Sunday, July 29, 2007

Deadwood recap - “Mister Wu” (S1E10)

The dropping: Al takes it upon himself to make amends when two of the camp’s resident drug addicts rob and kill Wu’s opium courier. The reverend is failing fast, to pretty much everyone’s dismay. Bullock and Starr find that everyone wants to be their friend. Eddie says he’ll back Joanie in her new venture so she doesn’t owe anything to Cy.

At the hardware store, Sol is urging his business partner to go for breakfast. Bullock is agonizing over a proposal to the mayor to use some of the levies to set up an infirmary and a dump and is thinking of writing a letter to the editor at the same time to garner some public support. Mayor E.B. meets them at the hotel entrance and weasels a little, rubbing his title in their faces. “Letter to the editor first,” grunts Bullock, to which Sol gives him a supportive wink. E.B. approaches the Gem but is halted by Wu and the tit-licker. Wu gets there first and insists on seeing “Swidgen.” Johnny closes the saloon doors on E.B. and the tit-licker (“Lick later!” says Johnny) and brings Wu up to meet with Al.

Wu brings out a piece of paper and some charcoal, and between sketches, pantomime and much shouting of “cocksuckers!” makes it known to Al that two white men killed the Chinese dope courier who was bringing Wu’s – and thus Al’s – opium supply to Deadwood and stole all the dope. This scene, where Al is figuring out what Wu is trying to say, is hilarious. “Those are the first ‘cocksuckers’ I have ever heard coming out of that room that were not uttered by Al …” marvels Johnny from downstairs. Al promises to find the two white men who stole the dope and killed the courier. Temporarily appeased, Wu leaves – by the back door, as Al insists. Al then tells Dan to find “the dope fiend,” Jimmy Irons. E.B. coyly asks Al if “there’s anything the mayor should know.” Al takes a good look at E.B.’s blue coat and frilly shirt and snarks, “the name of another tailor.”

The hotel restaurant is packed. Sol and Bullock are – perhaps unwillingly – sharing a table with Merrick who is enthusiastically reading Bullock’s letter to the editor about offal disposal. Merrick is such a boob. Two new guys ride up to the hotel looking for E.B.; a flunky sends them to the Gem. They come in as Al and E.B. are stuffing the bribe envelopes – Al rightly surmises that they are the bagmen come to take the bribe money back to the magistrate in Yankton. One of them, Silas Adams (played by Titus Welliver), hands Al a letter, which immediately sets the saloonkeeper off: it’s from the magistrate, who is requiring more money to fix Al’s warrant problem. Dan picks that moment to come back with the dope-fiend Jimmy. Al will be in quite a mood to deal with him.

Back at the hotel, Charlie is standing in line waiting for his breakfast; Joanie, who already has secured a table, asks him to join her. They chat for a while, bringing each other up to speed on their respective business ventures, until Sol, Bullock and Merrick get up to leave. Merrick invites Charlie to join them and Joanie graciously gives him leave to go. Poor Charlie – he is so lonely with Bill (and now Jane) gone. Outside, Merrick is holding forth in full-on blowhard mode. He proffers the idea of forming a gentlemen’s club to walk and talk together. Bullock panics a little and insists that they need to open their store; Charlie says he really isn’t much for joining clubs; Sol, the most gracious of the bunch, suggests that they could just walk together when they happen to be out walking. They skedaddle, leaving Merrick to ponder names for his new club.

Jimmy is in with Al, lying as best he can, but Al knows that he and Leon (the dope-fiend faro dealer from the Bella Union) were the ones who took the dope. Soon enough, Al has Jimmy on his knees. Having both pissed and shit himself at this point, Jimmy tosses himself off the balcony (at Al’s suggestion) and, down in the muck of the street, waits for Dan. It’s a really funny scene. Downstairs, Al instructs Dan to clean Jimmy up. He then notices the Reverend sitting next to the piano and goes over to investigate. Again, Al surprises me by showing a fair amount of compassion for the stricken preacher, asking after his health, walking him gently to the door, and offering him access to booze and whores off-hours, in case the reverend wants to indulge. The Reverend just wanted to hear the piano music though, and staggers off. “Fuckin’ new piano,” mutters Al.

Hostetler (some guy who runs the livery stable, apparently, although we’ve never seen him before) stops by the hardware store to let Bullock know that he has first refusal on some property he wants to sell. Bullock is super-tense and says he isn’t ready to make an offer. Hostetler is slightly put off by his prickliness, but not so much that he doesn’t buy a pickaxe. [This scene is a little weird: did we know that Bullock was interested in purchasing additional property? Is it for a house for his wife and son? What’s going on here?] Eddie stops by Joanie’s new hotel room and offers to fund her new whorehouse so she doesn’t have to take money from Cy. When she asks how he’ll get the money, he says he’s going to rob Cy. Oh yeah, that’s going to end well.

Dan has brought Jimmy (in cleaner pants and a sling) and Leon back to Al’s office. Al intimidates the dope fiends easily and then stomps off to Wu’s with the remnants of the dope. In another very funny exchange, Al says he’ll hand over only one of the cocksuckers to Wu, not both of them, fearing that giving two white men to the Chinese would start a bloodbath in camp. Wu is not happy about it, but he understands and acquiesces. Al instructs Dan to take the two dope fiends to the bathhouse while he consults with Cy about which man will get sacrificed to Wu. Cy is completely unsympathetic and is not interested in giving up his employee. Miffed, Al leaves after reminding Cy to pony up his share of the bribes for the magistrate’s bagman.

When Al returns to the Gem, he finds the reverend back in his place by the piano. Johnny is scandalized: his own father was a preacher and preachers shouldn’t act like that. Al is more than scandalized; he is outraged, but manages to back his temper down a little when he realizes that the reverend doesn’t even remember their conversation from earlier that day. He drags Doc into the back and asks after the reverend’s condition, more upset than I would expect. “Nothin’ to be done, huh?” he asks and, to the doc’s affirmative, “well, he ain’t comin’ back in my place. He’s a man of the cloth, in case he forgets, kickin’ up his heels like a four-bit strumpet.” He pauses, and then asks the doc how Trixie’s spirits seem. The doc retorts that he doesn’t answer to people’s spirits and Al gets crankier.

Bullock and Sol are back on their porch, watching the evening come in. Bullock bemoans the fact that he seems to be living someone else’s life, especially with a wife he doesn’t know and a child who is not his own. Sol is sympathetic and can read between the lines: “But, she is a beautiful woman,” referring, of course, to Alma. Bullock just sighs and grits his teeth. Meanwhile, Al and Silas the bagman are conferring. For some reason, Al feels compelled to confide in this complete stranger, perhaps sensing that Silas is a little smarter than the average Deadwooder and might be of some use down the line. Silas is open to new opportunities and when Al asks him to accompany him to the bathhouse (“No one is looking to fuck you up the ass – I gotta execute someone”), Silas pauses, downs another shot of whiskey, and tags along. Titus Welliver has gained quite a bit of weight in recent years: when I first saw him on X-Files, he was damn skinny.

At the bathhouse, Al toys with the two dope fiends who are oh so very high and lounging in disgusting tubs. (Jimmy calls him “Mr. Swearengen” but Leon nonchalantly calls him “Al” … I’m pretty sure that’s pissing Al off big time.) After a farce of drawing straws, Al grabs Jimmy by the ankles and gives a good yank, submerging his head and then stepping on his neck to keep him underwater. Leon watches, terrified, as Al drowns his dope-buddy, Dan and Silas looking on impassively.

The reverend enters the boys’ hardware store. He is confused and scared, and asks them if they are, in fact, Bullock and Starr. He can’t tell if they are who they seem to be: because of his illness, he thinks that either they are devils that he cannot recognize, or if not devils, he is actually losing his mind. Gently, the boys reassure him that they are who they are, and that they are his friends. They offer to walk him back to his tent and the reverend is overjoyed, poor thing. It’s a lovely parallel to the abortive walk that morning with Merrick.

Al sends Leon back to Cy to tell him what transpired at the bathhouse, after punching the dope fiend in the eye and snarling, “don’t fucking call me Al.” I knew it! Silas is bemused and a little enamoured of our Al (who among us isn’t?). Dan wraps Jimmy in a sheet and he and Al make a stop at Wu’s pigpen. Wu thanks “Swidgen” and Al returns the respect, hoping that they haven’t signed themselves up for killing too.

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