Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Deadwood recap - “Amateur Night” (S3E9)

The dropping: With way more fanfare than probably necessary, the camp kids get to move into their new Joanie-sponsored schoolhouse. Hearst's small army of hired Pinkertons begin their campaign to beat down the camp, including a completely outrageous (but fairly minor, all things considered) beating of poor Merrick. Mr. Wu, however, is holding Hearst's new Chinese labor force outside camp until he learns what Al wishes him to do. The Earp brothers clear out of camp after Morgan shoots a Pinkerton that had been harassing him; Bullock gives them a free pass in no small part because they've inadvertantly helped him chip away at Hearst's armed forces. The biggest news of the day is Jack Langrishe's wildly successful Amateur Night which draws practically the entire camp as an audience, and many more participants than I would have expected.

It’s morning and the Bella Union whores kick the Earp boys out of bed. In a more lawful union, Bullock makes Martha memorize the combination to the hardware store’s safe where all their money and assets are kept, just in case something happens to him in the days ahead. She’s taking the children to the new schoolhouse later today and he promises to walk with her. At the new schoolhouse, Joanie is fretting. Also, whoever built the schoolhouse built it around a live tree and put a treehouse in to boot. I never in my life had a classroom that cool – lucky little Deadwood kids. In a less wholesome setting, Hearst is instructing the head of his newly arrived hooligans on what he expects out of them. (The DVD says this guy’s name is “Barrett” so I’ll go with that rather than calling him “that guy” for the rest of the recap.) For now, Hearst wants general intimidation of the campfolk and serious intimidation of Merrick for embarrassing him in the paper.

At the Gem, Al and his crew are grousing and trying to come up with options. For some reason unbeknownst to me, since Hearst’s hooligans appear to be of the Pinkerton variety, hiring guns out of Cheyenne is now off the table. Dan wishes he’d gone when he had the chance. Al wonders if, “Question extant: ‘til reinforced, can we learn the ways of church mice?” Out in the thoroughfare, while some of the Pinkertooligans harass Mr. Wu, Al sends Adams to see if he can suss out if Cy Tolliver knows anything about the new arrivals. As it turns out, if Cy knows anything – and Adams thinks he doesn’t – he ain’t talking.

Jack Langrishe breakfasts with Hearst at the hotel; they observe Barrett crushing a poor fellow’s foot as part of his general intimidation of the camp scheme. Langrishe also presents himself as neutral with regard to Al when he’s with Hearst, and vice versa. Hearst isn’t thrilled about it – he wants inside information on his nemesis - but his back, thrilled with the wonders Langrishe has worked thus far, begs him to patience. The N.G. brings Steve the Vegetable to Tom Nuttal’s bar and, over Harry’s protests, dumps him there, leaving money for drink and clean-up. He’s had enough of playing nursemaid to this horrible white man. Trixie drops by the bank to deposit twelve dollars into her account; she and Alma seem to have made peace with each other. Langrishe makes the bank his next stop after breakfast: to deposit $4,000; and to borrow $4,000. When Alma questions him on his tactics, he says that since theater people are seen as transient, this will give him some roots here in camp. On his way out, he mentions that tonight his theater troupe is sponsoring an Amateur Night.

More Pinkertons ride into town as the Earp boys load up their wagon with their newly-purchased logging equipment. One of the Pinkertons taunts Morgan Earp, calling him “Hiram” (what?) and being generally nasty. Morgan trades some disgusting taunts with him until Wyatt manages to get them out of camp without incident. At the Gem, Mr. Wu is drawing his pictures in anticipation of his meeting with Al. His artistic skill seems to have gotten better over the last two seasons. Johnny is very interested in the drawings and thinks he can figure out what Wu wants to say. Dan scoffs – everyone knows Johnny’s too dumb for that. Adams returns to report his conversation with Cy to Al and, in the midst of it, they notice Commissioner Jarry riding back into camp. Great – that’s all Deadwood needs is Yankton stirring up more hornets’ nests. Joanie loiters and flutters in front of the Chez Amie until Martha notices her. Martha also notices how nervous the former madam is and invites her to walk with her and the children to the new schoolhouse. Joanie is taken aback at first but acquiesces gratefully.

Uh-oh. Barrett comes into Merrick’s newspaper office and, pretending to be drunk, immediately starts insulting and then beating Merrick bloody. He leaves and Blazenoff rushes to his friend, apologizing for his uselessness. That Barrett is a bad man. Back at the Gem, Al does not have much patience for Wu just now. Wu wants clarification as to if Al and Hearst are united or at odds, and then starts babbling about Custer and 150 men. “[Custer’s] dead, Wu!” shouts Al, super-testily. But – glory of glories – Johnny figures it out. “Custer City?” he asks Wu, who excitedly motions in the affirmative. Johnny spells it out for Al for the first time in his life: “Wu is holding his 150 men outside of Custer City because you and Hearst are on the outs.” Annoyed that he didn’t figure it out himself, Al decks poor Johnny, knocking all his working brain cells out to the floor, and then congratulates Wu on his clever, cautionary thinking.

Commissioner Jarry and Adams share a bottle at the Gem. There’s a lot of talk but it boils down to Jarry wanting the skinny on the camp’s situation. Adams extorts him for $500, which Jarry hands over after getting distracted by a Gem whore’s naked boob. I’m not sure what the commissioner gleaned from this exchange, but he seems to be satisfied. Upstairs in Al’s office/room, Doc tends to Merrick (broken ribs, contusions on belly and face) and Al decides that this Barrett was mostly likely acting on orders from Hearst. The next scene confirms Al’s theory as Barrett reports back to his boss on his beating of Merrick. Gratified, Hearst chuckles evilly.

It’s now afternoon as the Earp boys are unloading some pathetic-looking timber from their wagon. “Our timber lease ain’t nothin’ but pecker-poles,” gripes Morgan as Wyatt stacks some wood for kindling behind the hardware store. (Um, it’s all pine there, fellas. Softwood’s not much good for kindling. I guess the Deadwood props department was staffed with cityfolk that didn’t know any better.) When the Pinkerton heckler from earlier shows up to give Morgan more grief, the younger Earp shoots him in the upper thigh. Wyatt dashes over and pulls the wounded man’s gun from its holster, setting it on the ground next to the man. The other Pinkertons run up, led by Barrett; Bullock, with a growled “stay inside” to Sol, runs out of the hardware store with his own gun drawn. He encourages Barrett et al to hold their fire until he figures out what went down. Wyatt states that it was a fair fight, whereupon Barrett cries bullshit, saying the wounded man was under orders not to draw. Barrett gets in Bullock’s face a bit until the sheriff uses his patented ear twist and drags him off to the jail, telling the Earp boys to follow him so he can hear their story.

Blazenoff delivers another telegram to Hearst (it’s been pre-screened by Al): Odell has been found dead on the road to Rapid City. Aunt Lou runs shrieking away from her employer after he gives her the news. Hearst has the decency to look slightly discomfited at least. Mose Manuel finds Calamity Jane drunk on a pile of empty bottles (not all hers, I hope). He’s been sent to drag her back to Joanie her to walk with the schoolchildren.

Bullock writes out the official statement – “we drew at the same time,” per Morgan and has the Earp boys sign it. When Barrett, in the cell, starts bitching, Charlie says, “Come here a second,” and sucker punches the prisoner right on the chin when he steps to the grate. Hee! Bullock asks if the Earps’ timber lease is truly “worth fuck-all.” The boys confirm the assessment and the sheriff goes on to suggest that since nothing truly holds them here in camp, they might want to ease on down the road. Wyatt gives him a many-layered look that seems to include gratitude, understanding, concern and possibly a willingness to stand with Bullock in the rough times ahead. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Oh for crying out loud: it’s a frickin’ parade of Jane, Joanie, Martha Bullock, Mose Manuel and all the schoolchildren walking down the middle of the thoroughfare. People actually stop to watch, including Al, Cy and Hearst. (Mr. Mouse and I are truly confused as to WHY this school transition is taking up too many valuable scenes when there are only a handful of episodes left in this entire series.)

And now, it’s the Amateur Night performance. Pretty much everyone in camp is there, either watching or performing. There’s a lot of balancing of pickaxes, some nice singing, some crying on command, some gypsy-ish dancing. Both the Bella Union and the Gem saloons are empty, causing their owners to imbibe too much of their own product in boredom.

At the hotel, Hearst tells Aunt Lou she’s not to serve dinner to strangers when she’s grieving: kitchen’s closed. Commissioner Jarry accosts him in the hotel lobby …with this extremely odd baby-bird imitation – the hell was that? The two men go up to Hearst’s porch roof to talk, leaving Aunt Lou to slice yams and mutter, “Kill you if I could, George Hearst.” She obviously thinks that Hearst had her son killed. So do I, but I just don’t understand why. You introduce Odell for two episodes, then you kill him off-camera – why even bother? Aunt Lou won’t kill Hearst – he’s historical. Was this storyline part of a longer arc that got chopped when they knew the show was getting cancelled?

Bullock sends Charlie off to see the show after they release Barrett from his cell. Now the only ones seemingly not at the performance are Bullock (doing paperwork), Alma and Sophia (the former cutely pulling coins out of the latter’s ear), Al (scrubbing down the empty bar and drinking way too much), the Earp brothers (leaving camp – again, if that’s it for them, why even bother? although Wyatt is definitely cute, so there’s that). Oh, and Cy. He decides to pay a visit to Joanie who is sweeping up at the new schoolhouse with Jane. Tolliver is exuding his old menace, evil and threatening and looming, until Jane fetches Mose. Faced with the three of them, Cy decides it’d be too much work to gut them all and finally goes back to his saloon, bitching that he’s really tired of everyone telling him what to do all the time.

Up on the hotel’s porch roof, Jarry tells Hearst that Yankton has over 200 soldiers poised to descend upon the camp, ready to vote for whatever candidates Hearst wants them too. I’m guessing that wouldn’t be Bullock for Sheriff. We close with Al, not with a blowjob monologue, or even a soliloquy aimed at a rotting head in a box; this time, we get a drunk and maudlin Al singing to the stuffed stag’s head over the bar. He’s got a good voice – an amateur he is not.

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