‘Maverick’ Star James Garner Once Listed His Favorite Episode from the Series

by Josh Lanier

James Garner said his favorite episode of Maverick is the one where he does the least. He barely leaves his chair, but it’s the episode where “Bret is at his coolest,” he said. And chances are, it’s your favorite too.

The episode is “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres,” and fans and critics widely regard it as the best 60 minutes of Maverick ever. It is the highest-rated episode of the show on IMDb. But if you’re unfamiliar with it, the plot is part Oceans 11 and part The Sting.

Bret Maverick (Garner) wins a massive amount of cash playing poker one night in the small town of Sunny Acres. But he doesn’t want to keep all that money on him overnight. So, he wakes up the local banker and deposits his $1,500 winnings at his bank. But when he comes back the next day to collect, the banker says he never met Maverick and keeps the money.

For the rest of the episode, Garner’s character sits in a rocking chair across the street from the bank whittling. Everyone in town knows the banker grifted him and they’re curious what he’ll do about it. “I’m working on it,” when someone asks then returns to whittling. Behind the scenes, Maverick’s friends and brother enact a plan to use the banker’s greed against him and get back the cash.

When Roy Huggins was writing the script, he left it open to which brother — Bret or Bart Maverick — the banker would swindle. James Garner chose to play the character that sat the entire episode and had few lines for a peculiar reason.

“I needed to get off my feet,” Garner said in his memoir.

But Garner’s cool manner makes his inaction one of the most compelling parts of the episode.

Daughter: James Garner Was a True Hollywood Maverick

There’s a familiar trope in pop culture of the homespun actor who scores a big hit and loses their moral compass. James Garner wasn’t that. Despite being a massively successful actor, his daughter said he never gave up on his principles.

“He had a very different mindset and went about things, even in the industry, much differently than other people did,” Gigi Garner told Fox News recently. “He had a core sense of moral values. … (And) he was truly an exemplary human being. He marched on Washington with Martin Luther King when it was not a popular thing to do.”

James Garner said he believed it was an actor’s job to do what was best for the character and the audience. But he didn’t let his obligations to his craft cloud his judgment.

“I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: Be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth,” he wrote. “I don’t have any theories about acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”

Garner died in 2014 of a heart attack. He was 86.