The dropping: The upcoming elections have everyone in a tizzy. Alma's pregnancy is causing complications. Bullock looks to E.B. as an outlet for his violent tendencies. Hearst and Al begin to circle each other warily.
A healthy-looking Al has returned to form after the hiatus, observing the early morning thoroughfare from his balcony. Down below, some hoopleheads are building a platform from which the political candidates will speak before the elections. Dan warily walks into the Gem, nodding to a nervous Johnny and closely watching the patrons. There are three Cornishmen at the bar, speaking intensely to each other in Cornish. A better-dressed man sitting at the table behind them mocks their incomprehensible language until one approaches him. The better-dressed man shoots the Cornishman, a similarly-dressed buddy backing him up. There’s a cut to Hearst in his room, hearing the shots and looking self-satisfied. Enraged, Dan throws the Cornishmen out the back and the aggressors out the front. Al tells Johnny to store the corpse in the icehouse until Wu comes back.
Over at the sheriff’s house, Bullock nervously asks his wife to look over his speech and to improve it for him. She gathers her school supplies and they leave for work together. Just a few houses down at the Ellsworth mansion (when the frick did that get built?), Alma is making Ellsworth move furniture hither and yon until it’s finally time for Sophia to go to school. Alma watches them go from the window and then faints. Ellsworth catches up to Bullock, noting that the sheriff is “heavily scheduled” – including tonight’s speeches – and asks a favor: during Bullock’s meeting with Hearst, “if the chance comes up natural, stomp on the cocksucker’s foot.” I love Ellsworth.
Calamity Jane and Mose Manuel watch Joanie Stubbs leave the Chez Amie, ostensibly heading towards the Bella Union to check on Cy’s belly wound. The Chez Amie building is being used as the camp’s schoolhouse during the day and Jane warns Mose not to frighten the students. Annoyed, he tells her to go get her load on. Jane shrieks: “Do not instruct me how to spend my day – or to itemize for you my crowded itinerary!” Hee hee - I love Jane. Of course, after she has stomped around the corner out of his line of sight, she sadly pulls a bottle from its hiding place and starts to guzzle it down.
Al hails the commuting Bullocks and asks the sheriff to stop by before his meeting with Hearst. Bullock is noncommittal but you know he’s going to do it. Charlie runs up to tell Bullock about the morning’s Cornish incident and Bullock says he’ll look into it later. At the hotel, E.B. promises Richardson that his speech as incumbent mayor will be brief, although he’s a little nervous about the “Jew merchant” competition. When Joanie gets to the Bella Union, she stops into the whores’ room, waving her hand in front of her face at the stink – remember, these supposed to be the high-class whores. Joanie grills one of the whores, insisting that the girls keep themselves clean, the whoring rooms clean, and their own room clean. Lila, Cy’s favorite from last season, is slumped in a corner, completely high and nearly incoherent. Joanie throws her out and, upset, goes to see Cy. He’s playing a new game, managing to mention his new, close and personal relationship with God. Joanie either doesn’t believe it or doesn’t hear him and leaves. Cy tosses aside the Bible.
In Al’s office, Adams is complaining about the splinters he’s gotten from cleaning rain gutters for the past month: Adams is a homeowner, per Al’s machinations. Adams is told to go to the bank and have Sol Starr assume the mortgage because Adams can’t make the payments. For some reason, Al is insistent that Sol owns this house. I marvel at this man’s mind. Al notices Jewel struggling to clean the bloodstain from this morning’s murder; he sends her off to make him some breakfast and gets down on his own knees to scrub. Al tells his boys that Hearst was the one who ordered the murder of the Cornishman (who worked in Hearst’s mine and were trying to organize a union) and that Bullock’s meeting with Hearst this morning will be so that Hearst can try to manipulate Bullock if the sheriff wants Hearst’s backing in the elections.
Adams is getting nominated for an Oscar over at the hardware store, ranting and raving and begging Sol to take the house off his hands. Trixie doesn’t buy his act for a minute and chases after Adams. He explains that Al wants Sol to have the house although he doesn’t know why. Trixie goes to see Al who explains that Sol, being a candidate for public office, should no longer be screwing Trixie in the back of the hardware store. Adams’s house abuts Shaunnessey’s rooming house, and Al plans to install Trixie there, with a passageway cut through the walls, so she and Sol can screw away from prying eyes. Al is so thoughtful! Trixie storms back to the hardware store/bank and angrily explains the situation to Sol who, to his credit, seems to think the scheme sensible.
Joanie is renting a room from said Shaunessey. He is insufferable and very mean to her and when she gets into the room, she just sits on the bed and rocks back and forth. She’s a mess and pulls her little gun out, putting it to her temple. In the meantime, Ellsworth returns home to find his wife on the floor. [Now, Mr. Mouse and I have a difference of opinion here. He doesn’t like Joanie’s character, finding her pathetic and wimpy. I, on the other hand, like Joanie and don’t like Alma. Alma is petulant and manipulative. She complains of being constricted by a woman’s role in this society, where men have all the freedom and power, and yet here she is, fabulously wealthy by fortune’s whim and lacking for nothing ... and still whining. But Joanie, who has actually been horribly mistreated by men, has had to fight for everything she has. She doesn’t want to run whores anymore, but she doesn’t know anything else plus she’s really good at it. She’s confused and conflicted and has every reason to be. Alma is just spoiled and needs to get over herself.]
Bullock stops in at the Gem, wanting to know about the Cornish murder. Al suggests that the sheriff portray himself as a blank slate in his meeting with Hearst so as to collect as much information as possible. He tells Bullock that the Cornishmen were trying to organize the mineworkers and Hearst arranged the murder to stop it. Al goes on to recommend Bullock tread lightly and keep a lid on his temper. Bullock nods, understanding, then says – making me giggle – “Has the body been eaten? … Don’t let it get eaten.” What? Is this going to be CSI: Deadwood? I'd watch that.
Bullock goes to see an initially jovial Hearst. After some pleasantries (strained on Bullock’s part as he so valiantly tries to keep himself in control), Hearst asks the sheriff to tell Alma Garrett-Ellsworth that he’d be interested in buying her mine. Bullock’s now demonstrating a tell, gripping and rubbing his nose so noticeably that Hearst asks if he needs a hankie. Hearst asks the sheriff what he knows about the shootout at the Gem and what he’s going to do about it. Bullock calmly says that he would want to try to speak with the parties involved and discover the complaint. Hearst then wishes to speak of Bullock’s own ambitions, but the sheriff demurs. Hearst presses on, offering to support him in exchange for Bullock delivering his message to Alma. Bullock’s self-control is strained to the breaking point – he really does have a short fuse, as Hearst has been fairly pleasant up until now – and he snarls that he did not promise to deliver the message and that Hearst should stay out of “[their] fucking affairs.” Hearst smiles evilly, leaning in: “Affairs of that sort are not my interest, Mr. Bullock. My only passion is the color.”
Bullock escapes from the room and hurries down the stairs and E.B. stupidly chirps at him, “How’d you like Mr. Hearst?” The sheriff, in full rage, reaches over the hotel counter, seizes E.B. by the lapels, and slams him onto the lobby floor. “How have I given offense?” whimpers E.B. as Bullock starts pounding the shit out of him. Richardson runs to the Gem and tells Al that “the sheriff is killing the mayor.” Al rushes to the hotel, telling Dan and Johnny to wait in the thoroughfare in case he needs them. Hearst comes onto the balcony to observe the commotion and Al, seeing him as he reaches the hotel, reins himself in. “Bullock! Beating Farnum in Mr. Hearst’s hotel? [then to Hearst] How are you, sir?” Bullock backs off, although still in full temper, and lets Al clean up his mess. Al has his boys take E.B. away and asks Hearst if they might speak briefly later. Hearst acquiesces, Al stops Bullock from giving E.B. a sharp kick in the kidneys, and they all leave the hotel, Al muttering to Richardson, “You saw fucking nothing.”
Back at the Gem, Al is talking Bullock down. I just love their relationship - it’s one of the most fascinating in all of television. Bullock wants to withdraw from the sheriff’s race, worried by what Hearst knows about him and Alma. Al scoffs: “Oh, best to leave the camp as penance for having a prick.” Bullock confirms that Al was right about the Cornish killing. Okay, says Al, “No grand gestures, fucking Bullock, ‘til I’ve had my talk with Hearst. Do not withdraw and no more beating up on Farnum who has to run against Starr.” Bullock leaves and Al goes to figure out how to deal with Hearst, concerned that Bullock has tipped Hearst to more information than Al would have him know.
Doc Cochran is at the Ellsworths’ house. He wants Alma to take some laudanum for the pain she’s having; she resists at first, fearing a relapse into her addiction, but he insists that it will help her to carry this baby to term. She takes it. At the Chez Amie, Mose and Jane take turns peeking in the window at the ongoing school. Doc tells Ellsworth that Alma must stay in bed to be able to carry the baby to term, and she must take the medicine he’s given her. Doc promises to fetch Trixie to help the Ellsworths.
Bullock goes to the freight station/jail and finds Charlie overwhelmed by packages: “Who are all these fucking people?” Bullock sits down in the cell and ‘fesses up about his beating of E.B. since he thought E.B. had told Hearst “bidness of mine.” Bullock muses that he may have been mistaken but Charlie waves it off, saying “Fuck Farnum anyway.” Hee hee. I love Charlie. Bullock goes on to wonder if maybe his hot temper gets in the way of his sheriffing duties. Charlie asks, “Maybe you just don’t want to speak tonight?” Bullock smiles, “I know I don’t want to speak.” Charlie continues that having a hot-tempered sheriff with loads of law experience is way better than the dimwitted competition, Harry, the bartender at Tom Nuttal’s bar. Dude, you are so right.
Cut to dimwitted Harry, Tom and Steve at Tom’s bar. Blah blah blah. Steve talks a lot about how mistreated he always is, and Harry is stupid, and Tom rolls his eyes at the company he has to keep. Moving on.
Mrs. Bullock catches Jane peeking into the school and asks her about scouting for Custer. Jane has to ask her to speak up several times – “Do ye speak this low when you’re teachin’ the children?” - Mrs. B gets the point, asking Jane to give a talk about her experiences. Jane is flattered but now nervous and asks if Mose scares the children. No, he doesn’t. “I expect he pisses you off.” No, Jane. “Well, he irritates the hell out of me!” Hee hee. Bullock interrupts and Jane runs off, babbling about a bottle she’s looking for. When Mrs. B asks about her husband’s meeting with Hearst, he grabs his nose again. Hee hee hee!
Ellsworth and Sophia play checkers and worry about Alma. Trixie asks Alma if she really, truly wants to keep the baby. Alma says yes and Trixie tells her to then lie down and be good and stop trying to prove what all she can do until she’s “popped out this kid.” E.B. is still recuperating in Al’s bed and Al interrupts his bombast to ask if E.B. told Hearst about Bullock and Alma, threatening to profane his remains if he fibs. “Not my remains, Al!” whines E.B., and insists that he never said anything to Hearst. Al is satisfied and sends E.B. home. E.B. looks quite bad. Al goes downstairs and tells Merrick that tonight’s speeches have been postponed, offering booze and whores on the house as solace. Poor Merrick.
Ah, the meeting between Al and Hearst, titans. It starts amicably enough, Al in his charming, obsequious mode, concerned that the morning’s Cornish murder might be part of a larger plot against Hearst. Hearst doesn’t think so and is entertained by Al for a bit. Al says that he doesn’t care anything about Cornishmen nor even about union organizers. But he doesn’t like bloodletting in his joint: he has cancelled tonight’s speeches and, if the incident goes unsatisfied, he may cancel the elections entirely and work to overturn the agreement with Yankton, thus returning the camp to its unstable and less viable state. Hearst’s demeanor immediately changes as he likes commerce and stability. He now perceives Al as dangerous to his interests. Al does not back down and gets a little cocky. Hearst lets him go and tells his captain that the fellows who killed the Cornish may wish to return to the Gem.
Charlie and Sol are having dinner with the Bullocks, everyone nervously practicing their speeches. It’s funny. Sol mentions Adams’s default on his house and Mrs. B thinks it’s a lovely home, “very spacious.” There’s a knock on the door: “It’s Albert Swearengen.” Sol lets him in and Al announces that the speeches are postponed, to everyone’s relief. Joanie finds Jane dozing in a puddle of her own pee at the former Chez Amie. When Jane says she’s been asked to tell the schoolchildren of her Custer experience, Joanie says she’d like to hear that story too. Jane asks if Joanie is going to go back to the Bella Union as a place of residence and employment. Joanie worries that those girls need looking after but Jane wonders who would look out for Joanie then, with that “gut-shot cocksucker weavin’ schemes from his comin’ to Jesus.” Good question, Jane.
Finally, on the Bullocks’ porch, Al fills Bullock in on his meeting with Hearst and prophesies the upcoming battle. Bullock asks Al if he should go back to camp now with him, just to be safe. Al says it won’t happen just yet but “you stay in hailing distance.”
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