Plot: That's right, it's the late '50s Walt Disney Zorro series. The story opens on a ship off the coast of Spanish California in 1820. On the deck of the ship, Don Diego de la Vega has a match with the ship's captain, and demonstrates his considerable prowess with the sword. Diego is returning home after 3 years, but the Captain warns him California is not as he left it. The military's current Comandante is a harsh man, and is abusing his power. Diego is warned to hide anything he doesn't want stolen by the soldiers at the customs house. Back in his quarters, Diego reveals to us and his mute manservant, Bernardo, that he left the university in Spain early because of a cryptic letter from his father, and now he knows what it was about. But, as it would be unwise to confront this Comandante directly, he has to find another way. Bernardo suggests (through gestures) that Diego hide his skill as a swordsman by pretending to be a scholar instead. So out the porthole go all Diego's fencing trophies, and even his sword. As an added deception, Bernardo will pretend to be deaf, as well as mute, so people will speak freely around him.
When next we see them, they're in a stagecoach arriving in town, where they're stopped, because their possessions have to be searched, again. Which gives us the chance to meet Sgt. Garcia, who is pleased to see his old friend Don Diego, and gives Diego and Bernardo their first chance to try on their roles. We also meet this new Comandante, Capitan Montasario, who is conspiring with a lawyer to accumulate all the wealth of the area into his hands, and will kill anyone who stands in his way. Right on cue, the lancers ride up with Diego's old neighbor, Don Nacho Torres, who stands accused of treason and is promptly locked up. Diego almost blows his cover right there, but is able to recover, and sells himself as a meek scholar to Montsario, even stating that he left college because there was too much emphasis on swordsmanship and gymnastics. Which isn't good news to his father, Don Alejandro, who is outraged at Montasario's actions, taxing the rancheros into debt, and selling Indians into slave labor. Diego's suggestion to send a strongly worded letter to the Governor fails to impress. But afterward, Diego introduces Bernardo to the third part of their team: Tornado, a stallion an old friend of his has being keeping while Diego was away. Now Diego's ready to be the fox, since being the lion would carry too much risk to his father.
That night, Zorro easily scales the wall of the fort, and sets about freeing Don Nacho. However, his attempt to retrieve the keys from Garcia comes a little late, because he'd already left them with Montasario. The Capitan plans to send the lawyer out with the keys and release Torres on the pretext he was falsely charged. When Torres is about halfway to the gate, Licenciado will call out, and Montasario will rush out to kill Torres in the act of "escaping". Except Zorro, having learned from Garcia where the keys are, foils the plan by surprising Licenciado, and freeing Torres himself. Eventually, Montasario gets suspicious, but misses the shot with his pistol, and while Torres escapes, we have our first real fight. Montasario gives a good showing, but gets overaggressive and winds up with his sword stuck in a wall. By that time Garcia has freed himself, and well, he doesn't have such a good showing. But by that time, the lancers have gone stumbling out of their barracks, so Zorro climbs so crates piled up near an outer wall and makes an easy escape. Outside town, he meets Torres, and tells him to hide at a nearby mission.
Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'You're right, Father. I'm going to sit down and write a detailed letter to the Governor.'
Times Zorro marks a "Z" in something: 3 (3 overall). Once in a piece of sheet music, once on a wall, and once on the Sergeant's pants.
Other: I'm impressed with how much information they get in this episode, for just 20 some odd minutes. We know Diego's an excellent swordsman, and that he believes in standing up to abuses of power. That he can be a little hot-tempered, but he's mostly clever enough to keep his cool when he needs to. And that he's a kind fellow. He knows Montasario had murder on his mind, but doesn't kill him. He toys with Garcia, but he clearly could have done much worse. And he brought all these books back from Spain for the Padre (including The Effects of Moorish Culture on Spanish Poetry, sounds gripping).
We know Bernardo's a bit of a ham, perhaps a consequence of expressing himself through gestures (I'm guessing Universal Sign Language didn't exist in 1820), but clever and with steady nerves. Montasario didn't accept the story of Bernardo being deaf so readily as Garcia, so he tried firing a gun behind his back, and Bernardo didn't flinch. Alejandro is at least partially responsible for Diego's sense of responsibility, but despite sending Diego a cryptic letter to sneak it past Montasario, he's not much for subtlety. He wants direct, forceful action against a representative of the government. Which is bold, but probably ill-advised. Some of that is probably that Montasario doesn't defer to the great Alejandro de la Vega as he's accustomed to, and some of it is probably that he went through some serious trials to make it to where he is, and wouldn't have if he wasn't willing to fight. So this is just one more battle for him.
Montasario is maybe the most interesting. He's ambitious and unscrupulous, but also smart enough to recognize his advantage. There's no one else who can directly challenge his authority, especially with a lawyer on his side to make it look legal. He can drum up any charge he wishes, and so long as he claims it is a military rather than civil matter, there's no legal recourse. He controls the mail, so if you want to contact higher authorities outside the Pueblo de Los Angeles, you'd have to go there yourself. A dangerous, and time-consuming proposition. How long was there between when Alejandro sent off that letter, and when Diego actually arrived? Probably at least 6 months. That sort of thing gives Monatsario plenty of time to set things up however he likes.
Beyond that, he's equal parts suspicious and cruel. He's careful enough to not take Bernardo as a deaf-mute merely because he's told it, over even after Garcia insults Bernardo to his face and is greeted with a smile. But he took some glee in the idea of firing a rifle right behind someone who might not even be aware of it. When he and Diego are conversing, he won't take Diego's appearance as a timid scholar at face value, either. He has to draw his sword and wave it about threateningly to intimidate Diego, but it also serves a purpose of letting him see how Diego responds. Does he get his blood up and hotly object, or meekly accept it?
At any rate, Zorro has completed a successful first mission. Let's see if he can keep the streak up.