong a word). Diego attempts to pay the tax for all the prisoners, only to be rejected, as the collector insists these people need to learn a lesson.
As it turns out, this order was given by the Magistrado, who is setting up an arrangement with one Senor Vazquez, a “labor contractor” who runs mines in Sonora. He is planning to buy all the prisoners to use them as slave labor in his mines. Unaware of this, the prisoners sing songs of Zorro, to Garcia’s barely concealed delight. Unfortunately for them, Zorro fights only against unjust acts, not legal ones of his government, and this is apparently legal. That argument doesn’t hold much water with Bernardo, and this seems to prompt Diego to consider whether the taxman is who he claims to be. So he follows him to the inn, to protest the taxes his family is paying. During the course of this conversation, he brandishes one of the eagle feathers he’s collected, and sure enough, the man waives the de la Vega taxes for this term. Which cinches it, and so it is Zorro time. Problem being, Diego isn’t the only one with that idea. Garcia has sent all his soldiers to bed save Corporal Reyes, who has pretty much agreed he will not shoot at any movement he sees in the shadows. Zorro observes Garcia (dressed as Zorro) climbing over the wall of the cuartel, and decides to leave him to it. Unfortunately, the Magistrado spots Garcia and calls out the soldiers. Garcia is able to fast talk his way out of any trouble, but the entire garrison is put on alert, so no rescue tonight.
Back in his lair, Diego is extremely frustrated, but resolves to try again, somehow, tomorrow. By then, the prisoners are being marched over the hills to the mines, but Zorro is able to draw some of the guards into pursuing him, only to leave them chasing Bernardo. Then Zorro doubles back, and, with some aid from the prisoners, defeats the fake taxman, the nephew, and Jack Elam, who are left in the prisoners chains. So Senor Vazquez takes them instead, so he doesn’t go home empty handed. But it isn’t all smiles and sunshine, because now Zorro knows whoever is behind these acts is out to strike at the people of California, not just the military. And they still have no idea who that is.
Quote of the Episode: Diego – ‘Still, money is money, and I have yet to see the tax collector who can refuse it.’
Times Zorro marks a “Z”: 0 (9 overall)
Other: It’s curious to me that Zorro would fight so hard against Monastario, who was probably only slightly stretching his authority, but he just shrugs his shoulders when someone levies an unjust tax and starts throwing the peasants in jail. He specifically tells Bernardo that he fights against evil and tyranny, and I would say that qualified whether the taxman was legit or not. Enforcing a tax you know a great majority of the population can’t pay so you can sell them into slavery? How is that not tyrannical? But it wasn’t until he learns it’s really the work of the mysterious eagle feather aficionado he gets involved. Boy, will his face be red if this all turns out to be some plot by the King. Let’s face it, kings have a long history of behaving like total assholes towards their people, so this would hardly be the first time.
And then he gets angry at Garcia for screwing up on the rescue attempt, thus preventing Zorro from making his own try. Well Zorro, you were the one who decided it was worth a chuckle to let Garcia try. You could have dashed up while he was climbing the ladder and let him know that wasn’t necessary. He only went for it because he didn’t think Zorro was going to show. Next time, maybe you’ll remember to focus on the task at hand before you decide to start screwing around. All in all, not one of Zorro’s better nights.